My earliest books were Little Golden Books. I don’t know if parents give these books to their children anymore, or grandparents to their grandchildren, but I am thankful to have not only read them but also to have seen them. If you read them as a child, can you still see them?
I couldn’t find any recent statistics on the bestselling children’s books of all time, but as of 2001 it was not a Dr. Seuss book; it was a book written by Janette Sebring Lowery and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. The cover of that book is still in my mind, I can see it after all these years. I also recall the covers of The Tawney Scrawny Lion, and Tootle. A quick search on the internet brought up other book covers that I immediately recognized and which evoked memories. I am glad to see these books still in print, I hope they are still being purchased and shared with children.
But it is images that I have been thinking about, for in a world of visual filth and pollution, in which children are daily exposed to visual toxins, it is good to have pure and innocent images in one’s internal art gallery. A little adult reflection on the cover of Tootle or The Tawney Scrawny Lion can be a fine respite for the adult living in a world of filth and who is willing to say, “There must be something more than the acquisition of things, of power, of position, of money.”
Chesterton said that all he really needed to know he learned in the nursery of his childhood. Images of innocent beauty, ideals of courage and honor and virtue, visions of hope and destiny and calling – these are (or were) the elements of childhood. But of course, as Chesterton continues, adults soon tell the adolescent and young adult that they must forget all that nonsense and get on with life, get on with getting the most toys, the most accolades, the highest position – forget childhood – be a man…be a woman!
Today we rob children of childhood in myriad ways. We give them a compass that points not to the north of virtue and character and calling, but one that points to money and things and success – not success as a person of integrity and selflessness, but success in a promiscuous materialistic world. We give them electronics instead thoughtful art and books and the exploration of nature; we give them activities instead of relationships. Children may know how to play organized and competitive soccer with one another, but they do not know how to build friendships with one another, how to go on an adventure in the backyard with one another. Children may play on a baseball travel team and win trophies, but they do not know how to play a pickup game in a neighbor’s yard with Bryce Harper or Derek Jeter – their imaginations lie dormant.
The image of The Poky Little Puppy is an image worth pondering, a drink of pure water in the cesspool of society.