November is Picture Book Month, “an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November.” To find out more about Picture Book Month, check out the official website: http://picturebookmonth.com/.
Speaking from personal experience, picture books have had a huge impact on my life. I spent much of my childhood behind the pages of some of my very favorite picture books. I thought it only fitting to end the month of November with a tribute to my one of my very favorite picture books: Caldecott Honor book, A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams. The book tells the story of a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother. After their home burns down, they are left with only a hodgepodge of gifts from kindly friends and relatives, but nothing that truly makes their new apartment feel like home. So they start collecting coins and, as the narrator tells us, “When we can't get a single other coin into the jar, we are going to take out all the money and go and buy a chair... A wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair.” All spare change from the mother’s tips or from the grandmother’s savings makes it into that jar, and, one day, it does fill up and the family buys themselves the chair they always wanted.
I remember reading this book over and over with my own mother as a child. I think the appeal was the warmth of the blocky, colorful illustrations, and the depth of the simple, yet emotional, story. I never experienced such devastating loss as the family in the book, but in many ways A Chair for My Mother was my first experience with the concept of what true loss really meant. The book emphasizes the importance of people over things, and even though the family loses everything they have, they don’t give up hope, they find a way to move forward, and although their photographs may be gone, they hold on to their memories. In many ways, for the girl, her mother, and her grandmother, saving for the chair helps them move past their grief. Another important take-away for me was that the girl in the story really does want to get this chair for her mother and grandmother more than for herself.
Although I clearly didn’t consciously understand all of this at the age of four, I was internalizing many of these important messages every time I read this story, and probably all the more so because I read it with my mother. So there you have it, one example of how I feel the picture book has immense, long-lasting and deep-rooted power. How will you be celebrating picture books? Remembering your favorite titles as a child? Reading some of your child’s favorite stories to him or her? Or sharing some of your childhood books with your child? There are lots of ways to celebrate! You can start with the top ten picture books list below!
Top Ten Picture Books
On the popular social reading site Goodreads, avid book fans voted for their favorite picture books of all time. Here are the top ten vote-getters.
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
3. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
4. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
5. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
6. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
7. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
8. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
9. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
10. The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone
You can see the whole list of favorite picture books on the Goodreads web site.
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