Children’s books pull her back in time

Published 12:13 am Saturday, May 6, 2017

What mother doesn’t look back and remember with pleasure some joyful moments she shared with her children?

Although the Internet and Google are as close as my computer, I often turn to a set of encyclopedias on the bookshelves in my husband’s office to do a little research. Right above that shelf is one laden with children’s books. They are old—some very old. A few even belonged to me, but our son and daughter accumulated the rest. Almost every time I see that shelf, I want to explore it. When I slip the encyclopedia back in its place, I usually give in to the urge to pull out several of the children’s books.

Last week, my hand fell on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Both the front and back covers are missing. Some pages are tattered, but all of them are legible. The magic that seemed to captivate me in years past returned as I carefully turned each page. A few pages in color stand out, but the drawings in black and white are equally appealing.

I really do not know who enjoyed that story more as I read it first to my son and several years later to his sister. I remember how contented each looked as they snuggled up to me and sat listening attentively. I read the book repeatedly to each of them through the years.

We loved following the goats as each “trip-trapped” across the bridge heading for the hillside to eat green grass. Under the bridge lived a grouchy, mean old troll who roared at each goat as it stepped on the bridge. “Who goes tripping over my bridge?” he asked and threatened to eat them. You could say the story is a bit violent, but the expression the reader could give to the words made it appealing to the listeners. Too, there was a moral to the story with the good hungry goats triumphing over the evil troll at the close.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses also fell in my hands that day. It was a later version of one from my childhood. It always transported me into a strange and wonderful world. Suddenly it seemed like meeting a childhood friend bringing back pleasant memories. No matter how many times I read the poetry in that book, it swept me into a cloud of wonderment. My imagination went soaring.

As time passed, the beautiful illustrations stayed in my memory. It was a pleasure to share them with my children. I hope parents today take time to read those wonderful poems to their children. They are sure to stir the imagination.

Today, remembering those illustrations, I close my eyes and find myself playing in the sand with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico tickling my toes. Or I see a happy child holding on tight, swinging high above the ground.

It is truly a blessing to reach into the past by way of my children’s bookshelf.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.