I was amazed by how my three- year- old granddaughter Olivia was touched by certain stories. These books became HER books and HER stories. And by some magic the stories and characters were so much like her and her life that she said over and over with amazement, “That is JUST like me!”
This may seem obvious but finding the right book for a certain child is not easy. A good librarian can be very helpful. A friend loaned me several books that did not appeal to Olivia at all. They were beautifully illustrated, but the problems in the stories were too adult and too sophisticated. She could not relate to these gorgeous books at all. But, from the many books we read her favorite by far was, “Madeline’s Rescue.” This is not a light story: there is drama-a near drowning; tragedy-Genevieve is kicked out of the house and lost; plus joy and love- when the children and Genevieve are reunited.
Olivia poured over every detail in the illustrations-especially Madeline being pulled from her “watery grave!” Olivia talked about Madeline even when we were not reading the book. Madeline became part of her life. When we walked over a small bridge on our daily walks Olivia insisted, “Madeline fell off THIS bridge! Be careful Grandma!” I believe Madeline is Olivia’s hero. She may even see herself as Madeline. (she is small like her) And what a hero…Madeline is brave, adventurous, kind, spunky and loving. Olivia begged for this book over and over.
I am awe struck when I think of the importance of creating children’s books, books that deeply speak to children. The right book at the right moment opens magical worlds for a child. Worlds filled with life’s lessons, humor, joy, love and tragedy. A great children’s book is true art in that it can change the lives of children just as true art changes our lives.
Mary Morgan Vanroyen