In honor of my middle child's 18th birthday this week, I wanted to highlight some of the books that he (and I) loved when he was growing up. This kid (whom I will hereafter be referring to as Mini-Me) loves to read. His favorite books now include "The Count of Monte Cristo," "A Clockwork Orange," and the book he finished last night, "The Road." For his birthday he was thrilled to receive the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe.
I have no recollection of reading Crockett Johnson's "Harold and the Purple Crayon" when I was growing up but when Mini-Me was little I snapped it up for him as though I had known all my life that it's a book every child must read. The story begins:
"One evening Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. But there wasn't any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. Fortunately, he had brought his purple crayon. So he drew a moon. He also needed something to walk on. So he drew a path..."
The only color in this book is purple. To begin with you have just Harold and his crayon. Everything else that appears in the book is drawn by Harold as the book goes along. Harold even creates frightening creatures then draws the very thing he needs to vanquish them. It's a marvelous story that teaches children to use their imaginations.
Maurice Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are" is particularly special to Mini-Me because, well, even though I told you I would hereafter refer to him as Mini-Me, his name is really Max. And his copy of this book was given to him by family friends who wrote the most wonderful inscription in it for him. For a kid that grew up with a lot of fears, this book was a great way to for him to learn that things aren't always as scary as they seem. But most of all that, no matter what, you can always go home where someone loves you most of all.
When Mini-Me was eight, we discovered Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events through the book order forms he used to bring home from school (how I loved the days those came home!). I was intrigued enough to order "The Bad Beginning: Book the First." At that time, it was a bit above his ability to "get" everything in the book so we read it together. And we both loved it. So much so that he raced through the rest of the books that were already published then had waited, impatiently, as Snicket got around to writing the rest of the thirteen book series.
In "The Bad Beginning" the reader is introduced to the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who are orphaned when their home is burned down and their parents are killed. They are left in the charge of Mr. Poe, a banker whose job it is to place them with a family member. His first attempt is with the villainous Count Olaf who uses them as slaves and attempts to trick them in an effort to get at their millions. Doesn't sound like a children's book, does it? To be honest, it can be frightening for some children. But these children are very smart and continue find ways to save themselves using their considerable smarts and Sunny's very sharp teeth. The books are exceedingly witty for both children and parents.