I would like to tell you about my children's literature course at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I had the most fabulous teacher. I'll call her Mrs. R. because I don't rememver her exact name. How any student could slouch in there I don't know. For me, from day one she had me. She told the class that children should have only the very best literature. I learned about early children's books like Johnny Crow's Garden and we were introduced to the Newberry and Caldecott awards. The Caldecott for that year was Drummer Hoff. She also read a poem called A Reading Mother by Strickland W. Gillilan which ended, "Richer than I you can never be- I had a Mother who read to me." That notion hit my heart. It stayed locked there for many years until one day, I had children of my own and could read to them. I always felt like I was giving them treasures, the riches of the poem, whenever they snuggled on my lap and we opened a book.
Mrs.R. was responsible for many of my choices: Where the Wild Things Are, The Snowy Day, Madeline's Rescue, The Little Island, and The Little House, all Caldecotts. When she talked, she had such a passion to get the good stuff out to the next generation. I wanted to carry on her torch.
It was in this class that I first heard about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I pictured the witch with a black gown and a black pointy hat, the wardrobe as a bunch of clothes, and then the lion. I didn't see how they could all go together, so I wasn't interested, even though she was very enthusiastic. It wasn't until many years later that I found the Narnia books by picking up a copy of The Last Battle. I had heard that it was about Revelation in the Bible. Then I was hooked on all of the books.
One more thing Mrs. R. did for me was introduce me to The Wind In The Willows. I could either read that "classic" or Alice in Wonderland. Since I had already read the latter, I chose the former. I soon fell in love with all the little woodland creatures in Kenneth Grahame's wonderful book. The illustrations from various artists from that book are some of my very favorite.
From that class on, because of Mrs. R's enthusiasm and love of good children's literature, I have been a follower of picture books, chapter books, and children's novels. Thank you Mrs. R. for your legacy, which I intend to pass on.
(Hope this finds you well and happy. Nancy)