I was thrilled when I received this submission for our August monthly theme! Many of you remember David Teague when he was a faculty member at our conference last September. He gave some great presentations and is an all-around good guy!
David Teague is the author of the picture books Franklin’s Big Dreams (illustrated by Boris Kulikov) and The Red Hat (illustrated by Antoinette Portis), and he co-wrote the middle grade titles Saving Lucas Biggs and Connect the Stars with his wife, New York Times bestselling author Marisa de los Santos. Forthcoming in 2016 is Henry Cicada’s Extraordinary Elktonium Adventure. David lives with his family and their Yorkies, Finn and Huxley, in Wilmington, Delaware, a mere thirty-three miles from The Free Library of Philadelphia.
Summer Beach Reads – What is Your Favorite Children’s Book?
When I was twelve, on the first Monday of summer vacation, as the shady streets of my town stretched out before me like a game-board painted jewel-green with promise, and all I had to do was spin the spinner and start down the nearest path, that’s exactly what I did.
On my bicycle.
And I ended up at the public library, gazing at a table near the door where the librarian had kindly arranged all the Newbery Medal Winners to date for kids like me who needed something great to read on the first day of summer.
I scored big: The Twenty One Balloons, by William Pene DuBois, the medalist in 1948. Even in 1977, it seemed intriguingly exotic, illustrated in Industrial-Age black-and-white that appealed to the kite-flyer, model-railroad builder, and airplane-launcher in me, the me that was best and happiest during the wide-open days of summer. The book was short but brilliant, perfectly plotted, so imaginative I sometimes wondered if its flights of fancy were even allowed, or if the author maybe got yelled at once in a while for letting his imagination run away with him. Ideal for shade-reading in the back yard, ideal for any reading anywhere, actually, The Twenty One Balloons was absolutely perfect for disappearing into on a summer afternoon.
Which I did. Until my dad, who was a chemistry teacher, and also off for the summer, spotted me reading it and happened to mention that he’d read it too! And remembered a whole lot about it . . .
He said something like: “How about those twenty ball-and-socket hose joints with a hundred-and-fifty-pound breakaway limit each, containing the one-way gas valve, for inflating their escape balloons with hydrogen?” And: “The Krakatoans thought they had it all figured out, but greed had clouded their minds.”
I had thought these very same thoughts. Maybe not in those words, but I’d definitely thought them.
I’ll always remember saying to myself, “Dad wants to talk about my book.”
So we talked. And although I know some of what my dad had to say about the book, I have almost no idea what I said. Something about the diamonds, probably, as plentiful as glass, because that image has certainly stuck with me. But I do remember my father listened to everything I had to say.
I love The Twenty One Balloons, because there is no other book like it, but I also love it because, for a few moments one summer, when I was twelve, my dad and I were astonished by it together.