7 Things: My Favorite Children’s Books

Here I go again, taking the cheater’s way out. Instead of seven separate posts, I’m catching up with one post of seven for this past week. Hey, at least I almost made it within the week. Almost. And I do have a reason excuse, this week.

You see, this week was the deadline for the Scriptapalooza TV contest, and I was determined to get an effin’ pilot script in this year. So, what I did was, I turned to Shawna and I said “I have a week and a half, and I am going to finish one of my pilot ideas for this contest if it fucking kills me. So, these are the three pilot ideas that I have mostly worked out in my head. The first is the one that’s almost done, that I had the idea for the first time about six years ago and have waited so long to finish that they just released a mid-season show similar to it. The second is one that’s about halfway finished – a procedural in a similar vein to 21 Jump Street – the TV show, not the movie. The third one is this idea I have that feels rather special. Here’s what it’s about… but I haven’t started it at all yet.” To which she, of course, replied, “You should work on the last one. It’s original.” Because that’s just the type of sadist that Shawna likes to be.

But, you know what? I did finish that shit. Because that’s just the type of masochist that I like to be.

Anyway, pushing off that very kid-friendly intro, here are my seven favorite children’s books.

Oh Wait! Also, I think you should all know that the bird that has been hanging out on our balcony is, in fact, pregnant, and was, in fact, scouting a location to build a nest. Which we saw being built in the gutter below our window this morning. So, unless a rainstorm spoils the nest, we could have baby birds right outside our window very soon.

Not that I look forward to that.

I hate cute things.

If my heart is going to swell, I want it to be from burgers and cocaine.

Anyway, onto my top 7 children’s books*

7 – Free To Be a Family

When my mom married my former stepfather – the first time – some family friends gave them this book as a wedding gift. The book is a collection of stories, poems and lyrics all about the creation of non-traditional families. And by non-traditional, of course, I mean step, blended and the like. It’s kind of humorous – in a non-funny way – to imagine how much these same people (Catholics!) are likely to be against certain non-traditional families today. Of course, that’s not the book’s fault. And I loved this book. Especially “The Entertainer” and “We Need a Bigger Turkey.” I haven’t laid eyes on that book for about a decade and remember most of the words.

Plus, it included this gem by Shel Silverstein –

There’s too many kids in this tub
There’s too many elbows to scrub
I just washed a behind that I’m sure wasn’t mine
There’s too many kids in this tub.

6 – Where the Wild Things Are

My fond memories of this book are less about the story, or the illustrations, though they are great. I actually remember getting this book. My mom was in college at the time and we were at the college bookstore getting her books. She bought me this and In the Night Kitchen. Just because. I assume she had extra book money. Both books have made many moves with me. And will continue with me on the search for home.

5 – The Voyage of The Dawn Treader

My favorite of the Narnia novels, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader has a lot going for it. It picks up the pace a lot when it comes along in the series, but it scores a place on this list for one sentiment alone. You know when they are headed to the Island Where Dreams Come True, and everyone is like, “Awesome” and then they think about the dreams they’ve had and realize what that means exactly. Just thinking about such a place sends shivers down my spine.

I must throw in here that, while I do enjoy the Narnia series as a whole, and I was well aware of the biblical undertones going in, what they did with Susan in the last book… oh, those wacky Christians and their righteous condemnations.

4 – The Phantom Tollbooth

I just read this book for the first time a couple of years ago – when a friend gave it to me for Christmas – and I found it quite engaging. I do believe, had I known about it as a child, it would have been one of my favorite books. It’s incredibly clever and, if a kid walks out of it without an improvement in vocabulary, they must have had one helluva vocabulary going in.

3 – The Giver

When it comes to children’s books, one does have to consider how much of an emotional punch a child can really handle. Wherever that line lies, The Giver really walks it. What makes the book so incredibly powerful is that very tightrope walk. The readers of the book aren’t being asked to handle anything that the protagonist isn’t asked to handle. In fact, the readers witness little of what the main character has to witness. But what we do witness is enough to transfer the depth of emotion from page to reader.

The Giver also has one of the greatest endings of any book I have ever read. Ambiguous. Uncertain. Messy. Exactly the type of ending I like.

Then, she fucked it up by writing a sequel.

2 – The Jester Has Lost His Jingle

This book was written after the author was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. It’s all about the healing powers of joy and laughter, and has some of the coolest illustrations of any book ever. I can’t read it aloud without getting tight-throated, because the power of happiness in the last few pages is simply overwhelming.

Also, it rhymes. And, as is fitting for the hip-hop star that I am, I like rhyme.

1 – Oh, the Places You’ll Go

My copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go was gifted to me for my high school graduation with a lovely note inside. Before that, it was read to me – and my fellow classmates – several times over the years by a teacher who recognized that no one is ever too old for someone to read to them. Like with The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a full reading of this book without a few hard swallows. And, like with Jester, I know which parts are going to choke me up every time. Every time I vow to get through them with a steady timbre, and every time I fail quite dramatically.

Apparently, there is just something about a renewed feeling of unbounded hope that my body cannot contain.

* The Saggy Baggy Elephant has been eliminated from this list, because I have already waxed nostalgic on its awesomeness.

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  1. I’m still so excited that you like The Phantom Tollbooth. 🙂

    And I do believe you’ve read Oh, The Places You’ll Go to me at least a couple of times. 🙂

    1. I love The Phantom Tollbooth, but I’m guessing you knew I would 😉 And, yes, I believe you’ve been on the receiving end of several readings of Oh, The Places You’ll Go. It’s either a perk or the curse of being friends with me 🙂

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