Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing a list of my favorite children’s books – and showing my age. I don’t think many of these are read anymore, and that makes me a little sad for those who grew up after me knowing only the Goosebumps and Babysitters series. Previous titles that I discussed include: The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.
Last in this four-part series, I want to comment of a book I remember with nostalgia and sadness: Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. It’s a story about a young girl who is accidently left behind on an island off the coast of California. Based on a true 19th-century story, Karana deals with her loneliness with complexity and perseverance. Reading that book, I realized for the first time, but books can connect people, even the fictional with the real, in profound ways. Karana taught me that being alone doesn’t have to always mean loneliness. She managed on her own for years, and changed so incrementally, that when she was finally rescued, she had a difficult time fitting back into “civilized” society. Of all the books I have mentioned in this series, the only book I was sure to stock from the moment we opened was Island of the Blue Dolphins. I have a copy in English and in Spanish.
It’s easy to disregard children’s books as simple stories to be dismissed when we become adults. We are supposed to put away childish things. But what a child ingests, she metabolizes. Like vegetables and protein, books become muscle and bone. In an age when children as young as eight stare at screens all day, it’s important to feed them intellectual vitamins and nutrients to make them strong adults. Books are really the only way to do that. Choose wisely.