One Big Pair of Underwear
by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Add ONE big pair of underwear to TWO big bears who hate to share, and what do you get? A little math, and a lot of laughs!
Guest Post by Author Laura Gehl
I’m writing this post in the hospital waiting room, as my mom recovers from spinal surgery. Because I am thinking about my mom, I am also thinking about the stories of my childhood.
Many of my favorite childhood picture books went on to become favorite books of my own children.
These include I Am a Bunny by Ole Risson, A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban, What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Gregory, the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat, and The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble.
And my favorite chapter books, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, the Gordon Korman McDonald Hall books, and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series have also been a big hit with my own kids.
Since my parents are both professors and voracious readers (although my mom now prefers to listen to books on CD), it is no surprise that our house was filled with books. I remember countless trips to the library, and less frequent but extremely exciting trips to the bookstore to actually buy books. On a family vacation in
England, I was able to acquire a whole series of Enid Blyton books that were not available in the U.S. I read every one of those Enid Blyton books at least twenty times. In fact, I reread one of them again yesterday.
What is more surprising is that my mom didn’t just read me stories. She also made up stories. While my mom is an excellent writer, her writing is academic, and I think people would describe her as intelligent, forceful, perceptive, analytical, and knowledgeable, rather than creative. Yet one of my best childhood memories is lying in bed, listening to stories about “the littlest fairy.” For example, there was the time the other fairies said the littlest fairy couldn’t go to the 4th of July fireworks because she was … you guessed it … too little. But the littlest fairy hid in the picnic basket and got to see the fireworks anyway. Take that, big fairies.
Years later, my mom told me she made up these stories so I wouldn’t feel bad about being little. The funny thing is, I have absolutely no memory of ever feeling too small (I grew to the short side of average by age 10), but I have lots of memories of the littlest fairy and her adventures.
While my mom has never written any fiction, or even creative nonfiction, and the papers my dad writes are primarily mathematical equations, my brother and I both grew up to be creative writers of both fiction and nonfiction. Maybe those littlest fairy stories played a part. I think so.
I know all of you read to your kids every day. But for you parents out there who are not writers, and who do not think of yourselves as creative… I challenge you to make up stories for your kids. Your stories don’t have to be publishable. They don’t even have to be good. Your stories just have to send the message that being creative is for everyone, that making up stories is for everyone. No matter how bad your stories are from an objective viewpoint, your kids will think you are amazing. My mom sure is.
Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, which released from Simon & Schuster in September 2014, and four other upcoming picture books. She regularly makes up objectively-bad-but-much-loved bedtime stories for her own kids, most recently a number of stories about a penguin named Waddles and his best friend, a puffin named Albert. Visit Laura online at www.lauragehl.com and www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraGehl.
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