In a gallery I recently saw the work of Hilda Robinson. Her vibrant, impressionistic oil pastels totally captivated me. Her paintings are collected into the picture book, Didn’t We Have Fun!  The book is published by Crickhollow Books (2012) with text written by Jeff Kunkel.

The book invites you into the world of Robinson’s childhood. The place is Philadelphia, probably during the late 1940’s. It is a time before television and computers. Family life, reading, radio, movies, picnics and church are the sources of Robinson’s pleasure and delight.

Her world is that of a large African-American family and a tight-knit urban community. In this world there is love, respect, self-worth, fun, and beauty. There is hard work too and the picture of her mother asleep after a long day is unforgettably touching. At the end, Robinson says of her childhood (by way of Kunkel’s text) that they didn’t have a car or much money, but “we had parents who loved us, a good home, plenty to eat, . . . . Best of all, we had each other.” Her colorful, lively paintings beautifully illustrate and celebrate this life.

Each of the paintings is accompanied by a page or two of text. The text is direct, with short paragraphs, and easy to read aloud. It describes the activity shown in the picture and often expands on it, filling in the reader on such things as the games children played, listening to the radio when Joe Louis boxed, going to the park and church life. Some of the sections are: The Six of Us, Home in Philly, All Dressed Up, Homework, Cuddling, The Park, Church, Rollerskating.

Didn’t We Have Fun! is appropriate for children 4 to 8. I think you and your children will enjoy spending time in this lovely book. Saying that it is educational is an obvious reason for reading the book; it depicts a different time and perhaps a different culture than what your children now experience. But I think it is the energy and joy in the pictures that will keep you and your child wanting to look at and read the story again and again. Who knows, but Didn’t We Have Fun! might provoke a conversation with your child about your childhood and the kind of fun you had.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.