Why You Need to Reread the Books You First Loved

The Tall Book of Make-Believe

I’ve been cleaning out and decluttering. This weekend, I got around to the bottom shelf on our bedroom bookcase. Book had been crammed onto the shelf but it hadn’t been dusted in several years. It was long past time to remove everything, get rid of the books I can’t explain, and dust.

And it was a good thing too because I rediscovered a treasure. My grandparents gave me The Tall Book of Make-Believe when I was five years-old. I loved everything about this book. I loved that it was tall and not shaped like other picture books. I loved that instead of being one story, it was a collection of poems and stories. I remembered that it included “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” a poem by Eugene Field. But I had forgotten so many of the illustrations, until I opened the book.

As I paged through the book, I came upon the bears bathing in a washtub and using a hair dryer. “I loved this picture!” Mice in a tea cup? A mouse brandishing a fork? Time and time again, I caught myself saying, “I loved this picture!”

Why these pictures? Is it because they are animals? Maybe. But I think a big part of it was that they are silly and fun. They made me laugh.

As a nonfiction author, I find myself writing about a lot of serious topics. I’ve written about the zika virus and COVID. I’ve got books on the assassination of JFK and the murders of Tupak Shakur and Biggie Smalls. War? That’s there too including both Pearl Harbor and World War I trench warfare. Then there are my books on race.

Don’t get me wrong. Serious topics are important. Young readers need books that explain the world to them. But something else they need? Books that are silly and funny. Stories that are goofy and make them laugh.

Those of us who write for young readers need these things as well. So tell me? What is it that makes you laugh?