Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Early Literary Influences - Best in Children's Books

Welcome to Early Literary Influences - Books That Shaped My Life Volume 2. Last Tuesday I showcased the children's book Bambi, which had a profound impact on me at a very early age, teaching principles that I carry to this day. If you haven't read it, you can find that post here.

Today's literary influence is actually a series of books that captured my imagination, broadened my horizons, and gave me a healthy dose of not only great fiction, but poetry, biographies, and even geography.

The books? The Best in Children's Books series by Doubleday, published in the 50s and 60s, and featuring gorgeous illustrations to accompany wide-ranging stories.

You never knew quite what you'd get when you picked up a volume, but were pretty much guaranteed cover-to-cover excitement. If I'm not mistaken, my mother bought us the whole set, and I cherished every one.

I'm using Volume I to give you an idea of the treasures found inside the covers:

1. Abraham Lincoln - Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
2. How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin - Rudyard Kipling
3. A Child's Garden of Verses - Robert Louis Stevenson
4. Hansel and Gretel - Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm
5. Mother Goose Rhymes
6. The Story of Gold - Maud and Miska Petersham
7. Puppet Play - Tina Lee
8. What a Magnet Can Do - Gerald S. Craig and Sara E. Baldwin
9. Animal Children
10. Angus and the Cat - Marjorie Flack
11. Pancakes for Breakfast - Grace Paull
12. This Is Australia

These books made learning fun, and I read as eagerly about a former president as I did about baby animals, racing through the book to get to my very favorite part, the "This is" feature, as in Australia, Africa, or some other faraway land. 

There I was, living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to these books, I visited exotic locales, read of other cultures, and learned the beauty of diversity way back before I even knew what the word "diversity" meant. 

To my younger self, Best in Children's Books were a step along the path of creating my own stories, and fuel for a future writer's imagination. These books are now collector's items, costing a pretty penny. To me they were worth more than gold. 

Tune in next week, for another installment of Early Literary Influences - Books That Shaped My Life.

PS. A dear friend asked a very key question: "Where are the books now?" To be honest, I didn't rightly know, so I called Mom. She told me she still had them but she'd thought about taking them to Goodwill. I may have caused the poor dear permanent eardrum injury when I screamed, "NO! THOSE ARE COLLECTOR'S ITEMS!!!' Long story short, these wonderful books from my childhood are now going to be a part of my senior years. I can't wait to read them again. And if anyone wonders why a m/m romance writer has a collection of children's books proudly displayed on her bookshelf? I'll say they're my grandchildren's. Yeah, that's what I'll do. 

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