This article, by Jeannie Constantine, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star, opens a new window on August 16, 2020.
There are many joys of working in a children’s room at Pima County Public Library. The biggest one? Picture books!
Speaking of, did you know that November is Picture Book Month? It sure is!
How young or old you are doesn’t matter—and where the voice comes from may seem otherworldly—but there exists a picture book that will speak to you. Or, there’s at least a picture book that a picture book lover believes will speak to you.
That’s me! I’m a gift-giving, picture book lover.
I do it because they make me think of you and something you are contending with in life. I have faith that whatever is churning in your world, whether it is for good or for bad, there is a picture book reminder that you are not facing it alone.
Whatever the occasion, whatever the reason, picture books are spot-on gifts—even for adults, especially for adults. So, during this season of giving—or for giving any time really—I simply have no reason to look beyond the collection of picture books I work with every day. In the children’s room, you find something for everyone.
Picture books are simple illustrated stories for young children, but, as the Library’s recent Writer in Residence, Jennifer J. Stewart, says, “They are often about big ideas with universal themes.” “They are captivating and will tug at your heartstrings,” a colleague and fellow picture book devotee says.
It doesn’t matter who the giftee is. Sharing a picture book creates a bridge of understanding. Sometimes words that you read years ago will still resonate today. Or new words. This picture book bridge closes spaces between young and old, can make you feel good, or motivate you to improve your life.
As a word person, I look for the written story. It’s often the colors and illustrations, though that create a treasure. I would describe some of the picture books I’ve gifted in the past as inspiring and calming.
Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi not only carries a message of hope, encouragement, and confidence, it is also filled with wildly colorful, painted handprint illustrations. Lovely and inspiring, it went to a friend who was stepping into a new position where many would look to her for leadership.
In The Gift of Nothing, cartoonist Patrick McDonnell works in simple line drawings in black and white with a dash of red. It tells a wonderful story of searching high and low for what’s absolutely perfect for someone who has everything. So just what is in the box tied with a red ribbon? No spoiler here, but it is a gift that is both eye opening and will make you catch a breath.
As the world spins in this crazy chaotic time, going who knows where, it’s nice to sit back and appreciate the Here and Now by Julia Denos. Despite everything, the world continues to move in many good ways. Take note of the small things, the affirmative things and embrace them. Now is a scary time for sure, but growth comes from pursuing what’s wonderful in the world. And the world is still pretty wonderful.
A visit to any PCPL children’s room provides inspiration for a multitude of potential, thoughtful, fit-the-moment gifts.
It is not too simple or too absurd to give an adult friend or family member a children’s picture book that spoke their name to you.
I call it magical.
Jeannie Constantine, a Library Associate at Sahuarita Library, once wrote for newspapers in Michigan and Ohio. Her favorite picture book is Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. She highly recommends it.