Friday, February 17, 2012

Dear Favorite Picture Books

Dear Favorite Picture Books,

You have been an integral part of my life for over eight years.  We have accrued massive amounts of children's books, from board books to picture books to chapter books.  Books are the one things that we rarely say no to when the kids ask to buy them.  We share that trait as a family: our love for books.

We started reading to Dear Daughter when she was 3-months-old.  She was flipping board book pages at 6 months of age.  By age three, she was reading reciting entire Charlie and Lola books -- her favorites at the time -- from memory.  (It's amazing what little brains can accomplish.)  When Dear Son came along, Daddy took over bedtime stories duty with DD, and continued to feed her the joy of listening to stories.  After she learned how to read, the pair of them would still read together on her bed, each with his and her own book, every single night.

I didn't start reading to Dear Son until he was around 9-months-old.  He just was not that interested in cardboard-like objects with some pictures and scribbles on them before then, since 'getting to places' seemed much more appealing for my ever-moving child.  But since it started, it hasn't stopped.  Every. Single. Night.  I have a love-hate relationship with bedtime stories.  In the hour leading up to the kids' bedtime, there is nothing more I want than for them to BE ASLEEP.  Yet I know that there is no escaping those few books before DS goes to bed.  I have read some books so many times that even I can recite entire books with my eyes closed.  Seriously.  Pinkalicious cannot eat one more pink cupcake, and Pigeon can just stop pestering me about driving that bus.

So I took at glance at all our picture books, and compiled a Top Ten list of my favorites.  Not the kids' favorites, since I have limited affinity towards superhero and Pokemon books.  Each time I read these books, I find great comfort in knowing that those words and pictures not only enlighten children, but also tickle the hearts of the kids in us grownups.

10. Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boyton.  This is one of the first books we read to both kiddos.  They always laughed at the way I said 'ooops', and it was a wonderful journey on my part to observe when the kiddos really understood the humor of the book.  It requires knowledge of colors, names of clothing, differences, and the concept of irony to 'get it'.  And this book was a great way to teach all of those things.  The turkey is different and unique, but we love him all the same.  #sillyturkey

9. The Hidden Alphabet and Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Viccaro Seeger.  These are not your ordinary 2-D books.  These flip-books are visually stunning.  Seeger's ingenious die-cut illustrations make learning the alphabet and colors fun and exciting.  Best of all, the grownup reading it will not bore easily.  I just looked at her newest book, One Boy, and that one looks like a winner, too!  #forvisuallearners

8. Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! by David M. McPhail.  We got this book for DD when she was in her 'pig' phase.  Hilarious story and illustrations with amusing rhymes make this book a perfect bedtime story.  Unless you dream about hungry, messy, and plentiful pigs in your house!  #idreamofbacon

7. Olivia by Ian Falconer.  Another pig book for DD, although she probably cannot appreciate it as much as I do.  You see, DD's favorite color as a toddler was red.  I had to 'move the cat' on a daily basis (back when ours was alive and fat).  And the bedtime storybook bargaining conversation is so spot-on I cannot help but sigh with resignation each time I read it.  And by God, my children WEAR ME OUT.  #reallyforgrownups

6. Duck and Goose by Tad Hills.  I love the simple and endearing illustrations of Duck and Goose in this book; some of their expressions are priceles!  The juvenile bickering sounds a little too familiar to what parents get to hear on a daily basis, so reading it to children almost seems like poetic justice.  This story of how two poultry friends learn to get along is tender and heartwarming.  #backpeddlingcontest

5. Mouse Mess by Linnea Asplind Riley.  This book features awesome rhymes and great storytelling by a little mouse who rummages through a kitchen at night.  The action is so vivid that you can almost hear the crackling sound of corn flakes and feel the warm water soaking between your own toes.  #iwanttobethatmouse

4. I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed by Lauren Child.  This one from the Charlie and Lola series is one of my favorite.  I love reading this book with my not-quite-perfect British accent as I imitate its cartoon characters, complete with Charlie's ever-so-patient pleading and Lola's ever-so-clever whining.  #siblingloverocks

3. My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza.  The ultimate book of irony, this book keeps me laughing each and every time I read it.  A pig tricks a fox into feeding him, bathing him, and massaging him, and he gets to take dessert home.  I love this book as much as I love watching my kiddos act out the scenes between the piglet and Mr. Fox, complete with finger massaging action and belly-giggles.  #outsmartingthebully

2. A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker.  The persistent and clever way a mouse wins his way into stubborn Bear's heart is melodramatic yet brilliant.  I read Bear's dramatic exclamations, "Begone!" "Vamoose!" and "Impossible, insufferable, and intolerable" as theatrical and expressive as possible, which means I'm always holding back from giggling myself.  The three subsequent books about Bear and Mouse by Becker are just as wonderful.  #iliketwolumpsofsugartoo

1. Someday by Alison McGhee.  Truthfully, I don't think this is a book for children, but rather, a book for moms with little girls.  The words and pictures of the book can literally make eyes well up with tears on cue.  My Dear Husband gave this book to me (to read to DD) a few years ago.  After welling up on cue, the note DH wrote at the end of the book to me turned me into a slobbery mess.  #wheresthekleenx

Each night, when we bargain decide on how many books to read, I keep reminding myself how important this is.  I know that reading and repetition are vital to early skills in literacy.  They are vital to future skills in literacy.  I have no doubt that all that reading we did is part of why DD's reading level is where it is.  Thus is why I schlep along every night and try to cure Hiccupotamus, make sure Kitten finds her bowl of milk in the light of the full moon, and sing in syncopated rhythm about my fingers and thumbs.

So, Favorite Picture Books, on nights that take every ounce of will and energy I can muster to verbalize a few books, you are what keeps me going.  Thank you for keeping our bedtime stories alive and well with wit, humor, rhymes, excitement, drama, theatrics, and most of all, the beginning to a lifelong love of reading.



  1. Well, it looks like i need to go on Amazon tonight!!!

  2. Helen, I also got some great recommendations on FB comments, and I found some of those at the library. Love great book finds!

  3. Thanks for your great efforts on sharing these children's books review. I'll get some of those your recommened top-10 and begin to develop a bed-time story telling routine with my son. He is too much into toy cars. Once I tried to read him a story about dinosaurs, he lost his patience after the 1st page and turned back to play his police car, tow truck, etc. Quite frustrating!

    1. Bedtime stories are really wonderful for children. It not only is a great kick starter for reading awareness, but also a great time shared by parents and children. Dear Son will not go to bed unless I read at least two books to him. EVERY NIGHT. But have patience and keep trying to get him interested in books. Any pictures, in Chinese as well, will work. Maybe find books on toy cars! He will learn to love reading in time. Good luck!