Books that read like poetry are my favorite. Especially for my children. Enter this classic book ‘What you know first,’ by Patricia MacLachlan written in 1995, with engravings by Barry Moser. It is one of my unique finds from a trip to our local thrift store. I’m probably one of a handful of moms who consistently patronize and scour thrift stores for rare children’s books and I have been so lucky. In fact, most of the books my children read are from thrift stores. Not only is the price right (you can’t beat children’s book at 50cents-$1), but if you are lucky, will will find rare books, books out of print and books with profound messages for kids like Patricia MacLachlan’s book. What I know first tells the story of a little girl who must leave her beloved home on the praire. The pictures were sublime with words so gentle, so spare, but yet haunting. Saying goodbye to the things she loves on the prairie is tough. Who can blame her when she lives on land where the sky is endless, and the day starts with a rooster crow, with a tall cottonwood tree with leaves that rattle when dry, or an ocean of grass everywhere. Still, even in the midst of the known, even if you must let it go, what you know first stays with you, her father says. Remember that.
Like the little girl, it’s so hard to forget one’s birthplace or the things that help shape or mold you especially during this pandemic of a lifetime. What you know first stays with you. It lingers even when you leave a beloved place, or a beloved thing, or beloved people or a beloved way of life. There are so many reasons why I love this book. Though the circumstances compelling the family’s move are never explained, I can’t help but wonder why leaving or letting go of things makes one feel so sad. As a reader, you are left to fill in the blank as you see fit. That’s truly is the significance of this book.
The touching words, which read like poetry is sterling. The words are also reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s invisible ink with Patricia MacLachan truly inviting her readers to help write every text. What lies under, between, outside the lines and hidden until the right reader discovers it, is admirable. I was completely attuned to the book’s invisible ink when I read it to my kids today, reminding them again, that what they know first, in our home, even during this pandemic homeschooling, will stay with them. Still, I long for them to keep discovering something new, a new world, a new horizon, a new book, even a new version of themselves always. Find ways to carry what you know first, the known world even in the face of the unknown or when the old one seems so beloved, so hard to let go. Keep what you know first. It matters.