Find wisdom in children's books
Share great messages in today's titles
Children's books often contain great wisdom about life — how to navigate through good times and bad and how to keep your compass pointing in the right direction.
In the best books, these lessons about life gently steer and guide but are never didactic. Rather, the wisdom is contained in beautiful language that appears in brief snippets, surrounded by a story that sweeps the reader/listener away.
Such is the case with the books reviewed below. For adults who need further convincing about the wisdom found in children's books, get a copy of the delightful, often profound little book "What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-ups from Children's Books," Collected by Amy Gash, Illustrated by Pierre Le-Tan, Foreword by Judith Viorst, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004, paperback.
Filled with "spirited quotations from more than two hundred well-loved books," this little treasure provides the wisdom to look at children's books in the way in which they are intended.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"When I Was Young in the Mountains" by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode, Dutton, 26 pages
Read aloud: age 3 — 4 and older
Read yourself: age 7 — 8 and older
"When I Was Young in the Mountains" is a warm and loving story based on the true experiences of author Cynthia Rylant growing up in Appalachia. Making do with each other and what they could find in the mountains provided this author with all she needed: a sense of belonging, great security and an abundance of love.
The swimming hole, Crawford's store, fresh cornbread and hot cocoa — in these and other windowpanes, the reader learns a richness of life uncluttered by material things.
Written for younger children, this story teaches us that home is a good place, not because of what you have, but because of those who live there.
Library: Biggs Branch, Butte County Library, 464-A B St., Biggs
Library Director: Linda Mielke
Branch Librarian: Cynthia Pustejovsky
Choices this week: "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn; "May I Bring a Friend?" by Beatrice Schenk de Reginers; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson
Books to Buy
The following books are available at your favorite bookstores.
"The Great Unexpected" by Sharon Creech, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, 2012, 226 pages, $16.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 8 and older
Read yourself: age 9 — 10 and older
Through beautifully told, intertwining stories, this extraordinary book is about two spirited orphan girls, Naomi and Lizzie, living in the USA, and Sybil and Nula, estranged sisters who long ago had a misunderstanding that has kept them separated by the Atlantic Ocean for far too many years.
Enter, too, the strange boy Finn, who suddenly appears when he falls out of a tree and lands at Naomi and Lizzie's feet; the Dingle Dangle man, who is a mystery to all in their little town; and a cast of other colorful, believable characters.
As each of their stories unfold, it becomes evident through the unexpected moments of understanding that there is a delicate connection we all share, and that the magic of family, friendship, love and trust is not always where we think we might find it.
Another outstanding book from master writer Sharon Creech, readers are certain to be irreversibly changed in every good way by "The Great Unexpected."
"Otter and Odder: A Love Story" by James Howe, illustrated by Chris Raschka, Candlewick, 2012, 36 pages, $14.00 hardcover
Read aloud: age 5 and older
Read yourself: age 7
Otter was not looking for love the day he found it; he was looking for dinner. But when he gazed into those beautiful fish eyes, he knew he had found what he hadn't been looking for. Otter momentarily thought it was impossible; he couldn't be in love with his food source. But he was wrong; he was, indeed, in love with Myrtle the fish.
As ironic for Myrtle as it was for Otter, she, too, fell in love with Otter. As they passed wonderful days and evenings together, others began to talk, saying it wasn't natural for an otter to be in love with a fish.
Otter and Myrtle discussed this and sadly agreed with the "talkers." But through the wise words of Beaver and the courage to follow their own hearts, Otter and Myrtle weren't apart for long.
Charming, humorous and filled with important messages, "Otter and Odder" is simply wonderful.
Kendal A. Rautzhan writes and lectures about children's literature. She can be reached at her website: greatestbooksforkids.com.