What’s in a basket of favorite children’s books on animals?

Each year I look forward to the “Tinsel and Tails Holiday Petacular” to raise funds for the Humane Society for Hamilton County, Indiana. The event includes a silent auction, dinner, and presentations that feature the year’s most amazing pet adoption and survival stories. Some of the stories are tear-jerkers, for sure ─ you walk away truly humbled by what can be done to rescue and help so many wonderful animals find good homes with caring families. The silent auction includes everything from autographed sports memorabilia, art work, gift certificates for upscale dining, spa packages, golf packages, pet gifts, jewelry, travel and more. One year there was an amazing guitar signed by a famous musician.

This year I’m donating a basket from “Z House Stories” for the silent auction with the theme, “Reading Fun: Favorite Animal Stories.”  The next decision is which favorite books to include.

The search for favorite books surprisingly takes me to four different stores, not including the craft store where I purchase a basket and colored paper filling. I’m hoping to find some of the great stories I read when my son was little, especially some Bill Peet stories. There are lots of books in the first store I go to, a suburban Barnes and Noble that has a large children’s section with kid-size tables and chairs, toys, computer games, stuffed animals, paper products and pencils, stickers, magazines, and of course, many books. By the way, I would have checked out Borders but most of the Borders in our locale closed months ago.

In looking around Barnes and Noble, I’m surprised that many of the books I consider classics are not on the shelves. The sales-person does not recognize the name, Bill Peet, when I ask if they have his books. This is surprising since Peet grew up in Indianapolis and you’d think would be featured in an Indiana-based store as a well-renowned children’s author. The sales-person tells me they can order anything I want. But I know I can more easily order a book online myself.

Ok, so no Bill Peet here. I decide to look for “Harry the Dirty Dog” by Gene Zion. I listened to Betty White recently read this classic on Storyline Online (see my last blog) so for sure they’ll have this book on the shelves. Nope, they do not. But they do have lots of other books – books for Halloween, for Christmas, for winter, for summer. Seems like people must be buying books for the seasons or primarily for special occasions. Is this true?

I tell myself to keep an open mind – look for great animal books by more recent authors. So I open several books on the shelves. The art work in most of them is pretty terrific and they have great binding (hard bound mostly which means more expensive). But I’m not seeing many entrancing stories. There’s a nice anthology of Berenstain Bears books I like. But the hard-bound book exceeds my budget for this project.  There are the Berenstain Bears in paperbacks, so these are an option. Then I see several Eric Carle books in a nice display – the art work is gorgeous but I’m looking for more elaborate storylines.

So the search continues at two more nearby stores, Wal-Mart and Kroger. Both stores have lots of children’s picture books. But again, I’m not seeing the animal stories that seem quite right for the silent auction basket.

The fourth option is a store accessible at home courtesy of Wi-Fi, Amazon.com. All I have to do is type in the name of an author or book title recalled from years ago and there they are! There are new copies and used copies. They’re not all that expensive. They’re paperbacks. And they’re classics, at least to me.

So online shopping wins the day. The receipt notifies me that the books will arrive at my home in just two days.  Here’s what I selected to put into the basket for the silent auction:

  • “Eli” ─ Bill Peet
  • “Big Bad Bruce” ─ Bill Peet
  • “Harry the Dirty Dog” ─ Gene Zion
  • “The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg” ─ Bill Peet
  • “How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head” ─ Bill Peet
  • My own book, “How BJ Diana Came to Live at the Z House.”

Two days later after the ordered books have come in the mail, I’m stuffing handfuls of green and tan paper filling into the basket. But it doesn’t’ seem right not to include some candy. So in go some brightly colored jelly beans. Evidently, too many Easter baskets have affected my conception of what goes into a basket. Also, it doesn’t seem right not to include a coloring book ─ so in goes a nice coloring book obtained from Wal-Mart: “Winnie the Pooh: Big Fun Book to Color” (Disney). Finally, in goes a laminated cut-out of a favorite illustration of an animal shelter dog and cat from my new book.

The basket is ready to go.  What would go in your basket for favorite children’s animal stories?

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