Reading Rainbow was on the local PBS station this morning and I got excited. I remember watching this show in my preschool (yes, and beyond) days and really enjoying it, seeking out the featured books and giving them a look, though I also remember not finding many of the featured books in my local library (which either says something about the library or the show). This morning’s Reading Rainbow episode was follwed by Arthur, and that made me remember Bill Cosby read those books on Reading Rainbow when I was a kid, but that I never actually read an Arthur book. The Arthur cartoon series ran in the mid-90s and my young cousins really liked him, so here’s to longevity.
All of this culminates in a trip down nostalgia lane as I try to remember what I read in my preschool years, those first few books which got me going. I’m certainly not catching them all, but a few came to mind…
I was enamored by Richard Scarry’s books. The illustrations were detailed enough to keep me staring for hours, and the action on the pages lent themselves to letting the reader make up their own stories about fun characters like Lowly the Worm. Like Arthur, this is another series which enjoyed a second life in the mid-90s as a cartoon series relaunch. I was too old to get into it at the time, and only vaguely remember it’s existence.
Little Golden Books. A whole slew of ’em. I had shelves full, some older and some newer, but plenty of titles to choose from; the mixture between worn, well-read titles and sturdy, glossy titles makes me wonder how many were hand-me-downs from my older cousin, Kris. Many of my Little Golden Books featured classic tales and well-aged fables, and The Little Red Hen is one I remember in particular, and I still use it’s metaphor today.
There was a forty-title series of Sweet Pickles books, but I had exactly two. The Secret Club crams most of the series characters into a small “secret” club which turns out to be not-so-secret (or fun). I was especially a fan of Some Friend, a tale featuring Walrus getting all worked up about Bear borrowing his winter hat and not returning it, though Bear has no clue he’s engendered Walrus’s anger. I think of this book when I someone work themselves up over something, not realizing whoever they’re angry with doesn’t know what’s going on. Sweet Pickles books were found mostly in the land of doctor’s waiting rooms, but I always preferred my two over any others I came across. Maybe it was me being picky, or maybe it was me dreading doctor visits. Are these books, featuring anthropomorphic animals named simply after their species, one of my inspirations for Caseous, my college newspaper comic strip, featuring characters like Frog and Bear? Hmm…
While I had a few Dr. Seuss books at home, my favorites were leftover from my father’s childhood at my Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. There was a great big pile of them, yellowing and musty from constant reading and exposure. While the more popular Seuss stories were great fun, this book, featuring three tales of Cat in the Hat relatives, was a particular favorite. Perhaps this one sticks out in my mind because of the way Grandma read it, with all the storytelling gusto of a professional. This is also the first book I remember looking at the pictures and drawing my versions, side-by-side, with any accuracy.
This was, hands-down, my favorite pre-school book. The text was simple but the illustrations were complex, filled with intricate little details of vehicle mechanics and trucker lifestyle. My father read two versions of this book to me as a little boy – the real version, and the version in which Joe was a jerk. They were both pretty good.
Five titles seems like a good place to stop. Looking over this list, I’m surprised to find three coming from series authors (Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and Sweet Pickles), and the other two from publishing collections. I often look at bookstore YA shelves with disdain at how much shelf space is given to series instead of singular, solid stories. But it appears I’m more a part of the machine than I ever thought. I’m keen on doing a little research into this area. I’ll ask my parents about my other favorite books from that time in my life. There’s something about going back to my roots which appeals to me, and I think that’s worth doing for many of my creative facets of fascination: reading, writing, drawing, animation, acting, and improv. I may explore these themes in a handful of future posts.
And I am eager to learn of your favorite preschool-level books, dear reader!
[tags]Reading Rainbow, early readers, Big Joe’s Trailer Truck, Richard Scarry, Little Golden Books, Sweet Pickles, I Can Lick Thirty Tigers Today[/tags]