My LibraryThing

Baby needs a new pair of shoes

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The Little Bookroom

  • The Little Bookroom is a place for children, families, and books. Each day of the week, I'll try to address different groups of children: Mondays are devoted to babies and toddlers, Tuesdays to preschoolers, Wednesdays to children in the lower elementary grades, and Thursdays to children in the upper elementary grades. Fridays are days for digressions and observations, of children's games and conversations, of women's work, of imagination and memory.


I was sitting and staring abstractedly out of the window when my eight-year-old son sat down next to me. “What are you doing?,” he asked.

“I’m thinking,” I said. “Thinking about my blog—you know, the one I’m working on about books for children. I have to write something for it that will make people want to read it.”

“Oh,” he said knowledgably. “Like advertising. You need some of that head print—you know, those big letters—that says GET NEW BOOKS FOR YOUR KIDS or SOMETHING NICE FOR A RAINY DAY.”

“That’s a good idea,” I said. “Can you remember that for me?”

“I think you should remember it for yourself. Or—I know—I have some old papers in my room I don’t need anymore. You can write it on the backs of them.”

So we did.

What I can tell you right now is this. THE LITTLE BOOKROOM is a review of books for children and families. Books are the starting point of this review, but they are not the end point. Because I believe that great books are the stuff of life, because I think that the stories they contain reflect something true about the nature of human experience and about the centrality of narrative to that experience, I will also use THE LITTLE BOOKROOM to talk about the work of the imagination, about the experience of childhood, about time and memory, as well as more prosaic though no less important matters, like how to read with children, and where to find books. I only discuss books that I have read myself, word for word and cover to cover.

And why, you might ask, am I embarking on this venture? In my experience, it isn’t always easy to find something to read, something at once challenging and comforting, something for the mind and the heart—a really good book. This is in part because relatively few publications review children’s books, and most of those that do are directed at professionals concerned with building coherent teaching or library collections—a worthy goal, but not quite what I need as a parent. Furthermore, these newspapers and magazines and journals review only what’s new. But what I want is a sense of why a book is good, how it works for a child, and if I know that, it doesn’t really matter to me if the book is this season’s publication or not, provided I can actually get my hands on it. In fact, I want my children to read old books as well as new ones, fiction and nonfiction, books written here in the U.S. and books written elsewhere. I want our reading to be as broad as possible. At the same time, my children tend to get focused on a single theme that they want to explore in depth, a theme that might then lead them in new directions. So for all of these reasons, THE LITTLE BOOKROOM will pursue one or two themes each week, and will cover old and new books that are available in libraries or bookstores, written in the US or elsewhere.

Am I qualified to do this? Over the years, I’ve studied children’s literature, early childhood education, and the history of childhood, among other things, and I’ve taught at the university level and at preschool. I have the research skills to find books, the analytic skills to think about them, and the experience to know what really works. I have two children of my own. I also have precise, profound memories of my own childhood, many of which revolve around books. And I talk about books all the time, with children and with adults. I buy them and borrow them and read them and dream about them, somewhat obsessively. There is a sea of stories, a forest of pages, a mountain of words, all waiting for us. Let’s begin…