Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nostalgia Comes Calling

I have many boxes from my childhood.  I've been slowly sorting through their contents, discovering mementos like t-shirts (I was on the A's softball team in elementary school during my only team sport stint) and buttons (including multiple Ben & Jerry's tour pins, which they don't even give out anymore).  I honestly don't know what to do with all these pieces of my youth.  They trigger vague memories, but they don't hold a special place in my heart.  Yet I feel guilty getting rid of them....

Then I came upon a box I had hoped to find: my childhood books!  I finally had a fun-filled walk down memory lane and no decisions to make.  I was definitely keeping these!  There are certainly too many to share, but in keeping with the nature of this blog, I will only post the picture books.  And rather than pull cover pictures from the internet, I'll take the pictures myself, just to show you how "old" and well-loved my copies look :)

Panda Cake (Author/Illustrator: Rosalie Seidler) – When I opened the front cover of this book, I found the following inscription: “To Laura Jane Elisabeth from Nana Lamson, Christmas 1978”.  My grandmother passed away in November and I was struck by what else I had just learned about her.  She gave me a picture book for Christmas before I even turned one.  She signed her name “Nana”, which she always asked us to call her, but we never did.  She was always Grandma to me.  (Why is that?)  I also learned that she placed a value on reading and learning.  This story deliberately teaches a lesson, which is something I would attribute to her.  A panda and his brother go shopping for cake ingredients, creating shortcuts by “finding” the seeds and berries along the way.  The older brother sends the younger home with the ingredients while he goes to the fair with his mother's money.  The animals that all felt robbed were invited for cake and when the irresponsible brother returns home, all he gets are “two crusty pieces of leftover bread.”

Miss Suzy (Author: Miriam Young; Illustrator: Arnold Lobel) – This book feels like a home-grown bedtime story, as it rambles a bit and doesn’t feel too cohesive, but as a child, I loved it.  Miss Suzy, the tidy gray squirrel is chased out of her house by a gang of red squirrels.  She finds refuge in an abandoned attic dollhouse.  She is soon joined by a troop of toy soldiers she finds in a box and “she took care of them like a mother.”  (Upon re-reading this, I was reminded of Snow White.)  Finally, when she shares her tragedy with the soldiers, they march on the red squirrels and force them out of Miss Suzy’s house.  The whole story wraps up with the soldiers agreeing to come to dinner once a week and Miss Suzy tidying up her house just as it was.  The muted and then colorful illustrations by Arnold Lobel are a real treat.

Be Nice to Spiders (Author/Illustrator: Margaret Bloy Graham) - Does anyone else remember Weekly Reader Book Club? That is the origin of this book. An orphaned spider begins to take care of all the flies at the zoo, teaching the staff that spiders are useful creatures. A satisfying story with another good lesson. We were very big on catching and releasing insects in our house as a child... I wonder if this book had anything to do with it?

Uncle Wiggily and the Runaway Cheese (Author: Howard R. Garis; Illustrator: Aldren Watson) - Not many books are more inviting than those with maps of the story setting on the endpapers. I loved pouring over the map of Uncle Wiggily's neck of the woods and imagining the story again and again. In the story, the runaway cheese posed a problem that needed to be solved. (I bet my Dad loved reading this story to us for the physics angle!) After an encounter with a bear (which seems completely out of place), Uncle Wiggly rigs up the cheese to roll as a wheel on an axle. Howard Garis was prolific and wrote many Uncle Wiggily stories and the story ends with an oral storytelling tradition: "And if the doll's dress doesn't go walking off down the street by itself and scare the baby carriage so that it runs away, I'll be back to tell another story."

Goodnight Moon (Author: Margaret Wise Brown; Illustrator: Clement Hurd) - Does this book need an introduction? I think every child, since it was published in 1947, is familiar with this rhyming bedtime story. Much of the fun was pointing out the objects and the juxtaposition of the color spreads and the black and white sketches that alternated throughout the book. As an adult, the line "Goodnight nobody, Goodnight mush" strikes me as rather a stretch, but who can argue with a classic?

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss) - What's a childhood without Dr. Seuss?  I loved the silly rhymes and all the concoctions of his imagination.  I remember The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back were favorites, as well, but they were not in my book box.

Gregory, the Terrible Eater - Follow this link to see my post from another week.

Christina Katerina & the Box - Follow this link to my post from another week.

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