Every once in a while, a picture book sings to your heart.
You don’t just like it.
You feel it in your soul.
Everyone has different books and stories that spark their fire. Our stories and what we read are a reflection of ourselves. A.A. Milne puts it well (of course)- here describing how reading “The Wind in the Willows” reflects on one’s self:
“One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know, But it is you who are on trial.”
This is why I like to talk about books with others. Through books, we get to know each other better. Through each other, we get to know the world. And through the world, we get to know ourselves.
This week, I was lucky enough to discover another book that sings to my heart. It’s called, “A Child of Books” by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. The words of this picture book are more of a poem, and story is told more in the illustrations than in the words. After a first read through, I went through and read it again- just the words, aloud. They begged to be read aloud, to be recited, to be shared.
“…and upon my imagination, I float…”
“…we will travel mountains of make-believe…”
“…we can lose ourselves in forests of fairy tales…”
“…anyone at all can come/ For imagination is free...”
The story is simple. It’s about two children exploring the world of stories- where anything can happen, everything is possible, and there is a sense of hope & peace. Much of the illustrations are made up of text themselves, from classics stories, that readers will enjoy recognizing. Both words and illustrations are exceptional.
But for me, the true magic of this story is the timing. It’s here during a time when we’re inundated with lots of new, super cool technologies. Kids, parents, grandparents, at home, at work, at school. Our minds buzz. Our screens glow. We chat, we like, we share, we check. This book reminds us that stories last. They are there for us. The books we love, the books we share, the places we explore through the pages, the learning that happens through reading- these things we remember. They become a special part of us. Maybe reading this book is a reminder- for parents and children alike- to get lost in the pages they love, and to keep discovering new places, or maybe make up some places of their own. Or, maybe this book is a reminder to take a sip from a long lost spring- a place you haven’t been to in a while. To get to know that imagination of yours. To visit a library and check out a book. To unplug for an evening, and curl up with a book, by yourself, or with someone you love.
We are all children of books.
The amazing Candlewick Press has put together a lovely teacher's guide for A Child of Books (that includes a list of all the classics used in the illustrations!), which you can find here. I hope you enjoy this book- look for it on an upcoming Best of... list!