As an introduction to this piece I must announce that I am the established queen of children’s book readers and choosers. And, yes, I’m humble about it, too! No, just truthful. When family and friends gather at our house, I am often seen off to one side, with one or more willing children and a stack of children’s books. I read with passion–different voices for each character and relishing the flow of the words off the tongue. My favorite gift to give to adults with children or grandchildren is a select children’s book. It struck me that you, reader, might be interested in some of my favorites–only a few premier choices–maybe more to follow later.
Miss Suzy is a classic with forty year anniversary editions released a few years ago. It is the penultimate good conquers evil story with a happy ending. Suzy, a gentle gray squirrel, is displaced from her home by a band of mean-spirited red squirrels. However, she finds refuge in a nearby attic, where she finds a lovely dollhouse residence and offers the benefits of home to a troop of toy soldiers, who then save the day. Children love this story, perhaps because Miss Suzy reminds them of being mothered and cared for and because all is well at the end when,
“The wind blew gently and rocked the tree like a cradle. It was very peaceful, and Miss Suzy was very happy once more.” (Young, Miriam, Miss Suzy, Parents’ Magazine Press, 1964.)
Cindy Ellen, A Wild Western Cinderella is a delightful Cinderella story by Susan Lowell. Adults will enjoy the references to the Cinderella we grew up with and the magic of how Lowell’s words flow off the tongue when the book is read aloud. There are great sound effects to portray. Again, good wins out, and there is a magical, happy-ever-after ending, as befits a classic fairy tale. Lowell has adapted several classic childrens’ stories to a wild west setting. I love them all, but this is my favorite, perhaps because Cindy Ellen’s fairy godmother voices such GOOD advice for all us girls!
……said her fairy godmother. “Magic is plumb worthless without gumption. What you need first, gal is some gravel in your gizzard. Grit! Guts! Stop that tomfool blubbering, and let’s get busy. Time’s a-wastin’.” (Lowell, Susan, Cindy Ellen, A Wild Western Cinderella, Joanna Cotler Books, 2000.)
This book joined my library in the mid-70’s as my children were receiving books in one of those “book clubs” for children. It is a humorous read with plenty of opportunity for vocalization of accent and dialect, if you are not offended by the word “derned” (as in, “derned if you do, derned if you don’t”). I’m having trouble pinpointing the exact reason it came to my mind other than the fact that it’s just FUN! It begins:
“One day old Man Whickutt set off down the mountain with his donkey and his boy, going to the mill. Donkey, he carried a sack of corn; boy, he carried a stick; and Old Man Whickutt, he carried the boss words to keep them both going straight.” (Calhoun, Mary, Old Man Whickutt’s Donkey, Parents’ Magazine Press, 1975.)
This whole post stems from my passion for reading to children. That passion stems from the love of words, the love of a good story, the love of children. What better gift to give a child than a book? Reading that book to as many children as possible, instilling the same love of words and story to the children, inspiring them to look for the underlying moral of the story, awakening their imaginations to other times and places–what sweet memories this creates. This list barely touches my treasure trove of books, each with its own set of memories–the child or children who loved it and our time spent together with a good book. I pray you will find your own favorites (or try these) and begin making your own memories. A good children’s book is a treasure.