Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Tis the Season

Winter is here, as Marsha Q. reminds us, and I need to get cracking. My little boy’s birthday falls 5 days after Christmas, and given his large number of adoring relatives, that will mean an influx of presents. What he needs, really, is books—it’s getting to be time to put the board books away but that will seriously cut down on our nighttime selection, and while he’d be happy to hear the same five books every night, Mommy does like variety.

So, I’d love some suggestions of books to put on his list. The Hamline required reading list provided a nice guide for us to start building his library, and I’m please to say that he could now make pretty good headway into his annotated bibliography, if only he knew how to write. It’s fun to see him take to books like Make Way for Ducklings, The Snowy Day, and Madeline (Tonight I asked him if he wanted Where the Wild Things Are and he responded, very cheerfully, “No, it’s too scary!”)

I write novels because picture books are too hard, and watching what this almost-three-year-old takes to is an education for me. I’ve noticed how much he responds to language—both playful (Phyllis Root is definitely his favorite author) and lyrical, like On the Day You Were Born and The House in the Night. Unlike Ron’s garbage man, he’s not above a good llama/mama rhyme. Other favorites include Punk Farm (ask him what a cow says and he’ll reply with great convictions, “Boom, crash!”) The Best Pet of All, and Officer Buckle and Gloria.

The darker side of his library includes a vast number of Blue’s Clues books—I vaguely considered doing a lecture next residency on bad sentences using just these. We keep accruing more because we get so sick of the one’s we have. Somewhere, there’s a flaw in our logic but I can’t quite find it.

So, what other books should we have? We have to wait ‘til summer, after all, for One Pup’s Up.


  1. Hi Anne: My daughter is now five, and several of your family's favorites have also been ours. I recommend the Click Clack Moo series, Bubble Bath Pirates, and One Nighttime Sea. The Scaredy Squirrel books are hilarious (Melanie Watt's other books, like Augustine, are also delightful.) Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock. Just this week we picked up Put It on the List! by Kristen Darbyshire and giggled through it.

    Laurie Amster-Burton

  2. Ooh, what fun. I'll bet his favorite books will be yours, but until then...

    The Hamline list suggests that the "Frog and Toad" series is for 5 and up, but I think littler kids can appreciate them too.

    We like Mike Mulligan, which appears on the Hamline list, too. Virginia Lee Burton wrote several other, similarly nostalgic books about technological change. Our 3-year-old loves _Katy and the Big Snow_ and _This Little House_.

    (Oh, and thinking about VL Burton, reminds me that Margaret Wise Brown also wrote _Red Light, Green Light_, with eerily post-apocalyptic illustrations. Maybe not a title you'll want to own, but fun to check out at the library.)

    For train lovers: Bill Peet's _The Caboose Who Got Loose_ is a fun read. Also addictive: Margaret Wise Brown's _Two Little Trains_. (We have the 2001 version, with updated illustrations.) This week, we fell in love with Kurt Cyrus's _Slow Train to Oxmox_, which is unfortunately out of print, but which should be in the library.

    In the category of clever wordless, or near-wordless, picture books for the preschool set, check out David Weisner (_Tuesday_,_Sector 7_, _Flotsam_, _Hurricane_). We're also big fans of everything by Barbara Lehman (_Trainstop_, _Museum Trip_, _Rainstorm_, _The Red Book_.)

    Finally, as a family of vegetarians, you can't go wrong with _The Tawny, Scrawny Lion_!

  3. Two oldies-but-greaties: The Friendly Book by Margaret Wise Brown and A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman (though you may want to skip the uncomfortable "An igloo's a house for an Eskimo" page. I always did.)

  4. Anne, my daughter's almost three too. I just cleansed the shelf of books that I don't still love after reading them to my son for 4-6 years. Here are some that made the cut. Truck books: Road Builders by B.G. Hennessy, Monster Trucks by Mark Todd (poetry). Non-truck-related poetry: Today at the Bluebird Cafe by Deborah Ruddell (bird-inspired poems, very funny), Come to My Party by Heidi B. Roemer (poems organized by season, and each one is in a related visual shape. i.e. a poem about Thanksgiving where the words form a piece of pie) Fiction: Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty, Pest Fest by Julia Durango, The Lion's Share by Matthew McElligott, Nonfiction: Four Seasons Make a Year by Anne Rockwell, Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman, Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre, Steve Jenkins books in general

  5. Such a delicious place to be in life, Anne.
    We loved books by Janet and Allan Ahlberg(Each Peach Pear Plum and others); The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown; The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer (a common picture book for the January residency); Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say it Again, rhymes by Clyde and Wendy Watson; a Christmas classic, Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry; and sample current fare such as Kevin Henkes' Kitten's First Full Moon, A Good Day, Old Bear; Dog and Bear by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; and Otis (a tractor) by Loren Long.