Thursday, January 23, 2020

Which books do you remember from childhood? A list to give you all the feels

The other night, I read Ben Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (with illustrations by Lillian Hoban, his wife). It's a book I remember my mom reading to me as a kid, and it is one of my all-time favorites. The story involves a feisty girl-bear who decides she's only eating bread and jam, and who soon realizes that—spoiler alert!—that can get old, fast. One day, she watches a friend at school unpack his lunch.

What do you have today?" said Frances.

"I have a cream cheese-cucumber-and-tomato sandwich on rye bread," said Albert. "And a pickle to go with it. And a hard-boiled egg and a little cardboard shaker of salt to go with that. And a thermos bottle of milk."

Oh, that cardboard shaker of salt: How I loved it. I didn't know what a cardboard shaker of salt looked like, but I thought it was the most amazing thing.

Turns out I am not alone with the cardboard salt shaker obsession, as I discovered when I asked people on Facebook which books they recalled their parents reading to them. People mentioned books I'd long since forgotten, along with some I never even knew existed. My childhood was devoid of Poky Little Puppy, though somehow I still turned out pretty OK.

Reading is the activity I most enjoy. As a kid, I was friends with our local librarian. Every week I'd take out the maximum number of books (ten), haul them home and return the next week for a new batch. One of my greatest joys as a parent has been introducing books to my kids. This took on a new level of importance with Max, starting with his NICU stay. One of my most vivid memories of that time is standing next to his incubator as he lay there, unconscious, and reading Oh, The Places You'll Go! to him through the vent holes. I choked out the words in between sobs, aching to encourage him and myself, too. 

I filled Max's bookshelves to capacity. I thought reading could encourage him to articulate sounds and words. I wanted books to open up his mind, brain damage be damned. As I read, I'd talk about the colors on the pages and what was happening in the story. I'd ask questions and answer them myself until he learned to nod yes and no. Max was finicky, but I got him hooked on books about trains, and buses. Later he got into books that related to his obsessions—the color purple, Lightning McQueen, fire trucks. Today Max can read very well, and while he doesn't care much about books, I have hope that he'll come around.

Reading to Ben at bedtime is a highlight of my day. I'm always looking for new books, and I'm planning to get a bunch my Facebook crew mentioned. Here's a list of the books friends most fondly remember from their childhoods. I hope they give you ideas, along with the warm-fuzzies.

Harry the Dirty Dog
Chicken Soup with Rice
Fish is Fish 
Tiki Tiki Tembo
Pat the Bunny
In the Night Kitchen
The Story of Babar

Gerald McBoing Boing
The Poky Little Puppy
The Little Engine That Could
The Story of Ferdinand
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile
Green Eggs and Ham
A Fish Out of Water
Richard Scarry Books

The Snowy Day
Edith and Mr. Bear
A Child's Garden of Verses
Where The Wild Things Are
Curious George
I Love You As Much
Goodnight Moon
The Runaway Bunny
A Bear Called Paddington

Leo the Late Bloomer
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
Are You Mother?
Hop on Pop
Morris the Moose
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Put Me In The Zoo
Good Night, Little Bear

Caps For Sale
Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
Button Soup
But No Elephants
The Giant Jam Sandwich
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Where The Sidewalk Ends
Make Way for Ducklings
Blueberries for Sal
Little Bear
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
The Velveteen Rabbit


  1. Not to completely blow up your childhood, but I was always taught Frances was a badger! :0


Thanks for sharing!

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