When I was learning to read, my favorite book was Bravest of All, by Kate Emery Pogue. This was a Little Golden Book about an old firefighter who, when all the young firefighters and shiny new equipment were out putting out a big fire, sprang into action with his old fire truck to save a family’s house. It’s a wonderful little book, and when our first child was born I used the magic of the internet to track down a copy, and bought it.
Books are a crucial part of many smart people’s childhoods. Kids who are different than their peers, and whose teachers don’t know what to do with them, can find the world (or escape to different worlds) in books.
Books endure in a way that other stuff does not; they provide a link to our childhood that can be restored. I still have a stuffed animal — a white (now gray) dog with black ears and tail — from the same era of my life as Bravest of All; there is no way, if I had lost Woof-Woof, that I would be able to find a replacement as I found a copy of Bravest of All.
Books convey truth in a way that toys, clothing, and other media cannot. There is truth in Woof-Woof, but it’s truth understood only by who already know my story. Bravest of All, by contrast, carries truths that can be deciphered by most anyone who can read.
As a former smart kid, I am horrified by Walter Olson’s CPSIA chronicles, February 10, in which Walter explains that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, our servant, advises resellers to discard most children’s books published before 1985.
If the CPSC gets its way, when my children look for copies of Bravest of All thirty-some years from now there will be none to be found. By effectively shutting down the market for children’s books from before 1985, our government erases a large chunk of the childhood culture of most everyone born before that year.
Thanks to books, every well-read American knows the temperature at which paper bursts into flame. How did we ever let it get this hot?