What are the books you most associate with each of your parents? The list on my father’s side is shockingly short — Rabbit Hill, the works of James Thurber, and the beloved Jack Kent comic strip King Aroo. Instead, almost every book I think of loving as a child was given to me by Mom, with the words “This was one of my favorites.” But there are standouts, too, books that I cannot think of without thinking of my mother. In anticipation of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share a few with you:
1) The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit was my very favorite book for most of my childhood. It is an adventure story: After an argument at the King’s table, Gaylen, the Prime Minister’s paige, is sent to ask every citizen what the definition of “delicious” is. When no one can agree, an evil prince stirs up trouble among the masses, and Gaylen has to work to save the kingdom. There are dwarves and mermaids and fighting peasants, and a large battle. It also ends up being about the importance of language, a reverse Tower of Babel, if you will, and gets better with every reading. (Hardcover original editions are not hard to find.)
2) There are the classics: Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie. Every mother introduces her daughter to one (or all) of these, and my mom was a Little Women fan, and that book formed me in ways I could never fully explain or even understand. It also introduced my best friend to tragedy and the concept of spoilers: one day Mom was driving us home, and my best friend Shannon excitedly mentioned she had finished Little Women. “I still can’t think of Beth dying without tears.” my mom said. “Beth dies?!” Shannon looked devastated! Turns out her edition of Little Women was split into two volumes, and she had only read the first.
3) I always associate The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd with my Mom. I don’t know if it is because she loved it too, or if it is just because it was about a mother’s love. But, it’s a classic; and I never tire of reading it.
4) Mom couldn’t take me to the English lake country and let me adventure on a deserted island when I was a kid. But she could give me Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, which is almost as good. If I could forever be in any book, it would be this one. Filled with sunlight, innocence, hard work, and adventure; plus there are ten more books in the series! (On further consideration, Mom, I still want to go to the lake country and camp out on an island for a whole summer. Please let me!)
5) The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (illustrations by Lois Slobodkin) is a truly magical story. She waited a long time to give it to me (and I advise you to do the same.) Though technically a picture book / early reader, you want to introduce this book when your girls are old enough to appreciate its gravity. It is also the best antidote to any Mean Girls attitudes. But more than this: it opens up an entire world of imagination. It remains one of my very favorite books. It won the Newberry Award in 1945
What books did your Mother give you? What books have you given your child that you really hope will stick with them?