There’s a scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS in which Laura and Mary spend a magical morning etching pictures in the frosted windowpanes of their little cabin using Ma’s thimble. As a child I wanted to try that, but our windows were too well-insulated to gather frost. Imagine my delight, then, to discover thick frost completely covering the old-fashioned windows of our detached garage. For several days, I’ve been itching to take my thimble and do a little ice etching of my own. And that’s exactly what I did today, using my keys, instead. Doesn’t it look magical?
Like window frost begging to be etched, good picture books invoke in me a nostalgic return to childhood and a reminder of the simple joys in life. When my children were younger, our days were enriched by reading picture books. What a treat it was to curl up together on the sofa with a stack of books. The joy we found in those books was not flashy or over the top, but simple and deep. We cheered on Mike Mulligan and Maryanne, from Virginia Lee Burton’s MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1939), to dig a little faster and a little deeper, and afterwards, scurried outside do our own digging in the snow. And Sam McBratney’s GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU (Candlewick, 2005) evoked such warmth that we held our own matches to show how much we loved each other.
If you’re feeling like you’ve gotten too caught up in the busy-ness of life, may I suggest heading straight to the children’s department of your nearest library or bookstore and stocking up on some of your old favorites as well as some delightful new picture books? Then curl up and read, read, read!
It won’t take long to feel the magic, for picture books hold within their 32-pages, that sometimes much-needed reminder that our deepest joys are found in the simple pleasures of life – following a butterfly on her journey, getting a new pet, having a tea party on the porch, counting tadpoles in the swampy puddle in the woods.
Need help getting started? Here are a few of my recent favorites:
John Himmelman’s KATIE LOVES THE KITTENS (Henry Holt and Co. 2008)
Ame Dyckman’s TEA PARTY RULES (Viking, 2013)
Sarah Weeks’ WOOF: A LOVE STORY (Laura Geringer Books, 2009)
Clare Jarrett’s ARABELLA MILLER’S TINY CATERPILLAR (Candlewick, 2008)