Tomorrow being a day of love, tonight I’m writing about one of the most beloved books in my family.
It’s out of print, but you can find a reasonably priced used copy of A Child’s First Book of Poems (a Golden Book, Western Publishing Company, Inc., 1981) and it will be more than worth it when you do.
The book is a collection of poems mostly about animals, nature and little things kids love, like kites and swings and raindrops, with incredible illustrations by Cyndy Szekeres. I’m talking about the take-me-back-to-my-childhood-when-I-see-them-again-kind of incredible.
My parents read (or rather recited from memory) these poems to me countless times when I was little (the book was first published the year I was born).
They gave me my own copy the Christmas I was pregnant with my first, and so I started reading A Child’s First Book of Poems to my daughter before she was even born.
Only days after she arrived I was reading it to her again. She was smaller than the book.
By the time she was six months old I too had the poems memorized (at least most of them), and we’d walk the tree-lined streets of our neighborhood with her in a carrier and me reciting poetry (isn’t it romantic?!). Her favorite at that age was “The Barnyard” by Maud Burnham. If I delivered the lines, “The horse says, ‘Neigh!’/ I love sweet hay!'” with the appropriate amount of whinnying I got great laughs.
I could, and still can, use these poems to calm her down if she’s upset, lull her to sleep while we are driving in the car, and give her something to think about while we are folding laundry or washing dishes.
I love these poems. Here are my absolute favorites:
“There Was Once A Puffin” by Florence Page Jaques about the “…poor little puffin,/ He couldn’t play nothin’,/ For he hadn’t anybody to play/ with/ at all…Then along came the fishes,/ And they said,’If you wishes,/ You can have us for playmates,/ Instead/ of/ for/ tea!'”
“Choosing” by Eleanor Farjeon
“New Shoes” by Marjorie Seymour Watts
“Wild Beasts” by Evaleen Stein
“As Soon as It’s Fall” Aileen Fisher
“The Woodpecker” Elizabeth Madox Roberts
“A Bird” Emily Dickinson
“The Handiest Nose” Aileen Fisher
“Cats” Eleanor Farjeon (No one reads this poem better than my Mom)
“Hiding” Dorothy Aldis
“The Little Turtle” Vachel Lindsay
“Like a Bug” Aileen Fisher
“Feet” Aileen Fisher
and of course, “Mr. Rabbit” by Dixie Willson
My son got to hear this one in utero. I’d change the first line to “Mrs. Rabbit” to imply my daughter who is great at making bunny faces, swap “like” for “love” (like just wasn’t strong enough) change all necessary pronouns and give my tummy an extra rub when I got to “little brother.” Something like this:
Mr. [Mrs.] Rabbit has a habit
That is very nice to see.
He [She] wrinkles up and crinkles up
His [her] little nose at me.
I like [love] my little rabbit,
And I like [love] his [her] little brother [tummy rub].
And we have a lot of fun
Making faces at each other.
Well isn’t that sappy. But tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and this book just does that to me. It will to you, too. Find a copy–quick.
Picture Book House Rating: Read it Again, Mommy!
By the way, tomorrow isn’t just Valentine’s Day. It’s also my parents’ (1976) and my in-laws’ (1975) wedding anniversaries (love to you all), and International Book Giving Day. I learned about International Book Giving Day on the excellent blog about books: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Check out 7Imps post about tomorrow: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2501 if you get a chance, and let’s all try to give a kid book tomorrow!