The dictionary defines "curious" as "having a desire to investigate and learn." I think that pretty much describes all of us. In early childhood, for example, children are curious about everything, eager to harness information about the world around them. If people weren't curious, we couldn't progress very far at all. It is the unquenchable desire to know and seek answers that drives us forward.

No matter how old we get, there will always be endless questions that need answers. We can open those floodgates for a lifetime of discovery by helping children to find the answers to their questions when they are young. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and if children can trust in that, learning and education will be exciting and fun rather than a hardship.

There are countless ways we help children nurture and sustain the curiosity they are born with - answering their questions (even if it means 20 times), making time to explore the world from a child's point of view, talking with children, and reading books together on all kinds of subjects.

In the words of the famous German philosopher, Goethe, "Be always resolute with the present hour. Each moment is of infinite value."

Books to Borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

"The Hundred Dresses" by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, Harcourt, 96 pages

Read aloud: age 6 and older.

Read yourself: age 8 and older.

Wanda wore the same faded blue dress to school every day. She had no friends, but Peggy and Maddie talked to her every day, teasing her with the same question, "How many dresses did you say you had hanging up in your closet?" Wanda's reply is always the same, "A hundred, all lined up." Peggy and Maddie would roar with laughter, for it was obvious Wanda only owned one dress. They repeated the same nasty game over and over. Then one day, Wanda didn't come to school anymore.

First published in 1944, "The Hundred Dresses" has been a classic for over sixty years, and for good reason. Filled with multiple messages about bullying, hurt, compassion and forgiveness, this timeless and important book should be required reading.

Librarian's Choice

Library: Jefferson County Public Library, 420 West Main St., Madison

Library Director: Brent Stokesberry

Children's Librarian: Kara Pettey

Choices this week: "I, Crocodile" by Frank Marcellino; "Fast Food" by Saxton Freymann; "The Thief Lord" by Cornelia Funke

Books to Buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

"Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron" by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering, Candlewick, 2013, 170 pages, $16.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 8 and older.

Read yourself: age 10 and older.

In 1797 there had been reports of a wild, naked boy roaming the mountains in southern France. This fascinated the residents in the nearby village of Lacaune. One year later, the boy was captured. His once solitary life was never to be the same again.

Word spread about the Savage of Aveyron, and soon he was sent to one large town after another to be studied, and was typically sheltered in orphanages. The boy was eventually given a name-Victor. There were some who were Victor's champions and tried for years to teach him how to speak, become educated and civilized, and live among other humans, namely Dr. Itard and Madame Guérin. But despite Victor's great fondness to these two who had done so much for him, his intense love of the outdoors and wind and rain never ceased.

A fascinating, captivating true story that brims with compassion, readers will hang on every word of this seamlessly written book.

"Princesses on the Run" written and illustrated by Smiljana Coh, Running Press, 2013, 40 pages, $15.95 hardcover

Read aloud: age 3 - 4 and older.

Read yourself: age 7 - 8.

Princess Antonia appears to have everything she could possibly want, but she is bored. One day it occurred to her to run away, and as she ran through the forest her other princess friends joined in the fun. It was such a life altering experience for them all that their days of being princesses were never the same again.

A clever twist on princess stories, this selection is terrific.



Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at her website: www.greatestbooksforkids.com.