Dr. Seuss stories always make me smile when I read them with children, and I remember how much I loved them when I was a child. He created animals and words and worlds and even a place where a little person with a little voice (just like me) who didn’t think he mattered (just like me), proved that “A person’s a person. No matter how small.” Even that tiniest voice of the teeniest boy in a town smaller than a speck of dust mattered. In magical fact, his little voice is hugely important. I still have my old Horton Hears a Who, along with a few other books of magical memories.
In Fairy Tales* by E.E. Cummings, a butterfly and an elephant developed a true and lasting love, visiting one another’s houses without the slightest complication. A man asked Why? until a fairy had to interrupt his breakfast, putting down his plate of light and glass of silence, to deal with the situation. Also residing in the worlds painted on his pages were a little girl named I and the little girl named You and a house that ate mosquito pie. The stories were pure beauty with no bounds whatsoever around imagination.
I cared for Maurice Sendak’s Pierre so much that even after I stamped my name in it, I wrote it, too, just to keep the book doubly safe. (Sometime after my love affair with Pierre, I learned to write my a’s frontwards.) Sendak, himself, wouldn’t have touched my book. I read that he stopped signing children’s books, realizing that kids don’t like strange grown-ups writing in their favorite books. Sendak described one little boy who wouldn’t hand over his book for the author to sign: “He literally screamed and said, ‘Don’t crap up my book!’ It was the bravest cry I’ve ever heard. I nearly wept.”
So it seems some of the biggest little book fans pay their highest compliments by not wanting autographed copies. Maybe that’s why Petunia author, Roger Duvoisin, gave me his autograph on a piece of notepaper.
He also drew Petunia and made his signature far beneath Petunia’s own: “Love, from me, Petunia.” I still remember seeing that special goose appear before my eyes on simple notepaper.
Most adults I know still smile at remembering a favorite picture book or series. Picture books not only inspired us to laugh and learn, they filled our hearts with memories of stories, snuggly times, unforgettable characters, and magical worlds that swirled with wondrous, imaginative possibilities.
* The new edition of Fairy Tales by E.E. Cummings doesn't include the original artwork. Originals may be hard to find, but it's so lovely it I hope some old ones can still be found for reasonable prices. Here's a snapshot from the book, an illustration of the elephant heading to the butterfly's house for a little visit...
Linda Eve Diamond is co-founder (with Little Bear) of The Beauty of Picture Books Website & Blog. She's an author whose poems and stories have been published by several literary journals. Her books include The Beauty of Listening (a listening-themed poetry collection) and E-Z Spelling (Barron's Educational Series, 2011). Visit Linda Eve's Website at www.LindaEveDiamond.com.