I just got home from a wonderful visit with my family, who all came together from near and far to celebrate the joyous occasion of my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary. Our gathering place was at my sister Terri's home. I am the oldest of six and she and I are probably the most alike out of all my siblings, both in temperament and situation. As stay-at home-moms, we both home schooled our children (Terri's still going, with three of her five!), we both have one girl in the midst of boys, we tend to be a bit introverted, and we share a tender spot in our hearts for the very young and the very old. Honestly, that last trait is shared by my whole family.
Anyway, Terri and I were talking about my blog and fondly reminiscing about which read-alouds have been our favorites, when before I knew it, there was a huge pile of books on my lap, two small towers of books on the floor next to my feet, and another stack beside me on her couch. She accomplished this feat in about 10 minutes flat, all the while poking into bookshelves and book baskets around the house as she asked, "Did you ever read this one?"
That's the great thing about good books: they become like part of the family and, as with family, you look forward to the time you can spend with them, as well as the memories you share with them. Some times are sad, some are happy - but good books and good families leave legacies and stories that are not to be forgotten, even when we have to say goodby.
"A blessed companion is a book - a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend...a book that, at a touch pours its heart into your own." - Douglas Jerrold
SOME NEW PICTURE BOOKS THAT WILL TOUCH YOUR HEART:My new favorite is an endearing book called WILFRID GORDON McDONALD PARTRIDGE and it's about a young boy who lives next door to a retirement home. His favorite person there is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper (notice - she has four names too!) She happens to be 96 years old and has lost her memory. As the story unfolds, Wilfrid, after asking the old folks what a "memory" is, ponders the responses and is able to help Miss Nancy find hers. This sweet and quirky tale presents the nature of memory in a way that young children can understand. The fun illustrations go perfectly with the text. Written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas (for ages 4-8).
Another very unique book is THE BEAR THAT HEARD CRYING by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and Helen Kinsey, illustrations by Ted Rand (for ages 4-8). Set in 1783, this story is about a three-year-old pioneer girl, Sarah, who wanders into the forest and disappears. Friends and neighbors search in vain for four days. She is finally discovered beneath a pine tree and she tells her rescuers about "a big black dog" that kept her safe and warm each night. (But the bear tracks left in a circle around her reveal what really took place!) A dramatic tale of protection and comfort, based on a true story. The illustrations of the dark forest, done in a beautiful grey-green palette help set the mood.
MISS TIZZY, written by Libba Moore Gray, illustrated by Jad Rowland. (ages 4-8) Like the first book I mentioned, this one also deals gently with interactions between the old and young. "Miss Tizzy always wore a purple hat with a white flower in it and high-top green tennis shoes...her house was pink and sat like a fat blossom in the middle of a street with white houses, white fences, and very neat flower gardens. Miss Tizzy had no fence at all but she had flowers that grew everywhere and spilled over onto the sidewalk." Like her flowers, Miss Tizzy's love spills over to all the children in her multi-ethnic neighborhood. Near the end of the story, Miss Tizzy, who is a slightly elderly and eccentric black woman, falls ill and must go to bed. The children know just what to do to make her feel loved.
TOMIE DePAOLA is a popular author/illustrator of children's books and these three will not disappoint - all for ages 3 and up. Make sure to have a box of tissues close beside you:The first is THE BABY SISTER and is the story of the author's childhood memories of the anticipated arrival of a new sibling. Tommy wants a sister. What I love about this story is not only the way that little Tommy helps his parents get ready for the new baby, but also the relationship that develops between him and his strict Italian grandmother, "Nana", who comes to stay while his mom is at the hospital.
The second book, NOW ONE FOOT, NOW THE OTHER is the story of a boy who is named Bobby after his best friend - his grandfather, Bob. The grandfather teaches his grandson to walk by telling him, "now one foot, now the other". And then, not long after Bobby's fifth birthday, the grandfather suffers a stroke. Bobby believes his grandfather will get well and eventually helps him to walk again - "now one foot, now the other."
One of the most precious stories helping children deal with the death of a loved one is NANA UPSTAIRS & NANA DOWNSTAIRS, which is again, based on memories of the author's childhood. This time, he recalls visits on Sundays to his grandmother's and great-grandmother's house. His grandmother always seemed to be downstairs by the kitchen stove and his great-grandmother was "always in bed upstairs because she was ninety-four years old". One morning Tommy's mother tells him that "Nana Upstairs died last night...but she will come back in your memory whenever you think about her." A very graceful treatment of a difficult subject. Anyone who grew up with a precious grandparent in their life will adore this book!
AND AN OLD CLASSIC (THAT'S NEW TO ME!)
FROG WENT A-COURTIN', retold by John Langstaff, pictures by Feodor Rojankovsky.
This book was published in 1955, but it was first written down in Scotland over 400 years ago. Early pilgrims from Scotland and England brought it to America as a ballad. Wait until you see all the guests that come to Frog and Mouse's wedding, especially the last one! The Caldecott Medal-winning illustrations bring the song to life in this fun song-story. (Ages 4-8)