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Friday, June 27, 2014

Kids Love Stories -- Pass it on!!

Cece, Kiki, and Arthur

Kids love stories…pass it on!

By Danika & Beatrice Lagorio
(and a pinch from Kitty Griffin Lagorio—their mom)

        Kitty's turn:  Now that my kids have kids it’s very exciting for all of us. One thing we love is the magic of story. That happy connection when a story we love becomes a story they love.
         Is love of story something genetic? Or, does it have to be nurtured?
         I was reading at four. I was reading well by six. A trip to the library was a real treat. I would get a big stack of books each time we went, but then so did my adoptive parents, Terry and Rose. We all left the library with an armload of books.
         So, did I learn from them?
         Or was it something within?
          All I know is that when I read The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss, I was HOOKED.

         Where does love of story come from?

         As we watch these three children, Arthur (3 ½, Cece 3 ¼, and Kiki 21 months) we see they have their own definite choices for books that they want to hear again and again.

         That’s what they’re going to share with you.

         Beatrice’s observations:

         One thing that I am beginning to realize—picking books for children (thinking I’ll know what they really love) is always a surprise, at least a surprise to me, because it seems that they have their own favorites. When I asked my mom to show me what book I loved as a child she went right to the shelf and pulled out a faded green book called, The Funny Little Woman.
         (Kitty: Beatrice LOVED to hear this story over and over and over. She would laugh out loud every single time.)
         This story is about a woman who lives in Japan. One of her rice dumplings falls out of a pot, rolls down the hill, and falls into a crack. The funny little woman chases after the dumpling and goes down into a crevice. There, monsters kidnap her! What does the funny little woman do? She laughs.
         As soon as mom handed me the book I grinned. I remembered and started cracking up. Okay. A story about monsters and kidnapping. And as a kid I found it hysterical. Go figure!!
         The Funny Little Woman retold by Arlene Mosel, pictures by Blair Lent (1973)

         Now with two children of my own, we head out to the library weekly. We get stacks of books. It’s one of my favorite parts of parenting. Sharing stories makes all of us happy. I love having Arthur look at the cover and then asking him what he thinks might happen.
         When I asked Arthur to pick a favorite book, he decided on this--

          NO DAVID! Written and illustrated by David Shannon
I really can't say enough good things about this book!  I remember the first time I saw it up on a shelf. I passed it right by thinking the artwork looked almost scary. Then, as Arthur grew older I thought hey... he might actually like this... I should see what all the fuss is about.  Well, Shannon could not have done more to speak to my little man.  This is probably his all time favorite book.  Such an excellent way for a mommy to talk to a certain mischievous/curious/devilish little boy about bad behavior—and that includes the consequence for such behavior.
But the sweetest place is at the end where you remind your little one, that even though you get angry, you always love your child.  We read this book together with a lot of question and answer moments... for example, I will turn the page and say, "Uh-oh, what's David done this time?" Arthur will laugh and respond, "He's letting all the water out of the bath... you can't do that!"  
A great read that still holds my child’s attention about a year later! (And still makes me laugh!)

Corina (or, Kiki) is 22 months. So she sees books that her brother likes as well as some just for her.  Her pick? Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger and illustrated by Michael Hays is a South African Lullaby and Folk Story.
Abiyoyo is not a book that I would have imagined my 1-year-old daughter falling in love with. The story of an ogre who threatens a town... actually eating some of her favorite animals (sheep and cows) whole, like candy... really surprised me, when after reading it to my son who enjoyed it, Corina was the one who carried it around with her for days... months!  She loved and still loves this famous tale retold by Pete Seeger.  
I love any story that includes music, and this has to be the finest example of that.  You can still access the Reading Rainbow episode where Pete Seeger actually performs the story live.  When I say “Abiyoyo,” my little girl responds with a huge smile saying, "Abiyoyo's coming!"

(Kitty’s comment: Yes. It’s true. This sweet, angel-faced little girl loves a story about a monster that wants to eat everyone and everything in sight. She thinks that’s delicious.)

Danika and Cece’s turn:

I could not agree more with my sister. I have spent my adult life sneaking back into the children’s section of the library.  One of the perks of being three year old Cece’s mom is that now I have a toddler pass which gets me front row seats to fantastic librarians reading the greatest hits.  But like Bea said, one of the best parts about finding a favorite book is that sometimes it is a real surprise.    And Cece is introducing me to new books I would have never picked up on my own.
I spent many hours of my pregnancy day dreaming about reading with my baby.    There were so many wonderful books that I could not wait to introduce her to.  A book that I mused about reading with her was Maurice Sendak’s,  Where the Wild Things Are.  It was one of my all-time favorites as a child. As with most children I loved everything about it.  I loved how bad Max was in the beginning, how perfectly horrid the monsters were in the middle and how delicious the tomato soup (I know you thought it was some other food, but were wrong!)  looked in the end.
I was so excited to share this book with Cece that I bought a paperback, hard back and audio version. I waited patiently until she turned two and a half to share it. After lunch one day I grabbed the hard back copy and sat down on our big comfy couch.
You will never guess how she responded to the greatest 50 words ever written.  And… you guessed it.  She didn’t love it.  She didn’t hate it, but she also didn’t request it four thousand times like books she really takes to. 
I have not given up on Cece falling for Max.  I will introduce them at a later time.  However, Cece has fallen hard for a book that shares many of the same themes as Where the Wild Things Are.
Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper is a deliciously beautiful book about fitting in, family feuds and forgiveness.  Duck, Squirrel and Cat live contentedly playing their music in an old white cabin until one fateful day when Duck demands to be head chef.  The three fight and Duck runs away full of rage. Duck does not return for their regular soup time and Cat and Squirrel begin to really worry for their friend. They go on a search for him all the while their imaginations run away with them about what might have happened to Duck. Duck returns all on his own and everyone is forgiven.  Cat and Squirrel even let Duck be the head chef.  Pumpkin Soup and Where the Wild Things Are could almost be companion pieces.  Both highlight the use of imagination as a tool for forgiveness.  Both share the wonderful message that love and empathy conquer the most fearful rages. 
Max was such an important friend of mine growing up.  Although Cece didn’t take to him like I did,  I am so glad that she found Duck, Cat and Squirrel to help her through the scary forest of anger and forgiveness and always return her safely to her small cabin (playhouse) in our backyard. 

Kitty's turn:
And what was Danika's favorite book? A wild, wonderful adventure about a curious cat. With lush, realistic pictures, it's called Hot Air Henry, written by Mary Calhoun and illustrated by Erick Ingraham. 

Some wonderful, joyful books that I hope you might pass on to a child you love, 'cause kids love books, pass it on!




  1. Thanks for sharing. You picked some fantastic stories. I can see why your children (grandchildren) love them. As for reading being inherited or nurtured… I go for the latter. My adopted children all enjoyed a good read and cried if I dared to try to skip a night because I might have been a little fatigued. Lesson learned there, too, on the importance of story.
    Thanks for posting.

  2. Oh, you brought back great memories of reading to my kids. I still have a ton of picture books that I can't bear to give away even though my kids are teenagers. I used to sing Abiyoyo to them! And the Funny Little Woman; we used to get that out over and over from the library. We also loved Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. Have fun reading to your kids!

  3. No kids of my own, but to my nephs and niecies I was the Auntie who could be counted on to gift them with a new book or books on special occasions. (BTW, some of the kids' early favorites were written by Route 19 Writers--Carol Baicker-McKee's Cheep Cheep; Andrea's Here's What You Do When You Can't Find Your Shoe; Kitty's Cowboy Sam).

    As for my own "first favorites," there were two: Wanda Gag's Millions of Cats, and Dr. Seuss's Horton Hatches the Egg.

  4. Thanks for sharing your favorites! Having three boys who love to read, I think it's a little of both - inherited and nurtured. We can't wait to check out your favorites! In fact, we're going to the library later today! Another favorite for summertime is listening to audiobooks in the car. It makes short and long trips so much fun.