When I was young, my father often read to me. While he called himself a “word man,” he also had a knack for drawing and inserting tiny talking stick figures in picture books. Today I can recall joyful moments when I was just old enough to comprehend his added humor, and still young enough to be enraptured by his artful reading.
In those days, one of my favorite books in which Dad added his drawings were in the “Babar the Elephant” series. When I read in the Wall Street Journal that Laurent de Brunhoff, the son of the original writer of that series, was at age 92 writing his last Babar book, I thought I sensed a column in the making.
As regular readers of this column well know, seriousness about issues for “grown-ups” has captured many of my recent columns. Today I write from my child within.
A couple of weeks ago I started asking folks about their favorite children books, either from youth or those in more recent times. I didn’t specify whether I was referring to books for toddlers or those for young teenagers. In this “survey” I covered a couple of churches, a food bank, a retirement home, a YMCA, a courthouse, a Costco and a Barnes and Nobles.
What I got were smiles. In quick order, most folks had puzzled faces, followed by a moment of obvious reflection, followed by broad smiles, and then a near avalanche of enthusiasm about a book or two.
A man over 100 years old recalled “The Pony Riders” series, first published in 1909. The series by Frank Patchin was about a group of boys who form a pony riders club and travel to the Rockies, as one of them needs fresh air to improve his health. My father probably enjoyed the series. He and his brother were dude wranglers in Rocky Mountain National Park.
A man in his eighties mentioned “Mr. Poppers Penguins,” first published in 1938, and made into a Jim Carrey movie in…