Judy Blume loved Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Andrew Clements adored The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown (illus. by Garth Williams). Jon Scieszka was a big fan of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.
What’s your favorite picture book from childhood? What book did you return to, again and again? And why?
Writers, plumbers, scientists, dog trainers, stargazers, gardeners–I love to hear their replies to those questions. The answers seem to give such a glimpse into who they were as kids and insight into who they became as adults. If anything, those questions are great ice breakers. Everyone has an answer, ranging from an older brother’s Superman comic books to The Little Prince, read aloud exquisitely in French. As a child, a poet friend could listen only so long to Where the Wild Things Are because she’d get scared–and yet she’d request that book again and again. One of my sisters, who loved to play mustang as a kid, would pore over Wesley Dennis’s detailed horse pictures in the Billy and Blaze series.
My favorite was Jane’s Blanket by Arthur Miller, illustrated by Al Parker. I read this quiet story of a girl outgrowing her beloved baby “bata” over and over. I remember examining the black-and-white illustrations, with the pink blanket as the only spot of color. At one point, Jane lays down on the tiny, holey thing: “Jane had gotten bigger and bigger, but her pink blanket had gotten smaller and smaller.” And I remember feeling that this whole growing-up thing was mysterious and strange and sad and a little scarey, that it called for leaving and loss; and I remember crying sometimes over that.
And part of the magic of this book was that it was my very own. In a family with seven kids, practically everything was communal–toys, dolls, the set of children’s encyclopedias. We went to the library frequently and carted books home in my mother’s laundry basket, but those, of course, had to be returned. Jane’s Blanket had been a gift (from some unremembered classmate at my birthday party), and I immediately marked it with my name. Over the years, I protected it from squabbling siblings and carried it with me, into adulthood–a reminder, perhaps, of the mysteries of childhood even in a “bigger and bigger” world.
So, what’s your favorite picture book from childhood–and why?