WINDOW FROST: The Magic of Picture Books

IMG_2856There’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)


11 thoughts on “WINDOW FROST: The Magic of Picture Books

    • I feel so lucky, as a picture book writer, that, as part of my job, I read every picture book I can. I check out big stacks at the library and spend lovely hours at my local book store checking out the latest releases. Spending time with picture books puts me in a good mood every time.

  1. Great post, Laura! I love Tea Party Rules! I think it’s going to be a classic. Will have to check out some of the others. On an aside, Julia Donaldson just stopped by my son’s school and he was so excited about meeting the author of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child that he wanted to bring the books to school with him. When he was younger, we read both books a gazillion times and sometimes I’ll hear myself saying completely out if the blue, “A mouse took a walk …”

  2. A cousin sent me a few of her old picture books from Israel, and most were the same I had loved. It was an emotional jolt to see them after so many years.
    But for the most part, my PB nostalgia is for the ones I read to my kids. I have kept the best and even when it’ll be time to pare down on the number of novels I lug around, these picture books are coming with…

  3. What a heartwarming post, Laura 🙂 Every time I’m in the children’s dept. at Barnes, I grab whatever new books are out so I can read, read, read. The oldies but goodies are here and every once in a while I’ll read one. There’s nothing like it 😀

  4. Gosh I miss those days! Loved that scene from Little House In The Big Woods. Loved Mike Mulligan – as a child myself and then again with all my kids. Loved story time with the kiddos who are now all teenagers or older, with all but one off at college. Definitely time for a little nostalgic PB love 🙂

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