-posted by Meghan
It shocks me that my kids are Californians. Such a big part of my identity is being a New Englander (hard worker, slower to make friends but keep them for life, total discomfort talking about money, Sox and Celtics fan to the death…) that somehow in my head I skirt the fact that I’ve now lived in LA longer than anywhere else, and that my kids are born and raised here. They don’t own cold weather clothes, have never seen snow, and even think they like the Lakers! So it’s probably not as subconscious as I think that we’ve discovered a few children’s books lately that remind me of home. And as I reflect on it, introducing the kids to those seemingly unimportant and funny things like accents and attitudes I grew up with, it is really important to me- it’s showing them a side of myself, the same way we listen to showtunes in the car and spend at least an hour a day cooking together. If you’ve ever spent much time in New England, you’ll appreciate these as well, though even if you haven’t, you’ll find them delightful reads. And you just might want to find some books for your kids that remind you of your own childhood homes.
Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
I LOVE reading this book, with it’s sprinkling of words like “wicked” and pictures of maple syrup tapping and flannel wearing relatives. And the kids love the funny touches they look for in the pictures- like how Toddie needs a garden hose and helicopter to have his diaper changed. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see that there’s a sequel coming next year- The Wicked Big Toddlah Goes to New York.
Duck Duck Moose by Dave Horowitz
Other Horowitz books, like A Monkey Among Us and Five Little Gefiltes were already huge hits at our house, so we took this one home from the library without even cracking the spine. I was even more delighted than the kids to find that it was about a moose who heads south with his duck friends for the winter when he realizes everyone else is departing or hibernating and even the Pancake Hut is closed. This book had me at the “I heart NH” t-shirt…
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
I love this book. I loved it as a kid- it reminded me of the Little House series and of visiting Plymouth Plantation. I was so thrilled to rediscover it with my own kids and find that they also love this simple story of a man and his family who toil all winter to sell things in town to be able to buy the things they need that they can not make to get through another winter. If you’re new to Hall’s work, try reading his essays of growing up in New England, A String Too Short to Be Saved, yourself. I adore it.
A Farmer’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian
This is one of those alphabet books, like All Aboard!, that belongs equally on the coffee table and a child’s bookshelf. It’s a beautiful book, and it depicts a beautiful lifestyle with simplicity and honesty. It offers tons to talk about, from making up stories about life on the farm to accompany each illustration, to discussing the woodcutting technique. Azarian also illustrated one of Donald Hall’s other beautiful children’s books, The Man Who Lived Alone. (Caution, this book has made me cry every single time I’ve read it, from the time I was five right through to last night when I re-read it to test myself.)
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
I was tempted to put my favorite McCloskey book on the list (Make Way for Ducklings), but I took the kids blueberry picking a few weeks ago, and we re-discovered this book and have really been enjoying it. Sal and a little bear cub are put with their mother’s getting blueberries for the winter when each loses their mother. Even if blueberry picking isn’t a part of your childhood memories, this may leave you thinking about what summer produce said ‘SUMMER!” to you (blueberries and corn for New Englander me, tomatoes and watermelon for my New Jersey raised husband), and see if you can take your kids to pick and eat that (or some other local summer treat) fresh. We’ve really been enjoying doing that as a family, and sharing our own memories (verbal and visceral) with our kids.