Commonplace Book

People once kept commonplace books – personal, portable anthologies of favorite quotations. Today, the “Favorite Quotations” section on Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple CrayonFacebook offers a brief, public version of the commonplace book. This practice has, I think, mostly faded. At any rate, here are ten quotations that would be in my commonplace book.

But, luckily, he kept his wits and his purple crayon.
– Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
– often attributed to Groucho Marx

Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.
– Julius Erving, as quoted by David Halberstam, in Clyde Haberman, “David Halberstam, 73, Reporter and Author, Dies,” New York Times, 24 Apr. 2007

Jay-Z, Black Album

This is the life that I chose or, rather, the life that chose me.
– Jay-Z, “December 4th,” The Black Album (2003)

It’s like Duke Ellington said, there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. And you can tell when something is good.
– Ray Charles

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
– Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (1957), p. 15

UNLESS someone like youDr. Seuss, The Lorax
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.
– Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971)

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
– Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–” (c. 1868), in Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson’s Poems, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (1954), p. 248

Nobody’s perfect.
– spoken by Joe E. Brown, Some Like It Hot (1959, dir. Billy Wilder), screenplay by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen, “Anthem,” The Future (1992)

I do like resonant quotations. I think I will do a “commonplace book” post in the future featuring only quotations from children’s literature. I suspect that this has already been done on other children’s lit blogs, but of course commonplace books are personal, idiosyncratic endeavors. So, even if it’s been done before (and I’m sure it has been), my children’s literature commonplace book will at least be different, eh?


  1. Suzanne


    One of my favorite quotations from children’s literature:

    “It is not often someone comes along that is a true friend and good writer. Charlotte was both.” (E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web)

  2. Reply

    I concur with Suzanne. In fact, I was thinking about this VERY quote from Charlotte’s Web this morning before I got out of bed.

  3. Reply

    They say there is a lot of truth in jest, maybe that’s why i love the following quotation from Louis Sachar’s Wayside School is Falling Down:

    “Everybody in Mrs. Jewls’s class thought she was a very nice teacher.
    They were wrong. There is no such thing as a nice teacher.
    If you think you have a nice teacher, then you are wrong too.
    Inside every nice teacher there is a mean and rotten teacher bursting to get out. The nicer the teacher is on the outside, the meaner the teacher inside is.”

    I also love the first line from The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker:
    “I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot.”

  4. Pingback: Fusenews: Too bad his duck is so crazy « A Fuse #8 Production

  5. Reply

    I have a commonplace Word document…

    “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally — and often far more — worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
    – C.S. Lewis

  6. Lee Phillips


    “George promised to be good. But it is easy for little monkeys to forget.”
    –Margret and H. A. Rey, Curious George
    (Will quoted this about our children. More than once.)

    “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seems very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”
    –A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

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