Category Archives: books

What we’ve read so far, 2 years 2 months

We have discovered Maisy in a big way recently. A friend’s daughter really loves the Maisy books by Lucy Cousins, and so I thought I’d bring some home from the library to try. And what a hit! So far we’ve read Maisy Goes on Vacation, Maisy Goes to the Movies, Maisy’s Field Day, Maisy Goes on a Plane, Maisy Goes to Preschool, and Maisy Goes to the Library.

Maisy books are a little bit like the Spot books – they introduce new experiences in a gentle, fun way – but they’re more colorful and have more words, and therefore hold up better to more re-reading. What I can’t figure out, though, is if Maisy is supposed to be a kid (as Field Day and Preschool would suggest) or a grown-up (her friend Cyril drives her to the airport and she goes on a plane by herself). The only adult-like figures seem to be tall birds, like the ostrich who hands out snacks at field day and the peacock who reads a story in the library. Does anyone have any insight on this?

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Maisy, The Loud Book and The Quiet Book, If You Give A Pig A Pancake

I also really like The Loud Book and The Quiet Book. There are, after all, many kinds of loud and quiet. Kids probably appreciate The Loud Book at an earlier age, particularly if the adult reader does the proper sound effects.

Stack of books, spines showing

More picture books, and yes, Martha Stewart’s Cookies

Dream team: Ame Dyckman and Zachariah O’Hora’s collaborations are great; Wolfie the Bunny is our favorite, but Horrible Bear! is good for its demonstration of how we can hurt people and things by accident, and apologize and forgive, and Read the Book, Lemmings! is just plain funny.

Beekle author is back: Dan Santat’s new book After the Fall is about what happened to Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall. It’s really beautiful: the toddler liked it because she knew the character from the rhyme, and it made the dad tear up. And Santat teamed up with Mac Barnett for Oh No! Not Again!, a funny story about a girl who thinks the best solution to a wrong answer on her history test is to go back in time and change history so her answer is correct (some people will go really, really far to be right).

Standing on a stool, measuring raisins

Measuring two cups of raisins for oatmeal raisin cookies

Bears: Old Bear is a beautifully illustrated book about the change of seasons; a bear dreams through hibernation and emerges in the spring. A Visitor for Bear is a little on the long side for younger toddlers but there’s plenty of repetition, and the visitor in question (the mouse) keeps popping up in funny places.

Baking: I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda is a favorite, as is Please, Mr. Panda. And speaking of baking, yes, that is Martha Stewart’s Cookies in the pile. I may have mentioned before it has the best table of contents I’ve ever seen – pictures of all the different cookies, organized by type (light and delicate, soft and chewy, etc.).

What books are the kids in your life loving these days?

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What we’ve read so far, 2 years and 1 month

Two years and one month sounds older than 25 months, doesn’t it? Anyway, I choose not to count in months now that we’ve got more than one year under our belts. I wish I’d kept up these “what we’ve read so far” posts with even more regularity, but it’s been a little while since the last one (“What we’ve read so far, 22.5 months”). While we’re at it, I also wish I’d cribbed the title of Nick Hornby’s column in The Believer, “Stuff I’ve Been Reading.” What was I thinking? Who knows – I certainly wasn’t sleeping much when I started these.

We’re still getting big stacks of books from the library regularly, but for this post I thought I’d take a picture of the bookshelves in her room. Even these aren’t the whole picture, because we also have books for her in the living room and dining room and car and scattered pretty much everywhere, but they’re never going to be all in one place. My personal feng shui could be boiled down to “books in every room.”

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On the top shelf, we have the books that PJ Library has sent, some books that are too tall for any of the shelves, and all of our Mo Willems (Pigeon!), Spot, and Winnie-the-Pooh books.

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On the middle shelf are all the big picture books: fairy tales, poetry, Shel Silverstein, and then a mix of books from our own childhoods, books we’ve bought more recently, and books she received as gifts from friends and family. Some people shy away from giving librarians (and their kids) books, but I’ve rarely received a duplicate, and I’ve discovered some great books that were new to me: The Circus Ship; Julia’s House for Lost Creatures; Where, Bear?; Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn; Little Elliot, Big City; Nanette’s Baguette, and more. Thank you to our thoughtful, generous friends!

Some of our newer (i.e. not from our own childhoods) favorites are here: 13 Words; Bark, George!; Z is for Moose; Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot; A Greyhound, A Groundhog; Goodnight, Everyone; Sleep Tight, Farm; and The Adventures of Beekle. And our childhood favorites as well: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, and Sendak-illustrated What Do You Do, Dear? and What Do You Say, Dear?; Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Dear Zoo; One Woolly Wombat; and Once I Ate A Pie.

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On the lowest shelf are the board books, which she still enjoys. There are some good ones to read before bedtime, like Time for Bed, Goodnight Moon, Bedtime for Chickies, and Sweet Dreams, Little Bear. There are some clusters of favorite authors like Chris Haughton and the Chu books by Neil Gaiman; there is our beloved Madeline; there are still a few touch-and-feel and lift-the-flap books; and there is some Dr. Seuss, including One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, which she calls “the counting book” (because of the page where the creature has eleven fingers) or “White Fish Green Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” (if she’s looking at the cover). There’s another box of board books nearby (lots of Sandra Boynton and others).

Some of our favorite books to read at the table are If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, If You Give A Pig A Pancake, and all of the How Do Dinosaurs…? books by Jane Yolen (those are from the library, except How Do Dinosaurs Celebrate Hanukkah?, which is from PJ Library). In the living room we have Lucy Cousins’ Yummy, a gift from a good friend whose daughter loves it too; Mix It Up by Herve Tullet; What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry; and Master-Pieces Flip & Flop, an art book where each portrait is divided into three pieces, so you can have Van Gogh’s hat over Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows and Arcimboldo’s fruit beard (for example).

I do still often switch up the gender from male to female if it’s not attached to a specific character; it’s too easy for the default to be “he/his/him,” and it’s something I am conscious of when we talk about her stuffed animals as well. It felt unnatural and forced at first, but that just proves how ingrained it is.

I’m so glad she loves reading, and reading together; it’s one of my favorite parts of the day. Her memory for books is very good, so sometimes we read fill-in-the-blank style where she says some of the words. Other times, we spend longer looking at the pictures. Even though her shelves are full, she can almost always find the book she wants to read, which means she remembers what the spines look like, too.

She also loves libraries; the one where I work is practically her second home, and when we traveled recently, we visited a different public library four days out of five, and she was always happy to go in and explore. Even though each one is different, they are all familiar, comfortable places.

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First stop on our trip, the excellent public library in Guilford, CT. Here they’re reading The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton (we love King Baby as well).

In addition to reading, she sings a lot (we get the “Twinkle Twinkle/ABCs/Baa Baa Black Sheep” medley frequently), and she’s started to love puzzles. We have a couple beginner puzzles that have four puzzles of 3-5 pieces each in one box, but she has mastered those and lately has been doing a 26-piece wooden jigsaw of animals. Ravensburger, here we come! (And by “we,” I mean her and her dad, because I don’t have the patience for anything over 100 pieces.)

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Playing dress-up.

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Playground!

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Rainy day walk

 

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What we’ve read so far, 22.5 months

Once we hit 21 months, I started to say “She’ll be two in October” instead of the number of months. Plus, it helps me get used to the idea that I have an almost-two-year-old. Her new favorite activities are hopping, walking backward, spinning till she’s dizzy, singing, climbing the second- or third-most advanced thing on any given playground, and having someone lay a blanket perfectly flat on the floor, her crib, or on one of the outdoor chair cushions and then flinging herself onto it. And reading!

Book spines

Some recent favorites are The Pigeon Needs A Bath and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood, Some Bugs and Some Pets by Brendan Wenzel and Angela DiTerlizzi, Blue Chameleon and The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, Rufus Goes to School and Rufus Goes to Sea by Kim Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev. Also pictured above: Mr. Wuffles (which we like more than she does, so far) and What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry (we have fun with the inflection of the title: What do people DO all day? The toddler just wants to see the red car and the purple car).

Other favorites (not pictured) include Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton (of Oh No, George! fame), One Woolly Wombat by Rod Trinca and Kerry Arnett, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke, A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans (illustrator of Sparky!), Dot the Fire Dog by Lisa Desimini, The Good for Nothing Button (part of the “Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series but not actually by Mo Willems), If You Give A Pig A Pancake by Laura Numeroff, and many more.

Toddler in pink helmet on scooter

Edited 9/3/17 to add: She’s also been loving these board books (and the Madeline and Olivia board books); I found Mommy Hugs at the Boston MFA gift shop and Mommy Snuggles and Daddy Dreams (not pictured because she is sleeping with it in her crib right now) at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine. The art is wonderful, and she has learned some new animals (and she thinks it’s hilarious that horses sleep standing up):

Mommy Snuggles and Mommy Hugs

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What we’ve read so far, 20 months

Last weekend, for the first time, Lyra picked up a book, brought it to me, and sat in my lap…and then changed her mind, got up, took the book, sat in her little chair, and read it herself. The book was Hug by Jez Alborough, so there are only three words (hug, Mommy, and Bobo), but she turned the pages herself and said the right words at the right pages. Of course she is not actually reading, but it’s a definite pre-literacy step and very exciting!

Hug by Jez Alborough

She also participates in reading now by saying the parts she knows along with us: my favorite example of this is Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. We say, “What will George do?” and she says, “Oh no George!” And she knows what’s under each of the flaps in the Spot lift-the-flap books, which was a little surprising the first time.

Oh No George by Chris Haughton

We’ve also started reading to her during mealtimes. Some (most?) people would say reading at the table is poor manners, but I think it is perfectly civilized.

Some of her recent favorites are:Some Bugs

  • Some Bugs, words by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel
  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal
  • Be A Baby by Sarah Withrow, illustrated by Manuel Monroy
  • Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
  • Carl’s Birthday by Alexandra Day
  • The Duckling Gets A Cookie?! by Mo Willems
  • A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans (the illustrator of Sparky! by Jenny Offill)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Please, Mr. Panda and I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

She’s been into music more lately as well; she especially loves listening to the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout” on the record player (vinyl only; iTunes need not apply), though she calls it “ABCs” (??). She will dance around with her two shaker eggs, and her parents are each assigned their respective instruments as well. She has tried to get the dog to dance and play and instrument too, but the dog is, unsurprisingly, not interested.

She has started to sing along to songs she knows; she’s been doing the “EIEIO” part of “Old MacDonald” and the animal sounds for a while, but she’s started to sing “Old Shoes, New Shoes” and “Tap Tap” (songs she brought home from daycare). One of her first sentences was “Yaya purple shoes” – it’s lacking a verb, but you get the point.

In the car she will look through board books or draw on her mini-Magna-Doodle, and she asks for “baby music,” which is what I call the CDs I’ve made her (mostly Caspar Babypants, but some Sesame Street, Raffi, and They Might Be Giants songs). I’m trying to get her to come around to the Beauty & the Beast soundtrack, but so far she still prefers CPB.

The most recent exciting development is not reading related – she has started to jump! Mostly she likes to jump off things, like our stepstool, but two feet definitely left the ground at once at the playground yesterday.

“What does a bunny do?”
“Hop hop!”

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What we’ve read so far, 17.5 months

Our little toddler still loves books, which is gratifying (and a huge relief to her librarian mama). She will look at board books on her own, and we read those and regular picture books together; she’s getting very good at turning the picture book pages carefully, if the adult reader separates one from the next.

Recent favorites are:

  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Chu’s Day, Chu’s Day at the Beach, and Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
  • Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
  • Foodie Babies Wear Bibs by Michelle Sinclair Colman and Nathalie Dion
  • The Spot books by Eric Hill (Spot’s First Walk, Where’s Spot?, Spot Goes to the Farm, Spot Goes to School, etc.)

As we were reading I Want My Hat Back for the fourth time this afternoon, the summary on the title page caught my eye: “A bear almost gives up his search for his missing hat until he remembers something important.” (For the real cataloging nerds: The Library of Congress Subject Headings for the book are: 1. Bears — Fiction. 2. Hats — Fiction. 3. Lost and found possessions — Fiction. There is nothing about revenge or eating your enemies…though I am certain there are LCSH for those too.)

Here are some other picture book summaries:

  • “A young elephant sees his dad is in a bad mood and tries to cheer him up, not realizing his own mischief caused the bad mood in the first place.” –How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
  • “On the first day of school, a young panda learns about the the special things his animal classmates can do.” –Chu’s First Day of School
  • “A monster tries to chomp any reader who wants to go past the first page of the book in order to keep his cakes safe.” –I Will Chomp You by Jory John and Bob Shea

The kid isn’t interested in the summaries, of course – she’s interested in giant fake sneezes. AHHH….AHHHHH…AHHHHCHOOOOOOO!

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Reading Oliver and His Alligator

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Reading a board book version of the song “Ten in the Bed”

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Feeling the kitten’s soft fur

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The Book of Dust

Compass in hand, pointing north

Earlier this month – the week of my birthday, in fact – I learned that Philip Pullman is writing a new trilogy, The Book of Dust. The first of the three books will be published on October 19 – my Lyra’s birthday. Naturally I am over-the-moon excited about this.

A few friends and fellow librarians asked if I was going to write to the author (or his publicist), and I thought sure, why not, and then I remembered he was on Twitter. And then this happened:

Twitter screenshot of Philip Pullman's announcement of The Book of Dust and our exchange that followed

“Give my pre-emptive birthday greetings to Lyra!” This is definitely going in the scrapbook.

(Also, I cannot believe it didn’t occur to me to look up who else shared her birthday until she was already over a year old.)

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What we’ve read so far, 16 months

This post is long overdue! We have been reading, of course, I just haven’t documented it here (the last post was around 13 months). Now, if we ask if she wants to read a book, she’ll choose one, bring it over, turn around, and plop herself onto one of our laps, ready for storytime. It is the best.

I was very excited for Chris Haughton’s new book, Goodnight Everyone, but while I liked it very much, Lyra wasn’t nearly as interested as she was in his three previous books (Oh No, George!, Little Owl Lost, and Shh! We Have A Plan). It’s only in hardcover now, so perhaps when/if if comes out as a board book, she’ll like it more.

Cover image of Jamberry by Bruce DegenJamberry must be read at top speed; we pause only on one particular page so she can point to the bear’s hat filled with berries.

Lots of kids’ books feature animals:

Dinosaurs! We like I Dreamt I Was A Dinosaur and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

Wombats! We’ve read my childhood copy of One Woolly Wombat so many times I have it memorized. She likes to point at the kangaroo’s necklace because Grandma has one like that.

Chickies! Our cousins sent us a copy of Bedtime for Chickies by Janee Trasler and Lyra loves it. This is another one she wants to race through, like Jamberry.

Wolves! We found a book that is exactly halfway between I Am the Wolf…And Here I Come! and Herve Tullet’s Press Here: it’s called Help! The Wolf is Coming! I read both wolf books to Lyra’s daycare class and all the kids loved them (there were many encore readings).

Dogs! Not all dogs, just Spot, from Where’s Spot? fame – she likes lifting the flaps. Although we actually have a real live dog in the house, Lyra still hasn’t said “dog”; her first animal word was “owl.”

Owls! We’ve given Wow! Said the Owl a little break, but are enjoying illustrator Tim Hopgood’s version of What A Wonderful World. We tried Olivia Loves Owl, which I think is cute but Lyra doesn’t care for (at least right now. Tastes change quickly…).

Blue Horse I, 1911, Franz Marc

Blue Horse I, Franz Marc

In the past week, she has developed an intense attachment to Eric Carle’s The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse, and will listen to it over (and over, and over) again. Baby’s first book about degenerate art!

Maurice Sendak is not a classic for nothing: she loves In the Night Kitchen and has started to ask for Where the Wild Things Are, and she still enjoys the Nutshell Library, though most of the appeal is being able to take the tiny book jackets off.

We also still like some Sandra Boynton board books, particularly the Belly Button Book and Tickle Time. Sometimes we’ll reach the end of these and she’ll immediately sign for “more” to read it again.

In addition to books, we’ve been listening to (and dancing to, and playing) lots of music: Sesame Street Platinum All-Time Favorites, some Raffi, They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science, and Caspar Babypants (Hot Dog!, Away We Go!, Beatles Baby and Baby Beatles!, I Found You!, etc.). Lyra will sign “please” and “more” and point to the music setup when she wants music, or will nod enthusiastically when I ask her. (It’s one big dramatic, emphatic nod: chin waaaaaay up so all you can see is cheeks…wait…wait…wait…down!) She’s also started saying “Yeah!”

What are your favorite books and music for toddlers?

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