While Peter and his new family will be on a little hiatus from our blog, I’m celebrating the next generation of librarian with a nod to some of my favorite children’s literature at the Library of Congress. Just one look at Peter’s baby shower registry reminded of the many books I used to love.
I started the trip down memory lane with my absolute favorite: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Of course, I couldn’t resist a look into the biography of Beatrix Potter, who was really my first introduction to women writers now that I stop to think about it. It turns out Potter is a woman after my own heart: she was an artist, writer, animal lover, and entrepreneur, and she even bred sheep!
I had all of her most famous books: The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, and The Tale of Samuel Whiskers. Like Potter, as a child I adored animals. I made more than one plea that ended up in a year of feeding all the neighborhood strays, or a Christmas present trip to the local pet store for your garden variety household pets (hamsters, fish, guinea pigs, rabbits, short of a ferret we had them all).
Imagine my surprise when I found a book that I had long forgotten about, but apparently had a greater impact on me than my memory would suggest: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. The name gave me a sudden shock! Twenty years after I had read and forgotten that tale, I named another present—this one a birthday present—after a character I didn’t even remember: my very own Benjamin Bunny is at home right now in his cage, probably happily destroying my apartment.
I was amazed to think of the way that years later those first books had made such an impression on me. Not just in the name I gave my rabbit, but the person I grew up to be.
I continued my own search, going through the Library’s website to sniff out other books I loved. I found so many: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Aesop’s Fables, the Three Bears, Sleeping Beauty. All these stories had stuck with me after so many years. I can still recite “The Jabberwocky” by heart.
I know that Peter and his family are ready with over 200 books in their littlest one’s library, a rich display of life that will teach him to be curious, empathetic, compassionate, and imaginative. I hope that all of us are so lucky to be engaged with our families and with literature so early on, and also to be a part of the magic world that books present us.
At the Center for the Book, our division here at the Library of Congress, students celebrate by writing in to the authors they love for a project called “Letters about Literature.” I think it would be nice if all of our adult readers would do the same. What books do you love from your childhood? What authors would you thank?