1. Berenstain Bears
Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears children’s book series, died last Friday of a stroke. Just two days earlier she had been working on two new books with her son, Michael Berenstain, who has been her co-author recently. Her late husband and long-time co-author, Stan Berenstain, died in 2005. I don’t remember their books that much, but I remember growing up with them.
2. Go Dog Go!
I know that Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman (I remembered the book as authored by Dr. Seuss, but a Google search reveals that the book was published by Suess and his wife’s press, Beginner Books) was maybe the very first children’s book that I was completely entranced by. Remember Go Dog Go!?
Eastman died in 1986 at 76 years old. In related queries about Go Dog Go!, I found out Eastman worked at the story departments of both Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Cartoons.
3. Are You My Mother?
I also found out Eastman wrote Are You My Mother?, which may have actually been my very first most favorite children’s book of all time. I can’t remember though, my childhood memories have faded. Remember Are You My Mother?
But now that I think about it more, this might have been the first children’s book that I was obsessed with–
Without extensive Googling, I remember Corduroy to be a soft little story about a boy losing a stuffed bear, after which I think becomes animated and makes a great journey through a bunch of fun, colorful places in order to be reunited with his dismayed owner. Corduroy was written by Don Freeman, who spent most of his career in New York City, working as an artist. He also wrote A Pocket For Corduroy, which you probably remember.
UPDATE: Should have Googled, I got the plot completely wrong. Corduroy details an adventure of an animated stuffed bear trying to locate a lost button. He never finds it, but the little girl who wants him doesn’t care and spends her savings on him anyways.
5. Miss Nelson Is Missing!, Where The Sidewalk Ends, Green Eggs and Ham, and Madeline
If I think harder about books with which have some serious early-childhood associations, I also remember these:
Are you having a nostalgia meltdown yet? Miss Nelson Is Missing!
I completely forgot about that book! Now that I’m remembering it, the story — written by Harry Allard and James Marshall — is about a teacher with kids so unruly that she tells them she won’t be in for a week. She comes in the next day in disguise, posing as their substitute, pretty much dressed as a witch named Miss Viola Swamp. She sends the kids into a frenzy of longing for Miss Nelson, who is much nicer than her cranky and scary alter-ego.
6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This write-up wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this one:
I don’t think it’s a stretch to speculate that The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle must be one of the most influential children’s books of the last 40 years. Since 1967, Carle’s published at least a book a year, for the most part. He opened a children’s book museum at Amherst in 2002 and divides his time between the Florida Keys and North Carolina. He’s 82 now.
When I got just a little older (2nd to 5th grade?), I remember being thrilled by Pizza Hut’s “Book It!” club. I remember cherishing the color-shifting button (my precious) they gave you for participation and being super excited every time my teacher passed around the little book catalogs from which we would get our parents to order the books we wanted. I could never figure out the schedule by which we’d receive new catalogs but I think it was once a month. Pizza Hut would give you a free personal-pan pizza if you met the reading goals set by your teacher. I remember that the Book It! club introduced me to a series that everyone knows–
I was completely obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series.
8. Fear Street
I was later equally into Stine’s Fear Street franchise, which if I remember correctly, had high-school make-out sexy stuff and provocative covers. As far as I know, Stine’s still in the game — TC contributor Gaby Dunn recently interviewed him live and for her 100interviews project.
9. Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark
Let us also not forget the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
series, a gruesomely-illustrated story compilation for Big Kids that I’m honestly surprised they let us consume–
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell, the stories are American folklore and urban legends adapted by author Alvin Schwartz.
10. Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, and The Babysitter’s Club
My elementary school book club also introduced me to the books of Judy Blume (here’s a piece about how a TC contributor had a brief Twitter spat with her), Roald Dahl, and… the Baby-sitters Club series? I’m unsure why I was reading Baby-sitters Club.
My childhood-book innocence started to erode during the 4th grade and was pretty much broken and irreparable by the 6th. It started with Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton — I begged my dad to let me read it. He resisted for awhile under the grounds that it wasn’t appropriate material for a 4th grader, but eventually relented. From there it was a slippery slope to all sorts of genre fiction for adults, but it mostly centered around Stephen King. I did a book report on Thinner in 5th grade. I think I read something like 80% of his (then) oeuvre by 6th or 7th grade. By high school, my genre-fiction/ non-literary obsession, was pretty much dismantled by high school English classes and puberty. Then there was J.D. Salinger.