Allison's Book Bag

Reading Inspiration from Picture Books

Posted on: May 15, 2014

The children’s books we read  can teach us important lessons of all kinds. For example, a couple of years ago, Huff Post Books posted an article about writing tips we can garner from children’s books. This inspired me to scan my own picture books with the idea of posting a similar article. Of course, not all of my readers are writers. For that reason, I tried to instead brainstorm reading tips that we can garner from children’s books.

Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

I’ll start with one listed at Huff Post, which is also one of my favorites: Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The story rewards authenticity, in that the rabbit became real by being loved as itself, which is important trait for an author to have. When thinking about what it might say about a reader, I can’t escape the image of that worn-out but much-loved rabbit. As I run my fingers along my shelves, despite my anal care of books, it’s easy to tell which books meant the most to me. They’re the ones with the worn edges, creased dusk jackets, and even the scatter dent. They’re also the ones whose plots, characters, and settings I can recite by heart. An obvious implication then is one should read a book, reread it, and then read it again. Multiple times!

Are You My Mother? by P.H. Eastman

The Huff Post article also lists Are You by Mother? by P.H. Eastman. The story teaches authors that they aren’t alone and that their stories belong somewhere. As I muse on that idea, I think of all my students who struggle to read. And then I think of those special students who one day show up in my room all excited about a book. Now instead of my having to reward and coerce them into turning just one more page, I have to figure out how to both encourage their joy of reading but also pay attention to their current lesson. Whether it be in reading, writing, or math. What a delightful dilemma to have! And so my students have taught me that there IS a perfect book out there for every reader. That one book which will keep them coming back for more. If we just keep looking hard enough, one day we will find that book. Because all stories belong with someone.

Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond

My other four choices are different from those listed by Huff Post. For example, there are the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond. Whichever example you pick from the series, you’ll always find that this lovable bear is polite in each and every circumstance. And so we should be polite to our books. Do not buckle their spines. Do not turn their corners. After all, we want our books to stay around…. Yes, I know this lesson might sound forced. J Well, Paddington Bear is also curious. While this might land Paddington into heaps of trouble, curiosity will always be a welcome trait for a reader. It’s what makes us turn the pages of novels and seek out armfuls of nonfiction.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Next there is Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. The title itself immediately inspires some ideas. For example, how about we as readers “make way for books” by being patrons of our local libraries and independent bookstores? Another thought is we should always find time to fit (or “make way for”) books into our day. Then there’s the story itself, which begins as Mr. and Mrs. Mallard fly over various potential locations around Boston looking for the perfect site to raise a family. If you keep reading, you’ll find that the Mallards settle for the Public Garden Lagoon. In fact, when separated from it, they endure bikes and cars to make their way back to the garden. The lesson I draw from the Mallard family is that there are comfort books, ones which make us feel like we’re home. What a hopeful thought!

Pippi Books by Astrid Lindgren

Then there are the Pippi books by Astrid Lindgren. Whichever example you pick from the series, you’ll always find that Pippi is true blue to her friends. Well, as we readers know, books are our friends. In fact, in our loneliest moments, God and books may be our only sources of comfort. Let me extend my point by turning to Pippi on the Run, where Annika and Tommy run away from home. Although Pippi is perfectly content where she is, she worries enough about her friends that she joins them to keep them safe. Of course, my having a book with me won’t necessarily keep me safe from storms or other troublesome situations. And yet, the chances are remarkably high that I’ll know how to react to all the lows and highs of life because of a book. In the same way that Annika and Tommy had a better life because of Pippi.

Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik

Last, I’ll turn to the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik. I recently picked up a used copy and enjoyed relieving Little Bear’s imaginative adventures. In Little Bear’s Wish, he tells his mother that he wishes to sit on a cloud and fly…. find a Viking boat and sail away with them…. tunnel his way to China and come back with chopsticks…. owned a big red car and travel to a castle where a princess would give him cake…. Of course, he couldn’t have any of these wishes. Yet we can all have them through our imagination and books. Mother Bear then asked Little Bear if she could tell him a story about him. When he said yes, Mother Bear recounted all his escapades, which was also great fun to hear. And so we can also find ourselves and lives in the fiction we read. Or write. 🙂

What picture books are your favorite? And what lessons are reading, writing, and life do they inspire?

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2 Responses to "Reading Inspiration from Picture Books"

I love children’s books. I gift them all the time after reading!

Here is my Musing post.

Oh, I love them too much to gift. 🙂 If I must share, I buy a new copy.

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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