The Books We Never Outgrow

BubbaandBabbaWhen my sister was a baby, she received a gift destined to become a treasured family keepsake: a hardcover first edition of Bubba and Babba, Maria Polushkin’s adaptation of a Russian folktale about two lazy bears whose idleness threatens to get the better of them. My parents read us that story so many times my sister memorized it, convincing several family friends she could read at a ridiculously tender age. (She ruined the con at a dinner party when an eagle-eyed guest noticed she turned the page too early.) To this day, that beloved—and, sadly, out-of-print—book serves as a sort of family shorthand, cheekily referenced whenever one of us oversleeps or balks at doing the dishes.

Of course, Bubba and Babba wasn’t the only book my sister and I read during our formative years. We explored the worlds of Eric Carle, Margaret Wise Brown, and Richard Scarry, and we learned more than a few lessons from the Berenstain Bears. But only a handful of storybooks still stand out in our family’s collective memory. These are the paper-and-ink treasures that have weathered the storm of my mother’s bookshelf purges, slender, well-worn volumes about lazy bears, badgers named Frances, and bunnies named Miffy that Mom has preserved out of sentiment for more than thirty years.

FrancesI imagine most of you, dear bluestockings, have similar tales from your own childhoods, or from those of your children and grandchildren. What do you think is it about certain children’s books that stick with us over the years, their stories and characters branded into our memories even before we were capable of deciphering the letters on those pages? Is it the pretty pictures? The sing-song cadence of the rhymes? Or is it the feelings of security those books evoke, palpable memories of being curled in a caregiver’s lap or tucked snugly into bed with a story whose happy ending never faltered, even as the world around us seemed to grow and change every day?

We’d love to hear which children’s books hold a special place in your hearts and hope you’ll share their titles with us on Facebook or in the comments below. And next month, we’ll give you an opportunity to go to bat for your favorite kids’ books in our second annual March Madness Tournament of Classics. Stay tuned!

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6 thoughts on “The Books We Never Outgrow

  1. I’m sure my parents read to me as a child, but I just don’t remember it. What I do remember is reading to my son. My favorite story was Good Night, Little Bear by Richard Scarry, but doesn’t mean it was his. When I’d tell him it was story time, he’d wail “not Little Bear, Mom…not Little Bear!” Isn’t that a change from the usual? I still have Little Bear in my library; for some reason, my son didn’t want to take it with him. Whew!

  2. I adored The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright and The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Wright. I remember mom reading them to me and then being able to read them myself. Pure joy!

  3. My favorite childhood book is The Little Engine That Could. You might say it motivated me to follow my chosen path to medical school in the early seventies when girls didn’t do that. In times of trouble and discouragement this book has been an inspiration for me.

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