Growing up, there was not a night that went by that my mom didn’t read to me before bed. It was a ritual. After my bath, I would choose a book or two (or three, depending on how fatigued my mom was) and crawl into her lap. My process of choosing the right books was anywhere from immediate to a whole production up until my mom threatened to cancel storytime altogether unless I decided quickly. I’d stand at my bookshelf, taking in the distinct smell of old wood and paper, and select our stories for the night. I generally gravitated to the same books over and over again, but one of the greatest joys of my childhood was trips to the library with my mom. It was here where my mom and I spent time exploring and traversing the shelves for our next story.
I spent a lot of time picking out the perfect books for the week ahead. There was one time when I was so engrossed by the selection of potential books that I ignored my bladder signaling to me it was time to go; I peed myself in the middle of the library just because I wanted to keep looking at the books. I thankfully had my mom standing close by to hand me her sweater and help me cover my new dark blue pants. As humiliating as that experience was at the time, my mom and I frequently laugh about it to this day in a shared remembrance of all of the memories we shared at the library. The library not only offered me quality time with my mom but also instilled in me a passion for reading that I continue to foster. Without the time I spent with my mom in the library and during storytime, I don’t know if I would be the reader I am today. Below is a short tour of some of my and my mom’s favorite books found in the library and on my shelves.
“Corduroy” by Don Freeman
I’ve always felt attached to this book, probably because I used to think my stuffed animals were alive. Maybe their perceived sentience was the result of growing up in the age of “Toy Story,” or maybe it was just because I’ve always had an overactive imagination, but I was never able to shake the feeling that my stuffed animals had their own wants and desires. Corduroy is a toy bear who wants to be taken home. When a girl’s mother realizes he is missing a button, she refuses to concede to her daughter in her desire to buy Corduroy. After this, Corduroy commits to finding his lost button to ensure that, next time, he is taken home. Though Corduroy fails to find a button, his friend from the day before comes back ready to purchase him with her own money. Corduroy gave me the one thing I’ve always loved in a story — an adorable underdog to fight for. The nights that my mom and I read this book, I always held my own toy bear a little tighter.
“Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery” by Jamie Lee Curtis
I love Jamie Lee Curtis, not only for her acting in my other childhood staple, “Freaky Friday,” but also for her superb ability to write a children’s book. When I was younger, I thought this book was genius. Everyone wants to know where balloons go, especially six-year-old me. I loved this book because I got to imagine with my mom all the places my lost balloons could be. Nothing was off-limits with this book: tangoing with airplanes, floating next to the sun or just laying down and relaxing. Another plus to this book (and maybe the main reason I kept coming back to it) was the reusable balloon stickers that came with it. Maybe all authors should include stickers in their books so that readers will remember the book, even years later.
“Walter the Farting Dog” by William Kotzwinkle
When I start thinking about the books my mom and I used to read, this is the first book that comes to mind. Simultaneously a story about a thwarted home invasion attempt and a tale of unconditional love, this author definitely knows how to get his readers invested. Our protagonist, Walter, is a farting dog. His unrelenting toots smell putrid no matter what diet his family puts him on. The father is just about to send Walter back to the pound for his flatulence when Walter saves the family from burglars by letting out “the worst fart of his life,” which smells so bad that the thieves have to leave the house immediately without stealing a single thing. When I was younger, I remember thinking this book was the peak of comedy. I still don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as hard as when my mom and I first read this book. Perhaps it was because the author says the word “fart” so much, or maybe it was just because of the absurdity of the story itself, but I couldn’t get enough.
“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch
As a child, I remember thinking this book was boring. Sure, it was sweet, but it had none of the fun of missing buttons, lost balloons or farting dogs. Now that I’ve gotten older, I can understand why my mom lit up whenever I’d pick it out. This book follows a mother and her son throughout all of the stages of life. We see the mother bring her baby home and hold him while she sings. We see the boy reach his rebellious teenage years but still come back to be held by his mom. We see the son as an adult, holding his now elderly mother in his arms. We finally see the story come full circle as the son holds his own baby, singing the same song his mother did. This book is a testament to the enduring love between mother and child, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to experience this love firsthand. This book has left a lasting impression on me, so much so that I hope to read this to my own children one day.
Daily Arts Contributor Isabella Kassa can be reached at email@example.com.