As a person whose professional life, first as children’s librarian and now as reviewer of children’s books, is dedicated to raising new generations of readers, I fairly predictably took to raising my own personal generation, my daughter, with verve.
I became a connoisseur of the well-crafted board book. I read aloud old picture-book favorites from when I was a child: Where the Wild Things Are, Snowy Day, Corduroy, etc. Together we found new favorites: The Genie in the Jar, by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Chris Raschka; Chameleon,Chameleon, by Joy Cowley and photographed by Nic Bishop; Boxes for Katje, by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen.
As she grew older, we moved on to early readers, trading read-aloud responsibility page by page. At the same time, I read aloud from longer books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Julia L. Sauer’s Fog Magic (a book that had haunted me since I was a child); a paired reading of the Mowgli stories from my father’s old copy of The Jungle Books and Neal Gaiman’s just-released The Graveyard Book.
That last was one of the last books we read together. She had begun reading on her own some years earlier, working her way through Beverly Cleary and C.S. Lewis before giving her heart to J.K. Rowling. As her own personal librarian, I was happy—thrilled, even—to pass along the new titles I came across.
And then, with the particular cruelty only an adolescent can inflict, she stopped reading anything I recommended. What was once a shared reading life diverged into two separate ones. It was indubitably developmentally appropriate, but that didn’t make it any less painful.
But every once in a while she mentions a kids’ book—Lynne Rae Perkins’ Criss Cross, Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races—and I’ll ask how she came across it. “Oh, it was lying around your office,” she’ll say. Cool.
Vicky Smith is the children’s editor.