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Sidewalk Stories

For those of us who love reading and diving into a great story or being consumed by characters, places and time, I have a question for you.

Do you have a favorite book of all times?

Something you can read over and over again, share with others?

If you are on the goodreads website, as I am, often times when you put in a friend request to another reader, reviewer or author they will have a challenge question in order for them to see why you have an interest in being their friend.

Some questions are easy and normal requests like:

"Tell me a joke"

"Do we have many books in common" or "What percentage of books do we have in common?"

"Worst book you've read?" and "Give me a book recommendation"

Most common though is the question of "Your all time favorite book?"

I know that over the years I've read many books that I have truly enjoyed. Stories that prompted me to think bigger, step out of my comfort zone or entertained me so much that I've laughed out loud. Books that have taught me something new, brought awareness, broken my heart and renewed my spirit.

But if I were to pick one that was my favorite of all times I'd have to say it's Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

When I was in elementary school we made weekly visits to the media center. Your school may have simply called it the library, ours chose media center. Our media center sat in the center of the school not far from the front lobby and quite close to most of the younger kids classrooms. I have few memories in the lessons that were taught when we visited with the librarian. I don't recall much beyond learning the dewey decimal system and how to work the card catalog to find a book. For the younger crowd, we didn't have a computer to find a title and point us to a section. The process of thumbing through drawers of cards in order to track down the proper title and section of a book took a bit more time than a few key strokes on a key board.

As I was saying, my memory of lessons are few but I can recall this exact day in third grade when we made our way down to the media center. The librarian met us at the door and ushered us through rows of books toward the belly of the media center that had a sunken floor in a half octagon shape. The step down made for additional seats for little kids as we gathered around her chair waiting to hear whatever story and lesson was prepared for us. Today's topic was poetry. As you can imagine, most of us being 8 and 9 years old didn't have much experience with poetry. I want to say she started with Sick or Peanut Butter Sandwich but I can't recall. What I do rememeber is the gloriuos world of Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too, and The Crocidile's toothache, Jimmy Jet and Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.

These stories wound around rhymes were eye opening. You can be funny and rhyme and tell a story all at the same time. I was excited with each new poem she shared, each new character and every scenario.

As she read, she also showed us the artwork which was was drawn by the author. My mind was on fire. I love drawing, my first chosen profession for when I grew up was an artist. The fact that you could a writer and an artist too? I was addicted. I needed this book.

It was no surprise that our small media center only had two copies and one was earmarked for the class lessons. The librarian sadly told me that I would have to wait until the other copy was returned before I could borrow it and suggested other books I may like just as well.

I can't tell you if I chose something else or how long it took for that day to end but as soon as I got home from school this book was all I could talk about. I remember begging my parents for a copy of my very own.

They must have given in or thought a book was a small price to pay to quiet a pestering child because in the car on the way to dinner that night we stopped at a bookstore. It was as if I had hit the lottery and a wish come true all wrapped together. I now owned what I thought was one the the best storybooks of my life and this purchase not only introduced me to book ownership but the idea that I could own my favorite books, not just borrow them from the library.

I spent most of dinner sharing these stories with my parents and when they tired of my storytelling I read this book from back to front, in no particular order and memorized a few of my favorite poems to try to impress my friends.

I carried this first copy into my late teens before I lost it to a house flood. I immediately purchased a new one to replace it. A few years later I gave that copy away to share the wonderful world of poetry to someone else and then turned around and purchased another.

I have given this book a gift over and over through the years for baby showers and children's birthday gifts. It was a pleasure to share it with my own children and see their reactions and laughter to the same stories I've grown to love.

So when I am asked what my favorite book of all times is this is always the book that comes to mind.

Do you remember when your love of books began?

What was the first book you can remember that opened you up to the world within the pages?

I'd love to hear your answers.

Happy Reading!

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