ON THE BOOKS WE SHARE

I’m becoming an aunt this year, and like the bookworm I am my first thoughts on hearing the good news were “what books should I buy for the baby shower?” and “I knew bookmarking that site with all the bookish onesies was a good idea.”

Sharing books can be a very poignant act. I helped teach several of my younger siblings to read with my favorite books, and we bonded over our enjoyment of the characters’ hijinks. Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, Ivy Cottage (of the Biscuit, Buttons, and Pickles Series) by E.J. Taylor, Laughing All the Way by George Shannon and Meg McLean, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak were all particular favorites. Especially Frog and Toad. Even today, when I pass on books I’ve loved to friends, family, or even acquaintances, I feel a sense of excitement and camaraderie that’s hard to beat. When you and your friends have read and loved the same book, you’ve expanded your friendship beyond this workaday world and into whatever exciting new realm exists between the book’s covers.

To put it lightly, I am more than excited to share the worlds and stories I’ve come to love with my little niece or nephew in the years to come. But while I wait, I thought I’d share my mental list with all of you. So, here are just a few of the books I hope to share with my family’s newest addition:

Infant-Toddler Years

I’ve already mentioned early-childhood favorites like Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, but I’m also looking forward to sharing classics like Beatrix Potter’s tales and A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series. Oh, a Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, because who doesn’t love that book?

Early School Years

When the little niece or nephew is old enough to read, I’ll want to share the books that helped me develop my sense of self what now seems like way too many years ago: The Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary, everything by Roald Dahl (but especially Matilda), The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and the Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erikson.

Middleschool Years

This is where the fun really starts, because this is when I get to introduce the kid to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and basically everything by E. Nesbit (especially The Five Children and It). These books were the source of my make-believe sessions for years and years.

Junior High and High School Years

Most people don’t look back on adolescence fondly, and I think that means it’s a time when we really need books that speak honestly about the world and help us come to grips with everything we’re going through. So, in these years, I’d like to share Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dunes.

There are a LOT of books I didn’t list here (the Victorian novels I teach, the sci-fi and fantasy novels I binge read every chance I get, the random bookstore finds that bowl me over and leave me with a new perspective on the world), but as I realized while writing, it’s hard to know what to share until you know the person you’re sharing with. Personality is a huge factor in book recommendations, even and especially with family. So I’ll look forward, for now, to reading Days with Frog and Toad together and playing all the rest by ear. Maybe I’ll recommend Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and maybe I’ll recommend Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. Who knows?

 

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