Monthly Archives: December 2013

Fortunately, the Milk


A perfect tall tale of daring and dairy.  This book may (almost literally) have everything.  Among other things, there are aliens, dads, dinosaurs, flying saucers, hot air balloons, pirates, ponies, piranhas, space time paradoxes, time machines, vampires, volcanoes, and (fortunately) the milk.  An effortless read aloud and an absolute hoot.

Author:  Neil Gaiman
Illustrator:  Skottie Young


My Friend Rabbit


My friend Rabbit means well. 
But whatever he does,
wherever he goes,
trouble follows.

This is another quick, funny, unexpected book with beautiful illustrations.  Both boys love to chime in on the (frequently repeating lines) and happily anticipate the next wild (slightly disastrous, mostly humorous) event.  A perfect treat before bed.

Author:  Eric Rohmann
Illustrator:  Eric Rohmann

How My Parents Learned to Eat


In our house, some days we eat with chopsticks
and some days we eat with knives and forks.
For me, it’s natural.

Perfect for any kind of mixed family (and most families are mixed, in one way or another), this book shows how flexibility, willingness to learn, and a sense of humor can allow people from very different backgrounds to come together and create a new family.  Well, that is what I notice.  The boys just agree that “[i]t’s hard to be happy if you’re hungry” and that it is funny to watch adults learn (with a lot of trial and error) how to eat.

Author:  Ina R. Friedman
Illustrator:  Allen Say

Zoom at Sea


Zoom (a cat who loves water) finds an address and a map left by his uncle (who has gone off adventuring) labeled “The Sea and how to get there.”  But following the map does not help Zoom find what he expected–at least not at first.  This is a deeply imaginative book that intrigues the boys–it reminds me of The Maggie B. with its beauty, coziness, and themes of sailing, adventure, and family.  It is the first of three books about Zoom and it may be our favorite.  

Author:  Tim Wynne-Jones
Illustrator:  Eric Beddows

The Night Before Christmas


Countless artists have illustrated this poem, many of them beautifully.  This may not be the most elegant version, but it is the one I grew up with and keep coming back to.  Happily, the boys love it; we read it together just before they headed to bed tonight, knowing that cookies, carrots, celery, and milk are waiting on the hearth and Santa is on his way.

Happy Christmas to all,
and to all a good night.

Author:  Clement C. Moore
Illustrator:  Douglas Gorsline

The Sneetches and Other Stories


This book is an utter classic and I’m guessing most of you already have it memorized.  (I recently met Peter S. Beagle at a screening of The Last Unicorn and we ended up reciting “Too Many Daves” in a sort of call and response together at his signing table.  It was a lovely, utterly odd moment.)  We love all the stories, from “The Sneetches” and “The Zax” to “What was I Scared of?”  Nothing quite compares to the best of Dr. Seuss, and this book may be his best of all.  If you don’t already own it, I suggest you find a copy immediately.

Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator:  Dr. Seuss

Storm Boy


A chief’s son
went fishing
and a terrible storm arose.

Deliberately patterned on universal archetypes and Northwest Coast Native motifs, this story contains many unexpected elements for both its hero and its readers.  The boys are fascinated by this one, and I suspect the unusual, almost frightening, images play a major role.  Recommended for slightly older children, especially those who enjoy tales of the sea.

Author:  Paul Owen Lewis
Illustrator:  Paul Owen Lewis

The Big Pets


The girl was small and the cat was big.
And on certain nights
she rode on his back
to the place where
the Milk-Pool was.

Another simple and beautiful bedtime tale.  This has role reversals, great illustrations, and lots of creativity.  Perfect for  a quick and cozy read before bed.

Author: Lane Smith
Illustrator: Lane Smith

A Lot of Otters


I’ve been meaning to write about a number Christmas books this holiday season, but somehow this sweet book keeps slipping to the front of the queue.  In short, a lot of otters find a baby and a book that belong to a very unusual (and yet ultimately very relatable) mother.  But the seemingly simple story quietly addresses being lost and found, bold and safe, curious and content (often all at once).

A Lot of Otters seems to have been inspired by a legend about otters and books that Ms. Berger explored in an earlier work, Animalia (which I expect will also show up here someday).  It is calming and soft, with beautiful illustrations that are perfect for for kids who are enthralled by otters (like my youngest).  I especially recommend it for bedtime.

Author:  Barbara Helen Berger
Illustrator:  Barbara Helen Berger

Silly Sally


Silly Sally went to town,
walking backwards, upside down.

This book is all kinds of silly.  There are silly words, characters, pictures, and plot lines.  There are lots of chances for silly voices.  And tickling the listeners is all-but required.

If pure silliness isn’t enough to close the deal, there’s also plenty of repetition that makes it extra fun for the kids to join in and rollicking rhythms that it makes it a pleasure to read aloud.  And it is a great choice for a bedtime story when you want to end the day quickly, but on a high note.

We don’t have the big board book version (yet?), but it would a great choice for a reader not quite yet ready for paper pages.

Author:  Audrey Wood
Illustrator:    Audrey Wood