I don’t know about you, but so often these days, especially now that I have kids, I find myself remembering a sentence or description or maybe an illustration, oddly displaced in the junk drawer of my mind, and I play it over and over for days until I figure out what it is, or where it’s from. Most of the time, these little nuggets of memory are from my favorite childhood books.
Books are so much more than just words on pages… the older I get, the more I realize just how much of ME is made up of things I’ve read in books. My beliefs, my imagination, my curiosity, my emotions, my misgivings, my fears… my history and my future. I love that there are books I can pick up at any stage in my life and find myself transported right back to the scratchy yellow and brown plaid couch in my parents’ living room, knees curled up, heart thumping. I love feeling safe and warm – or perhaps anxious and breathless – when I open a favorite story.
I could go on and on waxing poetic about everything from novels to cookbooks, but mostly, I wanted to tell you about two incredible story books I’ve read to Evelyn that have made ME get teared up.
First, though, you will notice an illustration from the pages of one of my sister, Caroline’s, favorite story books as a child. “Muffin, Brown Bear & Me” by Elinor Warren is a book that Caroline still talks about, still relates to and gets nostalgic about all these years later. It was a simple story told with delicate beauty that has defined a part of her life. It’s incredibly rare to find books that really do this. We might have a shelf full of favorites, but there are maybe only a select few that stay in our hearts no matter where we go. When I read the two books I’m about to mention, I was so moved I knew I wanted to read them again, and again, and tell my friends about them, and give them as gifts. So here you are – two brilliant stories that, if you’re anything like me, just might make you cry. In a good way. 🙂
“The Paper Dolls” by Julia Donaldson, illustrations by Rebecca Cobb
I can’t tell you how much I love this book. It is so sensitive and sweet and true, and I adore reading it to Evelyn. I love even more that she loves it with me, and we make up our own songs and talk about the characters even when we don’t have the pages open in front of us. Julia Donaldson is one of our favorite authors anyway – “The Gruffalo,” “Stick Man,” “Room On a Broom” and many more are all read often in our house. But this one, this touching journey through a little girl’s life, stands out in a way I can’t even quite explain. I think you’ll just have to read it – be you a mom or a kid, a girl or a boy, the portrayal of life’s simple moments of meaning remains the same.
“The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers
Like Julia Donaldson, Oliver Jeffers is another favorite author in the Kelly household. We love his tales of adventure and friendship, of boys and penguins and bears and aliens. But this, to my knowledge, is his only story about a GIRL. And it’s quite different from his boyish stories in that it is a provocative little tale dealing with difficult issues like loss, change, and closing oneself off to hurt. When I first read this book, I was actually SO moved that I did not want to think about it (which is sort of what the story is getting at, anyway!). But I found myself coming back to it in the local bookstores, and being a bit scared of its beautiful truth, and then letting myself really love this story.
Even if kids are too small to understand the entire gist of it, I think they will appreciate its sincerity all the same, and perhaps grow up with a healthier perspective on feeling sad. It’s not a downer, though! I’m probably not doing it justice. It’s just a poignant little piece of children’s lit that I think deserves to be noticed.
What childhood stories still resonate with you?