I was setting out for the store this morning with Iris in her stroller when I saw the woman who lives at the corner of our block hurrying toward us. Her hands were full of books, children's books. She explained that they were her children's when they were young, and she thought my little girl might enjoy them now. "Downsizing," she explained with a smile.
And what lovely books! These are only some of them. Iris and I spent all morning reading through them. Our neighbor's children must be my age if not older – all the books date from the 1960s/early 70s. There are some telling details, such as the very Free-to-Be-You-and-Me, tomboyish Goldilocks dressed in a turtleneck, jeans and sneakers who samples the accommodations in the three bears' house. And how about this picture from Books Are Fun (1974) (click on the image for a bigger, clearer version):
It's hard to pick my favorite part of this whole psychedelic-bibliophilic scenario, but it just might be the baby bookmobile with the pom-pom fringe on top.
Also, there are a few Mother Goose books in the bunch, and in all of them, the hapless old woman who lives in a shoe is still whipping her children soundly before sending them to bed as in the version I heard as a kid, not "kissing them sweetly" as in the revisionist versions Iris has had up till now. (Dilemma: do we read the old versions as they really are or substitute the kinder, gentler words of the new one?)
Of course, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic, and I'm so glad to have it for its portrayal of an urban winter wonderland. But perhaps most of all I have fallen in love with The Reindeer Book (1965) for its treasure trove of woodcut-style illustration:
Thank you, neighbor.