I woke up grumpy this morning and was saved by the realization that Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 has started her countdown of the Top 100 Children's Novels, the results of her poll regarding the best middle grade fiction. Bliss, bliss, joy!
I should point out that Bird gives quotes, commentary, history, and links for each title, so it's fascinating stuff, like opening a mysterious box of treasures (or a portal, or a time capsule: pick your adventurous MG analogy!). Please visit Betsy's blog and follow the evolution as she counts up to #1. It's better than breakfast cereal, trust me.
And even though the following is about a picture book, this seems like a good time for me to share a children's book moment. Yesterday I went to the home of a 6-year-old Latina child being treated for cancer and offered her a choice of picture book readalouds by way of starting class. When her eyes fell on Esphyr Slobodkina's Caps for Sale, her whole face lit up. She insisted on showing her mother that I had brought the book. "Te acuerdas, Mami?" Remember, Mom? Then she informed me, "There are monkeys!" A key fact, to be sure.
As I read her the book, she leaned forward, glowing with anticipation. When the peddler sat down beneath the tree to rest, she said again, "There are monkeys in the tree." (Like I said, key!). Of course, her joy brimmed over when the monkeys actually made their appearance.
She was a little less sure about joining me in acting out the fist shaking and foot stomping, but she loved making the monkey sound.
When the book ended, she sat back, her day made complete by the addition of monkeys. My efforts to teach her to count by tens seemed paltry at best after the glory that was Caps for Sale.
And that, my friends, is what children's books are all about.