An easy way for me to get a “yay” from the boys is to pick out The Maggie B. as their bedtime story. A little girl begins the book by wishing on a star:
North Star, star of the sea,
I wish for a ship
Named after me,
To sail for a day
Alone and free,
With someone nice
When she wakes up, she finds that she is “in the cabin of her own ship” and spends the day joyfully taking care of the ship and her “dear baby” brother (the nice company). This book is always a favorite. Both the words and the pictures are scrumptious and story is a perfect mix of the fantastic and the matter-of-fact. (My youngest also enjoys the counting rhyme that ends with a nibbled little finger.) I was lucky to find this book through raves on other sites (one look at the pictures and I was hooked) where the word that came up over and over to describe it was “cozy.” I completely agree; we love ending the night snuggled up with The Maggie B.
Author: Irene Haas
Illustrator: Irene Haas
The first Mr. Putter & Tabby book I picked up was Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears. I loved it. The relationships between Mr. Putter, his fine cat Tabby, their outgoing neighbor Ms. Teaberry, and her good dog Zeke are the heart of the series and the the soft, bittersweet tone and pictures grabbed me immediately. Much to my delight, my boys loved it too. So we’ve slowly been adding to our Mr. Putter & Tabby collection. Like any series, we’ve connected with some of the books more than others. But we’ve read most of the following over and over again (sometimes we’ll read the whole book at a go, other times we’ll read a chapter before bed for several nights running). We also have several others in the series on our wishlist for “someday.” Here is our current collection in the order the books were published:
- 1994 Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea (a great place to begin–the origin story of Mr. Putter and Tabby’s friendship)
- 1994 Mr. Putter & Tabby Walk the Dog (introduces Ms. Teaberry and her chaos-causing dog Zeke–the boys love Zeke)
- 1994 Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake (a nice Christmas story that we just take out for a short time each year)
- 1995 Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears (as mentioned above, my personal favorite)
- 1997 Mr. Putter & Tabby Fly the Plane (a particularly bittersweet entry)
- 1997 Mr. Putter & Tabby Row the Boat (great for a hot day)
- 2000 Mr. Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch (the illustrations here are priceless)
- 2001 Mr. Putter & Tabby Feed the Fish (Tabby’s “fish problem” is presented with both sympathy and humor)
- 2003 Mr. Putter & Tabby Stir the Soup (Zeke gets lots of giggles here)
- 2008 Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race (the boys are in complete agreement with Mr. Putter’s motivation for running the race–a second-place prize of a model train set)
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Arthur Howard
For years I’ve heard about the beloved Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse! but I’ve never been able to find a copy that wasn’t selling for hundreds of dollars. (I’m still looking, if anyone has a hot lead!) But I’m very grateful to Ms. Mouse; she led me to my oldest son’s very favorite book: The Elephant’s Airplane and Other Machines. Doris Susan Smith illustrated both books and her work is amazingly intricate and creative. The story (translated from the original French) is really mostly an excuse for the illustrations; animals come from far and wide to Raccoon, Maker of Fine Machines, to order the custom-built machines of their dreams. My son’s favorites include an underwater speed boat for The Deep Diving Platypus and a traveling home for Rabbit the Explorer. Personally, I’m particularly fond of the heated snowmobile for A Most Unusual Lizard. Though it is out of print, this book is easy to find and is absolutely worth the effort.
Author: Anne-Marie Dalmais
Illustrator: Doris Susan Smith
Singing, good morning America, how are you?
Saying, don’t you know me, I’m your native son?
I’m the train they call “The City of New Orleans.”
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.
My boys are fascinated by trains, dragons, knights, planes, and astronauts. Anything that involves one or more of these subjects is likely to be a hit, so I have been keeping an eye out for The Train they Call the City of New Orleans ever since I saw a blog post showing its beautiful artwork. The only problem was that this book is out of print and was in the three-figure price range, but the ways of Amazon are mysterious and I recently snagged a copy for its original price. It is just as beautiful as it appeared and my boys are really enjoying it (especially when I read the words instead of singing them, alas!). If you’re interested in the song that inspired the book, I particularly like John Denver’s version (it comes from his CD on trains–which is really a good one).
Author: Steve Goodman
Illustrator: Michael McCurdy