Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Color Is Love?

They say that children's books have the power to make a greater impact on your character than the books you read later in life.  When I think way, way back to the very, very first books that were read to me as a child, aside from "Pat the Bunny," and Richard Scarry, I remember this one:

When I read this book now, I hear my mother's voice.  Many years later, when I read it to my own children, I read it the way it was read to me, using the same emphasis and inflections. 

So my "Rainbow" garden this year is dedicated to Joan Walsh Anglund, and her book "What Color is Love?"

I can't imagine a better way to gently introduce children to the "we're all the same inside" concept, and get them thinking about emotions, tolerance and even world peace.

Colors are important
  because they make our world beautiful,
  but they are not as important
   as how we feel...
       or what we think.....
           or what we do.

Colors are "outside" things and feelings are "inside" things.

Below, she describes why her drawings omit the children's mouths and noses:

"I still 'see' different expressions on the children's faces. I think perhaps I am trying to get down to the essence of a child - not drawing just a particular, realistic child, but instead I think I'm trying to capture the 'feeling' of all children - of Childhood itself, perhaps. This may be too why I find myself dressing the children in a timeless manner, not really in any definite 'period' in time - but always with a vague sense of nostalgia."

Karen, of Greenwalks,  is our prize winner!  Karen not only won the drawing, but knew the title of the book as well as the illustrator, so her award is well-deserved. (Karen please email me your address at so I can send you your prize.)

"What need we touch a child—

with our books and rules?

Let him walk among the hills and flowers,

Let him gaze upon the waters,

Let him look up to the stars—

And he will have wisdom."

What's the very first book you remember being read to you?


Elephant's Eye said...

What I do remember, is the first time I read a book myself. Not what it was, probably a picture book, with a few words, that had been read to me many times before. But I could read, and I've never stopped!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Anglund's work in magazines.

The book I dragged around when I started to walk, was a Dr. Seuss book (Yertle the Turtle and other stories) I'm told that I liked the story Gertrude McFuzz. As an adult I bought a copy and couldn't remember being attached to those stories at all. Yet I did recall The Cat in the Hat and Bartholomew and the Oobleck.
The first read- aloud experience I clearly recall is "The Little Match Girl" by Anderson followed by lots & lots of readings from "Alice in Wonderland" Bill The Lizard became a favorite "Alice" character, and my dad bought me some little pet lizards. I also recall many of Grimm's fairy tales--(like the one about the cook, Clever Gretel-- ) and R.L. Stevenson poetry. Reading was huge in my family, so I'm sure there's plenty I've forgotten. I learned all of the nursery rhymes very early, so they must have been recited to me often, altho I have no memory. My story memories seem to begin around age 2 and a half-- 3 when I started dragging around a book called "Paddle to the Sea" by Holling. I went through a few copies of that book! I think books replaced a security blanket or doll or teddy bear for me--my family tells me I always insisted on holding onto to them until they fell apart, taking them everywhere. The first book I remember asking someone to buy for me was illustrated by Richard Scarry-- a Christmas story about Hedgehogs in Londontown. It was a hot summer day and they tried to get me to choose another book, but I was fixated on the hedgehog family.
When I began to read, it was Lois Lensky books. I think she illustrated them herself.

our friend Ben said...

Jen, I love the poem at the end of this post! Is that also by Ms. Anglund? Never read her, and I've never heard of Richard Scarry (yikes, since he got two mentions here). I did have a copy of "Yertle the Turtle," though, and coming on it a few years ago, was amazed to see that I'd lavishly illustrated it, clearly feeling then (as I do now) that Dr. Seuss's illustration style left pretty much everything to be desired. But the first things I actually remember being read were the poems of Yeats, Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and Hopkins, which my mother loved and read me from the cradle. Guess it's not surprising that I began composing my own poems at age two!

Talon said...

The first book I remember is Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" - my Mom is British.

I have never read "What Color is Love?", but will definitely have to add it to my library. Her drawings are absolutely charming and convey that timelessness that she strives for so beautifully.

tut-tut said...

I have a Joan Walsh Anglund DOLL somewhere around these parts.

Children's books are very powerful. Look at Anonymous's remembrances. I could reach in and pull out an entire book about spending time in the Children's section of any library I came in contact with. Sigh.

Karen said...

Oh hooray!!!! I am so excited and had wanted to read the Happiness book for a while, so I will be so delighted to receive it and will send my address along pronto. Thank you so much in advance, and well may your themed garden grow!

I have a much more fuzzy memory than you for early books, but my mom saved most of them and it is the illustrations that somehow are the most potent at reviving the memories. I think Richard Sendak's "A Very Special House" might be up there as one of the first I recall.

Ronda Laveen said...

The very first book I remember being read to me was A Child's Garden of Verses. I still love that book and its illustrations. Especially that of Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod.

Joanne said...

Interesting that her illustrations are so effective, I didn't even realize the missing noses and mouths. I had to look back at them, certain they had been there! What a great concept.

One of the first books I remember from childhood is The Story of Ping, the little yellow duck that lived on the Yangtze River. Years later, I was the reading mother in my daughter's kindergarten class, and chose that book. The students were just as mesmerized as I was as a child.

AshKuku said...

During childhood, I read a ,lot of parables on good over bad & prince-princess stories.... Of course that has made a great impact over me, in moulding my personality.... I am grateful to them forever.... It has improved my reasoning & understanding
Later after being an adult I read & still read a lot of Ms & Bs.... I cant get enough of them.... I love them forever... No wonder I am always in my own sweet world, not bothered about the world outside.... That keeps my spirits alive & my beliefs too.... I believe in love & would forever... My hubby helps me to do so too.... I am grateful to all these in my life.....


Anonymous said...

The first book that I can remember Grandma Rose reading to me was a Mother Goose book. It is a big book like 18 x 20 and the drawings are watercolors. I love that book and just had it out yesterday reading some of the rhymes.
"You may have tangible wealth untold:
"Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold,
"Richer than I you can never be-
'I had a mother who read to me."

- Auntie Dar

tina said...

Congrats Karen!

patti said...

The Children's Illustrated Bible. Isn't that a beautiful testimony to my teacher parents???

Sigh. There were SO MANY!!! No matter how few coins clinked in our piggybanks, our shelves SAGGED with books. Even bathroom shelves!!

Love this blog!!!


JGH said...

Elephant's Eye, I don't think I remember the first book I read myself, but I do remember "Green Eggs and Ham" being among those that my kids first read.

Anon, I think I would like anyone named Gertrude McFuzz, too! Was that a Dr. Suess character? You've really peaked my interest in those hedgehogs and "Paddle to the Sea". My mom also read the little matchgirl. Didn't Lois Lensky also have a hedgehog family?
Thanks for stopping by and bringing all your great memories!

Ben, yes, that is an Anglund quote. You would definitely recognize Scarry's pictures if you saw them. He even had an animated TV show for awhile. How amazing that your mom read you such sophisticated poetry so young. No wonder you have such a gift for language.

Talon, Potter is definitely one of the best loved children's authors of the past century! I'd love to know more about her life...

Tut, I think Anglund was a precursor to Holly Hobbie, Cabbage Patch, etc. Major merchandise on ebay, I saw. What were some of L's favorites as a babe?

Karen, congratulations! Glad it made your day:-) We have some Sendak books, but I don't think yours is among them.

Ronda, there are several illustrated editions of the Childrens Garden of Verses I believe. I also remember a song of Winken Blinken and Nod. "Nets of silver and gold have wee...."

Joanne, Ping is still around! In fact, the Ping book was sold at our school bookfair this year. A classic for sure.

Ash, there is something about the fairy tale -- they seem to be some kind of right of passage for children.

Dar, I love that little poem, and I think I've heard you quote it to me before. Grandma Rose had a way of making you feel so special when she read to you. Well, all the time, really!

Patti, sounds like your parents had their priorities straight!

Catskill Snap said...

Illustrations are so important ! I still love the creature-things and the pink cake in "The Cat in the hat Comes Back" and the little details in the Anglund illustrations. (the wagon, the cat)

LazyMom said...

I was the youngest of four with tons of hand-me-down books plus the local library just down the street, but my FAVORITE book I liked my mother to read to me was and old illustrated "Child's Garden of Verses." My brother read very dramatic "Babar" stories to me too. We also had a wonderful neighbor who would bake cookies for us and read us English children stories she had picked up while in London--"Dr. Doolittle", the now famous "Lion, Witch and Wardrobe"
My daughter--"Good Night Gorilla" All the Rosemary Wells books and "Juney B. Jones" and her favorite "Ida and Betty and the Secret Eggs"

Together We Save said...

I remember that book...

JGH said...

Catskill, I had such a blast reading the Cat and the Hat books to my kids! I could probably recite them from memory!

Lazymom, have you seen the newest addition to the Babar saga "Yoga with Babar" (or some such title)? Very cute. The R.L. Stevenson book is a real classic. Must check out Sonia's "Secret Eggs" book...

Together We Save - welcome! Hope you'll share some of your favorites from when you were a kid!

Karen said...

Hey Jen, the package arrived yesterday and was so prettily wrapped and such fun to open! Thanks again for having this fun contest, I feel so lucky to have won. :) Can't wait to read the book, I'm starting it tomorrow!

Skeeter said...

Congrats to Karen! I remember my grandmother reading me lots of the little “Golden Books”. She had a stack of them and I loved for her to read them to me. Pop-up books were fun to me also...