Dexter, The (Un)Polar Bear

Meet Dexter.  He is a polar bear who does unpolar bear like things.

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Who knows what the future holds for a bear so bold!

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Top 10 List of Books That Influenced My Childhood

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I read an article recently called ‘The Top 10 Books I Remember Most.’    The article identifies ten books that made a difference in the life of the author when she was young.  This inevitably provoked reflection upon my own childhood and those books which made an impact during that tender time for me.

Here then is my top 10 list of ‘Books That Influenced My Childhood’ including a passage from each I recall the most; without referencing the book:

10. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume

This was the first horror book I had ever read and helped me to understand I was only distantly related to the female species – those who longed to be women and couldn’t wait to start their periods!   I wanted no part of it and still don’t !

“We must, we must, we must increase our bust.”

9. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

From the moment I understood death is inevitable – I wondered what it would be like to live forever. Tuck Everlasting made me realize there is more torture in a life lived indefinitely, watching your family and friends grow old and die, than one following a natural course.  This book somehow took my fear of death away…

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of a life unlived. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

8. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is such a lyrical book – you practically sing it instead of reading it. I remember my interpretation reading it the first time; never let yourself be tamed.

“And when your sorrow is comforted (for time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend.”

7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I admire E.B. White’s writing.  This book is a love letter to his writing – but I didn’t recognize that when I read it at the age of eight.

All I knew is Charlotte’s Web confirmed for me what I had suspected since the age of five – animals are people too!

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

6. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This book inspired the poet in me although I didn’t feel it at the time.

I read this book so often, I was able to recite most of it by memory and I think it caused new neurons to be formed in my brain inspired by Shel Silverstein’s rhymes that would begin to hatch in me two decades later.

“But all the magic I have known, I’ve had to make myself.”

5. The Empty Schoolhouse by Natalie Savage Carlson

This book simply demonstrated for me how very pitiful are the ignorant but also how important it is not to give in to threat – to stand firm in your convictions.

“Since you quit school in the sixth grade, you’ll never be anything but a motel scrub girl.”

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My mother gave me a copy of this book when I was ten. I never read it but years later I saw a play of Little Women and am still sorry it was my first introduction to the work.

Nothing can ever compare to the book – and by the way – every girl (and some boys) will identify strongly with one of the characters once they read it = I most closely resemble Jo.

“I like good strong words that mean something.”

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book should be compulsory reading by all people on the planet. No wonder Harper Lee wrote just this one book – you can’t follow it with anything less and everything would be less.

Such a powerful story that has lingered with me my entire life. (Also, the movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is one of those rare treats of film actually doing the book justice).

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”

2. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

I am Pippi – at least in my mind!

To me she stands for everything I ever wanted in life – independence, strength, adventure, curiosity and justice.

“Don’t you worry about me. I will always come out on top.”

1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The quintessential story about unconditional love.  Everyone should be loved as much as tree loves the boy.

“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.”

Remembering Shel…

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As much as I like to write stories for children ~ I love to read them. I still have all my favorites sitting on my bookshelves and it makes me happy just to see them there.

The Giving Tree is, in my opinion, one of the best stories ever written. So simple yet so powerful. The ending made me cry the first time I read it and still does to this day. You can actually feel how much the tree loves the boy. I remember thinking when I was a child; I hope someone loves me one day as much as tree.

Years later, I was living in NYC and dating a cartoonist for one of the daily papers. He also did cartoons for The New Yorker and Playboy and received holiday invites to their parties which I happily attended with him. At the Playboy party, I saw a face I recognized but couldn’t quite place until I was introduced to him ~ it was Shel Silverstein!

I was only writing grocery lists at that point which was a good thing for him since I would have probably talked his ear off otherwise. “It’s very nice to meet you, I love your books,” is all I managed that evening standing in the presence of genius. He smiled politely.

Five months later I heard he died of a heart attack. I found my copy of The Giving Tree and read it slowly. This time I cried from beginning to end, thinking of the man who inspired my passion for books and poetry and trees…

when i was young…

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when i was young i would run
with crayons in hand to the kitchen table
have you done your homework yet little girl
my mother would remind
i wanted to obey
but i had better things to do with my time
like coaxing my friends from my head
watch them drop down to the page in front of me
i could see them move about stretching their legs
waving and laughing
riding bikes, flying kites and swimming in pools of lemonade
i would wave back
and want to climb inside
and i tried
i thought if the paper was big enough
i could just fit
so i began taping pieces of construction paper together
until my mom called me for dinner
telling me i had to put my drawings away for chicken and peas
i would beg please!
let me linger here awhile
chester just met the witch who lives in the forest
and i have to draw a broomstick she requested
but my mom would insist as i resisted
eventually i had to give in to her (along with shooting hunger pangs)
as soon as dinner was over though and dishes were done
i would peek inside the rolled up paper
wonder if they were still in there
waiting
my mother would arrive at my door
its bedtime for someone soon she would say and smile
i would beg just two minutes more
you don’t understand!
i would cry until blue
one day she took me by the hand
to her studio over the garage
there tucked in a dusty shoe box
behind a pair of old jumper cables
my mother’s friends from years past
drawn with crayons at the kitchen table

The Mudwaffler

A blog for all things picture book!

Other Sashas

a reading journal