I was pondering some picture books the other day, wondering which my kids would remember when they get older, because I definitely have my favorite current picture books. How lucky kids are now to be bombarded with incredible stories that are told with the help of exquisite illustrations.
I combed my fuzzy brain trying to remember my favorites from childhood and came up with 1 not so surprising, and 1 surprising favorite.
1. The not-so-surprisingly-favorite book of my youthhood:
Yep, Corduroy. I still have my copy, although it is long missing its’ jacket. Mostly I remember the illustrations of the buttons. Why did the buttons captivate me so much? I don’t have a clue, but I would read this book over and over and I’m sure I somehow identified with Corduroy, as I was forever trying to romanticize my life into something dramatic and tragic (with a happy ending, of course.)
2. Next up is the surprise, which is vividly emblazoned into my memory. In fact, when I think of it, I picture myself standing alone in the living room, next to the big window, in between the 2 white sets of bookshelves that my Grandfather made. I am half propped against a window, and I’ve pulled a small copy of Little Black Sambo from the shelves.
I’m sure I was curious what a horribly old kids’ book was doing among big thick books about wars and business. So I didn’t even bother to sit down when I read it. And then I read it a few more times. I’m not sure how often I returned to that same little wedge of space to read this book, but I had the story and the illustrations memorized.
I was too young to have a clue about racism, and I was smitten by the story and the strange characters, as children have been since 1899 when it was first published. The original text and illustrations, by Helen Bannerman, have undergone several incarnations at different times and places since its initial release. Some because of the apparent racism of the original, and some inspired by its wild success.
Fifty years after being released, people began to question the stylized way in which Bannerman portrayed Sambo and his mother, Black Mambo and father, Black Jumbo. The name Sambo was a common slave name and took on a racist connotation in some countries.
What hasn’t changed through the years is the appeal of the story. Sambo is a clever kid, and he outwits a bunch of tigers and ends up having a giant pancake feast with his parents at the end. The original illustrations are simple and bold, with lovely colors and characters. I loved everybody’s clothing especially, with lots of patterns and colors.
Besides these 2, I remember the Richard Scarry books and The Very Hungry Caterpillar as huge favorites. Richard Scarry books, because of the insane amount of detail would suck me in for hours, and the colors and textures of the Very Hungry Caterpillar were unique and yummy for the 70’s.
What are your favorites? What book makes you sink back into nostalgic reverie when you think about it or read it to your kids?