Everyone thinks they can write a children's book. Admit it - you've found yourself reading a story to a child at some point in your life and thought, "I can do better than this!" And that's probably true. There are a lot of bad children's books out there.
But every now and again you come across one that resonates with you for some reason. As a child, my favorite books were Corduroy (which I'm happy to report Jack loves) and The Little Engine That Could. Before I was old enough to know what a "mantra" was, I repeated "I think I can" over and over until I finally made it across the balance beam.
In children's books, illustrations are just as important as words. Sometimes the author is also the illustrator, and there is a harmony between the words and pictures that just clicks. Take, for example, Where the Wild Things Are, featuring one of my all-time favorite children's book lines: "Oh please don't go - we'll eat you up - we love you so." Dr. Seuss is another example of this.
And then there are the collaborations. I imagine it must be difficult to be a children's book writer who doesn't do his or her own illustrations. Finding the right artist to express what you can see so clearly in your mind's eye has to be difficult. But sometimes the pairing is so perfect it seems as if it could only have come from one imagination. Jack and the Flumflum Tree, which Jack received from his Aunt Elizabeth for his birthday, is one of those books. Not only are the illustrations fantastic, but the rhyming scheme is so spot-on you almost find yourself singing the book instead of reading it.
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by David Roberts, it's quickly become one of Jack's (and my) favorite books. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the protagonist shares a name with Jack, but he started talking about the Isle of Blowyernose after the first reading. We've read it about thirty times since then, and it still hasn't gotten old.
My favorite line from the book is Jack's own little mantra: "Don't get your knickers in a twist," said Jack. "Let's have a look in the patchwork sack." Jack is calm, resourceful, and brave, and with his little bowl cut and dorky sweater, how can you not love him? If I ever decide to write a children's book, this is what I'll strive for.