Jean Nathan is the author of The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll, a biography of the children’s author Dare Wright. Here, Nathan names her first- and still best-loved books.
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (Golden Books, $10). The premise is a bit weak—“Here are Paul and Judy. They can do lots of things.…” But Dorothy Kunhardt’s brilliance was in not shutting the littlest ones out of the game. This interactive book performs a noble task: providing a baby with his or her first taste of literary life—even if it is licking the pages.
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Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd (HarperFestival, $8). The get-a-kid-to-sleep standard. The sight of its talismanic objects (the comb, the brush, the bowl of mush) flooded me with a sense of comfort when I was a child, as did the incantatory rhythm of Brown’s words.
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd (HarperFestival, $8). A little bunny tests his mother to see to what lengths she will go to find him—should he run away. An all-is-right-with-the-world classic, and another Brown-Hurd masterpiece.
The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (Random House, $9 each). Or anything else he wrote. Seuss’ language is a sort of cracked poetry at the nexus of nonsense and sense. T.S. Eliot for kids.
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (Random House, $9). A well-intentioned mother bird feels the egg beneath her beginning to hatch, and takes off to find him something to eat—unwittingly abandoning her baby at his very entry into the world. I always found his elemental confusion nightmarish. And I melted with relief when mother and baby finally reunite.
The Lonely Doll
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