I'm something of a children's literature connoisseur. While I'm not up to date on all the best kiddie lit, I do have my favorites. I have thought about what makes a great children's book. I appreciate humor, design, surprise, thought given to the sound of words and the way they look on the page.

On my long, boring drive home today, I thought about some of the books I was raised on. These weren't the bread and butter of our home library, but rather, the books we encountered at school. The ones that came with Weekly Reader or were featured in our classrooms.

I loved the Value Tales series (remember, I'm an old). These books were mini-biographies, highlighting famous and important people, and associating their stories with important Life Values. Helen Keller's value was Determination. Abraham Lincoln's value was Respect. Are they cheezy, whitewashed, and simplistic? Sure! As a kid interested in right and wrong, but not married to firm ideals of such, they posed interesting stories, interesting touchstones for further conversation.

We also read the Serendipity books, and the Sweet Pickles series. None of them were bad or harmful, per se. But looking back at them, they weren't that fun either. None were our favorites. They were ham-fisted and simplistic. It was a simpler time, or rather, books were being written and illustrated in a more parochial way. I'm glad times have changed. (okay, Minikin is kinda cute.)

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