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Saturday, May 5, 2012

What makes a picture book stick with a child for life?

My mom recently dug up a picture book from my childhood that I had been asking her about. I figured the book was long gone, and had been scouring Amazon and other sites trying to find it. I was pretty sure of the title, but had no clue who the author was. And I was coming up with absolutely nothing with my online searches. So I was more than thrilled when I went to visit my family for Easter and my mom plopped the long-lost book on my lap. The Nothing.

Look closely at the photo of the cover and you can see how well-loved this book was. There are water stains (or is it some other liquid?) along the bottom, and then there's the lovely added illustration that one of us kids put on there with a Sharpie. Obviously, the book jacket went missing at some point over the years.

I'm not exactly sure what made this book stick with me into adulthood. We were read all kinds of books when we (my siblings and me) were growing up. My guess is that there was something about this book that I particularly liked and so I must have asked my mom to read it to me over and over and over.

As soon as I picked this book back up, the story came flooding back to me. And the illustrations were so familiar to me, like I had just seen them yesterday.

The book is not particularly noteworthy in terms of story or illustrations (though I recently discovered that Sal Murdocca is the illustrator for The Magic Treehouse series). I don't recall being gifted this book for a special event, or it being read to me at a particularly meaningful time. There was no deep message in it that resonated with my childhood life...

So why do I remember this book from my childhood so fondly? I think it was simply a book I enjoyed being read (for whatever reason), and so I heard it a lot. And thusly, it has stuck with me. Sitting with my mom or dad, maybe my aunt, or a brother or sister, snuggled up, hearing the familiar words... It's those kinds of cozy, repeated experiences with books that (in my opinion) can hardwire a seemingly random story into a person's heart and soul.

So that book that you have read to your child so many times you want to chuck it out the window? You know the one. The one you don't even know why they like so much? Yeah, that one. Take care of it. Don't chuck it out the window, or give it to Goodwill. When you're child has seemingly outgrown it, tuck it safely away somewhere. Because chances are, when they grow up, they'll recall it with great fondness, and hope you hung onto it for them.

Thanks, Mom! And Happy (early) Mother's Day.

I would love to hear what long-lost book you recall from your childhood. Did your parents save it for you?

What book of your child's do you suspect might stick with them into adulthood?

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