I was surprised today when I stepped outside and the clear, crisp fall weather immediately made me think about books. But, this has happened to me before. I have vivid memories of being in elementary school and the cool, fall weather bringing with it wonderful seasonal Fall/Halloween book titles to our Scholastic Book ordering form. It was a magical time in the classroom when we were handed the thin almost vellum like pages of the book club flyer. We would scour the tiny pictures and descriptions of the books for sale like kids picking through Halloween candy. Carefully, we marked what we wanted to purchase and took the pages home to try and convince our parents for the amount of money needed.
Upon return to class, orders were taken and the books would magically appear in the classroom a few weeks later. These were affordable paperback books that helped foster my love of reading. Anyone remember these titles and the amazing illustrations?
Who would not remember THAT face? Talk about a wrinkle in time! Abner Graboff’’s illustrations made wrinkles and fly swallowing old ladies even more mystifying to me.
These books were just fun! We collected and traded them like baseball cards. The classroom orders were probably a teacher’s administrative nightmare but I’m so thankful that they made it a priority in my school district.
Then…. there was the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club. Now this was a delivered to your front door kind of book club run by the Reader’s Digest Association and I was a very lucky member. These books were hardback classics that never failed to disappoint.
Sometimes the stories that sailed into my mailbox were so different from anything I had experienced that I felt transported when reading them. This mysterious book, Sam, Bangs and Moonshine written and Illustrated by Evaline Ness, won the 1967 Caldecott Medal for its illustrations. How lucky was I to have a grandmother who valued books and reading? Thank you, Martha Harrison Reeves, for giving me the gift of books and for the Weekly Reader Book Club membership!
Finally, to the book I will never forget. This book scared the bejeebers out of me and still haunts me to this day. Now, I’m not saying that it was ideal to have read this as a 4th grader but it was in my school library and I found it and devoured it. My friends and I argued over who’s turn it was to check it out each week. Many a fall day you would find The Thing At The Foot Of The Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach in my backpack (World Publishing Company 1959).
This book kept me up at night and must still be doing the same for readers today because it is available as a reprint through Dover Publications. The scariest versions of this book are the ones illustrated by Kurt Werth. His sketchy pencil and charcoal drawings added great mystery to the already chilling stories. Maybe our librarian liked this book because its author, Maria Leach, was an expert on folklore and included notes and a bibliography for reference. But the “Do’s and Don’t About Ghosts” at the end of the book kept me awake at night for weeks! I’m not saying this was necessarily a good thing but nevertheless, this book made a lasting impression and taught me about the staying power of books and the written word. The point is that children’s literature is a vibrant and critical part of a child’s journey. Children don’t just read and enjoy books, they think about what they find inside them. Sometimes for a very long time.
At a recent SCBWI Fall conference in Nashville, a presenter told us that 37% of the current print market is dedicated to children’s titles. It is encouraging to know that books are still a vital part of childhood for those who can get their hands on them. I wonder...what book or books landed in your lap that you still carry with you in some way today?