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May 30, 2010

Sunday Book Thread: Children's Books

I can remember the first book I ever read very clearly: Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam-Shovel. My mother had read it to me hundreds of times before I was able to read it myself, but it was the endless love of that book that motivated me to learn to read it myself.

Another one of my favorites was H. A. Rey's Curious George books. My first brush with the school authorities came in Kindergarten, where I snuck away from craft-time to read the adventures of Curious George. (Who wants to finger-paint when you can read about a curious chimp and a man in a yellow hat?) Mrs. Miller, my teacher, took note of this incident and bought me my own copy of the book out of her own pocket.

But of all the kid's books I can remember reading, one stands out: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. It was this book more than any other that lives on in my memory: hesitant but eager-to-please Mole; Ratty who lives by the river and takes Mole for a ride in his boat; friendly old Badger who takes Mole and Ratty into his home on a cold winter day; and my hero the madcap Mister Toad of Toad Hall. Even as a kid I knew that this was literature of a very high order. I never could get very enthused about Winnie the Pooh after reading The Wind in the Willows.

Later, when I was older, I came across Richard Adams' Watership Down, and felt that it made an interesting companion-piece of Grahame's earlier work. The Wind in the Willows was about kindness, and friendship, and sticking with your friends; Watership Down taught the older child deeper truths about anger, and pain, and fear, and even death.

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posted by Monty at 09:00 AM

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