Today and for the next few days, I'm giving thanks and praise for books that have been a blessing in my life:
1. The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. One of my favorite books from my childhood. I loved putting my fingers on the holes that go through the food, and I loved the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly at the end. I've read this book to my kids, and to Sunday School kids.
2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Another favorite from my childhood. I checked this book out from the library again and again, even after I was reading "older" books. Maurice Sendak painted this picture of an imaginary world in such a way that I could take it even further in my own imagination. I never got the whole "psycho-babble" junk that they threw in the movie about it. I just loved the idea of escape into a wild world of wonder, knowing full well that I could return to a warm supper and a loving home at any moment.
3. Young Years: Best Loved Stories and Poems for Little Children edited by Augusta Baker, 1971 Copyright Parent's Magazine Enterprises. I don't know exactly when I started reading this book, or when my mom started reading it to me. I just know that the book is barely holding together after many, many years of use. I've also read parts of it to my kids. It has nursery rhymes, Aesop's fables, and stories like the original Beauty and the Beast, as well as Goldilocks. I memorized most of the nursery rhymes because I read them so many times over while growing up.
4. Children's Illustrated Bible I'm not sure this was the exact title, but I received it when I was five or six, and read it within a year, then read it again and again until I was about ten years old, when I "moved up" to the King James translation. I couldn't figure out why the Sunday School teachers thought the stories they taught me were new to me, when I had already read them in my Bible. Since then, I've realized as a friend recently remarked, "Kid's Bibles are like Cliffnote versions." It's true. If you want to get to know your basic Bible stories, pick up a kids' illustrated or picture Bible, and read it aloud again and again, night after night, until you've memorized it. My kids story Bibles have grounded them in Bible stories, and reminded me of my basics. My youngest still wants me to read from hers every night, and my oldest likes hearing me read the "regular" Bible these days.
5. The King James Bible had a huge impact on my life growing up. My mom read it to me as I went to sleep each night, and when I was ten she gave me her old copy of it. I started in Psalms. They were short, and I could tackle the language easier there. I'm not sure I would recommend the old King James Bible to most ten year olds, but I liked it, especially the sense of history I felt, having my mom's first Bible.
6. The Tasha Tudor Book of Fairy Talesselected, edited, and illustrated by Tasha Tudor is a beautiful fairy tale book that I read, and re-read many times from early childhood through my adult years. I still pick it up every once in a while. My favorite in the book has to be "Thumbelina." The illustration on the first page made me want to step into the story myself.
7. Serendipity by Stephen Cosgrove is one of the many "Serendipity" books that held my attention and imagination as a child. The main character in Serendipity is a pink sea serpent with beautiful blue eyes who wants to know who, and what she is, and what purpose she has in life. With the help of two friends, she discovers that she is herself, and she finds a purpose in cleaning up the waters of the world's oceans. I have to admit, my strongest feelings about responsibility for our environment probably stem from a love of this book, and a love of the Creation story in the Bible.
8. The Muffin Muncher by Stephen Cosgrove is another awesome "Serendipity" book about a muffin munching dragon and a King who bakes muffins. It still makes me smile.
9. Morgan and Me by Stephen Cosgrove is a "Serendipity" book about a young girl who likes to put off her work so she can daydream. She figures she can always do things "a little later." This gets her in a bit of trouble with a new friend, a unicorn.
10. Jake O'Shawnasey is an Irish green seagull who is afraid to fly, but who is determined to get to the top of a cliff face. My mom read this story to me over and over again, and referenced in many conversations with me while I was growing up. The moral of this particular Stephen Cosgrove book is "If you believe in yourself, you can do anything."
11. The Wheedle on the Needle in the original version by Stephen Cosgrove, is a Seattle Centered tale of the Wheedle who keeps the light on top of the Space Needle glowing with his red nose. For a kid born in Seattle, and raised in a cow-town an hour drive from the Space Needle, this one had to be one of my favorites. Seattle seemed like a magical place to me, and the Space Needle is still a place I like to visit now and then, Wheedle or not.
12. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson had an early impact on me, while riding in the car on long road trips. As one of our only books on tape, I heard the shortened version of this story many times over, and loved it. The version we had included singing, "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me," which I liked to sing loudly in the back seat. Later, when I read the story, I felt for Jim and for that old scalawag, Long John Silver. I know piracy in reality is not a nice practice, but the stories and make believe were a great deal of fun.
13. The Wizard of Oz series by Frank L. Baum. I read the entire series in third and fourth grade and loved being transported to that magical place, Oz. The Patchwork Girl stands out in my mind today, but I can't remember why . . . I'll have to look for it at my library.
14. The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley happened to be another group of books I devoured between third and fifth grade. I loved the horses, and the dilemmas the characters faced. My kids haven't liked them, which saddens me, but I know that if they are meant to stand the test of time, then they will.
15. Anne of Green Gables has been a family favorite for three generations, my grandmother, my mother, and I. My daughters, sadly, don't like the series much, or even the first book. I have to admit, when I read it aloud to my oldest daugther a few years ago, I didn't like it as much as I had as a kid. However, this book has been a blessing to me in many ways. If you've known me for a while, you might know why I found the story of her green hair fiasco so wonderful. Anne's imagination gets her into scrapes and out of them throughout the series, and I enjoyed her as a character because I often have had the same kind of experiences with that.
16. The Narnia series as a whole by C.S. Lewis has been a blessing to me many times over. I don't know if I could say enough about this series. My first introduction started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved entering that fantastical world at Lucy's side, and meeting Tumnus for the first time.
17. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, from the Narnia series, had a great deal of meaning for me as a kid and the Christian symbolism within it has blown me away again and again even as an adult. It was the second Narnia book I read as a kid.
18. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my all time favorite from the Narnia series. I love the redemption story of Eustace, the temptation that each character faces, and the wild variety of characters like Dufflepuds, and the mermaid hunting party. The Christian symbolism, especially when Eustace is cleansed, convicts me, and renews me every time I read it.
19. The Silver Chair stood out to me as a kid, partly because it was one of the four Narnia books I owned, and partly because of Puddlegum's gloomy optimism.
20. The Last Battle was the toughest Narnia book for me to read. I struggled all the way to the end, and then I fell in love with Lewis' story that has no end. For me, this book was a blessing when I was younger because I read it and discussed it with a beloved mentor name Larice. She lent me the Narnia books I didn't own, and talked with me through the whole series. After her death, I gave up playing the organ, but I kept my love of the Narnia books.
21. The Lord fills us.
“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.”
More book blessings coming tomorrow.