The Sunday Salon: A Post About My First Love

I have been thinking a little bit about children's literature lately after reading It's A Book. And then I read this article in The Millions this week that discusses the enduring quality of children's picture book classics. 

The author of that article Kevin Hartnett begins by claiming, "The books that parents read to their very young children don’t change much from generation to generation."  I think this is a true statement.  Whenever I head to the Barnes and Noble in the local mall at Christmastime I go to the kid's section to buy books for gift drives, and what I see is very similar to my childhood bookshelves.

I believe that this phenomenon is in part due to the enduring nature of the stories, and another part parental nostalgia.  After all, books were my first love as I'm sure they were for many of you. I have boxes in a closet of ratty copies of Where the Wild Things Are, Angelina Ballerina and it The Velveteen Rabbit.   I know that my children will read these books that I loved, because I still love them.

However, in reading a couple of examples of new children's literature, it reminds me of the role that literature plays in shaping a child's world, and the issues that some of these new books address weren't issues (or visible issues) when I was a child.  It's A Book for example, comically addresses the role of the physical book in a high tech world.  The book has only two characters: a monkey and a jackass.  The monkey is reading a book; the jackass doesn't get it.  "Can it text?  Tweet? Wi-fi?"  Nope.  It can tell a story.

And then there is And Tango Makes Three, a book that I found so touching, I cried when I read it, which is not something I do with most books written for adults.  Tango is based on the true story of two penguins at the central park zoo, Roy and Silo, a same-sex pair, that raise an adopted egg together.  Children's books are explicitly designed to teach, and this book has a lot to teach us about family and love. 

I see a very important place for the new, along with all my old nostalgic favorites.  It makes me excited to think that some of these new books might be my children's first loves.

Some other updates on The Scarlet Letter:
1. I made a Facebook page for the blog.  If you would like to "like" The Scarlet Letter," just click the button on the right hand sidebar, or click this link.

2. I am going out of town this week on a little writer's retreat.  I will be in Tucson, Arizona for a week.  I might write some posts and put them up while I'm gone, but I'm really trying to take this time to be with my novel.

3.  I did do some reviews this week though:

Bret Easton Ellis, Imperial Bedrooms
Craig Thompson, Blankets

And last week I posted on Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red, which I loved like crazy.


  1. I have never read tango makes three. I will have to check it out. One children's picture that got me emotional was A Mama for Owen based on a true story about a baby hippo and a tortoise.

  2. Oh, I love children's books, too! In college I took a course in children's literature and had such fun. I love several of the Caldecott award winning books, and Where the Wild Things Are was a favorite.

    I also enjoyed books like the Alexander series, by Judith Viorst.

    I'm going to click over to your Facebook page. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  3. I haven't read Tango Makes Three, but I know that its on the list of banned books and its one of the most controversial out there right now.
    But you're definitely right, children's books haven't changed that much from generation to generation


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