A Couple Beloved Children’s Books

"A Couple Beloved Children's Books" (blog post by Brenna Pierson

If we are lucky, we remember being read to as a child. It’s something that can stay with us—particularly when we loved the story—and that at the time, inspired us, making us look forward to learning how to read.

April 2 is Children’s Book Day: the perfect time to look back on a couple of children’s books still on my shelf today.

“Four Puppies” by Anne Heathers, Illustrated by Lilian Obligado

So many children grew up with “Four Puppies,” a story about four sibling puppies completely bewildered every time the seasons would change. Like many children’s books, this Little Golden Book features beautiful illustrations, including puppies tumbling playfully down stairs, puppies frolicking a field, puppies trying to fashion snow into a pile as it melts…and the list goes on.

If you did not read this book as a child, track down a copy and get it now. Do not delay.

“The Sleepy Puppy” by Mary Jo Chamberlin, Illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship

Another with a puppy theme, “The Sleepy Puppy” is such a cute book it’s difficult to avoid mentioning it. It begins with a father bringing home a puppy in his pocket and goes on to show the puppy, a basset hound, falling asleep just about everywhere—including in a bowl of milk. The boy caring for The Sleepy Puppy shows the utmost patience and understanding toward his sleepy playmate—though he does get a bit doubtful at times that his puppy will ever stay awake.

It’s fun to remember the stories that helped shape your love of books as a child—and it’s even funner to read them against as an adult. We should all keep a few books from our childhood…as a reminder.

We should all keep a few books from our childhood…as a reminder.


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Thoughts on Browsing at the Library (and Bookstores)

"Thoughts on Browsing at the Library (or Bookstores)" (blog post by Brenna Pierson)

Digital books are convenient—and a lot of readers use a Kindle or similar electronic reader these days. But it’s worth it to touch on not only the experience of reading an actual paper book but on browsing through them.

Having volunteered at a library and a library bookstore at one point, I can say it’s possible to see the effect browsing books has on readers. When looking through books at the library, you just keep picking up one after the other—whether it’s because of their cover images, titles or whatever—but you keep picking them up. You turn the pages. You see more—and keep wanting to see more. That’s the magic of actually browsing through books (and magazines), whether it’s at the library or a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

There’s nothing awful about e-books—well, that depends on who you ask, but that’s another subject entirely. Here, let’s just focusing on the actual browsing. Browsing through the pages of a book, you either want to see more or don’t. If you don’t, there’s another one to pick up right there. You can get engrossed in looking at all the choices.

And while browsing online does kind of make you want to look more, it’s just not the same. It’s hard to get engrossed in browsing books online. It’s kind of like the difference between online clothes shopping and actually going to the mall. When you really want to shop, you go out and look around. When you shop for clothes online, it just seems to be lacking something. Not that you won’t ever shop online for the convenience, but there’s still a difference—no doubt.

Of course, actually browsing at a bookstore can lead to buying more books than you need—and in this minimalist culture that we seem to be living in, decluttering (which sadly includes books) has become a trend. Digital books serve that purpose, but certainly, browsing at the library doesn’t cause that problem—you’re only borrowing the book, anyway.

Sure, you can get so much information online at any time of day without even changing out of your pajamas. But don’t forget what it’s like to actually browse for books…or to go to a library, even if you don’t need to go. In fact, “just because” is probably the best reason to make the trip.

Some Unfortunate Characters: “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” by Edward Gorey

Some Unfortunate Characters: "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" (blog by Brenna Pierson)

Last month, one blog post pondered the idea of authors basing characters and plots on unfortunate horoscopes and predictions.

That lead me to thinking about unfortunate characters in general, and that made it impossible to avoid The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey coming to mind. (On a side note, does anyone else make the mistake of trying to think of them as “The Tinycrumb Gashlies”?)

These are perhaps 26 of the most unfortunate characters in literature that are all found in one piece of work. Not only do they generally meet terrible ends, but they are too young to have such early demises. Like many popular works, The Gashlycrumb Tinies has even inspired photography and crafts, such as this Gashlycrumb Tinies diorama that was on Etsy for $8,500.00.

While the concept is obviously morbid, the Gashlycrumbs are very popular, nonetheless. It’s probably a mixture of the unique drawings and the “plot” put together that makes them strangely appealing.

Some favorites include:

“E is for Ernest who choked on a peach.” It’s hard to say if the idea here is that no one eventually bothered to cut the peach for Ernest and he truly did try to swallow the entire thing whole. Either way, you can’t help but notice this child seemingly sitting in a dark room with an overpowering dining table in a chair that appears to be much too towering, even for an adult.

“J is for James who took lye by mistake.” What was this child actually trying to reach when he got up on the stool to get into bottles that were clearly not a child’s consumption?

“N is for Neville who died of ennui.” Hopefully, this post is not making you nearly die from ennui at the moment.

It’s interesting how such a morbidly creative work could spawn dioramas and such an immense following. Who wouldn’t love The Gashlycrumb Tinies? (Well, there are probably people who don’t.) Perhaps a former co-worker said it best when he complimented Gorey, saying, “That guy rules!”