Her.meneutics' Favorite Picture Books
Splashed across the front page of The New York Times last week was a sobering report on the demise of picture books, a long-standing staple of children's literature. According to the NYT, more parents are giving their children text-heavy books instead in preparation for rigorous standardized testing. As one bookstore manager said, "I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, 'You can do better than this, you can do more than this.' It's a terrible pressure parents are feeling—that somehow, I shouldn't let my child have this picture book because she won't get into Harvard."
We at Her.meneutics don't believe picture books are going away anytime soon. Our blog roll includes many writers who are parents and have found a handful of picture books to be an essential part of her family's bedtime ritual. One blogger, Elrena Evans, even has completed Ph.D. work in children's literature. As for myself, I grew up with a mom who was a children's librarian and who still insists on reading picture books to her grown-up children. We took the NYT report as a chance to reiterate our appreciation for how picture books ignite our and our children's early imaginations and quicken our awe at God's big world. Here are some of our favorites. Share yours in the comments section below.
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
I've deeply appreciated this book since the first time I read it, around first grade. I am pulled into Silverstein's delightful story and illustrations about a tree who over and over again, joyfully and without reservation, gives of herself to provide for a boy. It is a story about love and self-sacrifice. Since childhood, I've wondered how the tree could be so utterly selfless. ~Marlena Graves
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg
Our family engaged this book with our children in the 1980s and '90s. Each page is a beautifully illustrated black and white drawing, a "mystery" with a title and first line. The rest of the story gets crafted by the parents' and children's imagination. Mark, my husband, used the book with our daughters more than I did, because he was the master storyteller. They would pick a page, and he would spin a tale. It's a marvelous way to bring storytelling back into our and our children's imaginations. ~Lisa Graham McMinn
Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch
This book was a family favorite when my children were young. It's about the commitment of parents and children to care for one another throughout the stages of life. When my son Gabriel died, his brother placed our worn copy in his coffin. This year I found another copy that Gabriel gave me as a gift in 2004. Inside he wrote a note saying how much it meant to him that I had read to him and his brother when they were young. He also promised to take care of me when I am old like the son in the book takes care of his mother when she is too old to care for him. My son couldn't keep that promise, but I deeply cherish the thought that he wanted to, and it speaks to the power of picture books that this one's message resonated with him and his brother into adulthood. ~Christine A. Scheller
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