Note: Started this post mid-January, and all I wrote at the time was “So. Much. Maisy.” The single-minded devotion to Maisy has waned somewhat, and we have a solid rotation of more diverse favorites now, as well as new books from the library on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis.
The Maisy books by Lucy Cousins are certainly a hit in toddler-land, though they’re not most grown-ups’ favorites. However, they’ve got a familiar cast of characters, and the “new experiences” series does its job, though I would much rather read Jabari Jumps than Maisy Goes Swimming.
I briefly shuffled one of her bookshelves around to pack most of the favorites into one shot.
- 13 Words by Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman, otherwise known as “the bird book.” Pair with Fancy Nancy’s Favorite Fancy Words and hope for the best.
- One Woolly Wombat by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent, my own copy from childhood. A counting book (it goes to fourteen) featuring Australian animals.
- A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy, a sweet read for bedtime or anytime.
- Sometimes I Forget You’re A Robot by Sam Brown, the guy behind explodingdog.com, one of the first websites I remember ever visiting. The illustrations look like they were done in MS Paint but they have so much heart. Beep!
- Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer is endlessly hilarious. Kids get to identify animals and make their respective sounds, and grown-ups can appreciate the expressions on George’s mom’s face.
- Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid, a gentle, sea-green tale about a timid boy’s first day of school. Munch, munch!
- Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato was gifted to us by a friend, and it’s a perfect length and tone for quiet time at the end of the day. The illustrations are lush and old-timey, and feeling small in a big world is a familiar feeling to most kids, even if they aren’t a polka-dotted elephant. (I know there are more Little Elliot books but I haven’t read them yet…I’m afraid they won’t be as good.)
- The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat has grown on me with many readings, and now I think I could watch Beekle and Alice find each other every night forever. (An imaginary friend goes in search of the person who’s supposed to dream him up.)
- Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke was another gift from a friend, and THANK YOU. This is one of our all-time favorites, down to the record the troll plays in Julia’s attic (the middle is red, so it must be “Twist and Shout”).
- Sleep Tight Farm we have read less lately, but we read it a lot in late fall and early winter. A nice bedtime read, and easy to abridge as you go if the little one’s attention span doesn’t stretch to all the text. Really lovely.
- A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans is a real softball since we have a greyhound (though, to my knowledge, she’s never seen a groundhog) and loved Chris Appelhans’ illustrations for Jenny Offill’s Sparky! The poem is not as much of a tongue-twister as it seems and the illustrations are so good I sometimes contemplate cutting them out of the book and framing them.
- Where, Bear? by Sophy Henn was another gift (we have generous, book-loving friends). It’s short and sweet, and we like Henn’s Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps too.
- You and Me, Little Bear was yet another gift, and another good bedtime book, as Big Bear and Little Bear do their chores before playtime.
- Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton doesn’t quite have the humor of his other books (e.g. Oh No, George!), and if you can read it without yawning, I’d be impressed (not because it’s boring, but because all of the animals get tired and yawn in turn). After several readings, I noticed that you can follow a little piece of dandelion fluff through the second half of the book and up into the stars. The endpapers are beautiful too, with pictures of the Northern and Southern night sky constellations.
- Hooray for Hat by Brian Won will cheer up anyone who’s grumpy! Some illustrations are done across a double-page-spread in a portrait orientation, so you have to turn the book 90 degrees. Hooray for Today is great too: Owl wants to play with her friends, but they’re asleep when she’s awake, and vice versa.
- Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn was one we read a lot in the fall. Pak’s illustrations evoke the changing seasons in a gorgeous, understated way.
- Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems – there is more beyond Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie! This is a super fun read-aloud with a unique illustration style.
- The Circus Ship has a lovely rhyme scheme and a rather ingenious page spread where all fifteen animals are cleverly camouflaged. She’s just become really interested in this one.
- Harry the Dirty Dog is a classic.
- Surf’s Up! has grown on me a bit, and she’s requested it a lot lately. I like the bright yellows and blues, and of course it’s nice to see a “dude” who would rather read than go surfing, but it isn’t my favorite read-aloud.
- City Moon (not pictured, but we checked it out from the library so often that I ended up buying it recently) is a really perfect bedtime book: a mother takes her young child for a walk around the neighborhood between dinner and bedtime to look for the moon. (See also: Windows by Julia Denos.)
- Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski is a story about how important a child’s most special toy is to them, and what is “real.”
- In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are (not pictured because they were in the other room at the time of this photo, but beloved nonetheless)
So many of the books that have become our favorites were given to us by friends. Some I knew about, but most I’d never heard of, which just goes to show that you CAN give books to a librarian’s kid. And she’ll think you’re great!
And not permanent residents on our shelves, but frequently borrowed from the library:
- Please, Mr. Panda and I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda (but not Thank You, Mr. Panda) by Steve Antony: Mr. Panda believes in manners, baked goods, and a really good deadpan.
- Wolfie the Bunny by Amy Dyckman and Zachariah Ohora is one I initially requested because of the title, and it’s as good as it sounds, with a fun “he’s going to eat us all up!” refrain.
- Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall shows a brave little black boy who’s ready – he thinks – to jump off the diving board. His dad and sister are there to cheer him on, and his dad gives him an out even as he encourages him.
- There Might Be Lobsters fulfills the promise of its great title, as little Sukie overcomes her fear(s) to save Chunka Munka.
- School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson wasn’t a hit with her when I first brought it home, but this time around it clicked. Any book that contains the phrase “nose milk” is worth your time.
- The Way I Feel is really useful to help kids begin to identify and put names to feelings, yet it avoids being didactic…which makes me feel happy.
- Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau: We all liked this one so much we made our own tickle monster for our flannel board.
- A Different Pond is a new and much-lauded (with good reason) story about a family of Vietnamese immigrants. I didn’t actually think she’d sit still for it, but she listened quietly several times through. Gorgeous and important.
- Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky is a wonderful winter read. (How could it not be, when the co-creators of A Greyhound, A Groundhog and Z is for Moose team up?) A curious buffalo, a plush StingRay (“more poetic than factual”), and an enthusiastic and well-read rubber ball named Plastic go out to play in the first snow.
- How Do Dinosaurs…? by Jane Yolen: this whole series is a hit. How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? is great for the dinner table, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? is perfect for bedtime.
What are your toddlers’ favorite picture books? Best read-aloud books? Storytime books? Please share!