Anita Silvey has worked in the field of publishing children’s books for over 40 years and is an author of several books of her own including Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life.
Anita once wrote that early in her career, she started asking anyone she met (at cocktail parties, dinners, even in cabs and elevators) about the books they read as a child. A universal ice breaker, this question often elicited smiles and fond memories.
However, for her book Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book she talked to people that she would not ordinarily meet — about 110 leaders of society in a variety of fields such as science, arts, politics, sports, or journalism. To them she posed a more serious question: “What children’s book changed your life in a profound way?” As she conducted interviews with Pete Seeger, Andrew Wyeth, Steve Forbes, Julainne Moore, Peter Lynch and Kirk Douglas, she realized that she possessed far too little faith in the power of children’s books.
Silvey shared that what these icons read as children shaped them as adults – in amazing ways. Some recalled a character with fondness; some became attracted to a location or country because of a book. Some have remembered a single line from a book for decades. Many chose careers because of a children’s book. Many found a personal, social, or political philosophy that has sustained them for decades.
I don’t remember learning to read as a child. My memories are such that it seems I just always knew. There is a chance that I was a lover of books even in the womb. We always had books at home and I still have some of my books from childhood which I now read to my own daughters. One of my favorite childhood authors was Dr. Seuss. Before my daughters were born I came across the mother-lode of Dr. Seuss called Your Favorite Seuss: A baker’s dozen by the one and only Dr. Seuss. We started reading to our girls very early, in fact here is one of my all-time favorite photos taken of my husband while he was reading to our infant daughters from the over-sized Dr. Seuss book.
My daughter’s collection of books is growing though they also love to make trips to the library to pick out some books to check out. I still love children’s books. I love both words and art and children’s books pair the two so beautifully. I think it would be wonderful if more adult books includes art too.
Do you have any favorite books from childhood?
Do you still read children’s books? (If you don’t I highly recommend it)
If Anita Silvey had featured you in her book how would you have answered the question “What children’s book changed your life in a profound way?”
Just a few books you might enjoy:
Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers by author Rob D. Walker and award-winning illustrators Leon & Diane Dillon celebrates the universal love between mothers and sons in rhymes from around the world. Timeless virtues such as honesty, courage, and a caring heart are extolled in simple, rhythmic verse that rocks and soothes in lullaby tones:
Mama says be loving
Mama says be caring
Mama says you’ve done God’s will
Every time you’re sharing.
Each rhyme is depicted in the script of its original language with the English translation mirrored alongside. Cherokee, Russian, Amharic, Japanese, Hindi, Inuktitut, Hebrew, English, Korean, Arabic, Quechua, Danish. The beautiful illustrations evoke eloquently the relationship between the mother of each nation and her young son. The words give voice to the spirit of each country and the corresponding costumes and scenery are rendered masterfully in naturalistic artwork that is splendidly evocative of culture and place. On the final page is a fabulous two-page group portrait of the boys now grown to manhood:
I listened to what Mama said
And now I am a man.
All the Colors of the Earth written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka tells a story of how:
Children come in all colors of the earth
The roaring browns of bears and soaring eagles,
The whispering golds of late summer grasses,
And crackling russets of fallen leaves,
The tinkling pinks of tiny seashells by the rumbling sea.
Children come with hair like bouncy baby lambs,
Or hair that flows like water,
Or hair that curls like sleeping cats in snoozy cat colors.
Children come in all the colors of love
In endless shades of you and me.
For love comes in cinnamon, walnut, and wheat,
Love is amber and ivory and ginger and sweet
Like caramel and chocolate, and the honey of bees.
Dark as leopard spots, light as sand,
Children buzz with laughter that kisses our land,
With sunlight like butterflies happy and free,
Children come in all the colors of the earth and sky and sea.
On the Night You Were Born written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman has touched the hearts of readers of all ages
On the night you were born,
the moon smiled with such wonder
that the stars peeked in to see you
and the night wind whispered.
“Life will never be the same.”
On the night you were born, the whole world came alive with thanksgiving. The moon stayed up till morning. The geese flew home to celebrate. Polar bears danced. On the night you were born you brought wonder and magic to the world. Here is a book that celebrates you. It is meant to be carried wherever life takes you, over all the roads, through all the years.
In the book Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by author Giles Andraea and illustrator Guy Parker-Rees, the lead character, Gerald the giraffe, doesn’t really have delusions of grandeur. He just wants to dance. But his knees are crooked and his legs are thin, and all the other animals mock him when he approaches the dance floor at the annual Jungle Dance. “Hey, look at clumsy Gerald,” they sneer. “Oh, Gerald, you’re so weird.” Poor Gerald slinks away as the chimps cha-cha, rhinos rock ‘n’ roll, and warthogs waltz. But an encouraging word from an unlikely source shows this glum giraffe that those who are different “just need a different song,” and soon he is prancing and sashaying and boogying to moon music with a cricket accompanist.
Here is also a fun reading of Giraffes Can’t Dance for your enjoyment!
If the video embedded below won’t play for you here is a link: