Category Archives: books

What we’ve read so far, 2 years 9 months

Early readersWe’ve delved into early readers with Little Bear and Frog and Toad, but we are still reading picture books by the ton. Just this evening as I was working in the children’s department at the library, I got to have a valuable conversation with the mother of two young boys. Her older one was already reading by himself, but “still likes to be read to.” I said, “That is great! You should read to him as long as he likes it.”

I went on to explain that picture books often have a much more complex vocabulary than early readers, because the authors expect that picture books will be read aloud by a fluent reader (adult or otherwise) to a child. Young children can comprehend a great deal, but when they are just beginning to read, they need smaller, easier words, and shorter, less complex sentences. Thus, we have early readers – but, it is still wonderful to be read to, whether that’s picture books or beginning chapter books or both. Plus, reading together creates a warm, comforting atmosphere and positive associations with books and reading.

It’s also important for kids to see their parents and role models reading, so think about family reading time, where everyone reads their own book for a while. (E-books are great, but smartphones and other devices are opaque; you could be doing anything on there, and whoever you’re with won’t know if you’re reading a book or playing a game. For family reading time, read a print book, magazine, or newspaper if you can.)

And don’t forget (or look down on) graphic novels! Visual literacy is an important skill, one that young readers start developing with picture books and continue to develop with comics and graphic novels. Speaking of picture books, here are a few we have been reading and enjoying lately:Cover image, Julian is a Mermaid

  • Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Tidy by Emily Gravett
  • This Is How We Do It, Matt Lamothe
  • Museum ABC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Max and Bird by Ed Vere

And if you’re looking for especially good read-aloud books, I wrote about my first summer storytime on my other blog. I got to read some of my favorite books and it was a great success! What have you been reading lately?

Kid and dad reading in library

 

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What we’ve read so far, 2 years 8 months

This month we’ve been getting out several books by a few authors. I don’t remember having a lot of awareness, when I was really little, that authors and illustrators created books, and that if I liked one of theirs, I should search out the others – not until grade school at least.

But with this awareness, I can choose batches of books to bring home and we can enjoy the creations of Molly Idle, Il Sung Na, Kaya Doi, Anna Dewdney, Greg Foley, Zachariah Ohora, and Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak.

Pictured above:
Chirri & Chirra by Kaya Doi
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah Ohora
Thank You Bear by Greg Foley
Little Bear’s Visit by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Flora & the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney
The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na

Now that she has the patience, attention, and interest to sit through some of the longer books, we might try Frog & Toad too – some friends have been telling us about it for ages. I hadn’t picked it up yet because I remember being dead bored by the Wind in the Willows as a kid, but it turns out that they are two separate things and I only conflated them in my mind. Sorry, Arthur Lobel! And anyway – every book its reader, every reader their book.

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Signed up for summer reading at the library!

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What we’ve read so far, 2 years 7 months

Stack of picture books

We are hooked on picture books. Exhibit A: friends’ kids know that our house is the one where we read at the table. Exhibit B: when we found a bookshelf on the street and brought it home, we immediately filled all four shelves with library books.

This month I brought home a trio of penguin books: One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo (illustrated by David Small), Penguin by Polly Dunbar (of Flyaway Katie), and perhaps the most (in)famous penguin picture book of all, And Tango Makes Three.

Picture books on green bookshelfWe’re also delving into some more nonfiction with Kevin McCloskey’s “giggle and learn” books for Toon. They’re full of fun facts and great humor; we’ve enjoyed The Real Poop on Pigeons in the past, and now we have Snails Are Just My Speed! and Something’s Fishy.

She loves all of Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama books, as well as Roly Poly Pangolin and Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too. (Funny note about Roly Poly Pangolin: she checked this out with her dad one day while I was at work, and when she asked me to read it when I got home, I thought she was just pronouncing “penguin” oddly, like Benedict Cumberbatch. Nope! Pangolins are real animals.)

We also like Pout Pout Fish a lot, and Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t), which has – let’s be fancy – an in-text citation to Shrek (the book, not the movie).

The newest books from Brendan Wenzel (Hello Hello) and Mo Willems (A Busy Creature’s Day Eating) have also been hits – the latter made my mom laugh out loud twice the first time she read it, which is no small thing.

My former co-worker suggested Neither by Airlie Anderson, which we all like. In the Land of This and That, a creature hatches which is neither this nor that. Excluded, it leaves for “elsewhere” and finds the Land of All.

Lastly, as the bedtime routine sometimes drags a little later than the grown-ups would like (first she doesn’t want to get in the bath…then she doesn’t want to get out of the bath…then she wants one more story…), we’ve been reading poems from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. The perfect length for a “one more” compromise, or for resetting a grumpy mood any time of the day. I like the one about the early bird and the worm; she likes “Pancakes.” Llama Llama Red Pajama and Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue (illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski) are also bedtime favorites.

Previously: What we’ve read so far, two and a half

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What we’ve read so far, two and a half

I regularly have nearly thirty library books checked out on my card, and more of them are picture books than not. Below is a sample stack of ten, including some favorites (There Might Be Lobsters; Some Bugs). Often I choose books based on reviews, other librarians’ recommendations, or new books by known author/illustrators, but serendipity plays a role: for example, Ben found Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? because he was looking for Bob Shea books, and so we discovered Susan Shea.

Stack of ten library books

L likes to pick books from the paperback bins at the library (there are a lot of Arthur books there), and she still loves Maisy. She can identify every letter of the alphabet now, as long as it’s in uppercase and a reasonably clear font – elaborate serifs can trip her up. But she can spell out most titles and words, which is so exciting!

A few other books she’s liked a lot recently:

  • The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman was a million times better than I expected it to be. (True, my expectations for overtly religious-themed books are low, but this one is absolutely fabulous.) It’s funny, full of Yiddish, perfect for relatives to read aloud at the holiday, and I love the slight, fresh twist at the end.
  • Do Cows Meow? by Selina Soon is a simple lift-the-flap book that one of the children’s librarians I admire most recommended, so I brought it home. It’s bright and engaging and has storytime star quality written all over it.
  • Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker by Jessica Ahlberg is a wonderful peek at many classic fairy tales – older kids, who are more familiar with them all (Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) will enjoy it too, and it has clever cutout elements.
  • Speaking of “The Three Little Pigs,” Huff & Puff by Claudie Rueda is a non-traumatic retelling of the tale, perfect for storytime for the little ones.
  • When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes explains spring to those too young to remember the previous year’s change of seasons. I especially like the line “[Spring] changes its mind a lot,” accompanied by a picture of a daffodil under snow.
  • Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar is delightful – another one I’ll be using at storytime as well as at home. It’ll brighten up any day you’re feeling gray.Book cover of Henry & Leo
  • Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski is magical. This came to us by way of a friend, who found it in a bookstore remainder bin, and we promptly bought another copy to gift to someone else. “I guess we can never really know what makes one particular toy more special than another…” but Leo is definitely special.
  • Likewise, Journey, Quest, and Return by Aaron Becker, which I’ve loved since first laying eyes on Journey, are a trio of wordless picture books that tap into the essence of childhood fantasy: a Harold And the Purple Crayon-esque entry into another world, full of adventure, imagination, importance, and wonder.

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What we’ve read so far, two years and four-ish months

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.

Bookshelf of picture books, spines out

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!

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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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