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This is the second post in my series about what I’m reading this summer and the memories that connect Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children to my life.
The first chapter in Anita Silvey’s book, 100 Best Books for Children is about board books, books for children birth – age 2. I don’t really have a memory of books specific to this age group. I know my parents read to me at this age, but I don’t remember what they read. I recommend the Sandra Boynton books to anyone with children this age. They are great books full of simple words, vibrant colors, and giggle producing stories. We read them to my 6 month old nephew and he goes crazy for them. While on the topic of my adorable nephew, even though I don’t have memories of reading stories at this time in my life, I do have many memories associated with the books Anita Silvey talks about in this chapter.
“One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry”
– The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Much like the adorable green caterpillar in Carle’s book, I was very hungry for knowledge growing up. I wanted books, books and more books. I was always the bookworm in my family, but I wasn’t the only bibliophile.
My older sister’s favorite book was Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Silvey gives some interesting facts about the story. If you want to know them all, you should go read her book. However, one my favorite tidbits was, according to Silvey, Margaret Wise Brown said that she dreamed all of her stories. I love that idea that stories for children come from some other place, put into willing authors dreams, created to send a message to the right child at just the right time. Brown believed that, “Children need to hear about and see all the things that they feel comfortable with in their own world” (pg. 3). I agree with this sentiment, too. Children often feel insecure about their surroundings and themselves. Seeing themselves in pictures and print makes them feel validated and comforted. If you haven’t read Goodnight, Moon, the repetitive rhyming lines are much like a lullaby. There is a little mouse that you can find on every page. It’s an adorable and endearing story, one that is soothing and gives lots of opportunities to practice early literacy skills.
Goodnight, Moon has cemented a status in the literary canon for children and has been proven as a great tool for early literacy, but for me this book will always be about my big sister. Since it was her favorite book long before I was born, I have never read the story without thinking about her. Every time I read it in story hour, it reminds me of her. After re-reading the book, I realized, the book and my sister have the same characteristics, they sort of melt into each other in my memory.
As the oldest of three girls, she’s always been the responsible one. She has always taken care of us. She’s very straight forward, much like the simple straightforward text of the story. She doesn’t dance around things, she always tells us like it is. She gives us the truth because she wants to help us.
The story, where the little bunny is safe and surrounded by things he knows, reminds me so much of the feelings I have with my sister. When I visit her to this day, I am happy to leave off all responsibility and take on the role as little sister, following her directions, doing things on her terms. She has always wanted the best for me. She has always been someone who keeps us safe.
While the story is simple and comforting, I think there is an aspect of underlying care. That little bunny doesn’t miss an opportunity to make sure everything he owns gets the same goodnight treatment. My sister, could be misconstrued as tough, but she is really very caring. She’s the first one to bring home some extra recyclable bags, or make your favorite dinner. She always comes up with unique birthday gifts and doesn’t forget to ask about what’s happening in our lives. She’s a very caring mother and daughter, she doesn’t miss a thing.
There’s another way the story reminds me of my independent older sister; the aspect of bravery I find in the story. As a child terrified of night and going to bed, the little bunny that is saying goodnight to everything that surrounds him is a brave character to me. He doesn’t slink off to bed; he proclaims his destination by bidding goodnight to everything around him. That is not how I went to sleep. My bedtime routine resembled a climactic scene in a horror flick. My sister is much like that bunny as she goes off into life. She isn’t melodramatic, she just does what she needs to do, addressing whatever she needs to along the way, as it comes. My sister is brave; she has always been the bravest. Her bravery gives me courage now, and it gave me courage as a child. She had to share a room with the raving, screaming, lunatic child Sara that did not want to go to bed. She witnessed my fits, learned to sleep with the light on when she could, and suffered through my tears. She never made me feel bad about it, but she willingly gave up her own room at my request; I was less scared with her there than with my little sister- sorry Anna! Goodnight, Moon will always mean more to me than a story about a bunny saying goodnight. It will be about family, courage, sisters, and a person I will always look up to.
There’s another fun fact that my sister, who has a pretty good sense of humor, would enjoy. According to Silvey, the cow in the picture over the mantle in the book was altered before publication, “He [the illustrator] altered it anatomically so that no one would object to the udders.” (Pg. 4). I’m really glad I wasn’t a Children’s Librarian in 1936 because I’m really not sure I could take a complaint about cow udders seriously.
Here are some of my favorite non-scary bedtime stories for babies and preschoolers for you to try:
Snuggle Puppy and Night-Night Little Pookie and Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton
How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
Time for Bed, Spot by Eric Hill
For bigger children:
Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban
There’s a Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer