When I was little, one of my most favorite things to do was read picture books with Mama. Any time she would sit down with me or us and read books was the highlight of my day. Several of our biggest favorites were written by the world’s most ingenious storytelling couple: Audrey and Don Wood. Their stories and the accompanying illustrations are unsurpassed in the world of picture books.
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, by Audrey and Don Wood, was a particular favorite. The tale of a fun-loving king who refuses to leave his bathtub will have you in stitches. Each member of his court tries a different approach to entice him out of the water; each fails spectacularly. The story is funny enough by itself, add the outrageous illustrations and this book is just over-the-top hilarious.
Another great classic Wood tale is that of The Big Hungry Bear. And the little mouse and the red ripe strawberry of course. I can still hear Mama’s voice reading those perfect lines. It was ever so exciting and thrilling – the suspense of whether the mouse would be able to safeguard his precious strawberry from the big hungry bear.
A newer addition to the Wood lineup, Ten Little Fish (by Audrey Wood and son Bruce) is not one that Mama read to me. She and I picked it up one day when I was nearly grown at our local thrift store. I think we paid a quarter for it. I intend to read it to my own little ones someday. A rhyming under the sea counting book with an adorable story of family, I am sure this book will someday be as beloved by my children as the rest of the Wood collection.
Although I’ve never met a Wood book I didn’t adore, my special favorite will always be Silly Sally. “Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards upside down.” Silly to the point of zaniness, this is probably the most fun read-aloud book in the history of read-aloud books. A solo book from Audrey Wood, both words and pictures are perfection. At one time, I could recite the entire book from memory.
And there are many more Wood masterpieces that I have not the space to cover here. Some I’ve never even read myself. Someday though, I intend to raise my kids on a complete Audrey and Don Wood (and Bruce Wood too) collection. I hope every kid everywhere is introduced to the spectacular talent of the Wood family and I hope they continue to produce great children’s literature for many years to come.
Books are incredible. Amazing. Magical. A treasure more valuable than the sum of all the precious metals in the whole world. A book is worth its weight in gold. Well, most are. Some are just garbage, good only for kindling. Although I personally would have a hard time doing that to any book. When I was maybe 10 or 12, I started reading Fahrenheit 451. I did not finish. It is supposed to be a fabulous book, but I do not know. I got as far as the first book-burning and had to put it down. It literally made me feel sick. Ironically, the whole point of the book is how important books are. Which is great, and I totally agree, I just couldn’t stomach the idea of books being burned. How anyone could do that is beyond me.
I also have a hard time grasping the notion of getting rid of books. I currently have boxes and boxes of books waiting for the day that I have a place big enough to put them all out on bookshelves. Some think I’m crazy for hanging on to them for so long and through so many moves. Maybe I am. So what? There are certainly worse types of crazy. The other day I awarded myself the herculean task of sorting and repacking and making an inventory of my books. I made the mistake of assuming that it would be easy. Physically, it was. But I was not prepared for the emotional turbulence I encountered. Part of me enjoyed going through all my books. I love all books and most of these are long-time favorites. It was like visiting an old friend.
But it was also very hard at the same time. My Mama was the one who taught me to love reading and a large portion of the books in those boxes were ones she had given me. Some were picture books she read to me when I was little. And I realized all over again that she will never read them to my kids. I will never get even one more book with an inscription in her handwriting. But then on the other hand, I am so incredibly blessed to have both these books from her and all the beautiful memories of being read to and reading together. Nothing can ever take that away.
Someday I hope to raise a houseful of kids. Several years ago, I sketched my ideas for the perfect house. It’s a big, sprawling 2-story with a super-awesome kitchen, a courtyard complete with fountain, balconies on the second story – everything I could ask for in my dream home. But the feature I love most is the library, the biggest room in the whole darn thing. With floor-to-ceiling bookcases on every wall, a desk in the middle of the room, and comfortable seating scattered around. A sanctuary where my kids can discover the same love for books and reading that my Mama gave me. If they have that, then I will consider myself a successful mother. There’s nothing more important than family – but books are a really close second.