Monday, April 2, 2007

Essence of Rare Children’s Books

I happily and greedily rediscovered children’s books while I was a student teacher attending Columbia University, Teachers College. From September 1995 through May 1996 I could be found most weekends sitting on the floor in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble. Finding the right book was no easy task for me because I not only needed to find the right text to highlight my lesson but also had to find a book that I could translate into American Sign Language (ASL), which I was also learning at the time.

I loved the challenge and would spend hours sitting there. Once I found a book that met my qualifications I would sit with my sign language dictionary and my notepad to begin translating it. In my quest for the right book I came across some familiar titles from my childhood. These were books that I had not thought about in my adult life but when I picked them up I was suddenly transported back to the days when I was lost in the words on those pages.

This is when I rediscovered Curious George and Pretzel by Margret and H.A. Rey. My mom says that I was always reading Curious George books and loved him as a child but I don't have a clear recollection of this. On the floor at B&N I was also reacquainted with my old friends The Gingerbread Man and Rumpelstilskin. The memory of my Oma reading Rumelstiltzkin to me with her thick German accent came flooding back. This was a truly exciting time of rediscovery.

In searching through boxes of memories from my youth I came across two other books that are examples of connecting with the past. Both are first printings and both are hard to find nowadays. One is Just Suppose by May Garelick (Copyright November, 1969). It is a tale of imagination but has no moral like today's children's literature. It is just good fun, nothing wrong with that.

The other is The Hungry Thing by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler (Copyright February, 1971). This book was given a shout out by Yopp and Yopp (2000) in their research article – Supporting phonemic awareness development in the classroom: Playful and appealing activities that focus on the sound structure of language in The Reading Teacher, 54, 130-143. This is a silly rhyming book and I really love it. It is great for children beginning to play with language and rhyming is the entry point into phonological awareness.

There is another children’s book that I rediscovered recently entitled The Saga of Baby Divine by Bette Midler. It came out in 1983 and has some very adult humor. More for mom and dad than the kids but a good read with fantastic pictures. I ordered it on eBay and it just came today. Here is an excerpt that I particularly like.


It's the point of your view that decides what you see --

One Man's Flop is another man's hit.

From manners to movies, the picture keeps changing

Depending upon where you sit.

So, there you have another reason I love being a teacher, children’s books.


Joy said...

I wish I'd had books like this when I was a kid! Isn't there a series of Hungry Thing books, or am mistaken?

Gary said...

Good call. There are two other Hungry Thing books that I know about. One is called 'The Hungry Thing Returns', this time with a baby Hungry Thing. I bought it a few years ago off and paid too much for it. There is also 'The Hungry Thing goes to a Restaurant', but I don't have that one.

Rosemary said...

There are so many great kids books out there it is hard to enumerate. However, I love the Kevin Henkes books, especially those with Lily.


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