Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

A gentle nudge

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book

What’s the name of the children’s book that influ­enced you most?

Some­times we get so caught up in dis­cussing the lit­er­ary mer­its of a book that we for­get who the intend­ed read­ers are.

Some­times we enjoy play­ing the game of who will win the awards so much that we for­get there are all kinds of read­ers who are touched by books in many ways … and most of them unpre­dictable, even by the experts.

Some­times we find beau­ty and rhyme and the feel of the paper to be so impor­tant when com­par­ing one book to anoth­er … for­get­ting that pub­lish­ing for chil­dren is tru­ly all about “the right book for the right child at the right time.”

That’s why there are a wide vari­ety of books.

That’s why book clubs should nev­er expect to agree that they all like or dis­like the same book.

That’s why starred reviews are all well and good … but thank heav­ens for those edi­tors and authors and illus­tra­tors and teach­ers and librar­i­ans who under­stand that we must know books well enough to sug­gest the right book to the right read­er. That requires a wide-rang­ing view of what should be pub­lished, an encom­pass­ing knowl­edge of what is avail­able, and an under­stand­ing that, for chil­dren, most books are new and their sto­ries are not tired.

Read­ing Every­thing I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book (Roar­ing Brook Press), I am remind­ed of this over and over. It isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the “big” books or the clas­sic books or the books that win awards that influ­ence chil­dren. It’s the right book.

Whether you are curi­ous or pas­sion­ate about children’s books and read­ing, Ani­ta Silvey’s book will fas­ci­nate you. I spent many hap­py hours read­ing sto­ries about peo­ple from all walks of life and the books that influ­enced them.

We are get­ting ready for the North­woods Children’s Book Con­fer­ence (hope we’ll see you there), which has adopt­ed the ideas from Every­thing I Need to Know for its focus this year. The names of influ­en­tial books are com­ing in from fac­ul­ty and atten­dees … and it’s fun to see their choic­es. I’ve nev­er heard of some of them.

We need that gen­tle nudge once in awhile to remind each of us that it’s just as impor­tant to think about the read­ing needs of Every Child as it is to want them to have books with lit­er­ary mer­it and award-win­ning illus­tra­tions. Some­times the right book has no stars, no award stick­ers, and no buzz. It’s that well-worn book that one child loved and read until it fell to pieces. That’s anoth­er def­i­n­i­tion of a Good Book.

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What’s the children’s book that influ­enced you the most? Post your choice as a com­ment below and we’ll pub­lish them on the CLN site. Think about the con­ver­sa­tions this ques­tion could start in schools, libraries, book clubs, com­mu­ni­ties … know­ing this about some­one else brings us all clos­er togeth­er.

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