The cicadas’ song has begun. It swells from the treetops every year during the lushest part of the summer. To me it’s a song of enchantment, calling me to set aside my grownup work and to spend an hour being a kid again. Most days I have the fortitude to resist the cicadas’ invitation, but on a recent dreamy afternoon, the cicadas came out in force and cast a spell on me. I found myself riffling through my kids’ storybooks in search of those that I’d want to read in a secret enclosure formed by the hanging branches of a tree, with the cicadas singing above and a glass of lemonade beside me. Let me tell you about a few of those special storybooks:
Attic of the Wind, by Doris Herold Lund
“It’s not an attic you reach by stair.
It’s past the clouds and the stars somewhere.
And what will we find when we play up there,
In the Attic of the Wind?”
We’ll find autumn leaves from the four corners of the world, snowflakes that didn’t alight, straying butterflies and blown dandelion heads, and of course, balloons. Lots of balloons.
“Yes, the Attic of the Wind can store
All the world’s lost treasure, and even more…
The handkerchief you forgot to hold,
The spelling paper with the star of gold,
The picture you drew for Mother’s Day,
All the things you somehow let drift away
Aren’t exactly lost. So before you cry –
Why not look in the Attic in the sky?”
Attic of the Wind is a lovely, imaginative book with evocative illustrations and an innocence that’s not often found in modern children’s books.
A Pocketful of Cricket, by Rebecca Caudill
“With a stick Jay knocked a nut from a low branch. He picked up the nut and smelled the tight green hull that enclosed it. The smell tingled in his nose like the smell of the first frost. Jay put the nut in his pocket…”
“Jay picked a bean pod. With his thumb nail he pried it open. He shelled the beans into his hand. They were white, striped with red speckles. The stripes on every bean were different from the stripes on every other bean. In Jay’s hand the beans felt cool – like morning. Jay put the beans in his pocket.”
A six-year-old farm boy is enjoying the last days of summer before school begins. In the hollow where he lives, he walks forward and backward, wades, hurries, and climbs, collecting interesting bits of nature all along the way. His prize find is a cricket, which he takes with him on his first day at school.
A Pocketful of Cricket was written by the author of the popular Fairchild Family stories. It’s a gentle book that captures a young child’s natural fascination with the world around him. Whenever I read it to the kids – or to myself! – I’m inspired, at least for a short time, to take child-like pleasure in the ordinary things of life.
Yonder, by Tony Johnston
“There is the plum tree growing year by year,
Loaded with the fruit of early summer.
Young man makes a cradle on the old tree’s shade.
There. Just over there.”
“By and by the mother has become a grandma.
By and by the father is a grandpa.
Holding hands together as the sun goes down.”
A “farmer on a jet black horse” and his brand-new bride dig a hole, plant a tree, and say a prayer on the land where they will build their home. The tree will be one of many, since the couple “plants a tree for every child who’s born.” Yonder is a book I’ll often choose when the kids ask for a bedtime story. They can’t figure out why it should be a favorite of mine, since it always makes me cry. But with its sweet tale of a strong family and its beautiful portrayal of the rhythm of nature, Yonder is genuinely moving. It also conveys a simple pro-life message that young children will easily understand.
Attic of the Wind, A Pocketful of Cricket, and Yonder are must-reads for a child’s summertime book list. If you want to see for yourself, come and join me under the overgrown hedge in my backyard, where the tips of its privet branches touch the ground. There’s plenty of room in its shady alcove, and I’ve got a pitcher of lemonade. The cicadas are calling.