So many avid readers have been reading books since childhood. My childhood reading shelf somehow bypassed Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. I came across these later on in life. Instead, I stuck with four books that I read on my own in rotation. I also had my dad read them to me. Over and over. I’m sure he appreciated them, too. Looking back now, I have no idea why these were the books I clung to because they are the opposite of who I was. Maybe that’s what made them special—they made me dream.
The Biggest Sandwich Ever by Rita G. Gelman with illustrations by Mort Gerberg
The basis of The Biggest Sandwich Ever is pretty simple. A bearded guy shows up at a picnic and tells some children he plans to make his lunch. He carries a pot on his head and has an entourage of bakers, little league ball players, tow-truck drivers, and a slew of random people carrying a hefty list of ingredients by way of bulldozer, crane, and plane. I remember looking at the drawings and wondering how they could eat such a sandwich after all these people stepped all over it. Yet, they eat it and think it’s delicious.
About me: I never liked eating outside. I never talked to strangers.
Why I still love it: Goals, y’all. Building a sandwich to make a masterpiece is so reachable.
Chuckie by Nicki Weiss
“Ooh, aah, isn’t he cute?” This is the resounding chorus the adults shout every time baby Chuckie does anything. Really, anything. He’s a baby, and when babies do anything, they get praised. Chuckie is Lucy’s younger brother, and she doesn’t have the same reaction. Instead, every time the adults fawn over him, she decides he’s living life wrong. The lesson here happens at the end, and I’m totally not spoiling it for you.
About me: I am the younger sibling in my little family, and I never felt any sibling rivalry happening. Then again, I assume no one ooh-ed and aah-ed over me in such a catchy ear-worm way.
Why I still love it: Listening to my dad coo, “Ooh, ahh, isn’t he cute?” sticks in my mind as if he read it to me just this morning.
Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos with illustrations by Nicole Rubel
The version of Rotten Ralph I read and re-read until the cover wore out is the original. Apparently, there’s a series of RR books, but instead of reading all the books in the series, I stuck to reading the one book on a loop. (Also, there seems to be some sort of puppetry version that I am not into, so feel free to look that up and report back). The book is about a cat, Ralph, that causes mischief in his owner’s house by way of pranks. In a turn of unexpected events, Ralph gets left behind at the circus. Odd consequences ensue.
About me: I have never owned a pet and I’m no fan of the circus.
Why I still love it: Gantos has one heck of a life story (Read Hole In My Life). Clearly I didn’t know that back then, so my love of this story isn’t just about Gantos. Maybe it simply confirms why I don’t want a pet.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett with illustrations by John Barrett
Because of the animated movies, I’m sure this book is not a new idea. A grandpa is telling is grandchildren a tale about an odd occurrence in a far-away town. In this town, the weather sweeps in not as regular precipitation but as food.
About me: Actually, I’m not surprised I like this book. My grandma made a mad batch of meatballs, so the chance of those raining down on me would’ve been spectacular.
Why I still love it: Wonder. That patch of sunlight that could possibly be butter is all I need to keep a sense of “what if” in my life.
The children’s story market has changed so much, so I’m sure these could seem outdated. I’m also sure that any bookish soul has a book or two that they still cling to after all these years. Would love to hear about yours.