In Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, Anita Silvey offers a guided tour to children’s books that have changed lives. “The act of reading to a child is the most important contribution to the future of our society that adults can make,” Silvey writes in the book’s introduction. She asked more than 100 celebrated individuals from all walks of life to choose a special book from their own childhood that had changed the way they see the world.
The volume is divided into six categories—including inspiration, motivation and storytelling—within which are essays, excerpts from some of the children’s books themselves and sidebars about the books and their authors. Cardiothoracic surgeon William DeVries, who implanted the first artificial heart, writes about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Tin Woodman’s quest for a heart. Steve Wozniak read the Tom Swift books as a kid and grew up to invent the Apple computer. Historian David McCullough recalls Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me, which demonstrated to him how good historical literature employs humor, wisdom and imagination.
Maurice Sendak, though, seems to be a dissenting voice in this collection: “Books shouldn’t teach. They shouldn’t give lessons. . . . They can just be kids and enjoy reading and looking at a book.” It’s a point well taken; the worst of children’s literature is the intentionally inspirational, the stories that reduce too easily to a conscious moral. But the books in Silvey’s collection don’t fall into that group. These books have inspired, touched and motivated through their power as good stories. This volume—perfect for any gift-giving occasion—will inspire adults to enhance their family lives and contribute to the future of our society through the good books they choose to share with their children.