Friday, March 11, 2011

We Were Tired of Living in a House

Every once in a while, you come across a treasure in some thrift store or at some garage sale, a treasure that becomes worth so much more than the pennies you paid for it.
I picked up this book at a local thrift store for 10 cents about five years ago.
by Liesel Moak Skorpen illustrated by Doris Burn
It didn't look like this when I bought it, it looks like this after many, many hands have lovingly turned the pages. It has become my favorite children's book.  I can't say if my children love it as much as I do, they rotate favorites regularly.
I think this book speaks to the child and the mother in me. I love how the story follows a poetic format.  The perfectly real illustrations depict childhood play that is every imaginative child's dream, and the vibes coming off the parents makes me laugh, because I totally have been there. Look how frustrated they are with the mess, the drawings on the wall, and the utter chaos.
And look how frustrated the kids are with their parents.  I love that the girl is the most defiant, it kind of reminds me of my own household! :)  And check out the dog!  I want a dog that is that loyal!
So the kids decide to move out. They pack their bags, bringing sweaters, socks, scarves, mittens, and hats.
Did you ever want to run away as a child?  Did your parents ever make you sooo mad that you were headed out the back window before you lost your nerve? 
The one time I remember wanting to run away, I never got as far as thinking of where I'd go.
My imagination couldn't run anywhere, my anger had first dibs.

If I did stop and take the time to think of the perfect non-parent place, I don't know what I would have come up with, but these adventurous children found some wonderfully magical places to run away to.
These children moved first to a tree.
"There was always a breeze in the afternoon
that rippled through our roof.
Above in a branch lived a speckled bird
who sang all day for the sake of a song,
and our roof in the autumn turned scarlet and gold.
We liked our tree,
until we tumbled out."
That didn't deter these children.  They packed their bags once again with,
"sweaters and socks and scarves and mittens
and scarlet leaves and gold."

They moved to a pond,
and packed up again to move to a cave.
Once they met the bears, they packed their bags yet again, and moved to the sea.

Isn't this drawing fantastic?! My kids and I talk about how tangible it seems. We can feel the wind, and taste the salt, even though the sea isn't even in the picture.
"We built a castle on the shore
from salty water and warm sea sand
with turrets and towers and moats about.
We hunted for treasure and dove in the waves
and slept to the pleasant songs of the surf.
We liked our castle on the shore,
but the tides kept washing us out to sea.

So we packed our bags with sweaters
and scarlet leaves and gold
and a frog who was a particular friend
and precious stones that caught and held the sun
and seashells singing like the surf."
I love how their bag now contains all the treasures from their travels. Never mind where the socks and mittens have been left. Never mind that they left home in the first place.  Mom and Dad have missed the little hooligans, and welcome them home with open arms.

Because really, the endless mess and the art on the walls are nothing compared to the joy that children bring.

Now that our book is on its last leg, I can't bring myself to tape it up, or even get rid of it.  The illustrations are fabulous, and make me think of carefree summer days. I have an idea to frame some of them, like the scene of the kids in the tree and the sea scene.
Or perhaps I will make photocopies of the best pages first, and give them to my kids as coloring pages.
What do you do with a favorite worn out book that you can't bear to close the pages of?


  1. The illustrations are phenomenal! I highly recommend finding this book online and buying it again. This book could be one of the toys that your children remember from childhood.

  2. Oh Keilah...I am so bad about checking in on your blog but every time I do I find a treasure. I LOVE this post and this book. I love how much your kids (and you) love this book. I agree with Maaret, you must find another copy & save it for them. I have so many of the books I loved as a child - both the ragged originals and then newer versions I share with my children. It gives me so much pleasure to see them enjoying what I once loved.
    Beautiful post....

  3. My mother had this book and copied all the pages and colored them for my daughter when she was small. She put them in a book size binder and my daughter still treasures it today.

  4. This was my most beloved book when I was a child and it was my most favorite book to read my daughter when she was growing up. Now I'm 46 and my daughter is 16 and it's still the favorite of BOTH of us. She'll end up reading it to her children some day likely. It's a wonderful treasure. Glad you found it!

  5. This is a very happy day for me. I've been looking for this book for many years and the only verse I could remember was that the children packed their bags with sweaters and scarlet leaves. I remembered the tree house and the raft also. The illustrations are amazing and as a child the book became one of my absolute favorites. I have made collecting my favorite children's book as part of my bucket list. I have 3 down and 5 to go. TY for posting this on your Web page.