We love four out of five of the stories in this book, with their charming pictures and constant refrains: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”), Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do (“There’s nothing do!” “Oh yes there is,” says Mama), Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake (“Sh-h-h! Don’t wake up Mama!”), and Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car (“I KNOW!” says one little monkey. “I KNOW!”). I don’t like Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree as much as the rest, but the boys like it fine. As an added bonus, this treasury comes with drawing tips for making your own monkeys and lots of stickers.
If you want to give a really popular birthday present, pair this book with the Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed Game. The game itself isn’t really that exciting. But it doesn’t need to be; it includes a big plastic “bed” with a spring mechanism inside and lots of monkeys to put on top. Push a button on the bed and every so often the spring releases and monkeys go flying.
Author: Eileen Christelow
Illustrator: Eileen Christelow
This adventure of a boy, a bear, and “billions of berries” was very popular a few years back. It is great to read aloud, with a wonderful rhythm and enticing pictures (by the illustrator of the original Magic School Bus series). You might need multiple copies and you are likely to memorize it.
Author: Bruce Degen
Illustrator: Bruce Degen
Currently, we are completely infatuated with wombats. Diary of a Wombat was our gateway story; now we cannot get enough of those charming, stubborn marsupials. This nonfiction follow-up to Diary has lots of information (quite straightforward and unblushing information–if you are uncomfortable reading about bums and scat, this will not be the book for you), lists (e.g., “How to Find a Wombat in the Bush”), a glossary of Australian terms (e.g., “bush” means “a wilderness area”), quizzes (e.g., “Are You a Wombat?”), real-life stories (the author has actively lived among wombats for more than 30 years), and charming illustrations. In case it isn’t already clear, this book is very educational and very, very funny.
Author: Jackie French
Illustrator: Bruce Whatley
This book is a compilation of cozy, old-fashioned stories about a community of mice in England. (It really feels quite British, at least to this American.) There is lots of loving discussion of food and games and activities (the creation of a beautiful ice hall to have a Snow Ball in is a favorite). But the sweet stories may just be an excuse for the tremendously detailed, wonderful illustrations. The many cross section pictures (like the one above) are particular favorites.
Author: Jill Barklem
Illustrator: Jill Barklem
Clink’s an old and rusty robot who has watched countless robots be taken home to families while he stays on the shelf. No one seems interested in a robot who simultaneously makes (burned) toast and plays music. But is there a match out there for Clink?
This book is poignant, ultimately joyful, and beautifully illustrated. Both boys have agreed they would love to adopt Clink, burned toast and all.
Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Matthew Myers
The king of Naples has everything he could possibly want, but nothing satisfies him. Only when he leaves the palace and learns to share with others is he able find true happiness. Fortunately, a spoonful of sugar (or slice of pizza) helps this message go down very easily.
The boys enjoy “ewwwwing” at the the endless weird fancy dishes the king eats (glazed jellyfish in octopus ink sauce garnished with twinkling starfish, anyone?) and they greatly enjoy hearing about the glories of the pizza that inspires him to change his ways. This book is fairly long for a read aloud, but their attention never waivers.
Author: Sylvester Sanzari
Illustrator: John E. Hurst
Her cries brought the family, one and another.
“Come girls,” said the Duke,
“Say good-bye to your mother.
“I fear an improper proportion of leaven
Is taking my dear Duchess right up to Heaven.”
Giant cakes, silly adults, bright and cheerful illustrations… All of these are strongly in this book’s favor. However, some of the fun for the boys may be listening to me trying to get through it. Most of it roll trippingly off the tongue:
“You’ll all be delighted, for I’m going to make
A lovely light luscious delectable cake.”
But a few parts, particularly the names of the thirteen (!) daughters are fraught with peril. Take a deep breath and hold onto your hats. It is well worth the effort.
Author: Virginia Kahl
Illustrator: Virginia Kahl
This very simple early reader has sweet pictures and rhymes that are not forced. But the biggest draw, of course, is that it is about one of the boys’ very favorite subjects.
Author: Marjorie Blain Parker
Illustrator: Stephanie Roth
This is the tale of a tiny snail
And a great big, gray-blue humpback whale.
Adventure. Excitement. A snail “with an itchy foot” craves these things (and finds them) along with a (very large) kindred spirit. This book is a spellbinder and an absolute pleasure to read aloud.
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
This is the perfect bedtime story for when your voice is giving out (which makes it very helpful to have in reserve this time of year). Pop in the enclosed CD, let Joni Mitchell provide the vocals, and enjoy the utterly fanciful art (the picture above is my oldest’s favorite).
Author: Joni Mitchell
Illustrator: Brian Froud