There's been a trend in recent years to gift books at a baby shower in lieu of cards. I think it's a fantastic idea, and something I've been doing long since before it became a trend. I've always been a firm believer that a child should have as many books - as they have toys... and preferably more books. When you gift a book to a child, what helps you make that final decision? Do you focus on the book's message or lesson? The characters? The pictures? When I gift a book, be it to a child or an adult, I always think first about how that book touched me, and I make a gift hoping the recipient will enjoy it in the same way I did. I hope it will build the same memories for them.
These are the top three children's books that created the most lasting impression on my childhood. This list is so much greater than three... and the books I discovered when I had my son would go on a completely different list... but this is a good start. If I was limited to share only three titles with the children in my life forever, these would the books I would choose. I hope you'll take the time to discover and share their wonderment with a young person in your life.
Santa Mouse by Michael Brown
This is one of my first memories of literature. I think I was about four when I first had this book read to me during the holidays. I can't remember if it was one that already lived on our shelves, or if it was a gift; but I remember the story very clearly. This is a wonderful tale of altruism demonstrated by a tiny little mouse thinking of someone far bigger then he, Santa Claus, and how perhaps Santa doesn't receive gifts on Christmas. The story, written in a simple rhyme that I had memorized by the third or fourth reading (and can still recite almost perfectly today), is about how the little mouse sets out to make it right. When Santa encounters the gift and is touched by the gesture, he asks the mouse his name, to thank him properly. But, the mouse doesn't have a name. So, Santa adopts him. He gives him a tiny little suit, and shiny black boots, and even a tiny little beard. In that moment, he is officially Santa Mouse, and spends the rest of his days spreading the joy of altruism throughout the holiday season. I remember that this book made a terrific impact on me because it made me clearly understand that no matter how small or inconsequential I thought I was... there was much good I could do, and the good I did wouldn't go unnoticed. This book had such an impact on my life that I shared it with my son and have given it as gifts more times than I can count. We still have a copy on our shelves to this day. When I was a child, we didn't have Elf on a Shelf to remind us of why kindness was important during the season; we had Santa Mouse!
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
I love this book! In this story, a steam shovel, named MaryAnn becomes the center of attention as she digs the basement for the new city center/courthouse. As the story goes, the more people gather around to watch MaryAnn dig, the faster she digs. The result: she dug the basement in just one day! But... she dug so fast, and so well, she forgot to leave a ramp to get out once the digging was done. What to do? Retire, and become the furnace to keep the courthouse warm. A perfect solution. I love this story because it reminds us that tenacity is important... stick to it and get the job done. It also reminds us how important it is for us to be aware that we are always doing things that are an inspiration to others - even when we make mistakes. The mistake made doesn't need to hold us back from a comfortable and successful life. We get to choose how to realign our priorities and our understanding of the future. Even as a young child, these messages were well received. The trick, of course, is following through on them as an adult! I was crushed when this book was out of print for a while; but now it's back, and I will continue to gift it to children and adults alike. The message bears repeating, even in our older years. Tenacity is a trait to be embraced... and so is flexibility. Both hold outcomes that will enrich our lives.
The House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
This is by far the one children's book that has stuck with me throughout all of the adventures (and misadventures) of my life. It was the first story I read to my son the day I brought him home from the hospital, and a small Pooh stuffed bear sat in the bassinet with him at the hospital just after his birth. He still has it. I love the Pooh stories because of the characters. They are rich and vibrant, and show us that simply being ourselves really is enough in this world. Pooh is simple, but wise. Owl is wise but needs nurturing. Eeyore is quiet and strong, even when alone. Tigger is filled with joy and still finds ways to learn. Kanga is tender and playful. Roo is eager to learn and always loyal. Rabbit is quick to take charge, and also quick to humility. Piglet is very tiny but more brave than all the rest; more brave than me, even. Christopher Robin was the key that allowed us into the secret forest. After that, it was out of his hands... and he was okay with that. Christopher was okay with not being the spotlight, he was ego-free; and happy because of it. Whenever I feel dislocated from my place in the world, I read a little bit of Pooh and somehow reconnect and become at ease with my insecurities and frustrations. Whenever anyone asks what book I'd like to be stranded with on an island in the middle of nowhere... this is the one I will always choose. These are my best friends.
Literacy is such a wonderful gift. Be sure to give your favorite books whenever you have the opportunity... to mark the milestones of birthdays, anniversaries, and graduation. Remember too, that books are the best "just because I was thinking of you" gift. Gift a book today. No excuse required.
What are your top three memorable children's books? Leave your list in the comments below.
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