Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Favorite Picture Book...

This morning I got a copy of the Publishers Weekly Fall 2009 Children's Book edition which always makes me very happy. When I get these special editions, first I flip through a few times and look at the pictures and publishers' ads (which are like mini catalogs), then I go back and read the lists and features.

This issue includes a feature complied from Anita Silvey's upcoming Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book (out in October from Roaring Brook) for which Silvey asked contributers, "What children's book changed the way you see the world."

If she had asked me, I would have picked Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The title character in this beloved book is a nice gray squirrel who lives in a little house in a big oak tree. She makes firefly lamps and acorn cakes and wears a tiny apron as she sweeps the floor with her twig broom and keeps things tidy. She's quite happy with her simple squirrel existence until a gang of red squirrel thugs descend, chase her away, and take up residence in her once happy oak tree home. (I think one of them had fresh stitches. You knew they were trouble.)

This injustice was very upsetting to me in the early '70s when I first read Miss Suzy. I was a shy, chubby-ish kid and I had my share of being picked on. I hated that mean red squirrel gang and how they picked on Miss Suzy. But (spoiler alert) it all turns out okay. Miss Suzy befriends some toy soldiers (with shiny triangle swords) that she finds in the attic she escapes to. She tidies up and takes care of them. And then they kick those thug squirrels' furry thug squirrel butts out of Miss Suzy's house. It was so satifying to me that she made friends and her friends stood up for her. She took care of them and they took care of her. As a seven-year-old I knew I wanted friendships like like that. And I knew good could win out over evil. Oh Miss Suzy...I can't wait to go home and read my copy even though the binding it cracked and it's full of crayon marks (which is so untidy). But isn't that sign of a well-loved picture book?

I want to hear from you (since I imagine Anita Silvey didn't ask you either)--what book changed the way you saw the world when you were a child? If you'd like to share, post a comment.

15 comments:

Jeanie W said...

I loved Miss Suzy! Such a sweet story of justice. That's the book that made me fall in love with Arnold Lobel's illustrations. I love the little toy house in the attic. I don't think my copy exists anymore. Eaten to bits by bookworms.

Say, I wonder if Miriam Young was inspired by a squirrel infestation in her own attic.

Michelle said...

That's a tough question, because so many books influenced me as a child. If I had to choose a picture book, though, it would be Many Moons by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin. That book taught me that everyone has a different answer, and sometimes the simplest one is the best.

laura.atchison said...

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Du Bose Heyward. Illustrations by Marjorie Hack.

It's about a little brown bunny who dreams of becoming one of the five Easter bunnies when she grows up. Everyone makes fun of her, but she tells them to wait and see. When she is grown she ends up having 21 babies and thinks her chance is over. But the wise old grandfather bunny sees something in her, in the way she is raising her family - seeing that she is wise, kind, swift, and clever - and makes her the fifth Easter bunny. She is the only female among them.

The book appealed to me in so many ways. It made the world seem vast, yet dreams were still attainable. And though the Country Bunny was afraid that others might see her as just a mother, she always believed herself capable of anything. I suppose to this day that book is feeding some of my delusions. =)

Chelly said...

"Days with Frog and Toad" written/illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The story discusses friendship and loneliness (and related fears). Frog was the taller, laid back fellow while Toad was the shorter and more serious of the two amphibian chums. The tale has poetic and philosophical feel akin to that found in the works of Charles M. Schultz. I read and reread this book throughout my childhood. Every word and image gave hope in times of loneliness. I love children's books that embrace rather than gloss over these raw emotions...because children feel everything.

Cinderella from Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Reading collection. I poured over this version of Cinderella when I was four to the point of obsession. Handled with care, it went everywhere with me. Knowing that the bullied child had the last laugh and was not forgotten, provided hope. It was and still remains a beautifully illustrated piece of escapism, even though now life has taken most of its idealistic magic away. I can still remember the scent of the covers. :)

Shelli said...

secret garden

Shelli Cornelison said...

Miss Suzy is my favorite from childhood. I have a blog post about it, too. It made me smile to see the cover here! Love it!

loveskidlit said...

Scuppers the Sailor Dog (Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams). I loved the idea that he wanted to go to sea, "so he went there." And the list of all his goods both before and after he visits the navy store. And the illustration of the little house he built after his shipwreck is gorgeous.

Cat Urbigkit said...

Mine was "The story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. It's the sweet story of a Spanish bull. Instead of butting and fighting like all the other young bulls, Ferdinand liked to sit quietly and smell the flowers. But on the day the men came to get the fighting bulls from the pasture, Ferdinand sat on a bee, which stung his butt. He leapt into the air, butting, snorting, pawing ... and was taken to Madrid to fight.

All the lovely ladies had flowers in their hair and when Ferdinand entered the arena, he simply sat in the middle of the arena and smelled. There no was fight, no display, and Ferdinand was sent back to the pasture, where he remains, very happy, sitting and smelling the flowers.

Doing what you love, and not necessarily what others expect, is a good life lesson.

Cynthia Iannaccone said...

Marguerite Henry's KING OF THE WIND.
I related to the MC so well and it got me interested in reading more books.

Sarah said...

I second Shelli's "Secret Garden" and Laura's "Country Bunny." I actually forgot about that one (shameful!), so thanks for bringing back wonderful memories of reading with my Mom. Another favorite picture book is "The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear" by Don Wood. Adorable, funny, and about strawberries, can't ask for more.

MahoneyMusings said...

So many memories came flooding back to me upon seeing the picture of that book! I loved that book.


How Fletcher Was Hatched by Wende and Harry Devlin was another of my many many favourite books as a child.

Shirley said...

This was my daughters favorite book too. When she found it in the boxes of books in the attic she squealed with delight. She is 38, by the way, and still loves this book. She took it home with her and read it many times to her son.

B J Keltz said...

I still own Miss Suzy and am eternally grateful to my grandparents for signing me up for the Children's Book Club. I loved the illustrations and wanted Miss Suzy to take the dollhouse back to her tree.

I was glad the thugs got their comeuppance. Much later in my life, when a confrontation with "thugs" didn't go well, I took a lesson from Miss Suzy and developed "soldier brothers" to help me feel safe and to help me find friendship again.

Jenni Bielicki said...

I was VERY MUCH a reluctant reader growing up. Syd Hoff was my favorite author early on and Danny and the Dinosaur was a book I read a hundred-zillion times.

akaMAT said...

Jesus Christ and Holy Shit!
I just ran into your blog randomly,
and ran across you Miss. Suzy Post.
I had that book when I was little and I loved it. The squirrels pissed my off and I have always been for the underdog (not the cartoon) in everything. Even in raising my kids if one was being picked on I felt it was unfair and cruel.
It sparked my imagination so that I look at nuts in a whole new way. It caused me to wonder about the smaller things in life.

I'm thankful they never turned it into a cartoon or Movie. That would suck.