I was first introduced to Virginia Lee Burton during my Caldecott Reading Challenge with The Little House. It has become one of my favorite books to recommend for its sweet story, detailed illustrations, and message of preserving and honoring the past. Kids- and adults- will marvel at the ever-changing landscape as the story progresses.
I wanted to read all her books as one of my reading challenges this year. And it’s been such a treat! Right off the bat, her books, which were published decades ago, are longer than most of the current picture books now. She definitely has a very distinct style of illustration and there’s so much humor in her storytelling that’s sort of subtle but apparent at the same time. There’s a sweetness and gentleness as well without being saccharine.
I loved how she would test out her stories with her kids first and she’ll know right there and then if it’ll be good enough to publish or not!
Choo Choo is about a runaway train that teaches about responsibility.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Mary Anne) is a great story about teamwork. You can’t help but root for this determined duo!
Calico the Wonder Horse or the Saga of Stewy Stinker is a wonderful action-packed story told through comic-strip format. Everything about it is so alive!
Katy and the Big Snow is a fun story that takes place in a city. I loved the map!
Having grown up in San Francisco, where Maybelle the Cable Car takes places, I had a thrill seeing the names of the streets I was familiar with- and, of course, those hills. This is another example of her ability to tell a story with lots of respect for its subject.
Life Story is beautiful! The whole world is literally a stage as the book traces the history of life on Earth- from the rocks, plants, animals to humans. I just loved how it focused first in the incredible vastness of space and into her own life and eventually to the reader with these words:
And now it is your Life Story
and it is you who plays the leading role.
The stage is set, the time is now, and the place wherever you are.
Each passing second is a new link in the endless chain of Time.
The drama of Life is a continuous story- ever new,
ever changing, and ever wondrous to behold.
I also watched a documentary called Virgina Lee Burton: A Sense of Place. It was a fascinating look into a very creative life and a truly special person.
I will definitely be recommending her books more frequently from now on!