“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” ~C.S. Lewis
My mother loved books. She read anything and everything she could get her hands on. She passed that love on to me. She read to me tirelessly from my small collection of Little Golden Books and Dr. Seuss titles. “The Little Red Hen”, “The Pokey Little Puppy”, “Yertle the Turtle”, all short, rhythmic stories that I soon took to memory, but the one that stands out the most in my mind is “The Saggy, Baggy Elephant.” I loved many things about that book, the beat of the elephant’s “one-two-three-kick!”, the way the illustrations seem to dance along to the music of the story, however, the reason it matters to me, is because of the way it became a part of my story.
My father was terrified by reading. He had learned just enough in school to scrape by with his high school diploma, and his feelings of inadequacy in reading stuck with him well into adulthood. One night when I was three years old, my mother was working third shift, so I went to my father with my stack of books, ready for a bedtime story. Jokingly my daddy shook his and said, “I can’t read baby, you read it to me.” “Okay, daddy.” I climbed confidently into his lap with “The Saggy, Baggy Elephant” and he smiled at me, prepared for whatever silly little story I would create to go along with the pictures in the book. I carefully opened the cover and proceeded to recite the entire story word for word, page by page. He was astounded. Sure, I had just memorized the rhythmic little story after countless reading from my mother, but to my daddy, I had read that book. I can still hear the pride in his voice as years later, he continued to tell friends what a good reader his little girl was. From that night forward, my daddy knew that I was smart, and because he knew it, I knew it, too.
You could say “The Saggy Baggy Elephant” matters because it makes use of rhythm and repetition, making it a good book for early readers or that it matters because of how beautifully the illustrations portray the motion and beat of the story. You could say it matters because of its message of being proud to be yourself, rather than conforming to what society thinks you should be. The reason “The Saggy Baggy Elephant” matters to me is because it made me a reader and being a reader made me who I am today.