I'm not just a reader, writer, and editor, I'm a book collector. If you're anything like me, getting someone to read a book you've suggested because you just loved, loved, loved it, fills you with a strange, zealous fervor. Because of this, I've lost a number of books through the years to friends, family, and even to one of my son's short-lived nannies, all because I am filled with a passion for sharing the words and worlds I've read so much I willingly hand out books like I'm the public library.
The one person I love sharing books with more than anyone though, is my son. One of my favorite parts of the day is bedtime and sharing my love of reading with my five-year-old. He's incredibly imaginative, and so far, he loves to read, find new books, and pick one or three out each night to read. My goal is to nurture this into a lifelong love of reading. So when I recently pulled out some of my old chapter books from when I was between the ages of six and ten years old, I contemplated seeing if he'd be interested in reading one with me.
While I don't have all my books from my WHOLE life ever, I'd say I have a lot of them. My mother and sister have even dumped some of their old books on me, even while urging me to donate mine. But no, unless they're tired text books, I've held onto them. I can't seem to let them go. My son and I have enjoyed books from my childhood--Pinkerton Behave by Steven Kellogg (my son finds this one hilarious); all the books written by Stephen Cosgrove that no one I know has ever heard of but all which have special lessons at the end and are beautifully written and illustrated; my Care Bears books; Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak; etc.
Don't get me wrong, I love discovering new ones with him as well. I get as excited as when I was a kid when Scholastic orders come home, even though new books we do not need nor have space for. But sharing the old, the ones I loved as a kid with my own child, brings a certain nostalgia with it while igniting the passion to share. Did anyone ever read the Lemonade Trick by by Scott Corbett as a kid? I remember loving it. This is the first chapter book my son allowed me to read to him, and he actually let me finish it over the course of several days. But I'm astounded he stayed attentive, because there were many mundane details at times I thought I would lose him. Despite sometimes frequent interruptions for questions, he was for the most part engaged, at times falling into appropriate fits of giggles during the funny parts, questioning me about chemistry during the science/magic parts, and there were even a couple of times I was informed that he did not like Bumps Burton (the bully) at all. Today, we made a special trip to the store because he suddenly was craving lemonade.
Next, he agreed to let me read him Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones, which is probably one of my favorites from my childhood. But a few sentences in, we both realized it was above him at this moment, so we shelved it for another time and a little growth. We broke it up with a little Pete the Cat tonight, and next we're onto my Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. I'm certain if I can dig out my Bunnicula books by James Howe he'll fall in love.
See, the moral of my story is, being a book "collector" can pay off, and I hope it continues to far into the future.
This week my mother gave my three-year-old son a children's edition of Puff the Magic Dragon, along with little finger puppets featuring Jackie Paper and Puff. She recently told me he was very unhappy about the fact that he was missing the copy of Puff The Magic Dragon I had originally bought him some months ago. Except it was the old-school edition, adapted from Romeo Muller's film version I'd always loved as a kid. He'd ripped many of the pages out of the book a while ago on some little boy's destructive bender, and I'd taken it out of his room in an attempt to salvage what was left. This is why I highly doubted that he was actually missing this specific book, which we'd barely read because of its length. But she insisted. I think they have a secret language because my son is delayed in language so his expressive vocab is fairly limited at the moment. So like I said, I was skeptical he had actually detailed this to her in anything but a few words and gestures.
But anyway, he was happy when she brought it over. He's been carrying around the book and the finger puppets for the last two days. But it was today when my heart got squishy over Puff, Jackie Paper and my son. My mom, as grandmothers do, loves to bring presents. Today, she came bearing a stuffed Puff music box that winds up and plays Puff the Magic Dragon, a poem written by Peter Yarrow and Leonard Lipton and first put to music in 1963 by Peter, Paul and Mary.
I made some comment about how his birthday must have come early, and she responded that Puff helped Jackie Paper talk (in the cartoon movie and Muller rendition). It was then that I realized why Puff was so special for a little boy still grasping with language. He's been carrying around the stuffed toy all day and clutched it hard to his chest as we mounted the stairs to bed.
At bed time we always read books, and tonight it was Puff the Magic Dragon. As I sang this beautifully illustrated book rendition of the song to him, we used the finger puppets to make the book come alive, making Puff frolic through the air and Jackie Paper give him "sealing wax and other fancy stuff."
But it was when Puff goes into his cave because Jackie Paper doesn't come back that I felt like I was about to turn a magical bedtime moment into sniffles.
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.
While my son was winding up his music box Puff and making finger puppet Puff frolic, I was about to melt into a puddle and start sobbing. Because little boys grow up and it was never so apparent to me more than in that moment with my little boy snuggling his Puff. And someday he'll talk in full sentences and the memory of the time when his vocab was a bit miniscule will be but a distant thought. But unlike Jackie Paper, I hope he never stops believing in the power of flying dragons, just like I will never forget the very essence of childhood magic wrapped up in a stuffed toy given as a symbol of love, a song and my little boy.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.