Sometimes I spend hours in the children’s section of the bookstore. I prop my purse by my feet, shuffling it along as I slip among the rows, pulling spines with titles that tantalize, propping open picture books on the shelf to read and wonder, thoughtfully considering each offering.
I keep a list of favorite finds, saving my debates about whether to purchase or put a hold at the library for later when rational thoughts about my pocketbook can nibble at my elbow without distracting me from reading and thinking. Long live my wish list!
I am choosy about children’s books because of my students. I am a preschool teacher and my class is primarily comprised of children who are ELL and haven’t had much exposure to children’s books and story. I am a great story teller, but I still need really good books to teach my students the power of pictures and word.
Often I find good stories – with lousy pictures – or vice verse. This is going to sound very critical but I’ve found that many of the books that win awards are made for children who have wonderfully literate English speaking families, or they are made for adults.
That is why I’ve become such a hunter of books. I check out everything that looks the least bit promising because I’ve found there are gems hidden behind less-than-enterprising titles or gorgeous pictures on the cover. Stories and pictures need to complement each other in the most seamless and special way so that my work as a story teller is just about pulling the velvet curtain back and exposing the magic.
Of course I’ve found picture books with illustrations and lyricism that just plain charm me – and there is always someone worth gifting a good book to! I’m enchanted by the book Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman and send these words from it to my daughter turning 27 this Friday!
“Let her tell stories and dance in the rain, somersault, tumble and run.
Her joys must be high as her sorrows are deep.
Let her grow like a weed in the sun….”
“This is a prayer for a blueberry girl.
Words written clear on a wall.
Help her to help herself, help her to stand, help her to lose and to find.
Teach her we’re only as big as our dreams,
Show her that fortune is blind.
Truth is a thing she must find for herself, precious and rare as a pearl.
Give her all these and a little bit more: gifts for a blueberry girl.”