Booktalk Week 1

Day 1: November 11th
I have been adding a new Christmas book to my collection since I was old enough to buy my own books. This tradition has segued into others and now I buy a new Christmas book for our children and their families for Christmas. This year, however, I am breaking with tradition. I am adding a holiday book, but rather than Christmas it is Thanksgiving. The book is Giving Thanks: Poem, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson, illustrations by Pamela Dalton. It is a beautiful book in content and appearance. I have always loved the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Christmas, feeling that there is no better introduction to the Christmas season than gratitude. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude as I peruse this book. The most convincing reason to take a look at this book comes from the opening reflection by Katherine Paterson, “I know words and art will help me consider all the blessing I have been given, remembering the prayer of seventeenth century poet George Herbert, and making it my own: Thou that hast given so much to me, give one thing more – a grateful heart.” 

These two very talented women also collaborated on Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures. The cut paper and water color illustrations are vibrant against a black background. If you like it then you will love the art in The Story of Christmas with the text from the King James version of the Bible illustrated by Pamela Dalton.
For years the children’s book buyer at BYU Bookstore has presented a Holiday Booktalk in November at the Harold B Lee Library Auditorium.  I love preparing book talks because it gives me license to think and talk about my life-long passion, books. After trying to accommodate many requests for lists, times, notification I have decided to blog the Holiday Booktalk. I hope it will appeal to book lovers who have difficulty finding time and parking on campus. For the next six weeks I will share favorites old and new and I hope you will respond with some of your favorites.

Day 2: November 12th
Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. This is not a Holiday book but it always makes me think of “over the river and through the woods.” It is a beautiful introduction to winter and quiet reflection. Robert Frost is a favorite of mine, as is Susan Jeffers, so this small book gets pulled out year after year. Natalie Bober did a wonderful job telling the story of the poet's life in the biography, Restless Spirit. Now she has made the poet accessible to children in a picture book told from the viewpoint of his oldest daughter, Lesley, Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost.  Rebecca Gibbon is the illustrator. I love books with author notes in the back. This one has notes, several of his poems and Robert Frost quotations –“A poem is a momentary stay against confusion.” It is a “voyage in discovery” that “begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same for love.”  

Day 3: November 13th
TRY POETRY! I am horrified by the memory of an elementary school teacher saying, “I don’t do poetry!” Some of my favorite memories involve poetry. We had favorite illustrated anthologies in our house and we would turn the pages looking at pictures until one called to us to stop and read the poem or recite it together. Sharing poetry with children when it is just for fun is what opens the door to a love of poetry as an adult. Poetry gives language to emotion that can’t be fully expressed any other way. I have such happy memories of my mother at the sewing machine, the ironing board or in the kitchen reciting from memory, The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, Little Orphan Annie, Three Little Kittens and many more. I can still recite those poems even now without effort or ever working at it. It tells me a lot about listening and learning at a young age. No home should be without at least one good volume of poetry for children to enjoy. Caroline Kennedy has done a lovely job of selecting poems for her anthologies as has Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton-Hamilton.

If you are stumped for gift ideas, if you want a really special gift that will give lasting satisfaction, if you have someone on your list with no needs . . . TRY POETRY.  Bookmark a few of your favorites to get them off to a good start.
Poems that make you laugh:
Don’t Worry if Your Job Is Small
And your rewards are few.
Remember that the mighty oak,
Was once a nut like you.     - Anonymous

Poems that open your mind and heart, and thrill you with their beauty:

Thy love
Shall chant itself its own beatitudes,
After its own life-working. A child’s kiss
Set on thy sighing lips, shall make thee glad:
A poor man, served by thee, shall make thee rich;
An old man, helped by thee, shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense
Of service which thou renderest.   - Elizabeth Barrett Browning           Try Poetry!

Day 4: November 14th

When it comes to books I like to blur restrictive lines just as much as I can. While acknowledging that there are books that are not intended for children, I love books that appeal to all ages. The poetry books in yesterday’s blog are good examples. Watership Down by Richards Adams is a favorite of mine from years ago. The story grew from tales spun aloud by the author to entertain his children on road trips. Yet it has successfully sold to adult audiences for over thirty years without ever going out of print. I have seen academic reviews praise the story as epic. A quote in the Economist said, -“If there is no place for “Watership Down” in children’s bookshops, then children’s literature is dead.” It has been called “the Aeneid of the rabbits.” I love seeing these age & interest borders crossed both ways. On a recent drive to Denver my husband and I listened to the audio version of Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb: The Race to Build -and Steal- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon. This book won a Newbery Honor Medal. It is marketed for children but Sheinkin does a great job of giving us a bird’s eye view of the events developing around the development of nuclear weapons. My 11 year old grandson enjoyed the print version as much or more than we enjoyed the audio. His Mom sent me a picture of him eating lunch with the book propped open so he didn't have to stop reading to eat. 

Does every book lover have a list of books that they would choose to go hungry for?  I definitely have a growing list. One of my most recent additions to that list would have to be Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.  This book has been adapted for Young Readers by Michael French and is the inspiring story of Paul Farmer, a young doctor determined to fight disease, especially antibiotic resistant disease and win. An inspiring testament to the power of single individuals who are willing to sacrifice for others.

What books would you skip dinner for?

Day 5: November 15th
Never Too Young – Never Too Old

Years ago an LDS oriented Utah Magazine, whose title I can’t recall, published an article on the last page of each issue about reading. The articles were written by, now retired BYU Professor Jim Jacobs. I loved reading those articles and still have many of them. In one article he said that sometimes people would ask him when one should stop reading aloud to children. His answer says it all, “When the long distance costs become prohibitive.” A book that proves Jim’s answer is Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. When Alice was nine years old her father made a promise to read aloud to her every night without missing a night for one hundred days. They reached that goal and found that neither one wanted to stop so 100 days expanded to 3,218 days ending in a dormitory stairwell when her father dropped her off to start college. The account is poignant, powerful and you come away with their booklist.

A well-known study conducted by Anthony DeCasper at the University of South Carolina suggests that it is never too early to start reading aloud. Mothers were instructed to read Dr. Seuss out loud while they were pregnant. When the babies were born, researchers tested to see if they recognized Dr. Seuss against other stories, and their mother's voice against other readers. In both cases, the infants were able to pick up on the vocal patterns they'd become familiar with in utero.

Usually I am a bit of a snob when it comes to books as toys. I like “real books.” But for babies to have a hands-on experience there are many options that make a baby book fun. Black & White books are especially appealing and helpful to developing eyes. Black and white board books are the dernier cri in gifts for babies.

I have come to appreciate a series of books for babies called Indestructibles.  They claim to be “Chew Proof – Rip Proof – Nontoxic – 100% Washable” Best of all they feel like paper so your baby can enjoy the pages without disastrous results. I put the 100% washable claim to the test by tossing one in the washing machine with a load of jeans. It came out as good as new.

Blast-from-the-past favorites now are in a board book format. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Five Little Monkeys, We're Going on a Bear Hunt and many more make early access easy. Even I have a hard time keeping my nose elevated when it comes to bath books. Reading in the bath is the best relaxation technique for me and I am going to encourage books in the tub for the babies in my life. I mean who can resist a bath book that floats with a squirting elephant tub toy?

How are you sharing books with the babies in your life?

Anita is the Children's Book buyer for the BYU Bookstore and has worked at the BYU Bookstore for over ten years! Anita spreads her love of reading within our Children's Books department and with many local book events.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE Susan Jeffers and her work illustrating "Stopping By..." but it kills me a little every time I read it. I interpret the poem as being about death, so seeing a jolly little Santa Claus-esque figure with his (admittedly beautiful) pony prancing with gifts in the sleigh... yeah, kinda kills that image.