2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week. Held in May since 2008, Children’s Book Week seeks to celebrate books for young people and the joy of reading.
I dream of bookstore and library events (both planning and attending), although I did attend a great on campus discussion event about diverse literature hosted by the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community. However, since it’s almost finals week, and I still live (happily!) in the middle-of-nowhere, the best way I can celebrate Children’s Book Week is by sharing a week’s worth of my favorite children’s books (that I didn’t already share in my blog post “#7BooksILove: The Explanation Behind my Twitter Challenge“).
Children’s Book Week matters to me for a lot of reasons. I spent more time reading while I was growing up than doing anything else. If it weren’t for all of my reading, I never would have fallen in love with writing. Even now, I still love reading children’s books because they have a unique power to share important stories and messages with all audiences, not just young people. I’ve chosen a career path that will put me in contact with young people and children’s books every day in the future because of how much I believe in the power of information provided by literature. This week, take time to read a few pages out of a children’s book.
1. Little House on the Prairie
In some respects, this was the easiest book to pick to put on this list. Growing up in Kansas, it was easy to see myself as Laura. I read this whole series multiple times as a kid thanks to my sister’s box set, pouring over Laura Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of landscapes and exciting scenes. Revisiting this series as an adult and understanding the problematic aspects of this series (such as Wilder’s descriptions of Indian’s and an instance where Pa dons blackface) don’t deter me from listing this book as one of my favorites, but instead help me understand the nuance and evolution of representation in children’s literature. As someone who grew up in a Little Town on the Prairie I can never stop cherishing Wilder’s stories, but I hope I can help contextualize and clarify them for others.
You can find more of my work on Wilder by exploring my blog posts: “Laura Ingalls Wilder & Louise Erdrich” and “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder”
2. Down By the Bay
While Little House on the Prairie is one of my all time favorite books, Down By the Bay has the distinction of being perhaps my first favorite book. When I was in kindergarten, I checked out this book and read it over and over. Though I first remember writing through the Scott County Public Library’s Young Authors Contest in first great, looking back I think this book hooked me on storytelling. I would make up my own “Down by the Bay” rhymes, including one rather memorable rhyme about “maroon raccoon underwear.”
3. The Berenstein Bears
Berenstain/Berenstein controversy aside, the Berenstain Bears books were such a big part of my childhood, both as books and the PBS cartoon. The only Berenstain Bears book that my family actually owned was The Berenstain Bears and Mama’s New Job. I read this book so many times growing up. I also read the Berenstain Bears chapter books in early elementary school. Once in first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Frank, wouldn’t let my check out seven chapter books from the library (I was so mad at the time!), and I’m sure that these books were part of my stack.
4. The Book of Virtues
The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories is exactly what it sounds like. And I know what you’re thinking, “Macy, why is this on your Children’s Books Weeks list?” Well this book is sort of meant for children, and it does have some really awesome stories in it. But I also remember this book because my dad read from it to us. That’s really what I connect with this book. Reading to your kids is important, because they will remember it.
5. Time for Andrew
This Mary Downing Hahn novel is what got me hooked on historical fiction. Reading about Andrew’s choice to go back in time to save his great uncle from diphtheria was always so incredible to me because Hahn wrote such engrossing scenarios. I’m not usually one for ghost stories/mysteries, but this book is just phenomenal. Also the emotional moment at the end is awesome. Historical fiction has long been one of my favorite genres, and this is the book that sent me down the path of loving it.
6. Geronimo Stilton
One of my childhood nicknames was “Mouse,” so as a kid, I loved any book that featured anthropomorphized mice (Babymouse, The Tale of Desperaux, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, etc…), and the Geronimo Stilton series was one of my favorites. I read these books for so long, because my library had a really good selection of these books. The bright and engaging colors made these so fun to read. I also bought several of these books for myself, and I think that’s what started my book buying habit and my personal book collection.
7. The Doll People
This book made it on the list because I saw a copy of the second book in the series, The Meanest Doll in the World when I was at a used bookstore with my grandma a couple of weeks ago. I immediately started telling my grandma about Annabelle Doll and Tiffany Funcraft and their adventures. I loved these books in elementary school and it was so much fun to be able to tell my grandma all about them over a decade after I’d last read them. Therefore, I couldn’t just leave it off the list.
While these are the seven books I chose for my Children’s Book Week list, there are so many others that I could have added such as Arthur, Franklin, The Boxcar Children, and Matilda (and so so so many more). Children’s literature has played such an important part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being able to look at the books that played a large role in my life has been incredibly fulfilling. Stay tuned to see what I talk about next!
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what your favorite children’s books are or what you think about the books I’ve added to my list. Keep reading on!