I may have done an evil “toy cleanse” or two in my day, but you won’t find me culling through the ginormous bookshelves in kid’s room any time soon. This is not a cute little “ooh, I want to raise a reader” story. This is the story of an addiction.
I love books like a crackwhore loves the pipe. And I may share a wee bit of their mania. But it’s legal!
Ask the hubs about my lists. Wait, better not. No need to remind him he picked the screwball to marry.
But they’re there: the lists of books the kid must read before she reaches 18. I started the collection before she was born, and every time there’s a closeout sale at a bookstore, it grows. My old favorites from childhood, without which I’m sure she will never fully form (and don’t bother telling me different, he’s already tried).
The list is too long for this here blog (although I’m debating a few posts . . . more on that to come), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank a certain crew. Call them my enablers. They’re the folks who have taken up the mantle of some children’s classics to ensure that future generations are addicted to the same characters that hooked
weirdos happy lil’ readers like me, the family members of some of our favorite authors who didn’t let their series die:
The Berenstain Bears: To be honest, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the anthropomorphic bear family. On the one hand, they were just so formulaic, and so preachy. Yeah, we get it, we should have manners. We need to eat our vegetables. And why is Sister Bear such a wuss? But I read an interview with Mike Berenstain, son of Jan and Stan who started the series, who know partners with his mom (that would be Jan) to continue the series forced out my cranky Mom view in favor of my fond kiddie memories.
Said Mike to the Chicago Tribune: “It’s always been an idealized, fictional kind of imaginary world that’s much simpler than real life. Even life in 1962 was more complicated than Bear Country.”
That I can appreciate. The books weren’t going to change the world, but they didn’t have to. They were there to address the little stuff, the fear of the dentist, the stomachache after all that birthday cake. They were stories about an every day family where the parents cared about the kids’ concerns and always had an answer. They made you feel safe. And if you learned a lesson along the way, well, all the better.
Worth a Read: The Berenstain Bears and the Coughing Catfish: a story of taking care of the environment from way back in the ’80s before green was cool! New to the collection is The Berenstain Bears Come Clean For School. If you’re sick of getting sick when the kids go back to school, it might be worth it (note: papa bear is the one who doesn’t want to wash his hands . . . sound like anyone you know?).
Amelia Bedelia: Remember the maid with the sing-song name who took everything literally? I always wanted her to come to my house because she could screw up anything . . . at least everyone got cake in the end. When we were kids it was a woman named Peggy Parish penning the silly maid’s path. She apparently died in 1988, but her nephew, Herman, didn’t want to see it end (maybe he wanted cake too?).
And I dare say he’s improved on them? Sacrilege, I know. But I was all ready to buy out the oldies but goodies from the store when two brand spankin’ new Amelia Bedelias landed in my house — courtesy of Harper Collins. They introduced my daughter to an Amelia Bedelia with the same literal streak but a body to match; she’s now a kid my kid’s age. They’re not nearly as funny (although Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School brought out the giggles at bedtime), but they’re more relatable — especially in today’s “who has money for a maid?” economy.
Also worth a read: Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend
The Littles: It says a lot about a kid that she thinks her town is cool because a famous children’s book author hails from her neck of the woods. The highlight of my little life was knowing that my mom had hired one of John Peterson’s daughters — who illustrated some of his books — to draw a portrait of me. And Mr. Peterson himself drew my nose!
Looking back, I wonder if reading about the tiny people living in the walls of a human family (the Biggs, NATURALLY) wasn’t so attractive to a kid because it’s a story of childhood in many ways. We’re little. We sneak around the house gathering things from the big adult world to make our lives. Just take a peek in an elementary schooler’s room. They’re little kleptos! Mr. Peterson passed away several years ago, but his wife told me their son, Joel, took over writing the books. He’s keeping childhood alive!
Worth a Read: Any of them. Really. I’ve been collecting them little by little (no pun intended) for bedtime reading now that my daughter is finally old enough for chapter books.
What book series have you rediscovered now that you have kids? Are they still being penned by the same person?
Disclosure: I received advanced reader copies of the new Amelia Bedelia books and The Berenstain Bears Come Clean for School but they were incidental to the concept of this blog post. All opinions are my own.