This book, like Where the Wild Things Are and Andrew Henry’s Meadow, is a fantasy of escape and return. However, while the children here do go a bit wild, unlike Max they are startlingly domestic (much like Andrew Henry, who also originated with Ms. Burn). Rather than having wild rumpuses, they create one cozy new home after another, enjoying each in turn until problems arises and they move on. The pictures are very detailed and add to the sense of exploration (we have the original version and have not seen the updated edition with new illustrations, although the cover looks quite simplistic). And the text is a pleasure to read aloud.
In this pint-sized variation on an epistolary novel, a child writes to a zoo asking for a pet. The zoo politely responds, sending a parade of exotic animals (packaged inside flaps to be lifted by the reader) that don’t work for one reason or another (the camel, for example, is too grumpy) and have to be sent back. Finally, there’s a perfect, doggy, ending. This is another fun book where our original copy didn’t survive the toddler years.
I should have know we’d have to get a dog someday, given how popular this book was. Not quite as durable as Tails, by the same author, it was just as popular and I got a replacement copy when the first got too ragged. Very toddler friendly, it has plenty of things to touch, pull, and flip, plus it has cute pictures. If you’re squeamish, you may not appreciate a quick reference to doggie bodily functions, but the boys thought it was hilarious.
Author: Matthew Van Fleet Illustrator: Brian Stanton
It is really, really challenging to find an age-appropriate book for young kids that want to know what naked bodies look like for boys and girls. But the search was worth it; this book is perfect. Your curious kid gets to see what everything is and what everything does using the real terminology in a completely straightforward and appropriate way. Even the family dogs are included in the explanations, adding to the beautifully matter-of-fact tone.
Author: Robie H. Harris Illustrator: Nadine Bernard Westcott
A blizzard is coming, so Mother Rabbit bakes carrot cake and knits her beloved Little Rabbit a hat. He loves it and asks her to make hats for their friends too. She happily agrees, they work together on the hats, and the friends (after seeing how warm they are and how special they feel wearing them) are very appreciative. Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit go home and have carrot cake, warm and secure in each other’s love and being together (“the best gift of all”). The end.
It sounds so simple, but the pictures are so lovely and the rabbits are so realistically warm and their relationship is so caring; it may be the coziest book I have ever read. And both the boys still love it, which always surprises me a bit and also makes me happy each year. Apparently it is the first book in a series about Little Rabbit and Mother Rabbit, but we haven’t read the other books (which are focused on particular issues, like handling cleaning up or crying or nightmares).
It is Christmas morning and at first everyone in Morris’s family is very happy. But while Morris’s three older siblings are all interested in swapping with each other for playtime with their new presents (a beauty kit, hockey outfit, and chemistry set), they don’t want to swap for playtime with Morris’s new bear. Morris is deeply disappointed. But what is that under the tree? And what is a disappearing bag anyway? The answer surprising, and the book is a total pleasure–perfect for any sibling, or anyone who’s ever felt in need of a bit of magic.
Every year, after Thanksgiving, I bring out the Christmas books. Every
year, after New Year’s Day, I put them away again. I still read the
books aloud to the boys in the order they pick, and each year this book
(along with Shall I Knit You a Hat?, which I’ll be posting about soon; Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree; and The Christmas Wombat)
is one of the first chosen. My oldest likes it so much that in 2017
he asked for (and received) a bear just like Morris’s as his Christmas
Bruce is a grumpy bear with one joy in life: preparing and eating fancy egg recipes that he has carefully researched online. But after a batch of (free-range organic) goose eggs hatch while he is off gathering firewood, Bruce becomes “the victim of mistaken identity.” (“MAMA!”) Much as he tries to get things back to normal (and he really, really tries, which is where a lot of the humor comes in), his life will never be the same.
This book kicked off a series, but we never picked up the later books; by the time they came out, my boys’ interest in new picture books was waning.
Author: Ryan T. Higgins Illustrator: Ryan T. Higgins
When the boys were in early elementary school, by far the most fun way to volunteer at school was to be a mystery reader. The teacher and parent made super-secret plans, far in advance, for the parent to show up midday, books in hand, to read to the class. The kids loved it (especially the mystery reader’s kids). And I’m a total ham, so I loved it too. Of course, when reading to 25 plus kids at once, you need to pick the right books. By which I mean, they have to read very well aloud, they have to have pictures that work even from a good ways away, they can’t be too long, and they HAVE to be funny. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee was one of my mystery reader books (I’ve made a tag linking to most of the others below, there was one more that will be my next entry) because it easily checked all the boxes. Mr. Magee, and his little dog Dee, go camping in their (adorable!) teardrop camper trailer and havoc quickly ensues. This is one of Chris Van Dusen’s best books, which is extremely high praise (you’ll notice his If I Built a Car was also a mystery reader selection). The other Magee books (Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee and Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee) are also great fun.
Author: Chris Van Dusen Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Scaredy Squirrel insists that
everyone wash their hands
with antibacterial soap before
reading this book.
Scaredy Squirrel, true to his name, is afraid of just about everything. He has an emergency kit on hand at all times, plans for emergencies, and never leaves his nut tree until one fateful day… Well, I don’t want to spoil the fun (and there is lots of fun to be had).
Like One Kitten for Kim, this is a great book to read with early readers and non-readers, due to the humor and repeated rebuses (pictures that take the place of words). Be ready to read it repeatedly.
The narrator of this bittersweet story (a special favorite of my youngest) really, really wants a pet, but her mother keeps saying no.
I asked her every day for a month, until she finally said,
“You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need
to be walked or bathed or fed.”
I made her promise.
Then (with the help of the school librarian) she finds a pet that actually fits the criteria: a sloth. When he arrives, she finds the reality of “Sparky” doesn’t conform at all with what she thought having a pet would be like.
While kids seem to focus on humorous aspects of the situation, adults will notice there is a lot going on here about what happens when expectations don’t match up with reality. Come for the laughter; stay for the loss, grief, and love (or is it the other way around?).