There’s Only One: The Tale of a Lost Toy

Traci S. Sanders

Do you still have your favorite toy?

I wonder how many of us can say yes or – even more telling – show the actual
favorite, and if not in person, at least in pictures.

For many of us, I would guess it was a stuffed animal. And while it may be worse for
the wear – how often was it washed, brought out to the yard, dragged through the dirt? – that’s only because when something is your favorite, it has to come with you – rain or shine.

For others, it may be something that moved – a car or truck; maybe it didn’t move at
all, unless it got toted along, like a doll or a ball. Whatever it was, it was the favorite.
I bet every parent has the story when it became The One and, unfortunately, the day
it wasn’t. Sometimes that was by choice, other times it wasn’t.

How often have parents turned their house upside down looking for a toy when
what should be “right there” isn’t. Of course, if found there is an audible sigh of
relief and if not too many sleepless nights – for parents and kids. And while both
recover, neither forgets.

When my daughter was two, and at the hospital following a bout with the stomach
flu, we left her favorite stuffed animal – Tweety Bird – in the room. When we got
home, we noticed. While we had a second one on hand, albeit, slightly larger – a just
in case Tweety – we felt awful. We called the hospital numerous times, but to no
avail, it was gone. We had thought that Tweety #2 would do the trick when we
bought it, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. It simply wasn’t the original, but
we felt that we had no choice so we gave her the new one hoping that she wouldn’t
notice its somewhat bigger size. She did. Apparently, the goldfish trick – where one
dies so you pop another one in the tank – didn’t work. She looked at me with complete skepticism and, rather than come clean, I told her that – since it
was around her birthday – Tweety had also had a birthday and so they both got
bigger. She didn’t buy it and, within a month, had moved on to a new stuffed animal.

And so, that story gets told and retold and while we have a lot of pictures of her with
the original Tweety, I don’t even know where the replacement one is. My guess is we
gave it away. Hopefully, it became the original favorite for another child, but for
mine, there is only one.

So, hang on to whatever toy your child treasures the most. And, on the chance that it
gets left or lost, take lots of pictures, because…there is only one favorite.

Happy New Year!

Traci S. Sanders

Does anyone else feel like the start of the school year is the actual New Year?

It must be that sense of a new beginning. Even if it’s the same building, it just seems different. Maybe it’s because the schools are scrubbed, the walls bare, school supplies untouched. There is a shine, a freshness, that didn’t exist at the end of the year. Anything seems possible at the start of a school year.

As a former school librarian, I remember well the very first day. Everyone files into class, hesitant and excited…some wave to their friends; others are waiting for new ones. Everyone is looking around, then at me, waiting for what this year might bring.

As the day goes on, a slight ease settles in. An “I remember this…” alongside what is unfamiliar, and together they set the year on a path comprised of surprising outcomes and moments of discovery.

It is like this all day until the final bell rings. And then it’s the sound that has been around for generations – moving chairs, dropped backpacks, books piled high with a thump, and pencils rolling towards the side of the desk before thwap! they are caught by the palm of the hand.

Finally, the mad dash to the door to line up with whispers and fidgety feet.

And then my favorite part – when the doors open and waves of children go in search of their parents who, when they see their child smile, can’t help but smile as well. Success.

What a Character!

Traci S. Sanders

Have you ever been inspired by a character in a book? For me, it started with Olaf, a young boy who so desperately wanted to read (like me), but was not quite there yet (like me), that he accidentally put his mother’s letter in the garbage instead of the mailbox. To my four-year-old-self, I thought this story was just about the funniest thing I had ever heard – and something I probably would have done if my mom (like Olaf’s) had given me the chance. I still have this book – as you may have guessed.

And it still puts a smile on my face. Olaf’s misadventures in reading inspired me to read.

Today, Olaf remains my first favorite character in my first favorite book. And, like so many beloved books, this one consists of a duct-taped spine, ripped and crumpled pages, and attempts to write my name where the author wrote hers.

I love that my parents saved this story for me, somehow knowing that, at some stage of my life, I would treasure it. I have tried to do the same for my children, lining them up on their shelves. And when they pass one and share a memory, it makes me realize that a book is, truly, a pebble in a pond where the ripple effects are often far deeper and wider than first realized.

I suppose this is why parents keep their children’s most loved books long after they’ve stopped reading them. It’s also why those same children, years later, cherish these very same stories.

Enjoy your children’s favorites.

Once Upon a Time: Thoughts at the End of a School Year

Traci S. Sanders

It has been quite a year. My daughter just finished high school; my son is about to
begin. It’s a time of excitement, but also reflection. A time to think about their future,
but savor the past.

And so, I find myself lingering at photos taken, words written, art created; but
mostly, I find myself drawn to their shelves, because there I can look at their favorite
books and find my favorite memories. I think about reading to them on the bench in
the park, the porch at our house, and, at night, tucked under the covers. I think about
all their funny questions, their profound insights, their childlike innocence, and the
best sound in the world – their laughter.

And then I think about all their passionate interests and our walks to the bookstore
to learn more about them. And I wonder: did their interests lead to the books or the
books to their interests. Irrespective, they made them who they are; it is their literary DNA, the words intertwined with their very being.

And so, when I look at their childhood books, I see not only what they loved, but
how they lived. Their shelves tell their story.

Thus, as the school year comes to a close, I wish you and your child a summer full of
memories and a shelf full of books to capture each one.

Enjoy every moment.

Milestones: Past to Present

Traci S. Sanders

When I began this website, I thought each book would capture firsts or favorites in a child’s life. And while many of them do, I also uncovered stories I had never known, stories that were connected to childhood milestones, but also to historical events. These stories illustrate moments that not only changed our country, but many others, and by doing so allowed our children to dream big and achieve more.

So, as you find books that celebrate your child, you will also find books that celebrate those whom have come before; who achieved their goals so that we may achieve ours.