Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's your opinion?

After spending an unplanned $60 in the bookstore last night, then coming home and looking at all the books we already have, then reading from our current Laura Ingalls Wilder book, I started wondering if owning and reading all the books you can get your hands on is far superior to owning a few books and really getting to know those few.

This is not the first time I have thought of this concept. I vowed not to buy any more books and just use the library a few years ago, but that plan didn't stick. I like having books around me. I like the way they smell and feel. Then there was that obscure piece of research that I once read that said that reading the same books over and over and over and over was really great for young children learning to reading. Next, figure in my treaty with the world to minimize my impact and you have my conundrum. Why would I continue to aid and abet the production of all these books? Why do we own so many books? Does anyone else worry this much?

Because once I get on a roll I have a difficult time finding the brakes, I tried to think of all the books I and the children own and wondered which books would make the cut if I instituted a cull. Obviously, categories are in order and I will start with the children's picture books. If your child could own only 25 picture books, what would they be and why?

I challenge!

I'll publish my list tomorrow.


JoVE said...

Your children would allow you to cull books?! Lucky you. My child is her grandmother's grandaughter. Once a book is in this house it is highly unlikely ever to leave. I try to think about the insulating properties of lining walls with books. that must be some credit against all the dead trees.

I would strongly advise you never to go to the village of Hay-on-Wye in Wales.

wisteria said...

No, my children probably wouldn't tolerate a book culling. They wouldn't even let me give some of their board books to our nephew. We still have Chicka Chicka ABC and Sheep in a Jeep and Jamberry and ....

I've had this book purchasing addiction a long time. I doubt any books will ever be purged, I just like to think which about how light we would all feel if we did.

Angela, MotherCrone said...

I am struggling with this right now literally. We are trying to pare down with the anticipation of moving. Last Saturday, I spent a few hours attacking the basement bookcases, holding about 2,000 books. The only thing that was easy for me to part with was some of my old college textbooks.
I then tried weighing and measuring books in various ways: Did I enjoy it the first time? If not, it's on the pile. Has it sat there for years without being read, and I was not inspired by the book jacket summary, it was on the pile.
Of course, as soon as I freed an entire 6ft shelf, I filled it by emptying a huge box of gorgeous Harvard Classics I picked up at a used books sale. I was thrilled to see the leather with gilt trim on the shelf. Unnaturally so. God help me! Obviously, I am with JoVe and hoping there is merit in the insulating properties!

Becky said...

With my youngest now six and reading, I boxed up a bunch of the kids' board books and ABC and counting books the other month and put them in storage in one of our outbuildings; already there are quite a few of my old gardening, cookery, and history/political science books (Milovan Djilas etc.) that I don't reread or refer to much.

I've also started culling the picture books and easy readers ruthlessly; all of my old childhood books get a free pass, but the cheap library discards, and garage sale and Goodwill treasures are under consideration.

I like books around me too; I grew up in an apartment with books, and shelves, in every room, including the kitchen. I also like having just the right book on hand when I need it, since our library isn't great (and discarding books at a faster and faster rate), and even with ILL the American history choices are limited.

P.S. If you ever go to Hay-on-Wye, you can mail your books home to yourself :) Not that I would know...

Becky said...

You asked,
If your child could own only 25 picture books, what would they be and why?
For three children and their mother, who still has all of her childhood favorites, I couldn't get it down to 25. Thirty was the bare, non-negotiable, minimum, and I'm sure we forgot a few must-haves:

(highly subjective, in no particular order, and influenced by the fact that when the kids were born our home library included all of my old children's books. A big thank you to my parents in a small NYC apartment who never considered not saving them.)

1. Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty
2. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
3. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
4. Little Farm by Lois Lenski
5. Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski
6. Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle
7. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
8. Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
9. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
10. Harold and the Purple Crayon
11. Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown
12. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
13. The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
14. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
16. Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
17. Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow
18. Roxaboxen by Barbara Cooney
19. Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
20. Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff
21. Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
22. The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carriere
23. Willy O'Dwyer Jumped in the Fire by Beni Montresor
24. Cinderella by Marcia Brown
25. Little Wild Horse by Hetty Burlingame Beatty
26. A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
27. The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes by Phyllis Krasilovsky
28. Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
29. The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban
30. What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin

zilla said...

Graeme Base, The Water Hole (because it's beautiful) and Leonard Baskin, Hosie's Alphabet (for the watercolors); also, P.D. Eastman, Go, Dog. Go! (not for the pictures; for the punctuation of the title, and for the fantabulous ending, and because it's been a family favorite for three generations!)

Also by Eastman, A Fish Out of Water because the pictures are simple yet intriguing, and it's a good start toward teaching about the importance of following directions. (I, personally, would want to balance this with a selection that illustrates the joys and benefits of sometimes bending the rules -- I'll let you know if I come up with the perfect compliment, and I hope you'll let me know if anything springs to mind!)

Twenty-five? Hooboy!

Eric Carl, but not just any Eric Carl, because there are so many now. Start with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and add maybe two more -- the simplicity of the art could lead to some wonderful, colorful collage projects and a picture book of a child's own.

The must-have Sendak is Where The Wild Things Are, because Sendak is the "it and all about it" of children's book illustration, and because my brother's nickname was Max, and because his "supper was still hot," which means parents sometimes realize they've punished in haste.

Ruth Krauss's A Hole Is to Dig because I love the line, "Mashed potatoes are to have enough." (Illustrated by Sendak, in a more subtle, less colorful, but still rich and expressive style.)

That's eight? I'm losing my breath here.

Dr. Suess:

Fox in Sox (an absolute MUST-HAVE, my ex husband's and our children's favorite Suess because of the tongue twisters)

One Fish Two Fish (the first book my little sister read all by herself!)

Hop on Pop (I remember actually hopping on "Pop" and not getting scolded for it :-))

Green Eggs and Ham, because that pretty much sums up dinner at my house any day of the week...

I'm not even half way there!

Goodnight Moon because GBabyZ is so obsessed with the moon and this book that he's almost worn each of them out.

Pat the Bunny because I have a bit of a fetish for "daddy's scratchy face."

That's all off the top of my head. I'm sure I could fine more if I went into the girls' rooms, but it's getting late.

I will say that I love visiting any home where at least a few walls are lined with books, because 1)in a home with books, there is never a lack of conversation, 2) books add warmth to the decor, unless it's obvious that someone's decorator went out and bought "three yards of books with maroon and gold bindings" and 3) it's what I grew up with, so it feels like home.

When we moved here in 1994, my former husband and I culled over 750 hardcover volumes in order to lighten our load. To this day, he is a book collector and I am a book sharer -- I read them, hardcover or soft, and pass them on to friends or family, and I tell people to pass them on when they're finished. I never feel guilty over what I spend for a book, but I do sometimes feel a little guilty that my sharing cuts into the authors' royalties. Mr Z has published 3 books, is working on his fourth (which will be self-published and self-distributed). I know what a royalty check looks like and I thank God it isn't his only means of income :-)

Buy books. It's good for the economy.

Nina said...

This is a very good question. I had a comment on my blog from a home schooling mom living overseas. She responded to my post about all the fantastic books I had found at the Goodwill. She said that she is not able buy or find many books in English (she is in Turkey) and that they really treasure the books they do have. I have been thinking on this for quite awhile. I love books. We have hundreds and approaching a thousand and our first child is only 3. Add into the mix the idea of preschool unit studies and I too don't know where to go with the situation. Do we focus on several books about one topic. Do we read 20 or more books from the library every week in addition to all our current favorites that we own. I came to this post via Farm School. Becky's list reads like a wonderful must have classics list. I am not sure I would pick some of the titles which makes me think I have not read them enough. Perhaps if I read Make Way For Ducklings dozens of times I might see an even greater value in the book. Good challenge. One I am not sure I could manage from my vantage point.

miranda said...

Hmmm, a book purge.. Recently, I have divested myself of a few books--mainly some college textbooks and beach-read types that I couldn't justify passing on to anyone. 'Shelf cleanings' or purges of books are rarely successful because ridding my shelves of any book calls for contemplation, examination and fortitude. Book by book, the process takes time and at some level, I want to keep them all.

When I have guests, I survey my bookshelves and select the books think my guests will enjoy and place them in their guest quarters. It is a way of acknowledging and affirming their interests personalities.

Often, I give books to others who might need or enjoy them. When shopping for books, some books 'speak the name' of a person I know. Then, I must buy it for that person. Or, if I own a book that another should have, I give it.

Do I have too many? Maybe. Do I intend to limit the number of books I own. No, because when one book leaves I always buy another.

Becky said...

Perhaps if I read Make Way For Ducklings dozens of times I might see an even greater value in the book.

Nina, my kids are now 6, 7.5, and 9, so yes, we've read Ducklings and all the rest dozens, if not hundreds, of times lol. Even though all three kids have colds and are pretty dozy, I got them to help me with the list after dinner last night, and like wisteria's kids they were calling out names and pulling books off the shelves "This is one of my favorites!" "We have to have THIS one!" And they didn't all agree, either. One son had to have The Hockey Sweater and Katy and Mike Mulligan, the other son had to have the Lois Lenski and Pelle books. My daughter wanted Ferdinand, Cinderella, Little Wild Horse, Frances, and Roxaboxen on the list. And I just couldn't turn my back on Willy O'Dwyer, which while not a classic was a staple of my own childhood.

Which is all to say that the list I compiled is my family's list, and I'm sure in a few years, when your toddler is older and the one you're now waiting for is a toddler, they, and you, will have an entirely different list of favorites :) That's why it's fun to read everyone's take on the challenge!

wisteria said...

Becky and Zilla, Your lists are fabulous!! I love make way for Ducklings many of the others on your lists. I am surprised that there were books on your lists that I had not read(why that surprises me I don't know since there are so many books out there). Even though we are moseying out of the picture book years, I will have to find and read: The Water Hole and Hosie's Alphabet from Z's list, and Willy O'Dwyer Jumped in the Fire, A Bargain for Frances, and Five Minutes' Peace from Becky's list.

See, even thinking about a purge is a magnet for books!!!! I need to stay well away from Hay-on-the Wye.

zilla said...


Believe it or not, I special ordered Hosie's Alphabet from Borders in 1982 or so. It was recommended reading, as per my watercolors teacher. I believe it's out of print, but should be available used through amazon?

The Waterhole will be easy to come by, though, and the illustrations are wonderful. I especially like the tortoises.

Amazing how much conversation this post sparked!

wisteria said...

Speaking frankly, I am always amazed that people come here, read, and respond. I like your picket fence.

nina said...

I do not know Willy O'Dwyer Jumped in the Fire. I might feel like a smarty pants about children's books but then almost daily I am confronted with a book I do not know. I checked my very big library system and they don't have it. Should I Inter-library loan it?

Becky-thanks for the wise words. I imagine I will be reading most of our books many more times.

Zilla-I have very poor punctuation skills. I never noticed the punctuation in Go, Dog. Go! Thanks for the insight.

melanie b said...

I just found this via Becky's site.

What a great challenge. I'm loving reading the lists.

I don't think I could do 25 either. My daughter is only 9 months old and I've already got a bookcase dedicated to children's books, an entire shelf of picture books, more than 50 at least. And she already has her own Amazon wishlist with more than 100 titles in it.

Some of the books are favorites from my own childhood. Harold and the Purple Crayon, Where the Wild Things Are, Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, Madeline, Mother Goose, to name a few from the top of my head. And they've already been getting some use. I read to my nieces when they come to visit. Their favorites are Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

Some of those picture books I could imagine culling; I bought them on impulse or they were presents. But parting with books is so difficult. And when we actually get to the point of my daughter having her own favorites.... And then more kids with their favorites... My husband is already worried about my book addiction and the 13 bookcases we've filled. But, then, he's an addict too.

wisteria said...

Melanie, I need more people around me like you, Angela, Jove, Zilla, and Becky. Then, I would never feel guilty about buying more books.