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August 9, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Picture Perfect Like a Sharknado (on TV)

Posted by emily

In honor of Shark Week 2013, we're doing picture books for Throwback Thursday Flashback Friday (read: We completely forgot about Shark Week 2013 and we're hoping you'll indulge us this one, desperate non-sequitur)! Sharks are kind of like picture books, if you really sit down and think about it --- they both come in lots of shapes and sizes (but not that many), move faster than you'd think and kill fewer people every year than pigs do? Seriously though, picture books were our earliest books, and definitely made us into the wonderfully inquisitive and thoughtful readers we are today. So join us for the ultimate throwback, brought to you at the end of the ultimate (shark) week. Also, we recommend listening to this as you read. 

Although I didn't marvel at action figures or superheroes when I was younger (see what I did there?), I was obsessed with supernatural figures --- vampires (before it was cool and trendy), zombies and especially witches. I can't even count how many times I was a witch for Halloween growing up...which also happened to be my favorite holiday as a child. I still love horror movies as much as I did when I was a youngin'. So when my parents first introduced me to reading, it only seemed natural (see what I did there, AGAIN?) that I would learn to read about witches. THE TEENY TINY WOMAN is a book that you pick up in a grocery aisle. It's incredibly short, but the pictures are beautiful and the story is beyond charming. The little woman lives in a little house and is friends with little animals. When she finds a little bone in a little graveyard and brings it back to her little house, a "little" ghost appears who wants its bone back. A little folktale, this story is a simple childhood fable that teaches you not to take things that aren't yours, and the importance of sharing. I still have THE TEENY TINY WOMAN in my apartment --- as I have most of my favorite childhood books --- because it’s really hard to part with something that was so important to me as a kid.

Man, picking a book for picture book week is way harder than I thought it would be. I was like a little picture book addict when I was a kid --- my parents would tuck me in and turn off the lights, and as soon as I was certain the coast was clear I would take out whatever Berenstain Bears book was tucked into my pillow case (I was very wily, even as a six-year-old, and I would hide the book in my pillow, not carelessly beneath it, in case a stray grownup hand happened to wiggle its way under there and chance upon the cold, hard edges of my contraband), and read it by whatever light was available to me. Anyway, I did this every night, and totally thought I was outsmarting my parents, although I realize now that they must have known what I was up to when I would sit at the top of the stairs and call down, “Mom? Dad? What does S-U-R-E spell?” But DR. SEUSS’S SLEEP BOOK was different --- maybe because it was readto me, and not furtively and bumbling alone in the dark. The SLEEP BOOK was its own occasion, and its own ritual. I would brush my little teeth and curl up in bed next to my dad, who would --- in his soothing dad-voice --- read all about that one small, contagious yawn, and the delightfully silly creatures who were getting ready for sleep. Of course, there were favorite pages (like the Mupp, who bit his own long, furry tail before bed so that the pain would reach him just in time to wake up), and I would insist on reading those in my own stumbling diction. And although I hate to get all corny on you all, I recently introduced my four-year-old nephew to SLEEP BOOK, and was neither surprised by his initial delight (and insistence that he’d seen some of the creatures in real life), nor by the gently snoring coming from his little head on my shoulder before we’d even made it to the end.

My family never had a maid growing up, but some of my friends did. I would try to imagine how luxurious their lives must be --- not to have to pick up their toys or make their beds --- but my imagination would come up short. The only reference I had was from my favorite book series, Amelia Bedelia. Now, if you know anything about this series, you know that Amelia Bedelia was no regular maid. She had all the best intentions, but when she was given a task, something inevitably went wrong. When Amelia is asked to dress the chicken, she literally dresses the chicken! The books were all filled with her hilarious missteps and, as a child, I thought all maids were so silly!

As kids, we all had our favorite reads and for me, that favorite has always stuck. I could read Kevin Henkes’ CHRYSANTHEMUM over and over, and I’m fairly certain I did as an eight-year-old. Who doesn’t love illustrated mice named after flowers? Chrysanthemum has a fabulous existence (eating mac n’ cheese with ketchup and playing Parcheesi) until she has to start school (I’m sure most of us can relate). There, she discovers her name is too long to fit on a name tag. The other mice can’t understand why her name is so unique and long (probably because they have boring names like Victoria and Kate). Before long, Chrysanthemum can’t stand going to school; her only saving grace is her music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Guess what? Mrs. Twinkle is also named after a flower! And Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, whose expecting a little mouse baby, tells her class that if she has a girl, she’s going to name her Chrysanthemum! Take that, Victoria. CHRYSANTHEMUM is all about flower power, being yourself and owning your uniqueness. Those important lessons coupled with some very cute mouse illustrations will bring out the eight year old in anyone.