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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Books That Changed My Life Part I

There are books that have changed the way I think about writing. After I got over my supreme jealousy that I did not write them, I learned from them. In turn, I think they shaped my writing. I am showcasing a few of the books and the reasons why I chose them today.

Where the Wild Things Are
I read this book when I was a student teacher. It had been out long before that....believe me. It was the era of Whole Language and textbooks were the enemy. Basically as teachers, we had to create the Language Arts curriculum ourselves. We relied on trade books, collecting the titles that inspired kids to read. And this book.....wow. It taught me so much about imagination and simplicity and the use of amazing language. "They roared their terrible roars." And the last line...sigh. Sendak's illustrations won him the Caldecott, but it was his storytelling that struck my heart. His lesson: Keep it simple. And wonderful.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

How could anyone not love a book with this title??? This book, well loved by my eldest daughter (who in preschool even thought her own name was "Noel Don and Audrey Wood) helped me understand the beauty of wackiness and repetition. "Today, we will battle in the tub!" Kids love the repetition and in many of my own books, I can see myself picking phrases to be used in the text over and over again. This book shaped the way I shape a text. (say that 5 times fast!)



Frog and Toad and Henry and Mudge

These books showed me the beauty of the easy reader. It is possible to tell a story with heart and soul and humor and simple words. I love these books more than you can imagine. I have watched hundreds of children who are just finding their way in reading latch on to these books and become fluent readers by the simple act of reading them. These books create literate people far more effectively than any phonics reading program out there. Because in these books, the reader wants to know what happens. The reader cares.

My love for all of these books (and of course, their authors, Maurice Sendak, Don and Audrey Wood, Cynthia Rylant and Arnold Lobel) stems from the fact that I read them not only with my own eyes, but through the eyes of children. They helped me see/remember what it is like to be a child. They are a case study of what children like/need to read.

These books changed my life as a writer.

Are there books that changed you?

hrh

18 comments:

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I love these books, too! Thank you for pointing out what makes them work so well (for both children and adults). I'll try to remember as I write to look for fun repetition and simple, but authentic, voice.
In fact, I have a picture book that I have revised several times, and my crit buddies last time said, 'What happened to the repeated phrases? We loved those." So back I dive into it again to see what I have done.

Lazy Writer said...

I love Henry and Mudge. It's one of my favorites.

Kim said...

DOWN WITH BASALS! I, too, learned to teach during the whole language movement. And, I have to say I still embrace that philosophy. It is HARD work creating everything from scratch, but to do it right that's what it takes.

As a teacher, books that changed my life were Nancie Atwell's books on writing workshops.

Books that my students and I always fell for were Bridge to Terabithia, Hatchet and Shiloh. I was SO mad when they made movies out of these books.

Corey Schwartz said...

I'm a big Sendak fan.

Also LOVE Frog and Toad. Someone once read a bunch of my Mouse and Elephant stories and said it reminded them of Frog and Toad and that may be the best compliment i ever received!

Patti said...

I loved Frog and Toad are friends. I've started reading it to my kids.

Carrie Harris said...

The Richard Scarry books were the first ones I could read all by myself. And lo, I was hooked. ;)

Bane of Anubis said...

Forgot about Frog and Toad - thanks for the reminder :). My favorite MS book was OUTSIDE OVER THERE, but WTWTA is pretty sweet (though I'm a bit dubious re: the movie). Anything by Chris Van Allsburg (sp?) also rocks, IMO.

MG Higgins said...

I know so little about picture books and your post makes me feel VERY deprived. If I wasn't at work, I'd to the library! (Maybe I should do that anyway.)

Lisa said...

Great pics! Can't wait to read some of these to my kids!

storyqueen said...

Tricia-I am so glad you're trying you're trying your hand at a picture book! I bet it will be great.

Lazy-Aren't Henry and Mudge the best?

Kim-Yay Whole Language! (Glad I'm not alone)

Corey-Frog and Toad rule! What an awesome compliment.

Patti-thanks for stopping by! And, yes, they are cool.

Carrie-you just liked Richard Scary because of his name...Richard (like Richard Simmons) and Scary (because zombies are scary.)

Bane-Yes, I loved Jumanji! (But I am very excited for WTWTA movie....but I hope it's not like the Polar Express movie)

MC-Get thee to a library! So many cool books. I think every grown up who reads picture books secretly wants to write one.

Lisa-you will enjoy them! I just know it.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Yes, the last line. "And it was still hot" was the first line from WTWTA that my son had memorized. I can't wait for the movie.

Uninvoked said...

I loved Frog and Toad were friends. That was one of my top favorites. I'm afraid I never read any of the others though. I almost wish I had, they look so fun and charming.

etirv said...

More adults should read children's books! I enjoyed reading all the books you featured on this post to my child! Can't wait for Part II!

Stephanie Faris said...

I never read Where the Wild Things Are. One of my favorite kids books, though, is Fancy Nancy. I also love If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

Amy Tate said...

Thank you so much for this post! My baby girl has just started reading...like last week. I just picked up the Fat Cat on a Mat and she loved it. I'll add these to the list. Thanks!

Dawn VanderMeer said...

While I don't write picture books (they are so hard, BTW), Goodnight Moon and several other picture books will always speak to me in a certain wonderful way that I feel inside. Some of the books that I think changed me (or at the very least, inspired me in a huge way): Charlotte's Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Princess Diaries series, Henry and Mudge, and several Natalie Babbitt books.

Natalie said...

Oh, I love all of those books! I loved THE BOOK THEIF, pretty much everything by Roald Dahl, THE GIVER, and many, many more that I can't think of just now. (I'm new to your blog today!)

Katie said...

Great post! And I have to say Harry Potter made me love to read again and The Help really made me think about things within my writing that I hadn't considered, and now Laini Taylor's Lips Touch is renewing my love of all things odd and mysterious.

So many good books!