[This week, I have the wonderful opportunity to be a Celebrity Reader—emphasis on the celebrity, right? Right?!—for both of my sons’ elementary school classes. So in honor of that occasion, I’ve featured blog posts on children’s books and authors and American Studies. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and perspectives of other American Studiers. Share yours below, please!]
In response to Monday’s Margaret Weis Brown post, Michelle Moravec notes that she “was just tweeting with someone about her other well known work The Runaway Bunny, aka the stalker mommy bunny book. I do wonder if the ’42 publication date relates to the persistent message that mama will not ever abandon baby bunny?”
Brenda Elsey adds on that same post that “these books have incredible staying power. I think Runaway Bunny is both a mother and child fantasy of complete connection. Creepy, perhaps, but psychically satisfying to both. I nominate The Story of Ferdinand – every pacifist parent’s dream!”
In response to Tuesday’s Ezra Jack Keats tribute, Tona Hangen writes, “Hear, hear for Ezra Jack Keats! The Snowy Day is a mid-century collage graphic marvel. The page where Peter discovers the snowball has melted makes me cry every time. I think it was one of the few from my own childhood that had matter-of-fact African American main characters in it. That, and Gyo Fujikawa’s lovingly multicultural books about babies.”
And in response to Wednesday’s Mike Mulligan post, Tona writes, “Another of Burton's marvelous books that's a favorite of mine is The Little House, in which a sweet pink Cape Cod starts out as a rural house but eventually gets a big soul-draining city built around it. Like Mike Mulligan, her colored-pencil illustrations convey the bustle and dehumanization of the industrial urban landscape with perfection. It's a meditation on the city vs the country as a deep tension in American life.”
In response to Thursday’s Maurice Sendak tribute, Matt Goguen writes, “I remember listening to an NPR interview with Sendak before he passed away. They were talking about his last book Bumble-Ardy and how he was able to write it during a particularly dark period of his life. The most poignant part of the interview came when Sendak said there were two lines in Bumble-Ardy that meant more to him than any other he had ever written. Bumble-Ardy is a pig that lives with his aunt and has never had a birthday party. Close to his ninth birthday, he invites many of the rowdy pigs in town to his aunt's home while she is at work and their party gets very out of hand. When Bumble-Ardy's aunt returns from work later and sees the big mess, she said ‘Okay, Smarty. You've had your party but never again.’ Bumble-Ardy replied ‘I promise, I swear, I'll never turn ten.’”
On the same post, Irene Maryniuk writes, “On a much sillier note, the title Higgilety Piggledty Pop! Or, There Must be More to Life is a phrase that I and my siblings have continually used to describe bad days for over a decade. The phrase and the story just moved into our vocabulary. Now, it's code on the phone or in texts for when things aren't going well, but said with sweetness, not anger."
In response to Friday’s Curious George post, Rob Gosselin writes, “When my boys were little I rented the original Flipper (1963) movie. My boys were like 6 and 4. In the first ten minutes the main character finds Flipper (a dolphin) washed up on the rocks with arrows shot in him. The father in the movie breaks out a shotgun to "take it out of its misery." Aims it and everything. Both of my sons freaked. That's when I learned to always preview, or preread, just about anything.”
Amara highlights another childhood favorite, Doris Susan Smith’s The Travels of J.B. Rabbit (1982). Rob Gosselin adds, “Shel Silverstein. For so many reasons.” And Irene adds, “I was a big fan of Rosemary Wells’ characters--especially Max and Ruby. I realize they are now industry characters--stuffed animals and books galore, but back then, there was Morris' Disappearing Bag and six board books--or at least that's all the Kent Free Library owned. I realize now that I have a healthy dose of both Max and Ruby in me. Max is so off-kilter, gloriously free and inventive. He makes us laugh with his unique logic and sense of love. And Ruby is anxiety driven, worrying about Max and what everyone else will think. I now own a number of Max and Ruby books and can truly say my personality type could be classified as ‘MaxRuby.’”
Monica Jackson adds, “The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is one of the greatest children's books, ever. By the way, this is my favorite topic (children's lit) along with young adult fiction. I could go on and on, but my favorites are: Number the Stars (ages 9-11, a great introduction to teaching children about the Holocaust), The Legend of the Bluebonnet (ages 6-9, Native American culture), Alice in Wonderland, Alice through the Looking Glass, Miss Nelson is Missing (ages 6-9, good for teaching positive behavior in school, lol), etc.”
10/20 Memory Day nominee: John Dewey!