The Start

comments: 294


Books were my earliest friends. My mother read to me early and constantly. I had a huge set of Little Golden Books with records and a little turquoise-blue 7" record player and I played the records constantly. I picture this in my grandparents' apartment building, so I must have been less than three years old. I knew many of the recordings by heart and would just recite them over and over (including the "Ding! Turn the page!") holding the book on my lap. My mom made a few recordings of me "reading" in this way. I haven't listened to those tapes in decades — they used to be around the house, and we'd listen to them every once in a while, and I remember once hearing the tapes as a teenager bursting into tears at the sound of my little long-ago voice, reading Cindy-Cinderella, went to the ball. . . .

My father was a voracious reader, and he read at the dinner table every night, so I was allowed to read at the dinner table. When he came home from work, he needed to eat dinner, and he also needed reading time. So for years and years I remember our family eating dinner at the dining room table with the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour on, and my dad was reading and eating, and I was reading and eating, and I can only assume my mom and my sisters were talking? I actually have no idea what they were doing or talking about. I was so like my dad in this way. We'd sit across the table from each other with our left hands holding books and our right hands holding forks, oblivious. It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I knew you were supposed to keep your left hand in your lap while you were eating. But then how could you hold your book? And . . . conversation? Then how could you read? I can't read and talk at the same time. I can read and eat at the same time, but I can't read and talk. In fact, Shhhhh. Reading here. Can you pass me the meatballs.

My dad read so much, and so fast. He could finish huge books in days. He read a lot of non-fiction, a lot of history, a lot of books about vikings, and Romans, and generals. World War II. Wolves, food, Theseus. Sugar Blues. Square-Foot Gardening. Histories of the Roman Empire. Mary Renault. Big piles of books were everywhere in the house. I had mine, too. Mine were English and horsey and filled with animals, or they were about girls from New York City. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. Me and the Terrible Two. A Horse of Her Own. Mother Wants a Horse. The Year of the Horse. Chloris and the Creeps. Harriet the Spy. Deenie. The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. So many more. I can't remember them. I wish I had a list of everything I've read. I wish I had a list of everything my dad read. I would give anything for that. Sometimes I think that my love of books was the only thing that it was easy for him to understand about me. I sat on my next-door neighbor's porch swing and read, the slats of the swing digging into my back, for hours. Years. I did it for years. They never seemed to mind that I was pretty much constantly on their porch. One time the neighbor kids, who were much older than me, came out and said, "Alicia, our mom says you have to go home now because our grandma is coming over for her birthday, and we're going to sit on the porch." And I remember thinking, "But that's okay — I'l be very quiet — you won't even know I'm here, and you won't bother me — and I love parties!" But instead I went back to my yard and watched as people streamed up the front stairs into the May family porch-party. I waited and waited. Would they ever leave? The Mays. The best neighbors in the world. We loved them so much. I still write to them occasionally. They still live there, in that lovely green house with the big wide porch and the white wicker furniture and the bridal veil bushes that dropped a confetti of tiny petals and yellow dust. It was so humid. I used to bring a cold bottle of Diet Rite, kick off my Dr. Scholls, and stay all day. I wonder if any of their granddaughters sit on the swing and read.

Little by little, I'm building (and reading through) a new collection of books for our future little girl. I was going to tell you about these, the first group (I stuck Howards End in there, though obviously it's not a kids' book; I just happened to be reading them all at the same time and I wanted to remember to talk about it), but then I got off track. Next time.


I really think you would like Lois Lenski, who illustrated the original Betsy-Tacy books. Some of her regional stories (Houseboat Girl, Cotton in My Sack et al.) are out of print, but others (Strawberry Girl, as well as the books for younger readers, such as Cowboy Small) have been reprinted. I remember reading Houseboat Girl in grade school and daydreaming about living on a houseboat and traveling down the Mississippi. P.S. I'm an adoptive mom, too, and I wish you all the best in your future journey.

Nancy Schultz says: June 06, 2010 at 11:31 AM

So many of my book favorites have been mentioned but one book that always tugs at my heartstrings that I didn't see listed is "The Best Loved Doll". I checked for many of the books listed that are from my childhood--so long ago!--and it is wonderful to see that they are still available on Amazaon and The Best Loved Doll is there. I love your blog and the stories of your life that you share. Thank you.

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright,
picture books by Daniela Drescher, winter books here:, here:, here:, and here:
The Secret Garden illustrated by Inga Moore is not to be missed!
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong is exquisite and a huge favorite of my 8-year-old (we read it when she was still 6, though).
On the same thing, A Day on Skates is wonderful.
Also, don't miss Elsa Beskow -- such treasures there. I especially love Children of the Forest, Around the Year, and Pelle's New Suit.
You may also enjoy, from the wool/knitting perspective, "The Pen that Pa Built" and "Red Berry Wool".
The Betsy-Tacy books are wonderful!
My baby was given "Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes" for her first birthday (by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury) recently, it's wonderfully cute!
We always liked "Animal Crackers" by Jane Dyer (a collection of poems and nursery rhymes).
Sylvia Long's illustrated Mother Goose is my favorite.
Tasha Tudor! Don't miss Tasha Tudor! "One is One" in boardbook form is my 15-month-old's very favorite book.
There are so many more, I might be back....

Oh, don't forget to read Winnie-the-Pooh to her.
And poetry! So many wonderful anthologies of poetry for children out there. I can share lots more. Write me if you want.

The Froggy series by Jonathan London works as a picture book for parents to read aloud and for easy readers for first and second graders. When I've tutored, those books are the first time I hear kids read that sounds like reading and not plod-plod-plod the way a real beginner reads. The illustrations, especially in Froggy Gets Dressed, will keep you entertained for countless re-readings. After about ten readings, one tutoring kid and I figured out why the lettering is the color and pattern it is.

I was back to recommend Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones but I see you already have that in one of your photos from your new embroidery book! And also don't miss Children of Noisy Village (and all the Noisy Village books) by Astrid Lindgren. I really like these even better than Pippi Longstocking. Although my daughter LOVED Pippi when she was 5 going on 6.

OOOHHH! My absolute favorite was Omnibus of Nursery Rhymes! It had the most beautiful illustrations, and I loved listening to my dad read them with such inflection! It isn't easy to find, but if you can locate a copy in decent condition, your child will treasure it forever.

Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisely
Primrose Day, by Carolyn Haywood
The Golden Name Day by Jennie Lindquist
anything by Elizabeth Enright
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
All of a Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes, etc. by Noel Streitfield
Mine for Keeps and From Anna by Jean Little
Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery

These were some of my favorites as a girl and I have three daughters of my own now. These are the ones I've read aloud with each girl; the ones I just can't bear for them to miss.

All of them are chapter books, but the first two are for younger readers.


I'm a follower... albeit, silent follower :S of your blog, and I really love your posts. I was wondering if you could send me the pdf version of your book list? My mom is a teacher in Northern Canada, in a school that has a high percentage of kids who struggle academically, especially basics like reading. Many of these kids don't have access to great books unless they have them at school. It's a family tradition for us (her own grown up kids) to help stock her classroom library and I'm always on the hunt for great books for her stash.

Would you mind passing the list my way? I didn't see it linked anywhere, unless I'm blind...

Thanks for your time!

Mmm, so many great books! The Island of the Blue Dolphins is also wonderful. It is about a young Indian girl who is the only survivor from her tribe. Based on a true story (I think), it tells of all her adventures alone on the island and how she survives. Oh, so, so good. Maybe like third or fourth grade level. Although, enjoyable for all ages.

I've loved so many of the books already listed.
Others I thought to mention are the Mary Poppins and Wizard of Oz books. They both are series.

I loved the Raggedy Ann books when I was little. They were not only entertaining, but they also made me keep my room neat and my toys put up nicely just in case it was really true that the dolls came alive at night time!!! LOL

I must add Ruth Chew books to this list.

Catherine says: July 16, 2010 at 04:37 AM

I'm a little late to comment, but I still couldn't resist. I have two daughters, 8 and 6. My older daughter started reading just after she turned 5. I'd read at least 3 books a day to her since she was born (there's a great book by Mem Fox called 'Reading Magic' about reading to babies and young children - I'm in Australia, but hopefully the book's been published in the US). She moved quickly from Dr Seuss to Enid Blyton to Roald Dahl to Harry Potter. She's an extraordinary reader, and is right into the Horrible History and Dead Famous series now. It's really tricky to keep up and to find age-appropriate books - the library is great, and I'm constantly asking people for suggestions. She devours books, then re-reads immediately. My younger daughter loves books too, though has followed a more meandering path to becoming a reader. She's so used to her sister lugging books around, it was inevitable - they never leave the house without at least one book tucked under their arm - more often three! She loves Charlie and Lola at the moment, and has just read her first chapter-book all by herself - one of the Tashi books (again, an Australian book, but a fabulous series). Your daughter is blessed already that you are planning for her to be a reader, since it's a gift that opens up the whole world - her vocabulary will be huge, her imagination endless, her questions tricky and constant, and her general knowledge amazing. I wish you lots of reading magic.

Catherine says: July 16, 2010 at 04:40 AM

One more comment! - my younger daughter loves the Mo Willems books too - the Pigeon series, Elephant and Piggy, and Knuffle Bunny. Lots of scope for her to use lots of expression when reading out loud!

Red is Best. Simple yet classic-YOU will love it! Sometimes hard to find in hardcover but usually can be located in soft!

michelle says: July 21, 2011 at 08:53 AM

oh, how i have grown to love love love your blog!!..i dont know how i stumbled across it, but i have been reading backwards ever since and i had to stop and comment on this one (although i could comment on pretty much all of them)..i too am a huge reader since childhood..i remember my friend and i would race to B. Dalton when the new Babysitters Club books would come out. I hated math and when i got bad grades, my mother would punish me with the worst possible thing, no fun reading!! It was torture. My now husband commented the first time we visited my parents that he finally understood where i got my love of reading, as both my dad and i sat at the breakfast table with books in our hands!As a child, I loved Ramona Quimby bks, and anything at all with animals in it. Now i devour James Herriot books on a regular basis. Speaking of, i looove your corgi! My golden retriever/cocker spaniel mix is a lot like little short golden whose nose i kiss constantly. I have never crocheted or knitted, but i would love to start. Which is easier to pick up? Can i really make those things i see on your blog? It seems impossible! You are truly awesome :)

was that really a Little Golden Book? I had that when I was little and I think my mother gave it away and I so so so wish I still had it. do you remember the actual title or any other info about it? I still remember those songs!

Marilyn Tolnai says: May 14, 2019 at 03:47 PM

I went to Google and typed in “Ding, turn the page” and your website came up! Oh the hours I spent with those LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK RECORDS in the 60’s!!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


post a comment

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at