It has been years since I sat with my son on my lap, reading him story after story before bed. One of parenthood’s most precious rituals. Now we might call it “downtime” but back then it was so much more. It was as magical as it was practical. My toddler grew sleepy and I got to let my mind wander happily into worlds I thought I had outgrown.
We read anything and everything (as long as it was colorful) but the old-school children’s books from the 1960s and 70s held a special place in my heart. We came to love the cast of characters as well as the writers and illustrators who crafted these treasures. Of course there was Dr. Seuss with Horton, Sam-I-Am, and dozens more unforgettable beings. Leo Lionni’s Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse. Mercer Mayer and his Little Critter series. Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona. Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Anything by P.D. Eastman. The long-suffering little brother in Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Even then, I knew those moments wouldn’t last long. I knew I would look back and miss the intimacy of that room. But I couldn’t have imagined how much I would miss those characters and the temporary escape from the humdrum they offered.
These days my life is busy; I wear (and juggle) more hats than Esphyr Slobodkina’s traveling salesman in Caps for Sale. There is a distinct absence of magic in this grown-up Muggles world. I suspect I’m not the only adult who occasionally wanders into Barnes & Noble’s children’s section for the chance to re-enter that lost realm. Feel free to join me there next time the mood strikes. I’ll be the one dressed in red and white, just like my role model, Olivia. (Thank you, Ian Falconer!)
What children’s books earned a special place on your bookshelf? Did you ever re-read them for your own pleasure even after your children outgrew them?