Saturday, April 4, 2015


With thanks to Mary Engelbreit

Raise your hands, those of you who know Hans Christian Anderson’s tales.  Raise your hands, those of you who loved the 1952 movie Hans Christian Anderson.  Ah, even more! But the movie was a rather romantic version of his life – it wasn’t all music and dancing children. Anderson, who had only a very basic education, had to start earning his living at a very young age. He found his way into the Royal Danish Theatre, and began his writing there. He considered himself a novelist and a playwright, but he is best known to the world for his tales for children. The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, are certainly the most popular. This year we celebrate Anderson’s 210th birthday.

Wouldn't it be great to get together this many kids to read? But that position, reading on the floor, was never comfortable for me. I wonder what they're reading.

Because Anderson’s tales, many with morals attached, have both taught and delighted children to this day, the International Board on Books for Young People gives a biennial award to authors and illustrators in his name, and his birthday, April 2, has been designated as International Children’s Book Day.

Books are probably the best gifts grandparents can give to the children in their family. They teach, they amuse, they enthrall, they stir the imagination, they keep the kids occupied and quiet – at least or a short time.  Though many books, especially the classics, are available on line, printed books are probably best. A book is a present that can be opened again and again. I am “the book Grandma.” My granddaughters expect them. One year I had one of my younger granddaughters giving me curious looks when I presented her with a large, wrapped box for her birthday. She thought I had given up on the books – but no! I’d pulled a little trick on her: the box was full of books, and she was very relieved.

This is my great-granddaughter, investigating some of the books I gave to her mother yeeeears ago.

Start even the littlest ones with books. Before you blink, before you even realize it, they’ll be grown and will have a large book collection to pass on. This last thing I know for a fact: my oldest granddaughter is now a mother.  She has all the books we’ve given her over at least two decades. Her daughter’s collection is well started. Actual books, once they’ve been read, can sit on a shelf. As a child passes the shelf, or as he searches through the collection, certain books will ‘register’. Whole stories will flit through his mind to be appreciated, perhaps subconsciously, again and again.

C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, a set of books that should be in every child’s library, once said “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

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