I love children’s books, and I’m certainly not the only adult who feels that way. Today I’ve gathered a few books I want to review, including one encouraging adults to read kids’ books and another encouraging kids to read.
Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell.
I was charmed by this little book, and I mean little literally – it’s probably about 3×5 inches. But it’s a delightful, if brief, look at the history of kid’s books and what makes them special, and how it serves us to keep our eyes (and hearts) in that world even if (or perhaps especially) because we’re adults.
She argues that instead of considering kid’s books somehow more simplistic than suits adult perceptions and sensibilities, we ought consider the gift and challenge of writing so it appeals to children. I love this quote: “Children will not be patient if you pontificate or meander or self-congratulate. Rather, children’s fiction necessitates distillation: at its best, it renders in their purest, most archetypal forms hope, hunger, joy, fear. Think of children’s books as literary vodka.”
And she talks about the beauty of not really “dumbing down” a book, but how introducing vocabulary that requires a bit of stretching is a delicious gift. I certainly agree with this, and suspect it’s really one of the reasons I love language and words so much. She says “As a child, reading alone for the first time, I navigated a book like an unknown land in which unfamiliar words crop up like strange herbs, to be gathered now or stepped over and returned to later.” I love, love, love that image!
In keeping with my practice of awarding a rating based on floriography, the language of flowers, giving a hint at the plot as well as my appraisal, I would offer a bouquet of White Chrysanthemum (truth), Morning Glory (affection), and Garden Daisy (I share your sentiment).
A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader, edited by Maria Popova & Claudia Bedrick.
In contrast to the smallness of the previous book, this one is deliciously large. Clearly it’s not a book to be plowed through bur rather savored, containing letters written by 121 contributors. Each leter is an encouragement to young readers, extolling the delights and importance of reading, each story as varied as the writers. Some are certainly more famous than others – Neil Gaiman, Mary Oliver, Yo-Yo Ma, and Jane Goodall are just a few. Each contribution is a two-page spread, with one page devoted to the letter itself and the facing page done by a different illustrator. Each letter contains a brief, few-sentence synopsis of the letter’s author, and in the back of the book is a section of tiny bios about the illustrators.
This collection was clearly a labor of love, having taken eight years to pull together. I quite enjoyed it, lingering over some letters for quite a while, and finding some new-to-me people worthy of future exploration. Definitely a treasure, I’m offering my floriography rating of a bouquet of China Aster (variety), Celadine (joys to come), and Fennel (worthy of all praise).
I read a fair number of children’s books, but I especially love children’s picture books. With industry standards keeping them to 32 pages, I certainly don’t count them in my number of books read annually figure. But I do count them in how much they fill my heart.
Here are a few I’ve recently read that I love and definitely think are worth read.
Over the Rooftops Under the Moon – written by JonArno Lawson & illustrated by Nahid Kazemi.
A young bird’s existential crisis driven by the sense of isolation and the need to find a sense of belonging. He comes to see and explore the world through a young girl. It’s a lovely, gentle, hopeful story, and the illustrations are fabulous,
Layla’s Happiness – written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin.
A celebration of a young self-possessed girl with a clear idea of what she likes and brings her happiness. Delightful. This is the first work of both the author and illustrator and I look forward to more.
What if… by Theirry Lenain and Olver Tallee
A child sees the world and continues to ask “What if?” moving things into the direction of a kinder, gentler, more nurturing world. I refuse to indulge in spoilers, but just let me say it has a delightful ending.
Now tell me – what have you been reading? Love children’s books too? Ever write to a child to encourage them? Do tell – you know I love to hear.