On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, the world of books lost a shining star, Maurice Sendak. He was 83. On Wednesday, I listened to excerpts from four interviews by Terry Gross of Fresh Air. This got me thinking about children’s books in general, and I visited the shelf of books from my childhood.
Sendak illustrated his most well-known book, Where the Wild Things Are. He explained that he drew each of the “monsters” with characteristics of people he knew. I have read this book countless times over the years. In 1964, Sendak won the Caldecott Medal as the best children’s picture book of the year.
As far as illustrated children’s books are concerned, I love many, many titles, but my favorites are those illustrated by John Muth. The Three Questions – based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy – tells the story of a young boy who wonders about some basic questions of his existence. All the characters have names from Russian writers and their characters. Almost every semester, I read this book to some of my literature classes.
This brings me to a recent children’s book, which came across my editorial desk. Rat’s Tale: A Story about a Mouse Named Rat by Waco native, Missy Balusek. This self-published story is based on a true experience of Missy’s son, Blake. It has the most charming illustrations.
Children’s books play a role far more important that many people recognize at first glance. A child drawn into books because of the illustrations, and – more importantly – because parents read stories as often as possible, lay the foundation for that child to become a life-long reader.
I remember my mother reading to me and my oldest sister. I enjoy reading to children whenever we visit family or friends. Sometimes, if I happen upon a bookstore or a library during a reading hour, I will lurk nearby and listen in on the story.
I have my mother to thank for making me the voracious reader I am today. Will your children be able to say the same?