Nearly every Saturday, I sit in a chair at the public library and read at least twenty picture books. I check out my favorites, and re-read them over Sunday breakfast. I’m one of the few who regularly maxes out my book limit. As a child, I only had two picture books. Today I have bookcases filled with picture books I so longed for as a child.
Finding My Passion
While in the throes of my mid-life crisis, I was journaling when the phrase, “Once Upon A Time” ricocheted through my mind, heart, and pen. An entire tale appeared on my pages. I stared at it. I didn’t know what to make of it. Two weeks later, another tale appeared, and two weeks after that, another. The universe was trying to tell me something.
Not knowing what else to do, I found a library and started reading fairy tales; the stories with beautiful illustrations. After I read every fairy tale at that library, I discovered I lived near a huge regional library where I took the plunge and began exploring picture books, the simplest of stories. They spoke to me. They meant something to me. I could NOT read them. I had to have them. I was in heaven! Today, the librarians know me well.
Expanding My Passion
About five years ago, while in the library, I happened upon a paper called the San Francisco Book Review. I discovered they were seeking book reviewers, and reviewers got to keep the books. I signed up immediately!
After amassing a tiny collection of books, I felt I wanted to share them, so I contacted the Sacramento Children’s Home. They welcomed any books, especially any with African American characters, preferably of interest to boys, and with few words. I was told most of the 5th and 6th graders could only read at the 1st and 2nd grade level. I had found a new mission! I reviewed everything African American; I toured thrift stores and library sales to find more books. It was a win-win. They got books, and I found many more for my own library. Every three or four months, I’d arrive at the Home with three to four boxes packed with books. It was “Christmas” for them. I’d pull out my favorites and share why they just had to read them.
As I began to think of retiring someday, it occurred to me I could do a blog featuring the five star books to help family, teachers and friends select books as gifts. So, here I am. A blogger of children’s books, and loving it!
My Selection Criteria
I only post books I rate as 5 “hearts” (as in 5 stars), which is how my “five-heart” flower logo evolved. (I will confess that occasionally a 4-heart book finds its way in!) I select books that inspire me and touch my heart. My selections tend toward deeper, quiet, reflective stories that work on many levels. I also pick books that tease my curiosity—How does it work? Why is it? Who is that person?
A list of my criteria looks like this:
• Well written, with a literary touch (that stretches my vocabulary or “moves” me)
• Words and art that speak to my heart
• Books that satiate my curiosity
• Books that are clever, sometimes surprising
• Often books set in history or about people in different cultures
• Often books written in a poetic voice
• Always, stories that stretch my limitations and invite me to dream
While I estimate I’ve read more than 25,000 picture books, it is a small fraction of what’s available. I’m open to recommendations. I always check them out—and love surprises! I do read older children’s books and you’ll find a sprinkling of reviews of my favorites, too.
The Selection Committee
You will soon see, my reviews are not too “adultish”. They are written by my inner committee of girls. They’re the ones dragging me to the library, turning the pages, and hugging my books in joy! I believe it was they who spoke to me during my mid-life crisis, helping me uncover my passion. Meet the girls! You can always find them in a huddle ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing,’ while making their next selection!