November 2003

Katie Pannarale Fries

bookslut with baby

Required Reading

One of the great joys of reading, for me, is sharing my favorite books with others. Upon finishing a great book, I almost immediately alert all my literary-type friends so they can experience it for themselves. Sharing a book is deeply personal, an opening of myself to others. Sharing a book is a gift.

I’m not an idiot. Understand that while I can foster a love of reading in Matthew, I may not have very much influence over his personal taste. He may grow up and prefer Charles Dickens or Albert Camus or John Grisham over my beloved Gabriel Garcia Marquez or John Irving. He may prefer reading only non-fiction. In short, I may not be able to share my favorite books with him when he is older. So right now, while he is a captive audience, I’m concentrating on sharing my favorite children’s books with him. Following, the required reading list for my son.

The Monster at the End of This Book
For those in my generation who grew up on Sesame Street and Little Golden Books, this is a classic. I still have my original copy. Told entirely in dialogue by Sesame Street’s Grover, it’s perfect for reading aloud. The gist of the story is simple: Grover exhorts the reader NOT TO TURN THE PAGE, or he will come closer to the monster at the end of the book. The structure engages the reader and, in effect, allows he reader to become a character in the story. It’s a quick read–perfect for short attention spans. This is the first book we read to Matthew while he was still in the womb. Since birth, we’ve read it an average of once a week.

Green Eggs and Ham
Do I like Green Eggs and Ham? Yes I like it, Sam-I-Am.
I would read it in a car.
I would read it in a bar.
It’s a classic, a great first read.
Rhyming words bring readers up to speed.
Simple story, simple text
Makes this a book that kids like best.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
Although this was published a little after my time–I became familiar with it through my younger sister and cousins–it’s already a classic. The copy I recently bought a friend for her baby shower was a special tenth anniversary edition. As the title indicates, the stories within are twisted takes on more tradition fairy tales. In addition to the title story, we also get “Little Red Running Shorts” and “Cinderumpelstiltskin.” It’s a fun, and funny, read. You just have to love a book that contains the line, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the stinky cheese man.”

Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic
Shel Silverstein’s books of simple poetry were among the most coveted in my elementary school’s library. The poems are often funny, sometimes hysterically so to young children. These books expose kids early to poetry as both a written and spoken art form. Even today, I can still recite portions of the poems in these books.

The prolific Judy Blume is probably best known for her novel Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, but my favorite Blume book–and I have read all of them -- is Superfudge. Maybe because I identified with narrator Peter Hatcher, the long-suffering older sibling of the precocious Fudge. The bits where Fudge calls his teacher “Rat Face” or declares he wants to be a bird when he grows up can still make me laugh. Blume has written threeother companion books about Peter, Fudge, and their family, but in my opinion this is the best. I won’t be able to share this book with Matthew until he’s a little older, but it will be waiting for him when he’s ready.

This is only a small sampling of the literature I plan to share with Matthew as he grows. Eventually, he will be able to choose his own books and I look forward to sharing those with him, too.