Monthly Archives: March 2014

Elephant & Piggie series


The Elephant & Piggie series focuses on the interaction of two best friends: Elephant (who is generally cautious and anxious) and Piggie (who is generally spontaneous and joyful). (This odd-couple pairing reminds me of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad–the stars of a series that I remember fondly but doesn’t interest the boys much.)  The books are very funny and inspire lots of dramatic reading aloud and laughter. They are very popular at home, at school, and during trips to the library and the Kennedy Center.

I think the books pictured above are the very best of the series, but it would be hard to go wrong here.

Author: Mo Willems
Illustrator: Mo Willems

If You Were Born a Kitten


This quiet book tells gestation/birth/baby stories for many different animals, ending with one human baby:

You rode curled beneath your mother’s heart,
growing and growing. You floated in a salty sea, waiting
and waiting. Waiting for us who were waiting for you.
“We’re ready,” we said. And you were ready too.
So you squeezed out, wailing.

My toddlers thought babies were interesting.  That tendency, combined with the interesting details on the various animals and gentle pictures, ensured this cozy book kept their attention during the board book years.

Author:  Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrator:  JoEllen McAllister Stammen

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub


 “Help! Help!” cried the Page when the sun came up.
“King Bidgood’s in the bathtub, and he won’t get out!
Oh, who knows what to do?”

King Bidgood is determined to stay in the bathtub. Attempts to entice him away with battling, lunching, fishing, and dancing fail spectacularly. Will anything get him to leave?

The premise of this cheerful book is very funny (although the language is sometimes a tiny bit awkward) and the elaborate pictures are beautiful. We are always stumbling across new details we missed before.

Author: Audrey Wood
Illustrator: Don Wood

The Very Hungry Caterpillar


There isn’t much plot or characterization here.  An egg hatches.  The resulting caterpillar eats (and eats), then builds a cocoon, nibbles his way out, and is a beautiful butterfly.  Simple.  But the book’s design (especially the holes) and unexpected food choices reliably caught the boys’ attention when they were toddlers.  (And I liked making the butterfly “fly” at the end by flapping the back cover.)

Author: Eric Carle
Illustrator: Eric Carle


Bread and Jam for Frances


Jam on biscuits, jam on toast,
Jam is the thing that I like most.
Jam is sticky, jam is sweet,
Jam is tasty, jam’s a treat–

Raspberry, strawberry, gooseberry, I’m very

This book is a treat and a hoot, with a charming main character, a supportive (yet firm) family, and lots of lovingly described food.  The useful morals (that some variety really is a good thing and you won’t know if you like something until you try it) are just the icing on the cake.

Author:  Russell Hoban
Illustrator:  Lillian Hoban

Wings, Horns, and Claws: A Dinosaur Book of Epic Proportions


This is a straightforward book with beautiful woodcut illustrations, an ever-appealing subject matter, and ever-appreciated pronunciation guidance. Our favorite dinosaur in the book is pictured above. The boys agree its tail might take out a T-rex and the oldest thinks it looks like “a very early kind of knight.”

Author: Christopher Wormel
Illustrator: Christopher Wormel

What to Read (to Your Toddler) When You’re Expecting


We found all of these books to be helpful (in different ways) for preparing for an sibling.

Waiting for Baby and My New Baby have no words; their stories revolve around a toddler’s-eye viewpoint of what happens when mom is pregnant and then what happens when the baby arrives.  There are three primary reasons these books are a great way for toddlers to get used to what is going on and what is likely to happen next.  First, you can customize the “story” to where you are in the process and what they most want to know.  Second, there is a real focus on showing how the soon-to-be sibling will be involved in the process (for example, helping make dinner for a tired mom, or helping dad take baby on an outing). Third, the books make it very clear that the older sibling always has an important place at the center of the family. We “read” these books a lot.

What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? gets toddlers used to the idea that babies cry sometimes, and there are things that you can try to do that might help, but sometimes they won’t work out as hoped (and that is OK).

On Mother’s Lap has a simple, sweet message of there always being enough room on mother’s lap (and, implicitly, enough love to go around).

Authors:  Annie Kubler, Cressida Cowell, Ann Herbert Scott
Illustrators:  Annie Kubler, Ingrid Godon, Glo Coalson



Hush, Little Alien

Hush, little alien,
don’t say a word,
Papa’s gonna catch
you a goonie bird.

If that goonie bird flies too far,
Papa’s gonna lasso you a shooting star.

If that shooting star’s too hot,
Papa’s gonna
find you an astronaut!

When my oldest was two, he started singing this song. I thought he was making it up as he went along and was absolutely amazed.  Finally I caught on that he had heard it at school, started searching, and found the song has come from this really fun variation on “Hush, Little Baby.”  (Of course, I still think my boy hung the moon.)

Caveat:  The astronaut Papa finds fights back (with his fist), so the aliens move on to something else.  I always just shook my fist, added the line “Put me down, please!” and moved right along, but if you are concerned about any kind of physical confrontation, you may want to skip this one.

Author:  Daniel Kirk
Illustrator:  Daniel Kirk

Where the Wild Things Are


That very night in Max’s room a forest grew
and grew–
and grew until his ceiling hung with vines
and the walls became the world all around

I love to read this book aloud.  It feels like music or magic (and I love to gnash my terrible teeth and roll my terrible eyes and show my terrible claws).  Unfortunately (and hopefully coincidentally), it is one of the only books that actively bothers my oldest.  But my youngest is fascinated by it, so occasionally we let the wild rumpus start.

Author: Maurice Sendak
Illustrator: Maurice Sendak

Imogene’s Antlers


On Thursday, when Imogene
woke up, she found she
had grown antlers.

Imogene reacts to her new appendages remarkably well, as does most of the rest of her household (although her mother keeps fainting dead away) and has quite a lovely Thursday.  And by Friday, things are back to normal…  Or are they?

Like TuesdayWhen Dinosaurs Came with Everything (also illustrated by David Small), and George Shrinks, this book presents an unusual situation and watches with a smile as its characters respond.  It is quiet and self-contained, just like its heroine.

Author: David Small
Illustrator: David Small