The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 15, 2009


Country Lines

Hooray for Children’s Book Week

Want to make somebody smile? Just ask her what her favorite children’s book is. Because this week celebrates the 90th Children’s Book Week, I asked some colleagues this question and, although the answers were diverse, the expressions were the same. Their faces lit up and their speech became rhapsodic as they recalled the books that still mean so much to them (and often to their children) to this day.

No one had a problem naming a favorite book; they only had a problem narrowing it down to one, as you will see. Everyone reported lively discussions with friends and family regarding their choices, and it made me wonder: would the same be true if I had asked for their favorite adult book? I’ll have to wait for another week to find that out.

Here, in no particular order, are the results of my extremely informal survey:

Bev Guyer – Rocco Came In by John Beecroft was printed in 1959 and is about a couple living on Long Island and taking their four cats to their summer home outside Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. The first night, Rocco, one of the cats does not come in.  They hunt and mourn him for many days.  This has been a favorite story of my children and grandchildren for nearly 50 years…perhaps because we’ve always had cats.

Priscilla Stevens – One favorite with my daughter is Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. I think what appealed to Kate was Miss Rumphius’s resolve to live by the sea when she had finished her travels; what appealed to me was her planting of all the lupines along the coast. It’s an ideal book with three wishes that many of us share: traveling, living by the sea and making the world more beautiful. Miss Rumphius realizes all three.

Marjorie Johnson – My son Michael’s favorite childhood book was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett. This very imaginative story with amusing pictures is about a place where food falls from the sky like rain. Whatever it rained is what they ate. Interested in food and cooking from a young age, Michael found this quite entertaining. He says that in the summertime when our family was eating whatever was coming from the vegetable garden that day, it reminded him of the story.

My son Eric says his favorite book from his childhood was Make Way for Ducklings, the classic by Robert McCloskey. He especially liked that it took place in Boston and the ducks went to places he had been himself. If you look closely, there is even a train crossing the Longfellow bridge in one picture. This is important since most of his trips to Boston included travel across that very bridge on a Red Line train.

A book I enjoyed reading aloud to Eric, a fan of trains from a young age, is Country Crossing by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Ted Rand. This book has beautiful pictures and lyrical text that must be read aloud for full effect. Starting on a quiet country road reminiscent of Carlisle with the night sounds of crickets and owls, building to the noise and excitement of a passing freight train, and then returning to the peaceful sounds of a summer night, it was the perfect bedtime story for a young Carlisle rail fan.

Anne Marie Brako – Can this be “young adult” fiction? If so: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (my daughter recommended it to me), about a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany written from Death’s point-of-view, is the most creative and intriguing book I’ve read in a long time by a superb storyteller.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is a book I would recommend to anyone with kids who are struggling to read or straggling behind an older sibling. Actually I recommend all of Polacco’s books to kids. They are entertaining and very relevant to kids growing up today.

Marilyn Harte – When I was a young mother living in Cambridge during the early ‘60s, I went to hear an up-and-coming children’s author who was to speak at Dunster House, Harvard. He had written a scary, but delightful book in 1963 and I had expected to learn about his experience in writing that wonderful book, which was a favorite of my sons and more recently of my grandchildren. In a surprise to those of us in the audience that evening, the unassuming and modest Maurice Sendak, instead of talking about Where the Wild Things Are, asked us to name our favorite children’s book!

Susan Mills – In addition to the traditional favorites by Sandra Boynton and Bill Peet, two books stand out as ones the family enjoyed immensely. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett is a marvelous story for young children of food and weather. Food falls from the sky three times a day in the town of Chewandswallow. All is fine until it gets stormy and the food grows larger and larger causing quite a mess! We had lots of fun imagining what food would fall on various days and riding out our Carlisle storms envisioning what might be happening in Chewandswallow. As somewhat older children the family enjoyed 21 Balloons by William Pene DuBois. The story is pure fantasy. A retired professor planning to spend a year floating around in a hot air balloon tumbles to earth on the island of Karkatoa. There he finds a wealthy (due to a diamond mine) utopian society. The islanders live in homes built as replicas of famous houses (Versailles, Monticello), eat, as one large family, elaborate meals based on the cuisine of the monuments in which they live, and spend their days inventing a number of complex, imaginative games and designing a series of innovative conveniences. The illustrations that accompany the book, as well as the rich descriptions of the lives of the residents, are what make the novel a delight to read and the basis for many fun conversations.

Beth Clarke – My mom read us all the Pooh Bear books by A.A. Milne but my favorite book would be A.A. Milne’s book of poetry When we Were Very Young. My mom would read these poems with such enthusiasm it was fun to listen to them. The characters in each of the poems became very real to me. Their concerns became my concerns. What is the matter with Mary Jane? Will the King be able to get some butter for his bread? Today when our family gets together (29 of us), we all recite his poem "Disobedience." Part of the fun came from the fact that it is the mother in the poem who is disobedient. We always liked that.With my children, I enjoyed reading lots of book to our children and I think my favorite would be Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. As you read the book it flows so easily. I read that book so many times and each time it was just so silly to say “good night” to a bowl of mush.

Nancy Pierce – I suspect that reading two books at an impressionable age may have been the seed of my great pleasure in living in New England. In Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes, a teenaged Boston apprentice becomes involved with the leaders of the Sons of Liberty in the years leading up to The Battle at what’s now Minuteman Park. In Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field, a wood doll, carved by an itinerant Maine peddler for a whaling captain’s daughter, writes of her adventures as she was passed from owner to owner, continent to continent.


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