The Children’s Book Review
Published: March 15, 2013
Sherri Duskey Rinker lives in Chicago with her photographer husband and two energetic, inquisitive sons: one fascinated by bugs and magic, and the other by trucks and trains. She is the bestselling author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (Chronicle Books, 2011) and Steam Train, Dream Train (Chronicle Books, 2013). While preparing to move house, Sherri graciously took time out from packing to share five of her family’s favorite past-time books.
We’re moving. Life and circumstances have, in their invariable way, changed. And so, we will leave our home in the city, the only home my boys have ever known, for greener pastures, room to roam and better schools in the far suburbs.
I stand in my seven year old’s room filled with ache. The toys will come with us, of course. His loft bed with the “secret hideout” below: I’ve been informed that he is too old for that, now. I need to go through all the clothes, to see what will come and what will be donated; there is no younger sibling who might need them someday. Giving away little shirts never gets easier.
And then I turn to the bookshelves, piled high and packed full. My youngest inherited all of his brother’s books, to which dozens were added. So, they all sit before me, from board books to early readers, a visual chronology of my boys’ early lives.
My sons are now twelve and seven. After school today, my youngest handed me his backpack on the fly and walked fast enough to be at least ten feet ahead of me, all the way to the car. So, by the end of first grade, not only does he refuse to be seen holding my hand, but he does not want to risk being seen with me, period. Apparently, having a mother is extremely uncool when you are seven.
My oldest is somewhere between boy and man, and I never know which one I will get. And, more and more, he chooses being alone or being with friends over being with me. I accept this change as part of letting go, but I don’t have to like it.
This is not how it begins, with mommies and little boys. They are the snuggliest, sweetest, coziest little things. And, even after they start to climb, make mischief and adventure out, they are, by the end of the busy day, all yours, yearning for mommy time. After bath, my husband would hand them over, sweet smelling and sleepy. In their beds, they would cuddle into my lap, so that I could smell their little heads and smooch their pudgy cheeks. Their little fists would grasp my fingers and I would tickle their chubby, curling toes while we open books and walk through the stories together.
Each had favorites, and I certainly had mine. But now, as picture books have given way to chapter books and as reading time has become more solitary, I mindlessly flip open the pages of these old books on the shelf as if they are photo albums, remembering those delicious moments of their littleness. And, with each page, memories come flooding back.
Pat The Bunny
They put their fingers through Mummy’s (Mommy’s!) ring, and I catch it from the other side and don’t let go. We laugh. Ben loves playing peek-a-boo with Paul, and this page lasts several minutes. Zak hides his own eyes and Paul calls for him, “Zak, Zak… where are you?!” Zak roars with laughter, and I well up at the memory of those two little hands covering his eyes and assuming that he is hidden from the world. Wherever life takes me, Pat The Bunny will come along.
Ages 1-5 | Publisher: Golden Books| August 9, 2011 (First published in 1940.)
We look for the balloon and the moon on every page. We notice the antics of the little mouse, we name the animals, and we laugh at the oblivious zookeeper and his wife. Sweet, silly and sleepy. Perfect little board book.
Ages 1-5 | Publisher: Putnam Juvenile| April 13, 1994
By Margret and H.A. Rey
“George was a good little monkey, and always very…” “Curious!” they shout out. “The man with the…” “Yellow hat!” they complete. We have the entire treasury, and they know all the stories. Sometimes, they are in the mood to see George make pancakes, and sometimes they want to see him with the baby bunnies or flying with the balloons… There’s always a smile, and a guaranteed happy ending. I remember some of the stories feeling very long at the end of a long day, but, thumbing through the memories, they’re truly just right.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin| October 28, 204
A Fish Out of Water
By Helen Palmer; Illustrated by P.D. Eastman
I’m sure there’s some sort of moral to the story about following directions or not overfeeding your fish… but both of my boys find this goofy book absolutely hysterical, and it’s been read and re-read dozens of times, if not hundreds. The fact that the illustrations look a little dated… neither of them ever noticed — which is proof that a good story is truly timeless.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers| August 12, 1961
Frog and Toad Are Friends
By Arnold Lobel
Before Captain Underpants, Weird School Daze, Magic Treehouse, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Harry Potter, this is our first chapter book. As the boys begin to read, their little fingers tracing under each word, they awkwardly sound out the syllables. Soon, like magic, the flow is faster, and they start to recognize words. Suddenly, I read less and less, as they read more and more. Our first memories of learning to read are forever intertwined with the funny, sweet tales of these two friends.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Scholastic| February 18, 2003
And so, life moves on. The boys and I will continue to experience books together, although the framework of that has – and will – change. But, what to do with the stacks and stacks of books? For now, I know this: the house in the suburbs has boatloads of storage. No need for any hasty decisions; I’m just not ready to let them go.
Find out more about Sherri at www.sherriduskeyrinker.com.
Add Sherri’s books to your collection: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (Chronicle Books, 2011) and Steam Train, Dream Train