By Mary Becelia
A chilly autumn day requires a mug of hot chocolate, a peaceful nook to curl up in and a good book to read. But wait, who is this, thrusting a dog-eared picture book at me? And here, who's pulled a favorite old board book off the shelf? I guess I won't be curling up with my juicy novel for a few hours yet, but while I wait for my turn, maybe I can encourage Katherine and Robert to enjoy some of my favorites, and give you parents tired of Dr. Seuss (God bless him, but enough with the cats, fish and elephants for now!) and Maisy (go away, please, little mouse!) a few new ideas:
Backyard Bedtime, by Susan Hill
When Katherine was a baby I quickly found that rhyming books were the only bearable infant books. This one hits the mark with a great poem that starts in the vegetable garden: "It's bedtime for vegetables, carrots and beans/ Turnips and pumpkins, potatoes and greens/ Curl close to the vine, now, my little sweet pea/ I'll sing you an earth-song - Hush, hush, sleep, deep." Moving from there, the insects, trees, birds and houses -- everyone and everything is made ready for slumber, including the baby who is tucked into bed by her mommy at the end.
A Fairy Went A-Marketing, by Rose Fyleman
This gentle poem (first published in 1918) tells the story of a fairy who purchases and attempt to own several wild creatures (a bird, a fish, a mouse) before realizing that each one in turn is happier being free. The gorgeous illustrations provide hours of pondering while the poem is simple enough to be enjoyed by the youngest of tots.
Our Nest, by Reeve Lindbergh
"Snuggled in bed/You're all safe and warm/ Like a bird in a nest in a tree." Starting with a homey scene of bedtime, the author branches out to a variety of nests, from the hen in the barn, to the deer in the field, to the trout in the brook, the harbor where boats nest and then reminds us, "All things together are in the same nest-/The sun and the moon and the sea..." Seldom have I seen a more poignant or moving description of the interconnectedness of all creation...I swear, I tear up every time I read it.
Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney
When she was a small girl, Miss Rumphius (the narrator's aunt) was told by her father to be sure to do something to make the world a better place during her lifetime. Near the end of her own life, Miss Rumphius hits upon a plan: she will sow lupines up and down the countryside, and she does, beautifying her surroundings like a latter-day Johnny Appleseed. Even the younger readers can take this message away and try to do something, in turn, to make the world a better place. Another tear-jerker, so bring on the Kleenex!
Over and Over, by Charlotte Zolotow
You've got to love anything illustrated by Garth Williams, as this book is, and Charlotte Zolotow is one of my favorite kids' authors. This story is about a little girl who vaguely remembers the cycle of the year, but isn't quite sure yet how all the holidays and seasons fit together. This book clears it all up with simple explanations of all the major holidays and, of course, beautiful pictures.
Finally, as I cuddle my big-ish girl, seven-year-old Katherine, and my four-year-old boy, Robert, who still fits (just barely!) in my lap, I have to give a shout out to another by Ms. Zolotow: I Like to Be Little. Keep that box of tissues handy as you read the story of a little girl who explains to her mom all the reasons she likes to be little (little kids can skip, they can fit under the dining room table, and even sit and do nothing). The punch line is at the end (spoiler alert!) when the mom tells her daughter, "I know something about being grown up that makes all those things happen again...you can be the mother of a little girl like you."
Ok, wipe your eyes, put the magazine down and go find your kids. They won't be little much longer, and neither will mine...