From Mississippi with Love: Trends in Children’s Books
Reading is one of the main ways that kids encounter the world. It expands access to ideas, as well as to new places and new types of people they might not meet during the regular routines of daily life.
Books expand young minds. They enhance learning. They maximize a child’s ability to thrive, regardless of the child’s background or home life.
Books are some of the most valuable gifts you can give to any child.
“Reading opens up the child’s imagination,” said Melissa Carrigee, a southern Mississippi book publisher and mom of two now-grown boys. “It gives kids a place to go during these crazy times. A book can become a comfort and a friend. Books are wonderful, because they entertain as well as educate. Reading to a child does just as much for an adult as it does for that child.”
Carrigee’s company, Brother Mockingbird, has published a number of children’s titles, including picture books from Mississippi-based authors. Her suggestion that reading to kids can bring as much joy to adults as it does to kids comes from personal experience. She said she’s done reading sessions with kids from Pre-K to grade 3, and when she reads one of her books to a classroom, it “creates conversations with the children.”
She said she sometimes gets photos sent to her of parents or grandparents reading one of her books to a child or grandchild.
“Those are so special, and are the reason I write,” she said. “One that brought me to tears is when a mother shared a picture of her daughter at the ‘dress as your favorite book character’ day at school. The little girl went as a dragon, and took my book with her to class. It just doesn’t get any better than that for an author.”
The book Carrigee referred to is her “I Dream of Dragons,” which encouraged kids to imagine themselves in different settings, and doing interesting jobs.
While many things stay the same in children’s publishing, Carrigee said book presses are changing in the types of material they offer to readers.
“I see a lot of books with diverse characters being published,” she explained. “There are a lot of great, inventive books being printed. I’ve seen a lot of calls for books on self-esteem, the environment and friendships. I’ve also seen an increase in children’s non-fiction.”
She notes that girls have also become more interested in things that used to be aimed only at boys. Carrigee created a follow-up book aimed more at girls, titled “I Dream of Unicorns.”
She thinks some of the old stereotypes in children’s books are starting to crumble.
“There is a definite crossover, but girls tend to want to read both books, where the boys want to stick with the dragons,” Carrigee said. “I admit that when I was a little girl, I would have picked the dragon book as well.”
“My hope is to show that you can be anything you want to be, regardless of gender,” Carrigee explained. “I try to put all different kinds of ‘jobs’ in each book. A race car driver isn’t always a boy, and a cook isn’t always a girl.”
Carrigee said “I Dream of Dragons” was inspired by her first son, Logan.
“As a first-time mom, he opened up my heart and showed me what true, unconditional love is about,” she said. “I wanted to show him a world where he could be anything he wanted to be. Think of all the possibilities out there; the world is wide open, and there is no limit unless you give yourself one.”
It does not matter which books you buy for your child, so long as you BUY THEM (or find them at a local library). Here are a few Brother Mockingbird titles to consider; all are written by Mississippi authors.
“I Mustache You to Read With Me”
“I Just Want to Read”
“A New Orleans Saints Alphabet”
Author: Andrea Vilemont Moreau
“Winston Versus the Snow”
Author: Savannah Hendricks
“Coastal Mississippi Alphabet”
Author: Rebecca Giles
“Coastal Alabama Alphabet” (coming soon!)
Authors: Rebecca Giles and Karyn Tunks
“I Dream of Dragons”
“I Dream of Unicorns”
“Louie the Llama” (coming soon!)
Author: Melissa Carrigee