Reading a book 200 times is a surefire way to find out whether you love it or want to throw its rhyming llama couplets into the diaper pail. Children's books especially do a tricky dance for an audience of squinty-eyed parents and wide-eyed tots: the best ones, like a syringe of infant-suspension Tylenol, have a little something for the parent at the end. These are the ones we are celebrating in This Book Belongs To — the books that send us back to the days of our own footed pajamas, and make us feel only half-exhausted when our tiny overlords ask to read them one more time.
From the moment I popped into existence, my parents read me books. It was the only way they could get me to stop shrieking for longer than half a second.
The reason people love children's books so much, I think, is that they're much more honest and enjoyable than adult books — they aim to please, they're beautiful to look at. Added to which, children's books will never be 900 pages, like Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire; they'll never turn out to be fabricated, like James Frey's A Million Tiny Little Pieces; and they'll never contain a sex scene written by Jonathan Franzen, like — I'm sorry to say — 100 percent of novels by Jonathan Franzen. What is not to love about the wonderful books we enjoyed during our time as young, shrieking tots?
Most of my early ideas about the world came from children’s books, which was fine when the takeaway was “be kind” or “believe in yourself” or “help others in need.” It was less fine when the takeaway was “Narnia totally exists and it’s magical” and my impressionable youth brain was like “YES, THAT CHECKS OUT.” As a result, I spent a lot of time hanging out in wardrobes looking for lampposts.
Basically, children’s books are as timeless as they are misleading, which is why, as a child, I truly believed…