“I am a child of books.
I come from a world of stories
and upon my imagination I float.”
[Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston]
As a “grown-up” make-believer and reader, I spend a lot of time daydreaming. And more often than not, in my wakeful wonders I wander into the familiar territory of the books and stories I grew up reading. I may not have recently read these books, or even thought of them in years, but somewhere in the caverns of my creative cranium these fictional memories live, thrive, and even continue.
It is funny how tangible objects in my everyday world can become a sort of portkey to a book-bound escapade from my adolescence. There is something magical that occurs when a dainty dandelion seed floats past my view and a printed script in my head scrolls, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Or as I observe a stick floating down the little creek beside my house and wonder how much longer it will be before I see a melancholy donkey follow in suit.
When I came across Oliver Jeffers’ and Sam Winston’s A Child of Books, I read and felt as though I was in the company of understanding peers! Readers are really their own unique culture in this world! And this beautifully illustrated and written children’s book clearly speaks to a book-people group!
The book opens on a cover page that is filled from top to bottom with book titles and author names. Even before one gets to the actual story, the reader catches those warm and fuzzy book-loving feelings from head to toe! Books such as Alice in Wonderland, Robinson Crusoe, The Wizard of Oz, Treasure Island, Frankenstein, The Count of Monte Cristo and so many more shout out to the book-holder and send one traveling back to the personalized, initial reading of each story.
Finally the story begins: a raft, a girl, a book, and the rippling of “once upon a time” flowing through an endless page-coloured ocean. The story is more of a lifestyle statement than one of plot. With proclamations that all bookworms have felt for generations:
“I am a child of books.”
“Upon my imagination I float.”
“We can lose ourselves in forests of fairy tales.”
And what makes this book even more clever is the use of illustrations. Each page forms a scene made out of excerpts from classic books. The world contains an ocean of Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. The forests are grown from book page profiles and the branches are typed in Hansel and Gretel and The Golden Goose. There is even a make-believe mountain made from Peter Pan!
This week was the last week of school for my preschool and kindergarteners. We have been learning about fairy tales all month on top of reading so many books through the entire year. And so, on the last day, before we did our final rehearsal for our Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Concert, we read A Child of Books together.
Now, on a couple reviews of this book, people said this is a children’s book that is for adults because adults will be the ones who can fully enjoy this story due to all of the book references.
I beg to differ!
I presented this book to my students and read the title of the book and said, “A Child of Books… What do you think that means?” And my class’ answers were spot on. One little boy pointed out that our whole class are children of books because we have been reading books all year and we have been using the books that we have been reading to learn about new things. Another said that she thinks her mom is a “child of books” because she reads with her every night before bed. Another pointed at me and said, “You are a child of books too, aren’t you? You have to be! You always read to us!” Already, my class of three through five-year-olds understands what is means to be a “child of books” and they know that they are all one.
I opened up the book to the cover page filled with book titles and authors. The class gasped and asked what all of the words said. I read aloud several of the titles and the children acknowledged that they were familiar with some of the books. They asked me how many of the books listed that I knew and have read. I tried to count them all.
We turned to the title page where there was a picture of a blank piece of paper and an old inkwell and pen.
–Well, here is another conversation starter!–
How many three-year-olds know about an inkwell? Answer: not many! We took a couple minutes to talk about the purpose of an inkwell and why it was needed to write. Then I asked the group why they thought this picture was included in this book. And the group agreed, clearly it was there to be used to write the rest of the book! Genius!
And so we began reading the book. Each page the class pointed out all of the different formations the words created and they would ask where each excerpt originated. Yes, some of the references were unfamiliar to the group, but now that we discussed each story in the book, the children now have a solid list of books to read for themselves! Yes, this is a book that adults will enjoy, I know I do. But this book is also a portable, illustrated recommendation list for new readers! A brand new reader may see the sidewalk made out of Alice in Wonderland and the following day check out and read Lewis Carroll.
While preparing to write this post, I have probably read this book cover to cover about a dozen times. I may have it memorized in it’s entirety. This book is intelligent, clever, and masterfully made and can be enjoyed by readers young and old! I highly recommend it to anyone. It is a must have for your child’s library and for any grown-up’s collection as well!
Now to bring this post back to my daily daydreaming. Books are the fuel for the imagination. Imagination is the key to new ideas. Dr. Seuss famously penned the phrase “The more you read, the more you know.” I would humbly like to add to this statement, “The more you read, the more you imagine. The more you imagine, the more you create. The more you create, the more you can change and improve the world you live in.”
I know I can’t say it enough; reading is more than important. I believe it is vital! And A Child of Books is one example of what the world can become due to a person who loves to read!
I love books about books. If you have a book about books that you enjoy, please leave a comment below! I would love some more recommendations! Stay tuned for my next post. You can follow my blog, or follow me on instagram at roseonreading for updates and other book suggestions!
For now, I leave you all with this quote that pretty much sums up my entire post:
“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”
A Child of Books,