Kids' Books Offer Adults Entry to New Worlds, Too

By Hyman, Ann | The Florida Times Union, June 9, 1996 | Go to article overview

Kids' Books Offer Adults Entry to New Worlds, Too


Hyman, Ann, The Florida Times Union


Everybody knows, books are made of words.

The paper, the ink, the glue and the cardboard bindings are

simply elements of the delivery system, something like we've

come to hear cigarettes described as a nicotine delivery system

rather than a good smoke. Words are what we want delivered by

the book system, the words that make the story. That's the part

that addicts us, huh? The story.

Except for children's books.

You don't need to be a child, or have a child in your life, to

want the pictures in children's books. Are they art or

illustration? Collectible? Doesn't matter. Whatever else they

are, the main thing is, they are doors, gateways, and when they

are wonderful, as they so often are, they let you into a world

where you can feel the breeze, hear the gulls.

Consider the flock of folks waving triumphantly to the Statue of

Liberty on the cover of Betsy Maestro and Susanna Ryan's Coming

to America (Scholastic, $15.95). These people are definitely

more than a huddled mass yearning to breathe free. They are

individuals -- a woman dabbing her eyes simply must be Irish,

moms in shawls cuddle babies, boys in caps, men in beards smile,

cry, embrace.

But, the book doesn't begin or end in New York harbor.

It's full of all the people, red and yellow, black and white,

who, for 20,000 years have been coming to America.

A family of the first immigration, 20,000 or so years ago from

Asia, is pictured trekking happily across the snow. And

newcomers who arrived in America on a jet are pictured at the

international gate of an urban airport.

"All newcomers to America have a hard time at first. This is

true whether they came in the 1600s or have just arrived," the

words tell us.

And the pictures show us.

Maryann Cocca-Leffler's Clams All Year (Boyds Mills Press,

$14.95) doesn't have a history or anthropology lesson to teach

-- just a happy recollection of the sheer wonderfulness of

visiting family at the shore in the summertime, digging for

clams. The house, the people, the beach and dunes, the harvest

of clams that lasts through summer all the way to Thanksgiving

dinner is bound to please grannies and beachcombers as well as

children. The colors are happy, full of sunshines, and you've

got to love the details, the kids in T-shirts marked with peace

signs and a mom with her hair pinned up in bobby pins. …

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