I love to hear quirky, detailed, real-life stories from people I know. I’ll ask a question about some little thing that doesn’t come up in an ordinary day. The answers are endlessly interesting – a person’s memories, and the ways they recount them, are full of clues about how they see the world and themselves. It’s a chance to stand in their shoes for a moment, catching a glimpse of what you’d see looking out on the world from their eyes.
Today, I asked, “What is the first picture book you remember, either reading yourself or having read to you, and what do you remember about it?” Here’s what my friends said!
This survey was conducted on Facebook. Responses are copied exactly, with the exception of some minor typo fixes.
Selena: “The Rabbits’ Wedding by Garth Williams.”
Ashley: “Pat the Bunny….I remember patting Daddy’s beard in the book and then feeling my own father’s face. I loved how the world in the book matched my own little world at home.”
Richard: “A Ghost Named Fred by Nathaniel Benchley. George playing astronaut.” (Thanks, Richard, for the photo of George playing astronaut. That looks like the original copy of the book – a little battered, but still read!)
Nitsa: “A Greek book about Popi and Eleni and a dog. No idea what it was called. I remember the simple drawings of the girls in their dresses and of the dog. Nothing fancy. I also remember that Greek dogs say ‘yav yav’, not ‘woof woof’!”
Katherine: “The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I was a city kid who longed for the country, and I so identified with that little house.”
Kelleylynn: “I wasn’t read to as a small child, not by my parents (please don’t feel sorry for me) but in second grade, I vividly remember my reading teacher, Mrs. Lattner (yes, the mother to pro basketball player) would read a daily poem from Shell Silverstein; most especially The Giving Tree. So I gave (back) like the Tree to my children.
I’ve grown a grand love for good children’s literature and read daily to our children, especially instilling the love for the zany and quirky authors such as Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens; fantasy and poetry.”
Marie: “This was not long after WW2. It was a Danish book a friend had sent to thank my mother for all the material help she had sent – mostly food and clothing – to her and her neighbors in the immediate post-war period. It was about a little boy named “Peter” and I looked at the pictures while my mother read the little story from a handwritten translation into English.”
Barnabas: “Learning to read using the Dick and Jane books.”
Joanne: “Ditto, this (Dick and Jane) is what I remember, too.”
Joanna: “Not the first, but one that stuck with me was Little Bear’s Trousers. The illustrations were incredibly detailed and I would read it over and over just to have an excuse to look at the pictures and admire all the different textures. There was a cake at the end that I always wanted to eat because it looked so delicious. I lost my copy as a kid and was always sad to have it gone. After telling my husband about it when we were first married, it showed up in the mail one day as a surprise. I got to read it again to my step kids and now to Ruth.”
Tanya: “Go Dog Go. I remember the dogs.”
Tammie: “Cappy. Its about a dog who gets in trouble. 😂 Not the first book but definitely a memorable one because it was the first one I had planned to buy with money earned from working for my dad. It was a ‘first purchase alone w/o parents’ kind of thing. I walked home from the bookstore a happy kid!”
Kathleen: “This will come as no surprise to you, Melinda: a joke book with pictures!”
Audra: “I remember my mom reading me a book about a snowshoe hare afraid to change colors with the seasons.”
Elizabeth: “Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, which is curious, because I also remember not liking anthropomorphic animal stories in general. I also remember The Little Engine that Could. I was so happy for the Little Engine that he made it. I actually remember a lot of stories. We had books upon books in my house. Being read to and learning to read are among my cherished childhood memories.”
Michelle: “I learned to read with Go Dog Go.”
Bonnie: “Caps for Sale was one. Where the Wild Things Are, and The Monster at the End of the Book (Sesame Street, my mom did a great Grover voice!). And for remembering – for Caps, it was hilarious the amount of hats, for the Wild Things the illustrations, and for The Monster at the End of the Book, it was interactive and of course my mom’s Grover voice. I have the book and do the voice now with my kids.”
Christine: “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.” [Here’s my post about Mike!]
Svetlana: “I remember reading the Cajun Alphabet book. A is for Alligator and B is for Baton Rouge. I was four. The other book I remember from when I was really young was The Little Mermaid. It was not a childish fairy tale. The pictures were really beautiful watercolors. When she walked it was like stepping on knives. When she danced, she forgot about the knives. When the Prince too another woman to be his wife, her sisters gave her a knife from the Sea Witch to kill him. They had all sold her there hair for the knife. His death would allow the Little Mermaid to return to the sea. Instead she walked out in to the sun and became sea spray. That one was also before kindergarten. I have no idea who wrote it, but I’ve never seen a Little Mermaid like it since.”
Andrea: “I Know a Farm. The memorable thing about that was it came in the mail, as a book club selection. I seriously doubt this was the first book read to me, but it is the first I remember receiving.”
Edith: “The Cat in the Hat.”
Tawni: “I know Poky Little Puppy, Saggy Baggy Elephant, and Tawny Scrawny Lion were among my first favorites. And now I read them to my kids!”
Peggy: “A Fish Out of Water, a Dr. Seuss book, I remember being so worried about that fish as the little boy gave him too much food and Otto grew bigger and bigger.”
Elissa: “I remember the Little Golden Books, especially Hop on Pop and Take Me To The Zoo.”
Jonathan: “The Poky Little Puppy.”
Elina: “The Serendipity books. I remember the fanciful illustrations and the characters – how they made me feel – like there was a beautiful world out there that I knew nothing about. I loved them, and stumbled across the collection a few years back and am so happy my kids are reading them now!”
How about you?
What is the first picture book you remember? What do you remember about it? Why did it matter to you?
It’s fascinating to consider how many books have touched us at one time or another. Some were good, some we hated. They all leave a mark, don’t they?