In Praise of a Solid Foundation

This holiday season we had two trees.  One was the traditional fir, harvested on a cold, rainy, November morning from the tree farm after much debate and struggle to saw it down and drag it to the car.  The other was assembled on my desk, thanks to the inspiration of many creative librarians and several pinterest searches.  Our “book tree” was a collaborative effort and included favorites from each of my girls so that it represented all of our reading interests.  It was adorned with twinkly lights, draped with a garland made of strips from an old book dipped in glitter, and topped with a star created by my crafty middle child from book pages.

Deconstructing the tree had its own challenges.  Glitter.  Everywhere.  SO MUCH GLITTER.  Putting up the tree required organizing books by size, thickness, shape, and aesthetics.  Taking down the tree required a carefully vacuuming of each and every book to remove the festive remnants that fell from the garland.  Did I mention there was A LOT of glitter?   This process gave me a chance to carefully examine each and every title that made its way into our holiday book tree.  What became clear was that the foundation of our tree was built upon classic titles.  This makes sense as the base consisted of the largest books in our collection; the oversized read-aloud versions of Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web, and Johnny Tremain, among others.  It had me thinking about the importance of classic literature for young readers.  There is a reason these beloved classics speak to adult memories of youth and discovery.  Sharing them with a child creates a bond between reader and listener -connecting over recollections of favorite characters and plot points.   The read-aloud copies are the original stories, but include illustrations to keep little ones engaged.  They are the kind of books that create the foundation of a lifelong reader.  Below are several of my favorite classics that I’ve enjoyed reading aloud in “big book” format.  Perhaps one will inspire you to grow your own book tree.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren & Lauren Child – I adore this version of  Pippi.  Not only do children think she is absolutely hilarious and absurd while at the same time wishing they could be Pippi, or at least Annika and Tommy.  Child’s illustrations are done in her unique style, familiar to those who watched Charlie and Lola, and bring a modern vibe to the tale.  The large book version is bright and vibrant, just like Pippi herself.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne & Ernest H. Shepard – This old favorite introduces readers to the world of Hundred Acre Wood.   Many young readers have a familiarity with Pooh from tv and movies, but sharing the original stories and charming illustrations creates a whole new way to enjoy these well known characters.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum –  Years ago our library had a very large illustrated version of the unabridged story that first introduced us to Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and all the fascinating characters of Oz.   It was true to the original text but so gloriously illustrated, with big pages for little eyes, that it inspired several viewings of the film and a themed birthday party.

There are several series of classics that have been issued that provide beautiful copies of these classics perfect to read aloud.  Keep in mind some are abridged or even re-writes of the original so make sure to check that you are getting the right version for your little reader.  Check out these editions that have excellent titles.

Puffin in Bloom Collection: Heidi, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess

Puffin Hardcover Classics: Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wind in the Willows

Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Children’s Classics: Large variety of titles in a gift-worthy keepsake format.

Ladybird Classics: Tales of daring and adventure that have been “sensitively abridged” for younger readers.

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