One of my best friends has a beautiful little girl who LOVES to read. When I flew to Louisiana to visit them in May, she was in my lap within hours of my arrival, handing me a stack of storybooks. "Li-Li," she'd say (her name for me, since "Julie" is too hard), and point to the book she wanted me to read aloud. Then she'd nestle against me, listen contentedly, and even turn the pages when I asked her to.
She prefers her books over every other toy, and even has a couple to "read" in the car. It was so funny to see her buckled into her car seat in the back, flipping the pages by herself (and holding the books perfectly upright). A child after my own heart!
She is turning two very soon, so of course I'm sending her books for her birthday. Looking through the kids' section at Barnes and Noble is so much fun. I like seeing all of the new stories that have been written, but my favorite thing is coming across books that I love and remember from my own childhood.
If I could put together a package of books to be sent to any book-loving kiddo, it would include:
SARAH'S LION by Margaret Greaves
Scholastic book fairs were the highlight of my school years. I loved getting those fliers and checking off the books I wanted, then heading to the fair to pick them up. I got SARAH'S LION at one and it was always one of my favorites. The illustrations are magnificent, and the story even more so.
Sarah, a free spirit who longs for adventure, is always told that this isn't proper for a princess. But when a mysterious lion appears in her room, she begins to gain the courage to break free. The tale is wistful, strange, and a little bit sad, and I love that it celebrates being an individual and following your dreams.
The Macmillan Book of 366 Bedtime Stories retold by Gianni Padoan
I got a copy of this when I was 5-6, and I STILL have it. The cover has fallen off, some of the pages are missing, and there are Cheeto-stained fingerprints on the retelling of The Ugly Duckling (thanks to my brother, who did not worship books the way I did)... but it's still with me.
There are 366 stories because there's one for every day of the year, plus an extra for leap years. I remember being upset because the story for September 5, my birthday, kinda sucked, but I read and was read to from this volume for years and years. Story collections for kids are fantastic because it's like having dozens (or hundreds, in this case!) of books in one.
THE STORY OF HOLLY AND IVY by Rumer Godden
This is a clearly a Christmas book, but I read it all year round. The first line is: "This is a story about wishing." Ivy is an orphan who wishes for a family; Holly is a doll who wishes for a little girl to bring her to life; and the Joneses are a couple who wish for a child.
THE MOON LADY by Amy Tan
You might recognize this story if you've ever read Tan's THE JOY LUCK CLUB - it's one of the anecdotes told by her character Ying-Ying. I read this children's version of it long before I ever read that novel and loved it. The illustrations are fantastic!
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What books did you love in your childhood? Any suggestions or must-haves I should add to my little niece's gift package?