Last week, Wyoming State Library staff members shared their favorite picture books and reading memories in honor of Picture Book Month. Here’s what our staff had to say about their favorites:
Susan Mark, Outreach Librarian, on The Big Tidy-Up by Norah Smaridge, illustrated by Les Gray: “I chose this book because it was my favorite when I was a kid. Before I learned to read on my own, I had it memorized, and I can still recite the opening lines — ‘Jennifer knew as well as you that everything had its place…’ Jennifer learned her lesson and cleaned up her room. Sadly, if you stop by my office, you’ll learn I never did.”
Susan also chose a beloved copy of Dog Heaven written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. “Picture books aren’t just for kids. I came across this book as an adult — I don’t know how. When my dog died several years ago, I was heartbroken. This book helped me through my sadness. Rylant wrote of dogs in heaven running, running, running through green fields, having all the biscuits they want, and every dog — even those who had no home on Earth — with a rug by a fire to curl up on. I still get teary-eyed when I read it.”
Abby Beaver, the WSL’s Information Services Manager, also chose to highlight a picture book she found as an adult; “I chose Julia’s House for Lost Creatures [by Ben Hatke] because aside from the adorable illustrations, this book teaches inclusivity, acceptance, and how diverse characters can work together to create a home for all.”
Acceptance and inclusivity are large educational themes for picture books. Digital Initiatives Librarian Danielle Price’s selection of Tacky the Penguin written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger is no exception, though hers is a childhood favorite that rings true through adulthood. “When I was a kid, I loved this book for its humor, and the message of being yourself. But when I reread it as an adult, I realized there’s an even deeper message about how embracing what sets you apart can benefit your community in ways no one could have predicted. And that makes me love it even more.”
Some picture book stories and illustrations stay with their readers long after the book itself is lost to the ravages of time, but a couple of our staff members were able to dig up their old copies — as well as a few beautiful memories — to share. Karen Kitchens, State Publications Librarian, remembers reading Whisper from the Woods by Victoria Wirth with illustrations by A. Scott Banfill with her son. “My favorite memory of this enchanting, touching book is reading it to my son Mark when he was little. We would sit together and talk about the magic of whispering trees. Shhhhh!! Can you hear the trees whispering? The lovely story, along with the warm memories is a reminder of the beautiful cycle of life.”
Our Database Instruction Librarian Chris Van Burgh says she was lucky enough to have all her grandparents living in one town during her childhood, and had a favorite book at each house. “Are You My Mother? [by P.D. Eastman] was my favorite book at one grandparents’ house, and The Bumper Book [by Watty Piper] was my favorite book at the other grandparents’ house.” Chris recounts how difficult it was to find copies of each of these classics — but Gay Purr-ee, based on the motion picture of the same name, has stayed in her collection throughout the years.
Another staff member to hold onto her favorite picture book as a child is Collections Technician Jessica Dawkins. “I chose The Sleeping Lady by Ann Dixon and Elizabeth Johns for the memories I have growing up in Alaska. After reading this local legend, I remember daydreaming about the Sleeping Lady every time my family would drive by Mount Susitna. Now that I’ve grown up, I realize this isn’t a story people around the country are familiar with, and I love sharing the tale with my friends and their children.”
Jessica also chose to bring a borrowed copy of the more well-known Plant a Kiss written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, which she found a few years ago while taking a children’s literature class. “This has got to be the cutest book I’ve ever seen; it’s a lovely poem, the illustrations are adorable, and some of the pages even have glitter!”
In addition to tales from the Pacific Northwest, the WSL’s Bibliographic Services Librarian Bobbi Thorpe brought in a collection of unique picture books special ordered from the United Kingdom. “I think this frog one might be my favorite. I found the butterfly one first, and was so enthralled by the unfolding pages that I bought all four in the series. They had to ship over from the United Kingdom, but it was worth it!”
Overall, our staff’s collection of favorites spans generations, cultures, genres, and geography, illustrating the timeless importance of and love for picture books at any age.