Eloise Wilkin has always been my favorite children’s book illustrator. In fact, she’s probably my very favorite illustrator ever (excepting my husband’s drawings of classic cars and my daughter’s “pictures,” of course!). I grew up with my parents reading me the Golden Sturdy Shape Book versions of My Good Morning Book and My Good Night Book. The poems from Eloise’s illustrated copy of Poems to Read to the Very Young are among my very favorites (from “The Goops” and “After My Bath” to “Merry Sunshine” and “The Wind”). Somehow, a book was always better when illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Her winsome drawings just captured a child’s imagination.
Before I got married I found my own copies of My Good Morning Book and My Good Night Book at thrift stores (I knew my mother would never part with the ones she read to us). When I got them out to introduce Ruth to Eloise Wilkin, they were a hit. The stories came back to me instantly-and Merritt already has them memorized, as well, since the books are constantly plopped in our lap with a rather emphatic sign for “please.” Ruth likes to have them read to her over, and over, and over. And on the page of the Good Night Book where it says, “Daddy reads me a bedtime story. He lets me turn the pages for him,” Ru quickly took her cue and started turning the pages. She finds the teddy bear on each and every page and waves goodnight to the little girl on the last page (unless she’s not ready to go night night, in which case she skips that page!).
I found a board book version of Poems to Read to the Very Young on Paperback Swap. Ruth thinks most of the poems are a bit too long to read in one sitting, but I think she likes the pictures as much as I do-and as much as her grandmother who introduced me to them when I was her age! Ruth’s latest favorite illustrated by Eloise Wilkin is The New Baby. (Which has as much to do with the subject matter and pictures as it does with the fact that it has real paper pages.)
If you have yet to discover the fun of Wilkin’s illustrations, her Little Golden Book collection is the easiest place to start. Poems to Read to the Very Young has been reprinted and is easy to find in board book edition. (And if you’re already a Wilkin fan, then look up the other childhood illustrator I’m particularly fond of-Gyo Fujikawa’s illustrations are quite different, yet delightful! Check out her book Babies, for example…)