The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne
One of my very favorite books EVER. Beautiful illustrations, and very funny. The King Who Rained is full of homophone humor that instilled in me a love of word play and of picturing things in the funniest way possible. I guess I stole my whole schtick from this book, looking back at it.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
This book appealed to me because it had such beautiful stylized illustrations and a cute story based on repetition. I remember it being read to us in the library, possibly by my mom, possibly by the librarian; It was a long time ago. I learned from it to be succinct in my writing and speech, to get my point across when it was most important.
So many people love this book by Shel Silverstein, so I do not really have to expound upon its appeal. I did learn from it, though, that poems are better funny than serious, and dear lord, if I had only remembered that lesson in my mopey high school and college years when I wrote terrible embarrassing beat poetry that I, at least, had the decency to avoid reading aloud at the many awful and painful poetry readings I attended.
Amelia Bedilia by Peggy Parish
I never actually read this book, but it taught me a very important lesson. And that lesson is, some people are total jerks and suck at their jobs and will shirk their own professional responsibilities off onto first graders instead of actually taking responsibilities for their own mistakes.
Obviously, there is more to this story.
When I was in first grade at Maryland Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, I loved reading and I utilized the school library as much as I was allowed. Being the nerdpants I have always been, I was very respectful of the rules and always made sure I got my books back on time, because that was the rule of checking things out in the library, and you're supposed to follow rules.
Now this was a time when computers were things that took up entire rooms and were not available for frivolous things like library catalogs, and so everything was done by hand. You would write your name on the book's call card and the librarian would take the card out of the little pocket in the back and she would replace the card with a brightly colored piece of paper that was covered in rows of date stamps, and you would look at the last stamp on the page and that would be when you had to have your book back by... or else!
And so it happened one day, when the library sent their little slips to the teachers that kindly reminded the students that they had clearly not paid close enough attention to the OR ELSE caveat of borrowing books, and imparted to them that in their joy of reading, they had forgotten to bring back their books on time, that I found myself totally confused at receiving a slip that called for me to return "Amelia Bedilia" immediately. I had never heard of this woman nor the book telling of her, and so I may have just ignored it, knowing it was quite obviously a mistake.
Until I went to check out another book.
The head librarian at Maryland Elementary was not the nicest lady in the world which is a nice way of saying, she was kind of a heinous bitch. She was, in fact, the very same librarian who had been a terrible ogre when my dad had attended Maryland Elementary school 20 years earlier And the problem was, she seemed to hate children, which is not the greatest personality trait for someone who works almost entirely with children, but these things happen.
Standing there with a book in my little hands, I pushed it over the checkout desk, eager to devour its story, only to have the crotchety old librarian cruelly tell me that I was banned from checking out books. I stood looking at her bewildered and then, she pulled out a call card. "Amelia Bedilia" she said, waving it in front of my face. I screwed up my face not understanding how this happened.
"But I never checked that book out. I wouldn't know Amelia Bedilia if I fell over her!"
"Well, here is your name, in your handwriting on the card!" And it was, it really was.
"But I didn't check that book out! The wrong card must have been put in the back of the book I checked out. I meant to sign for that one, and I returned that one, on time. I really did!"
And she looked at me, only considering what I said for a split second before she told me that it was my responsibility to check the call cards in books I checked out and that I would have to pay to replace Amelia Bedilia before I could check out any other books because I had signed for it, which seemed ridiculously unfair to me. Even at that young age, I recognized that it was her responsibility, as the adult and the librarian, to make sure her library was in order, and her mistake was now costing me actual money (that is hard to come by when you are six) and was denying me the ability to fill my head with fanciful stories and beautiful illustrations and important information about narwhals that I would need later in life.
For many years, I held a grudge against Ms. Bedilia, which is a shame, because it was just the sort of silliness that I should have loved- a series based around a maid who had no grasp of idioms and so did exactly as told "dress the turkey for dinner, draw the curtains, etc." And THEN she manages not to get fired each time by making a super tasty pie. Imagine the life lessons I could have learned from that!