SHERIDAN — Flipping through the stacks of children’s books at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library as an adult, it’s easy to pass a dozen books you don’t recognize before coming across one from your own childhood.
Skippyjon Jones and all of his adventures didn’t exist when many parents today were working their way through their earliest books. But as the library in Sheridan celebrates the 65th anniversary of “Charlotte’s Web” this week, it sparked conversations about what makes a book — like the one about Charlotte, Wilbur and friends — last through generations.
Michelle Havenga, children’s librarian at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, said the answers to that question vary by age group. Her colleague, Susan B. Knesel, agreed.
Knesel is a former “Campbell County Woman of Distinction” and recent Campbell County Public Library System retiree. The Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues announced recently it will recognize Knesel with its 2017 “Governor’s Woman of Distinction Award.”
Both Havenga and Knesel said that for younger children, the books that continue to be popular through the years have compelling illustrations that draw adults and children alike into the book.
As children get older, the books that remain popular expand their world in one way or another. That can be because the book is set in a different time or place. It could be because the story is about somebody different from the reader.
Universally, though, both Havenga and Knesel said the books that people can relate to remain popular no matter the reader’s age.
Books for children today include storylines featuring divorced parents, parents who are imprisoned and children of more diverse backgrounds, whether that be in terms of race, religion, physical abilities or appearances.
The New York Public Library compiled its list of the 100 greatest children’s books of all time back in 2013. Titles on the list included “Amelia Bedelia” by Peggy Parish, “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson, “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss and “Curious George” by H.A. Rey, among many others.
Havenga noted, though, that adults chose those books. They can relive their childhood memories as they read those books to their children.
The books that last, though, aren’t necessarily always the best written prose or the most realistic stories.
Knesel pointed out that she wouldn’t necessarily share with just anyone what her favorite books are. The best books vary based on an individual’s emotional connection to the story and its characters. Sometimes those connections happen with writers considered atop the field, while other times it has less to do with the skill of the writer and more to do with where a reader is in his or life at that time.
The library celebrated the 65th anniversary of “Charlotte’s Web” with crafts, readings and story times earlier this week. The activities will culminate with a movie screening and pig party Thursday, Oct. 12, at 4 p.m. in the Inner Circle of the library.
As the library staff marked the occasion, they also encouraged readers to revisit their favorite books.