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November 14, 2014


Do you remember the first book you ever read by yourself? and reviewer Matthew Burbridge does, and talks about it in his National Picture Book Month post, below!


Despite my relatively unreliable memory, of this I can be certain: RICHARD SCARRY'S COLOR BOOK (starring Mr. Paint Pig) was the first book I ever read to completion by myself. I like this memory a lot, because I was four years old, and no one in my family knew I could read yet. Mind you, "no one in my family knew" included me. I was four, not a care in the world. According to my father's recollection, my kindergarten teacher was convinced my future career as a delinquent was assured from the first week of school. My life as a kindergarten criminal is a subject for another time, though --- I am supposed to be telling you about my dramatic leap into literacy.

It was bedtime, and my mother was reading me a bedtime story. This wasn't a frequent occurrence, or some nightly tradition. She just happened to sit down this one night and wanted to read to me. I just picked this book out of many. I love it now for so many more reasons, as I've grown older and more educated in illustration and design, but at the time it was just any book. I handed it to my mother and she started reading.

And then she started doing the thing all adults reading to children do: She would read the words, and then present the picture. At four, I can remember being annoyed by this. I can vaguely remember feeling like it wasn't being read to me fast enough. If I just could see it, and look at the pictures and words together at the same time, this would all go much more smoothly. It was without this level of elaborate thought-processing that I had already taken the book out of Mom's hands. I was two pages in when I looked up to see Mom wore a completely petrified expression.

She managed to mutter, "Well, keep going."

So I kept reading, amusing myself with the cute animal drawings and paintings by one of the most prolific children's book writers the world over. I naturally didn't know any of that when I was four, but it is nice to observe the impact of the book's creator. Richard Scarry, I salute you.

I was two pages in when I looked up to see Mom wore a completely petrified expression.

Upon finishing Mr. Paint Pig's delightful day, I slammed the book shut triumphantly and looked up to find my mother had gathered the entire family in my tiny bedroom. Dad and big brother at the foot of the bed, and mother with a big grin and bright eyes watched me read the whole book. My brother had another book in his hands and traded with me so i can read another one for them.

I read six books that night for an audience. It just happened to start with Mr. Paint Pig in the RICHARD SCARRY COLOR BOOK. I wish I still had that book. I loved that book.

Matthew Burbridge is a reviewer for and