Robert

To Kick This Thing Off

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I want to start of by telling you about my first entry into reading, that I can remember.  My four favorite books as a child were, Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, Robert McCloskey’s Make Way For Ducklings, and last but certainly not least, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Now, these books were not what I read when I was in grade school and learning to read chapter books (more on that later).  These books were the ones my Mother and Father read to me time and time again, probably because I begged them to repeat the same stories.  And because I heard the stories over and over, they held a place of comfort and solace in my heart.  Yes, even the poop book! J

If you haven’t stumbled across Shel Silverstein, count yourself lucky to have found him mentioned in this article.  Silverstein is a well-known author who lived from 1930 to 1999.  He was about the same age as my Grandfather when he died, so I have always imagined him as an older man.  Always strange, when as a child, you imagine who the author of your book may be, and what he or she looks like.  Shel’s face is almost cartoon like to me, with big wide eyes and dark striking eyebrows and a beard.  It was a little scary to me when I first saw him as such a young child.  But I can remember one great lesson from seeing his picture in the outer fold of my book cover.  People, no matter what they look like, how old they are, or if they are man or woman all have the ability to feel thin.  Mr. Silverstein made that real for me.  Just because someone doesn’t seem similar to you doesn’t mean that you don’t share a vast amount of human experience between you.  I think that is one of the great lessons of childhood.

Everyone Poops is more of a lighthearted experience for a child.  All Mothers and Fathers know the struggle to convince a child out of their diaper and onto a toilet can be a challenging one.  The thing about this book that made an impact on me is it kind of gave me a frame of reference for the situation.  It took the fear out of it, and gave me something to laugh about and be silly over.  The drawings in the book are colorful and the writing is done in such a way that makes it impossible not to smile.  Children of every color, and from countries around the world are included in the drawings, allowing kids to see that, yes indeed, there are people of other skin colors from around the world, and they are all built just like you and me.  This is a great starter book to introduce to your child before they potty train, or during the midst of doing so.

I listed Make Way For Ducklings on this post before some others that I also loved, for one very special reason.  Reading this book as a child gave me an interest in the welfare of animals of all kinds.  I remember having a strong emotional reaction to the book.  I would think what it must be like to be the mother duck, trying to lead her children through the park to find the pond.  How with every step she was probably worried that one of them would get lost.  I would think that this mother duck is probably just as loving of a mom and I had and would do anything to protect her young.  It is a wonderful story and for me, allowed a glimpse into how important it is to respect the life of animals big and small, and just the universal experience of what it means to be alive and be part of a family, looking out for each other.

I waited to touch on Madeline last, because I figure it is probably the most popular out of all that I listed. This is the story of an orphan in Great Britain, living with a large group of other girls and a mistress who takes care of them.  It follows the adventures the girls have through out the city and even in the dark at night playing in their bedrooms!  I want to touch on Madeline, because I think it did a great job of introducing me to the curiosity of a child, and how important it is to follow your own curiosity on adventures big and small.  After reading Madeline, and falling in love with it, I can remember thinking as a kid how important it is that I be brave and strong just like she was in the book.  Obviously, she was easy to look up to and served as a great role model for me.  All of these books, by the way, have great illustrations that go along with them!

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