Children’s Classics from the 1970s

On a recent sunny summer day, I had the chance to work in the Children’s Center at the Central Library. Besides enjoying that wonderful space and seeing lots of cute kids, I got a chance to pick up some books for my two-year-old granddaughter, Cleo, who is coming to visit from Brooklyn. As I browsed the extensive collection of picture books, I was thrilled to see some of the favorites that I remember reading to my own kids in the 1970s.  

The Frances Books by Lillian and Russell Hoban: Frances is a wonderful, temperamental little girl badger, who has all the not-so-charming child attributes. I love her stern but wise badger parents, who always find a clever way to get Frances to act like a big girl.

Birthday for Frances by Lillian and Russell Hoban. 
Frances’s  baby sister Gloria is having a birthday, and Frances is insanely jealous. Perfect, since Cleo will be celebrating her second birthday while she is here.

Having trouble going to sleep? Bedtime for Frances. How to cure picky eating habits?  Bread and Jam for Frances. A Bargain for Frances; Best Friends for Frances; A Baby Sister for Frances were all our family favorites.

The books by the legendary children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak were very popular and controversial around the time my kids were born in the early 1970s. In the Night Kitchen — wow, a little boy who flew through the air completely naked, with full-frontal nudity!  Pierre, who was very rude and always said “I don’t care” whenever his parents asked him anything.   He got eaten up by a lion. Where the Wild Things Are — Max who was put to bed without his supper and then his room was filled with monsters who roared at him. To complement these wonderful books, I checked out the CD of Really Rosie, lyrics by Maurice Sendak, music and vocals by Carole King. My kids and I can still sing these songs from memory. I think I will teach Cleo the alphabet with Alligators All Around.

Every family should have its own nickname: I refer to Cleo’s family as “The Royal Family,” because her full name is Cleopatra. I have a new grandson, Lincoln, who lives here in Seattle, and I refer to his family as “The First Family.” When my three kids were growing up, we referred to ourselves as The Stupid Family, because we identified with the family in the series by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall: The Stupids Die, The Stupids Step Out, The Stupids Have a Ball and The Stupids Take Off.  The Stupid Family could never do anything right, and in the most hilarious way.

All these books are charming modern classics, and well worth reading again, even if you don’t have any children in your life right now. 

~Beth K., Central Library

2 thoughts on “Children’s Classics from the 1970s”

  1. Update: The Royal Family has come and gone. The grownups in our “Stupid Family” were more interested in the classics from the 70’s than Cleo was, and Cleo’s mother wouldn’t let me read her the “Stupid Books” because she doesn’t want her to know and use that word. Isn’t that stupid?

  2. I have to admit that as a parent of your daughter’s generation I am also holding off on sharing the Stupids books. Maybe when he’s a bit older (or in school and I have stopped fooling myself that I can control his vocabulary). There is nothing more disheartening than hearing kids call each other “stupid” at the playground. I also admit that I trim some “I don’t care”s from Pierre–because a friend of my son’s started chanted it ad nauseum and I didn’t want to have to hear it myself! Ah, the contradictory conservatism of today’s liberal parents! Just goes to show how subversive those 70s picture books really were!

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