A book can take us across time and terrain (both real and imagined), on journeys of the heart, and discoveries of the mind. They can be a means to escape our circumstances, to seek comfort, to change who we are or how we see the world around us. Stories are powerful in whatever form we read or hear them.
It always breaks my heart a little when I meet an adult who says they never read as a child, that books just weren’t part of the fabric of their family life. So for me, World Book Day is about the kids. Maybe as a result of this global celebration, it’s the youngest who will bring a the joy of reading to their homes and families. Below are a handful of my favorite children’s books about books and the endless possibility of story.
Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, but many little ones may not think they have the ability to write something of their own. In this picture book a big sister encourages her brother to write what he knows, that even if he hasn’t learned big words or how to put all his letters together, the story in his mind will still make it through. And in squiggly lines and random letters, pictures, and idea bubbles, the boy’s imagination finds a way…
A little girl who loves reading borrows a very special book from her teacher, but upon settling down to read finds only pictures–intricate, colorful, fanciful pictures…but no story. Yet, before long Zagarenski’s mixed-media art begins to reveal stories to the little girl, born of a whisper that calls to her imagination. One of the many delights of this book is that the reader gets to see the beginnings of each story the little girl dreams up, as if sitting right beside her turning the pages.
Children’s book author, illustrator, and creative powerhouse William Joyce pays homage to the book, and the many ways they touch our lives. The illustrations and works he references run from Shakespeare to The Wizard of Oz, using them to explore the comfort and freedom stories bring to lives young and old. Many books are a magical thing, but all it takes is that special one, to open up a whole new world. Joyce works in various forms of media and while this picture book pays tribute to the classical format, he doesn’t neglect the power of story however we may find it.
One reason this is a favorite is that the book at the heart of the story is plain on the outside. It’s lost it’s jacket and nothing about the cover calls out to be opened and read. But a frustrated boy picks it up anyway and the story inside carries him away from his problems. The book becomes a talisman, his good book, until the day it goes missing. Try as he might, the boy can’t find the book, but then realizes that the story has never left him. And the lost book finds new hands in which to blossom into lasting memories. The Good Little Book is a gorgeous example of the way stories that leave their mark on us long after they’ve gone…
“I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories and upon my imagination I float.” So begins the first two pages of this uniquely beautiful collaboration between two storytellers and visual artists, who found a kindred spirit in their work together. The story is sparse and lyrical, with illustrations created using the text of books like Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, that are shaped into mountains and waves. Kids and adults alike will marvel at the artistry and the message of A Child of Books, that we can build our own houses of invention and creativity where all are welcome, “for imagination is free.”
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