From Shel to Syd: Our favorite kids' books
It's amazing how much kids love to read, and the impact that books have on them. Remember classics like "Goodnight Moon," "A Snowy Day" and "Where the Wild Things Are?" Those books are still popular with children today.
As future writers, the OnMilwaukee.com editors were particularly fond of books as kids, and here are some of our favorites.
Molly Snyder Edler
I was a Judy Blume fanatic. I read my first Blume book when I was in second grade, "Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing," followed by "Otherwise Known As Sheila The Great," "Starring Sally J. Freidman As Herself," and "Iggy's House." In fourth grade, I devoured "Deenie," "Tiger Eyes," "Then Again, Maybe I Won't" (Bird watching? Yeah, right!) and the classic, "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret." ("We must, we must, we must increase our…") I really identified with Margaret on so many levels, but mostly because she was the first person I "knew" who was half-Catholic and half-Jewish like I was. Finally, my mother let me read "Forever" in sixth grade, and it was the steamiest literature I had ever eyeballed. A year or so later, I got my hands on a copy of Blume's adult novel, "Wifey," and was completely aghast -- and educated! -- by the content. In 2000, I interviewed Blume for a profile piece, and it was funny and fantastic to tell her how much I adored her books as a kid, even though she probably hears that all the time.
It all started with "The Giving Tree," from what I can remember. I think that was the first Shel Silverstein book I ever read -- and re-read over and over ad nauseam. "Where the Sidewalk Ends" came as a logical second, and, learning to read in the early '80s, "A Light in the Attic" was a staple of my ever-growing library. I had most of the poetry in the latter set to memory, but still insisted on reading them aloud to friends during sleepovers. In retrospect, I think I was boring them with my literary adventures, but at the time I remember feeling like this was definitely the most interesting way to spend our time.
It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned that Silverstein penned the songs "A Boy Named Sue" and "Twenty-five Minutes To Go," which were later made famous by Johnny Cash. This came as little surprise to me, as he was naturally gifted with the ability to address real, serious issues in a way that didn't exclude children.
I got into magazines (mostly sports) at a very young age, but the books that captivated me as a child included Matt Christopher's series of sports books. My favorite was "Catcher with a Glass Arm." And, I was a huge fan of the "Encyclopedia Brown" series by Donald Sobol. Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown (not to be confused with "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" from the Jim Croce song) was a fictional boy detective whose dad was the police chief in Idaville, Fla. He went around solving mysteries and crimes, oftentimes after his father would present cases at the dinner table. The stories were short and captivating and ol' Encyclopedia had a friend, Sally Kimble, who played Watson to his Holmes. It was great stuff.
Since even now I keep a list of the books I read, it's no surprise that I devoured books as a kid. I still remember going to the library and getting my first library card and I can easily conjure the smell of the library at P.S. 199, where I went to school. The favorites I remember now are most Seuss books, "Danny and the Dinosaur," "Sammy the Seal" and "Julius" by Syd Hoff, "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson and Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" and when I got a little older "Ladder Company 108," a non-fiction book about a day in the life of Brooklyn firehouse, by Rona Beame. I recently found a used copy on the Internet and was amazed by how familiar it was and how many memories it brought back even though I haven't seen it in, perhaps, 35 years.
I'm also a HUGE fan of "Stinky the Bulldog" - who will be bringing that anti-bullying message to area K5-second grade children this summer through the UW-Milwaukee College for Kids program, "Stinky the Bulldog Finds a Friend."
My kids read every night before they go to bed. One of their favorite books is Stinky the Bulldog!! It deals with diversity in a very unique way. It's a keeper!
Have to echo the sentiment that Stinky the Bulldog is a great children's book. I make sure to get a copy for all the little ones in my life. www.stinkythebulldog.com
I had the book and record of "Free to be You and Me" and I listened and read it ALL the time! I saw the book at a yard sale a few years ago and picked it up for my future children... I still sing the songs in my head. On the cover of the book it says, "A different kind of book for children and adults to enjoy together." A Ms. Foundation project. Conceived by Marlo Thomas. Afterword by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, stories and songs by Gloria Steinem, Shel Silverstein, Carl Reiner and Judy Blume among others. I hope all kids have this book.
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