Here is the key to the house.
In the house burns a light.
In that light rests a bed.
On that bed waits a book.
The books I highlight around Mother’s Day are typically ones that the boys don’t like quite as much as I do. This book is different; for a while the boys actively disliked it. I find it to be very beautiful and soothing (and it was a present from a family member who inscribed our copy), so I didn’t get rid of it, but I did put it away for a few years.
Author: Susan Marie Swanson
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
In the days when monsters and giants and fairy folk lived in
England, a noble knight was riding across a plain. He wore heavy
armor and carried an ancient silver shield marked with a red cross. It
was dented with the blows of many battles fought long ago by other
The Red Cross Knight had never yet faced a foe, and did not even
know his name or where he had been born. But now he was bound on
a great adventure, sent by the Queen of the Fairies to try his young
strength against a deadly enemy, a dragon grim and horrible.
This is not a short read aloud and it is (unsurprisingly) quite gory. But it is interesting and strange and has dragons. The boys love it.
Author: Margaret Hodges/Edmund Spenser
Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman
Amos McGee works at the City Zoo. Every day, he gets up early and rides the bus to work. Although he has “a lot to do at the zoo,” he always makes time “to visit his good friends” (an elephant, tortoise, penguin, rhinoceros, and owl). But one day, he awakes “with the sniffles, and the sneezes, and the chills.” He can’t go to work. So his good friends come to him.
This gentle book is the reading equivalent of lemon tea with honey. Warm, comforting, and sweet, it is good for what ails you. (And I like to think its red balloon is a homage to another of our favorites, Good Night, Gorilla.)
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
My youngest son is very found of birds. Ponds full of ducks make him very happy. If some of the ducks are on land, he heads straight over in hope of picking one up. Once they (inevitably) retreat to the water, he perches on the nearest rock and happily quacks at them (although he points out wistfully that, as yet, no ducks have quacked back to him).
My mother is also very found of ducks and she read me this book many, many times. The pictures are great and it is fun read-aloud, particularly once the ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack) make their entrance. Speaking of grandparents, this is one of the only books on this blog that is older than all of my sons’ grandparents (The Little House and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes are the others).
Author: Robert McCloskey
Illustrator: Robert McCloskey
Once upon a time
there was a Little House
way out in the country.
She was a pretty Little House
and she was strong and well built.
The man who built her so well said,
“This Little House shall never be sold
for gold or silver and she will live to see
great-great-grandchildren living in her.”
This is a seemingly simple story of one Little House, but there is a lot going on. The sun, moon, and stars go by. Seasons change. Children grow up. A city moves in. A house moves out. Curiosity is satisfied and a happy ending is finally reached.
The pictures are so beautiful and so very peaceful. I remember looking through it as a kid over and over again and am happy the boys really like it too.
Author: Virginia Lee Burton
Illustrator: Virginia Lee Burton
As we’ve discussed before, David Wisener’s work is nearly wordless and always carefully-plotted, mixing the familiar with the very strange. (Although it is very different, it reminds me of Shaun Tan’s excellent, wordless, graphic novel, The Arrival–which I look forward to introducing the boys to when they are bit older.)
Flotsam is the tale of an underwater camera that washes up on a beach with some very unusual pictures waiting to be developed. Among its other virtues, it is the perfect bedtime book for when you’ve lost your voice to a summer cold (assuming you’ve already explained the concept of “film” that needs to be developed during previous readings).
Author: David Wiesner
Illustrator: David Wiesner
Posted in Picture Books
Tagged aliens, Animals, beach, bedtime, Caldecott Medal, David Wiesner, Flotsam, Machines, New York Times Best Illustrated Book, science fiction, Shaun Tan, The Arrival, Tuesday
Once again Paul O. Zelinsky draws from the best of the Grimm’s multiple versions, along with earlier Italian and French versions, to create a compelling and beautifully illustrated tale. My youngest will accept no substitutions; we must read this edition: “The one with the big tower.”
While this story violates the Frozen principle–“You can’t marry a man you just met”–in a big way and the prince seems to be either a cad or none too bright (otherwise why wouldn’t he just bring Rapunzel a rope ladder early on in their relationship?), it is a classic. (And Frozen has made discussing these kinds of issues much easier and faster at just the right time.)
Author: Paul O. Zelinsky/The Grimm Brothers
Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky
That very night in Max’s room a forest 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
Like George Shrinks and When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, this book has one great concept (spontaneously-flying frogs!) and joyfully explores it. There are only two full sentences, but this is a real charmer.
Author: David Wiesner
Illustrator: David Wiesner
It was Kitten’s first full moon.
When she saw it, she thought,
There’s a little bowl of milk in the sky.
And she wanted it.
Kitten tries (and tries) to reach the little bowl of milk that she wants so much. Things do not go well. (Poor Kitten!) But, as you might expect, there is a happy ending waiting.
This soft, sweet, short story is perfect for just before bed.
Author: Kevin Henkes
Illustrator: Kevin Henkes