Friday, July 10, 2009

Words, Words, Words...and a Give-Away

In a bit of premature celebration of my one-year blog anniversary (July 20), we’re inaugurating a new Friday feature here at Questioning. Welcome to Words, Words, Words. We’re going to start each Friday with a few good words from a variety of sources (music lyrics, poems, movies, books, the Internet, and wherever else I find them).

Last night, Nick and I found this poetic gem in an old, old book he pulled off a shelf next to my bed. It’s one in a series of books for children published in the 1920s called Book Trails. Each volume is an anthology with stories, fables, poems, and lovely illustrations centered on a particular theme. These battered, yellowing volumes exude the nostalgic scent of eau de Carnegie Library (my favorite perfume) and contain random scribblings in crayon and pencil by my mother and aunt and perhaps even my own young self. Nick was enchanted with these books, and amazed that they once enchanted his grandmother, too.


I lost my big Geography
As I came home today.
I laid it down, I—can’t—think—where—
I stopped a bit to play.

It was a nice Geography,
The seas were colored in blue;
And there were bright green valleys
With rivers running through.

Australia’s there and Europe too,
And big old Africa;
But best and biggest map of all
Was our America.

And now my shoestring’s in a knot,
My hair is all uncurled;
I only played ten minutes but—
I’ve lost the whole big world!

Helen Coale Crew

Ms. Crew may not have had Shakespeare’s gift for words, words, words, but she captures the challenges and frustrations and perspective of childhood delightfully, don’t you think? I sure felt like I had lost the whole big world a few times!

Now for the give-away.

Share the title of a fondly remembered children’s book or poem from your own childhood in the comments for a random chance to win a $20 (US) gift card to Barnes and Noble. (If you live outside the United States and win, I will send you an electronic gift card for use at B&N dot com.)

For those who usually read the blog in their email, click on the link to the blog directly, scroll to the bottom of this post, and click Comment to enter.

Contest ends at 12:00 Sunday night, July 12, 2009. One entry per person, please.


  1. The first book that came to my mind is "Harry, The Dirty Dog." I loved that book as a kid. In fourth grade, we read lots of books and I distinctly remember "Soup" and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, "Little House on the Prairie." I read them all! Thanks for the chance to win!

  2. As children, my husband and I both loved Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Now my three year old daughter adores it and we have fun reading it as a family!

  3. Having come to America from Cuba, learning a new language was very difficult for me.

    In school, understanding English was like trying to understand blah-blah-blah-blah.

    After 2 full years of ESL, I finally read my first book, Ferdinand the Bull, by myself.
    I still have my original copy my mom bought for 25 cents at a garage sale...

    My mother would drop me off on Saturdays at the local library and I would sit for hours 'reading' through all the picture books.

    One day, the nice library lady, asked if I knew that I could take the books home to read.

    She introduced me to the 'library card' and then and there I made it a goal to read all the picture books in the children's section.

    I was really young, but I loved books. It took me a FULL YEAR to read the children's section. Then the library lady introduced me to the young children's chapter book section. I was in heaven.

    Now I am a passionate reader. I have managed our school library for the last 7 years and I run a book club for middle schoolers!

    Thanks to my wonderful ESL teacher and the lady at the library.

  4. A Child's Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883). I first shared Where Go the Boats (it is also a lovely song) with a very young Sam almost 9 years ago. It was in a new (1998) book of the same title with bright illustrations. Later that year, he found a 1929 copy of A Child's Garden of Verses while we visited my maternal grandmother in New York. He was 18 months old and could not read....right? Yet he found this poem. When he started to talk--a little later than most children--he also liked to say the words of Block City. While reciting Block City from memory, Sam was joined by my father who remembered Block City from his own childhood. Many times, I've found my mother reciting Stevenson's "The Swing" to all of my kids as she pushes them gently on the playset in our yard. Sam is a young man who remains fairly uninterested in talking much. These Robert Louis Stevenson poems connected him to his great grandmother and then is own grandparents in a way few things could. I don't know if he would say they are his favorite childhood poems. But they are my favorite childhood--and parenthood--poems.

    Where Go the Boats?
    Dark brown is the river,
    Golden is the sand.
    It flows along for ever,
    With trees on either hand.

    Green leaves a-floating,
    Castles of the foam,
    Boats of mine a-boating--
    Where will all come home?

    On goes the river
    And out past the mill,
    Away down the valley,
    Away down the hill.

    Away down the river,
    A hundred miles or more,
    Other little children
    Shall bring my boats ashore.

    Block City

    WHAT are you able to build with your blocks?
    Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
    Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
    But I can be happy and building at home.

    Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea, 5
    There I’ll establish a city for me:
    A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
    And a harbour as well where my vessels may ride.

    Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
    A sort of a tower on the top of it all,
    And steps coming down in an orderly way
    To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

    This one is sailing and that one is moored:
    Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
    And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
    Coming and going with presents and things.

    Now I have done with it, down let it go!
    All in a moment the town is laid low.
    Block upon block lying scattered and free,
    What is there left of my town by the sea?

    Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
    The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,
    And as long as I live and where’er I may be,
    I’ll always remember my town by the sea.

    The Swing

    How do you like to go up in a swing,
    Up in the air so blue?
    Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
    Ever a child can do!

    Up in the air and over the wall,
    Till I can see so wide,
    Rivers and trees and cattle and all
    Over the countryside—

    Till I look down on the garden green,
    Down on the roof so brown—
    Up in the air I go flying again,
    Up in the air and down!

  5. I have been a bibliophile ever since I can remember!! I actually still have a couple that I remember fondly from long long ago... but they are in pretty sad shape now.

    One is called something like "The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings." It's is such sorry shape but at one point I did locate a better version -- all the pages were there!

    Also... a book of poems... I don't remember the name but these were very much story poems: Little Orphan Annie; The Owl and the Pussycat; Winken, Blinken and Nod; The Walrus and the Carpenter; The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat; The Land of Counterpane ...and one about a little girl, a dragon and a mustard dog...etc.

    I LOVE the illustrations and that's part of why I remember them so fondly...and the memory of my mom, or dad, but more likely an older sister reading these to us. She loved to read Little Orphan Annie and scare the pants off us!

    So many more wonderful books ... I could go on and on! Thanks for giving me a chance to walk down memory lane, Susan :)

  6. The Swing
    Author: Robert Louis Stevenson - 1850-1894

    "How do you like to go up in a swing?
    Up in the air so blue?
    Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
    Ever a child can do!

    Up in the air and over the wall,
    Till I can see so wide,
    Rivers and trees and cattle and all
    Over the countryside--

    Till I look down on the garden green,
    Down on the roof so brown -
    Up in the air I go flying again,
    Up in the air and down!"

    I like this poem, because my grandma introduced it to me because it is her favorite poem. I memorized it when I was younger for a school project. Just reading it again brings back good memories!
    ~ Karen

  7. Susan,
    What a fun poem to read. I have so many memories of childhood readings such as reading from a thick volume of a Children Garden of Verses, Richard Scary all the way to reading Oliver Twist with my mom. Anyway, the one that comes to mind is reading a book, "I Help Mommy!". It was my favorite. I was the big sister and the book was all about helping mommy with everything around the house. I actually had a Christmas where I asked santa for an iron, ironing board, vacuum, and mop! Oh the joy! If only I could want any of these items now. :)

  8. Bed in Summer
    Robert Louis Stevenson

    I never wanted to go to bed. Wait a minute, I still don't! It's 4 am and I am still up.

  9. I loved reading as a kid, still do, just don't do as much as I want. There's this thing called stamping that has taken over my reading time, lol! Anyway, one of my favorite books from later childhood is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. And now my son loves it!

  10. The first books I remember are the Nancy Drew books and I loved every one of them. I may have even read a few Hardy Boys mysteries.

  11. Olfactory cues are always the deepest. I recognized the "eau de Carnegie Library" instantly. My mind went straight to my own favorite old books before I even read the theme of the Give-Away.

    Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my father, sitting on the edge of my bed, reading to me from his mother's copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verse." It was printed in the first decade of the last century and came complete with a handwritten copperplate inscription, "To Lucy, with love from Momma." Part of the magic was imagining my great-grandmother reading this very same volume to her young daughter.

    Thanks for the opportunity to access this long ago doorway directly into my heart.

  12. My favorite childhood book was the original "If you give a mouse a cookie"....

    It came out just as I was turning 3, and my father who was a teacher would read to me every night. He told me that half the time, I would pick this same book, but by re-reading it over and over again, I learned to read by myself using word recognition before kindergarten phonics even! So it is a special book for me in more ways than one!

  13. I loved the Bobbsey Twins. I could not wait to read the next adventure of Bert, Nan, Freddie, and Flossie. Thanks for reminding me how much I loved those stories.

    Diane M

  14. Oh books were my escape to everywhere! Only library books though. I don't think I owned book until high school. So I'm picking one of the first books I bought just for me, not because it was assigned. The Chosen by Chaim Potok. One of my all time favorites.

  15. Charlotte's Web and the Little House on the Prairie books are favorites of mine. Both were recommended by teachers, and I reluctantly agreed to read them, only to discover they were, in fact, GREAT books! ;)

  16. There were two books when I was a kid that I read constantly
    One of them was The Pokey Little Puppy (it was my very first book)
    and the other was The Monster at the End of This Book (my favorite Sesame Street character was Grover)

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  17. Every year our grade-school teacher would make each student memorize a poem -- I mean from 1st graders through 8th graders (I was in a 1-room school). I was awful at memorizing but I do remember this one -- "I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree".... Another was "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat". I don't remember how the rest of it goes but it was traumatic to try to memorize them.

  18. My parents bought a set of children's Encyclopedia Britannica when I was little. They were filled with pictures and information geared towards children. But in the back of each volume were some fun stories and poems. My favorite was the "C" volume - it had a poem about Hiccups. And quite often either my parents or myself would get the hiccups right after reading it. I think the encyclopedias are gone, but I believe my parents saved a copy of that poem :)

  19. My first book I chose from the school library for a book report was "The Boxcar Children". Then I discovered there were more in the series! I loved them.

  20. The Giving Tree was my favorite book when I was very young. As my reading abilities developed I read and re-read the Little House series more time that I can count. Another favorite was The Best Loved Poems of the American People. I love to read and have always had a book nearby, still do!

    My husband wanted to get me a Kindle and he couldn't understand that the book itself, not just the words. The weight of the book, the smell, the texture of the pages all play an important part in the experience.

  21. "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley. My Mom used to recite it from memory to my brother and me when we were little. I can still vividly recall all the images my mind drew up, and I was skeert of those gobble-uns!
    To this day, I can't read or hear it without tears welling up in my eyes because of the emotional connection I have with the poem.
    Thanks for the memories!

  22. Having been raised in England my favorite books were by Enid Blyton. She did a series of "Famous Five" mysteries which I imaging were similar to the Nancy Drew series in the USA. I could read one of those books completely in a couple of hours - just loved them!!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!