This feels urgent

As much as I desperately want to raise kind children, peacemaking children, anti-racist children, I am not an expert. Far from it. But gratefully, there are those out there to guide us in the steps we must to take to seek justice for children of all races.

Instead of posting my own booklist today, I ask you to check out this list from EmbraceRace.

Image from EmbraceRace

I would also suggest that if you decide to purchase any new books for your shelves that you think about purchasing them from a black-owned bookshop instead of your regular source. Instead of spending time curating a booklist for you to today, I am going to read suggestions from Anti-Racist educators and encouragers and purchase some books from Ashay by the Bay.

This feels urgent

Five for Friday

Photo by Gustavo Fring

Dear readers, do you ever just feel worn out after a long week? That was a rhetorical question. Of course you do. Naturally, when I am feeling physically or emotionally or spiritually, I often turn to books. But not just any books. I need books that give my soul rest. So on Fridays, I shall try to share five books that simply bring me delight. And I hope you may find some comfort and rest in these books or other books today and everyday.

Ish by Peter Reynolds. Voltaire is credited with saying “The best is the enemy of the good.” Reynolds turns this sentiment into a storybook with his signature whimsical artwork. Drawing always made Ramon happy until a thoughtless remark from his brother sends him down the slippery slope of perfectionism. With help from his little sister, Ramon discovers joy in imperfect art. I love Peter Reynolds work. Pretty much all of it. And Ish is one of my favorites. Perfect for a day when you need reminding that art (and life) need not be flawless to be blissful.

The Missing Bookshop by Kristy Clapham. I bought this book when a friend was having an Usbourne books party and I am so glad I did. It’s the tale of Milly’s love for her neighborhood bookshop and its iconic bookseller, Mrs. Minty. When unforeseen circumstances threaten the bookshop, Milly knows she has to do something to save the place that has meant so much to her and discover what has happened to her beloved Mrs. Minty. This ode to bookshops and the people who shape our lives through their book suggestions is just lovely. Aimed at the early reader crowd, the illustrations are vibrant and bring the story to life. The place of honor that Matilda by Roald Dahl occupies in the story is the icing on my reading cake.

Corduroy by Don Freeman. This was our breakfast read today and there is nothing like a small bear in green overalls to help you feel good about your day. When I worked at the library, my love for Corduroy was quite legendary and I think I have successfully transmitted my affection to my kiddos. I will never get tired of reading about the bear who just wants to find his button, sleep in a bed, have a home and find a friend. May all of us be so easy to satisfy.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Middle grade novels haven’t made much of an appearance on this blog yet, which is a bit surprising since this book category may very well be my favorite. There is just something special about books written for the eight to twelve year old crowd in my eyes. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about it at a later time, but The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a fine first foray into recommendations of this type. Calpurnia is eleven years old at the turn of the century. Her mother wants to see her turn into a well behaved lady, but Calpurnia (don’t you just love that name?) is far more interested in nature, animals and science. I adore books with an old-fashioned feel to them and this one certainly gets the tone right. Calpurnia is spunky and relatable and all together delightful. This strikes me as a modern classic.

Stella’s Starliner by Rosemary Wells. Stella has everything she needs in her small camper home. She shares her home with her mother and her father, who comes home from work on the weekends.. Stella’s life is full. She helps make cobbler, go to the market in a wagon, fishes with her father and memorizes books borrowed from the bookmobile. All manner of things are well until a band of weasels hurt Stella’s heart by making fun of her beloved home. When this family of foxes relocates their camper, Stella is worried her potential new friends won’t appreciate her home either. Simply delightful and worth reading many, many times.

Congratulations on making it through another week, my friends and may your weekend be filled with love, connection and stories! Let me know what you’re reading in the comments.

Photo by LubosHouska

Five for Friday

Her Life

I love biographies and memoirs. I am especially drawn to those about women who live interesting lives and seek to make some sort of difference in the world. The books below cover the lives and memories of a country music singer, several senior citizen activists, a former First Lady, a couple of authors, a bunch of nuns and a woman who sold most of her possessions to move into a 200 square foot house on wheels. A quirky crowd to be sure, but I sure do love reading (and in some cases re-reading) about these inspiring and eccentric women.

Like Me by Chely Wright. Sometimes a book comes to you at exactly the right time. I have had many books like that in my life and Like Me by was one of them. Chely Wright was a top country music star who lived a closeted existence until she hit rock bottom and decided she had to live her life true to herself. She came out with a bang by being interviewed on national television and releasing this book. When I was first coming out as a lesbian, I didn’t know a lot of gay people and there weren’t many celebrities who were publicly out and sharing their stories. It gave me great solace to hear the life story of a person who was… well… like me. At least in one way; I can’t sing to save my life.

Granny D: You’re Never too Old to Raise a Little Hell by Doris Haddock. I met some amazing people when I worked at a public library, but Doris “Granny D” Haddock was hands down my favorite. When we contacted her to see if she would appear, we thought it was a long shot. But she agreed. This was after she had captured national attention for walking across the country at age 90 to rally support for campaign finance reform, after she ran for the Senate in her home state of New Hampshire at 94 and after she had written this wonderful book. I loved her stories of traveling across the country and staying in the homes of her fellow Americans. Granny D was a marvelous speaker, an opinionated and seasoned activist and a staunch believer in the potential of a well-functioning democracy. Once you’re done with this memoir, I’d suggest you try Granny D’s American Century, which contains more memories of her early years. And if you, like me, can’t get enough of this remarkable woman, check-out the documentary about her Senate race, Run, Granny, Run. Politically, things have changed enormously since the early 2000’s when she was most in the national spotlight, but Granny D still has much to teach us. As a country, we desperately need her wisdom and her belief in the goodness of her fellow citizens at this moment in our national story.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. As an undergraduate political science major, I did an independent study on first ladies in American politics. I got to spend a whole semester reading and researching the lives and legacies of Abigail Adams, Rosalynn Carter, Eleanor Roosevelt and Laura Bush. Considering that I graduated close to twenty years ago, a lot more first lady history has been written since my study. A former first lady came remarkably close to becoming President for one thing. And the country saw it’s first African-American first lady. Michelle Obama remains a popular and admired woman in American life and her memoir has received much buzz. There is even a documentary about her book tour, which I have in my Netflix queue. I listened to the audio book version of Becoming, which Ms. Obama narrates herself. I find something really special about audio memoirs that are narrated by the authors; I like hearing people’s stories in their own voices. And Becoming is a remarkably honest and open look at Michelle Obama’s childhood, career, marriage, motherhood and time as First Lady. Perhaps because of the phase of life I find myself in, I was particularly moved by her honesty regarding their infertility and the challenges of balancing a career and being a mother.

House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg. I have been reading biographies of L.M. Montgomery since I was a kid. I remember reading one called Maud so many times as a young teenager that the paperback fell apart and I taped the spine back together. When I love an author’s work as much as I love hers, I want to know all about their life. It’s my nerdy version of celebrity worship, I suppose. If I ran into a Hollywood star on the street, there is a 98% chance that I wouldn’t recognize them, but an author is a different story. So naturally, when I read that there was a new Montgomery bio out, I couldn’t wait to get my author-worshipping hands on it. Happily, it was shelved in the Children’s section of the library where I worked. So I brought it home and devoured it. In addition to my much-loved paperback, I have read many of Maud’s journals, so I wasn’t expecting to learn much new. But I did. Liz Rosenberg takes an unflinching look at the author’s life and doesn’t sugar coat the tough stuff. I knew that the creator of the perennially optimistic Anne went through some tough times in her life, but Rosenberg sheds new light on Maud’s mental health struggles. I am still shaken by her theory of Maud’s death. While I have to admit I have a soft spot for whitewashed, cheerful biographies of my favorite people’s lives, these 100% real people deserve to be known in all their human complexity. And in many ways, Maud’s prolific work becomes even more admirable when you fully comprehend all that she faced while spinning her beautiful stories.

If Nuns Ruled the World by Jo Piazza. While I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools at various times, by the time I was there parochial schools were no longer filled with the strict, ruler wielding nuns of legend. The sisters I knew were a guitar playing CCD administrator and the retired sisters living in the convent attached to my high school who burned their toast so badly on the morning I was taking my SATs that we had to evacuate the building. These benign, kindly figures may be why I fascinated instead of bitter about religious sisters. And I am fascinated by the them. I read everything I can get my hands on about nuns and sisters. Most of it is a bit, shall we say, obscure and academic but If Nuns Ruled the World clearly aims at the general reader. Piazza is a veteran reporter and she profiles ten remarkable American nuns. There is the “Nun on the Bus” who lobbies for government policies that benefit the poor, the sister who is willing to go to jail for the rest of her life in order to protest nuclear weapons and the 83 year old nun who is an Ironman champion. These nuns are not the ones of Catholic school children’s memories of the 1950’s, nor the ones from my childhood. They are tough, determined and often social justice warriors. I wouldn’t mind living in a world that these women run!

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel. Tiny houses are trendy now; they have their own reality TV shows on HGTV. When I first discovered tiny houses, no one had ever heard of them. Tumbleweed Houses was one of the only companies out there with plans for tiny houses. But they were just offbeat enough to appeal to me. It’s been fun to watch the plethora of books, blogs, websites and builders galore spring up to to help those with miniature aspirations craft a pint-sized dream home. What I like best about Tammy Strobel’s memoir is that it focuses on living in a tiny house, not building one. She gets specific about what motivated her to radically downsize and how she and her spouse find contentment in such a tiny space. I’ve read a lot about tiny houses, but this is probably my top book length selection in that area.

My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary. How could I craft a list of memoirs without mentioning one of Cleary’s memoirs? She has two. The first, A Girl from Yamhill, covers her earliest years living on a farm. This second volume follows the future author to college, grad school, early marriage and several jobs as a librarian. Entering college during the Great Depression and working on an army base during World War II provides Clearly with plenty of historical context for her personal stories. Her signature ability to make the day to day realities of life entertaining and readable is on full display in this volume. She is probably the only writer ever who could turn library school into a page turner. Although this book is typically listed as a children’s biography because its subject a popular author for youth, I think adults are most likely to find her stories of interest. I highly recommend this to any grown-up Ramona, Henry, or Ralph fans.

The Peabody Sisters by Megan Marshall. I was first introduced to the remarkable lives of these three Massachusetts sisters when I was a teenager through Louise Hall Tharp’s book The Peabody Sisters of Salem. Her book has since been criticized for the liberties she took with their story and how she romanticized the Peabody women. These critiques may be warranted, but her very readable account of the lives of Elizabeth, Mary and Sophia Peabody has given me a lifelong interest in these fascinating women. The Peabody sisters were intimately involved in the Transcendentalist movement that swept New England before the Civil War. They were friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May and Bronson Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The eldest sister, Elizabeth Peabody was an earlier support of Hawthorne’s writing and Sophia, who was a talented artist in her own right, eventually married the author of The Scarlet Letter. Elizabeth was also key in the creation of the first kindergartens in the United States. Mary Peabody married Horace Mann, who was a well known educational reformer. This thick volume covers the intriguing lives of three women who were at the very heart of the most influential intellectual, social, and religious movements of their day. A fascinating look at this period in history through the lens of talented, but overlooked, women.

I am always on the look out for memoirs and biographies of wonderful women to read. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comment section!

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

Her Life

New to Us Book Treasures

Photo property of the Lane Memorial Library

Other than hugging my own mother, what I have missed most over the last two months is our library visits. Our town library is about two miles from our house. For a town of 10,000, we have a great library. Even when I worked full time at a different library, I still loved going to my town’s library. If any of you are librarians, you will know there is a world of difference between being in a library as an employee and getting to use a library as a patron. And I had the best of both worlds. I had access to the large library network where I worked, plus the carefully curated shelves of the library down the street. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I was looking for an older classic, it would be easiest to request it through interlibrary loan at work, but if I wanted a truck book, any truck book, our town library would have it on shelf. With unlimited books at my disposal, I felt rich. I was rich.

Photo property of the Lane Library Friends

I can say without hesitation that not having access to a physical library has absolutely impoverished my life in many ways. Gone is the luxury of wandering the shelves, discovering new treasures, searching for volumes on my list, all while my children play happily at the train or Duplo table, do a craft or work on a puzzle. I miss creating a stack of books on a table to check-out, while conceding to the boys’ requests for DVDs of their favorite shows.

Have you seen the video going around Facebook of a woman singing along to “I Will Always Love You” to a closed T.J. Maxx store? Bless her. She can have the purses and clothes and shoes all to herself when it re-opens because I will be at the library. That video makes me want to perform a similar exhibition outside the library. Only my song would be “I Can’t Live if Living is Without You.”

Still, I completely aware that I am in the most privileged of all positions. We have a healthy home library with shelves full of our favorite books. We have devices to access thousands of electronic books and audio books through libraries. We have a delightful local bookstore that is offering curbside pick-up. We have Better World Books. And we have the financial resources to buy the books we (ok, I) simply don’t have the patience to wait for when the library re-opens. So, readers don’t feel bad for us. There are others who need our concern. When I think of the families home without these resources at their disposal, I could sit down and cry. Which is why I love that Better World Books donates a book for every book you purchase. And I love that Barefoot Books is donating a book with every order to Raising a Reader.

Our latest haul from Better World Books

There’s a rumor on the street (fine, it was posted on the library’s Facebook) that the library will be starting curbside pick-up some time in the near future. I am already working on a list of books to request; it’s important to be prepared. In the meantime, we got an exciting delivery by mail: my latest order from Better World Books. They sell primarily used books. Their books are cheap (I usually pay under $4 for each kids’ book) and they support libraries and literacy projects. They even have a carbon offset option at checkout so you don’t need to feel bad having books shipped from all over the country. I love supporting independent bookshops and I do when I can. But when I want a second hand treasure, I can order guilt-free from BWB.

Here’s what we’re currently enjoying from them:

Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman. Jessica loves all things glittery and sparkly. It turns out that her younger brother Casey does too. Jessica is unhappy when Casey starts to want to wear twirly skirts, glittery nail polish and sparkly bracelets too, but their parents and Abuelita let Casey dress how Casey wants. In the end, Jessica has a change of heart when other kids try to convince Casey that “boys can’t dress like that.” She stands up for Casey and the siblings learn to enjoy their shared love of all things that glitter. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about reading the kids stories where people blatantly express gender stereotypes and non-conforming kids get pushback (or worse) for not toeing the line. I have hesitated to even put the idea that there is such a thing as boys clothes or girls clothes into their heads. But at four, they are starting to witness and understand that some people have opinions on clothes and appearance so I figured the time had come to gently start the conversation. This was a good place to start, since the adults in Casey’s life affirm Casey’s choices, Jessica stands up for Casey when it counts most and the story ends happily with a celebration of all Sparkle Kids. The kiddos really enjoyed this book and were properly annoyed that people would suggest that boys can’t love glittery clothes and accessories too. There is a need for books like this and I knew I could trust Leslea Newman to handle the topic well. At the same time, I hope more books will come out that show Sparkle Boys just living their lives without anyone feeling the need to comment on it.

Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell. I am a sucker for cut paper collage illustrations and Falwell does a splendid job with the vibrant pictures in this counting book that features an African-American family shopping for and preparing a feast to share with loved ones. I ordered this one because we are working on number recognition right now. Counting books are a dime a dozen, but the illustrations and celebration of family makes this one stand out from the crowded field. I’m glad this one will be a permanent part of our home library.

Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney. Helping children abstractly understand the geographic concepts of towns, states, countries, continents, etc. can be tough. This book uses a simple concept to clarify children’s position in the world. By starting with a child in a bedroom, the book expands to the house, street, town, state, country and so forth. Very useful.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. What do you do if you want to make an apple pie but the market is closed? Obviously, you set off on a trip around the world to get the ingredients from their sources. This highly entertaining book is both a rollicking trip around the world and a peak at where our food originates. Don’t be surprised if your kids, like mine, want to try their hand at making apple pie after you finish reading. I sure hope the market near you is open!

In Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen by Cynthia Rylant. I am a huge Cynthia Rylant fan. I will surely need to devote an entire post to her Lighthouse Family series. And really, you could have a whole blog about this prolific author’s contributions to children’s literature. She has written wonderful picture books, easy readers that are actually enjoyable to read and lovely chapter books. Whatever the format, her tales are sweetly old-fashioned. We are only half way through this short chapter book, which is the first in The Cobble Street Cousins series. The three cousins, Rosie, Lily and Tess are staying with their Aunt Lucy while their parents are traveling and their idea to start a cookie business helps them meet some wonderful neighbors. We’re about half way through and so far it’s as charming as expected.

Have you gotten any new books lately? Which ones are you and your kids loving? Share with us in the comments!

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

New to Us Book Treasures

143 Day

I was half way through writing today’s post when I discovered it is 143 Day. Immediately, I stopped, saved the draft and decided to return to that one another day. I simply must celebrate 143 Day with my blog neighbors.

If you don’t know what 143 Day is, reader, don’t feel bad. It probably just means that you aren’t quite a big Mr. Rogers fan as I am. Today, May 22nd is the 143rd day of 2020. And because 143 was Mr. Rogers’s favorite number (he said it meant I love you), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has declared today as an official Day of Kindness.

If ever there was a year that we needed to remember and celebrate love and kindness it is 2020.

Step one when I decided to write this post was pull my copy of The World According to Mr. Rogers off the shelf to get some inspiration. This volume is full of wise quotes from our television neighbor and there is a whole section on understanding love. As I expected there were some gems. My favorite is one that I am fairly confident I remember hearing him say on more than one occasion on his show:

If Mr. R was correct… and I think he usually was… than we as caregivers of children are in a prime position to do Great Things. Childhood is the best (and easiest) time to lay the foundation so our children will grow up confident in both their lovability and their ability to be loving. Personally, I am placing a whole lot of faith in the ability of stories and books to help me plant these seeds in my own kiddos.

We have celebrated Kindness Day a few different ways today. We wrote chalk messages on the cement outside our home for our neighbors. One of my kids surprised another child with a special Lego creation and we watered a neighbor’s plants while she was work. Before bed we’ll watch an episode of Mr. Rogers. Plus, we… wait for it… read books.

Here are just a few of my favorite books about kindness, perfect for sharing on 143 Day.

Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. I know, I know I already wrote about this book. But if you plan to be a regular blog reader, you probably better get used to it because I am sure I will have George’s tale on any number of lists. But really, it is the best book on kindness I have read to my kids or read myself for that matter. This humble giant cheerfully and creatively parts with his newly purchased clothes as he encounters animals in need of help. In the end, he is content to slip back into his old clothes, but he has a new accessory… a crown for the Kindest Giant in Town.

Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia. This is an aptly named story for the day since according to Mr. Rogers love starts with listening. The young Latina protagonist of this story is good at listening to others and being kind to her schoolmates, neighbors and animals. Esperanza discovers the importance of another type of kindness when she flubs her part int he school play… kindness to yourself.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora. It was a stroke of luck that this was one of the books we had checked out of our local library when the pandemic hit and the library stopped accepting book returns. That means we’ve had it for over two months. I am making the most of it by reading it at every opportunity. Mora’s gorgeous cut paper pictures wonderfully complement this story, which has won a Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King award and the Anna Dewdney Read Together award. I don’t always agree with award committees, but this time, they got it right. Omu (which means “queen”) is cooking a stew that for her supper and the delicious scent lures her neighbors in. Omu generously shares from her big pot with everyone from a little boy down the hall to the Mayor. When she goes to enjoy her own creation, however, she finds her pot empty. Yet she doesn’t stay hungry for long. This is a charming illustration of the power of kindness and sharing to build community. I find the whole thing incredibly joyful to read and share.

Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass. My kiddos love Herb. This sweet herbivorous dragon is the only one of his kind who doesn’t devour wild boar meat, crispy knights and sweet princesses. When the knights of Nogard go on a dragon hunt to rid their kingdom of the murderous dragons, Herb is the only one captured. Things get tense for Herb, but by remaining true to himself he ends up bringing peace to the whole kingdom. You can also share Herb’s story in Spanish.

Since I am getting this post out in the evening instead of the morning, it may be too late to properly celebrate Kindness Day today. But I am confident in saying that Mr. Rogers would happily give you permission to celebrate kindness another day. Or even better, everyday.

Your turn. What are your favorite books about kindness? How have you and your kids shown kindness to yourselves or others lately?

143 Day

Top Toddler Read Alouds, Part 2

 

Canva - Photo of Family Sitting on Floor While Reading Book
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As I prepared Part 2 of the list of books to read together with your toddler (Part 1 available here), the first book on today’s list got me thinking about beloved children’s author/illustrator, Anna Dewdney.  Dewdney tragically died at the age of 50 from cancer.  Of course, I never met the successful and famous creator of Llama, Llama Red Pajama.  Still I recognize her as someone who saw books, stories and reading in the same light I do.  In September of 2013, she wrote an explanation in the Wall Street Journal as to why reading with children does more than just prepare them for academic success:

“by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I will go further and say that that child then learns to feel the world more deeply, becoming more aware of himself and others in a way that he simply cannot experience except in our laps, or in our classrooms, or in our reading circles.”

I just love that.  It’s far more eloquent than my own manifesto comparing books to vegetables. Had we known each other, I like to imagine that Anna Dewdney and I would have been friends.  Like many of my favorite writers, her work has earned her a place in my life’s story.  When she died, she asked that instead of a funeral, the people who wanted to honor her should read a book to a child.  When I read that, I cried.  What a beautiful way to memorialize her life and work. I can only hope that someday my life inspires someone to share some beautiful stories with children.

And now, without further ado, here are some more stories that will help you and your children become a bit more human:

littleexcavatorLittle Excavator by Anna Dewdney.  We love Llama in our house.  Kids easily relate to Llama’s bedtime drama, missing his mama and grocery store tantrums.  Meanwhile, I wish I was as patient and gentle as Mama Llama.   Still I think this one-off title about a young excavator who at first seems too young to help out on a construction site is my kids’ favorite picture book.  After The Spiffiest Giant in Town, this is probably our most read book in their first four years of life. If you have a truck or vehicle lover in your home or life, this is a sure fire winner.  Can’t all kids relate to Little E’s desire to help despite the big truck’s repeated message that he is too small to do the work? I love that the job they are tackling is converting an empty lot full of trash into a lovely oasis in the middle of a neighborhood that you can just tell houses many children.  The beautiful illustrations invite you and your kids to imagine people enjoying this new green space after all the trucks drive off.  Of course, Little E has his big moment and proves to himself, the other construction trucks and little readers that “there is work to do just for you, here and now.” I can’t tell you how many warm fuzzy memories this book will always have associated with it.  And that’s just what I am hoping to create when I share stories with my babies.

MamaPanyasPancakes_PB_W_1Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary and Rich Chamberlin.  Our house is not full of world travelers.  We are more of the stay at home types.  Still I want my children to love the world and appreciate and care about the beautiful diversity of its inhabitants. This is why I am so passionate and determined to allow my children to travel the world and meet of residents of other lands through books.  Mama Panya’s Pancakes is a great first trip to a location geographically far from where we live.  This story’s Kenyan village setting has little in common with our town on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, but the book’s gentle and not at all preachy message is universal.  Adika is so thrilled that he and Mama Panya are heading to the market to buy the ingredients for Mama’s wonderful pancakes that he invites “all our friends” to dinner.  Grownups will relate to Mama’s concern about there being enough for everyone, but Adika’s innocent confidence that they can share with all turns out to be prophetic.  This wonderful tale of community, with lots of educational back matter on village life in Kenya and its animal inhabitants, is also available in French and Spanish.  You can start sharing this one with your kiddos when they are young and keep on reading it for years to come.

snowydayThe Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  As I’ve written before, I love stories that show diverse characters just living their lives.  Keats was one of the first to do this in picture books.  Which is why his stories have endured.  The Snowy Day about young Peter’s adventures in a winter wonderland is a classic of childhood.  Peter spends a magical, but simple day making snow angels, knocking snow off trees, avoiding snowball fights with the big kids and trying to save snow in his pocket for later.  Perfect for sharing on any snowy day.  Or a hot day in the summer when you are dreaming of the cold days of winter.

animalboogieAnimal Boogie illustrated by Debbie Hartner and sung by Fred Penner. “Down in the Jungle, Come if You Dare…”  Barefoot Books has a line of sing-along books with CDs that are perfect for the toddler set.  The Animal Boogie will have you and your tiny people swaying, boogieing and having a grand old time. I love the diverse cast of kids who spy the various jungle animals and move to the beat.  Children’s literature needs to do a better job including children with disabilities in text and illustrations, so it is good to note that Animal Boogie depicts a child in a wheelchair dancing along in the pictures.  If you’d rather groove in Spanish, Cha Cha Cha is the version for your house. Even if you don’t buy the books, bopping along to one of Barefoot Books animated sing-along videos is a great way to get some wiggles out.

journeyhomefromgrandpasThe Journey Home From Grandpa’s by Jemima Lumley. This is another Barefoot sing-along, but we never actually listened to the CD or watched the video of this one.  My father-in-law’s house is about a twenty minute drive from our house, which can seem long when you have two little ones crying in unison in the backseat.  Many a time, I wedged myself in between their two carseats and read them this story when we actually on our way home from Granpa’s.  The bright illustrations and rhythm are a natural fit for older babies or toddlers and I will always be grateful to this book for bringing a bit of peace to our car rides.

clickclackmooClick Clack Moo, Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin. I give big bonus points to any book that not only engages my children but also entertains me.  The C.S. Lewis quote, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story,” always makes me wonder if the famous author was reading a lot picture books to toddlers over and over again.  This tale of intrepid cows that demand labor concessions from a farmer and go on strike when their demands aren’t met meets the Lewis test for a good story.  Of course, where I see a clever and funny story of collective action by oppressed farm animals, my toddlers saw awesome illustrations of cows, chickens, a duck and harried farmer.  They also heard fun animal noises and lots of exclamatory statements from this same farmer.  The cows may kick-off the action, but its the seemingly “neutral” duck that steals the show in the end.  In fact, duck has become such a popular figure that he stars in the many spin-offs Click, Clack stories that Cronin has written, but I’d rather skip those and just read the original again.  Writing about this one makes me want to go pull it out of storage because I think the tale has enough cross-over appeal that my four year olds might enjoy hearing it again.

jessebearJesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstorm. This book appears on lots of lists of great books to read with kids.  The description always left me wondering why.  Once I read the story, though, the appeal was obvious.  Kids love to see themselves reflected in stories, especially as toddlers.  Jesse Bear’s day and routine will be comforting and familiar to your little ones.  Jesse eats, digs in the dirt, takes a bath and goes to bed.  In addition to just the right amount of repetition, I love the old-fashioned illustrations and coziness of this tale.  This is a worthy tale to share at bedtime or any time you want to slow down the pace of the day just a bit.

moose

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  Numeroff is quite well known for this If You Give a… series.  She explores what happens when you give pancakes to a pig, donuts to a dog, and of course, cookies to a mouse. It may be sacrilege of me to say so but of all of these, the Moose and his muffins is my favorite. It always entertains me to see how Numeroff cleverly paints animals like toddlers who wear out their caregivers. Here we have a moose, who after devouring all the muffins, sews buttons on a sweater, makes sock puppets, paints scenery, creates a Halloween costume, spills paint, cleans-up, does laundry and gets hungry all over again.  The circular story delights little ones and the subtly of the illustrations will make parents smile. This series deserves its place as a modern classic of children’s lit.

mousieiwillreadtoyouMousie, I will Read to You by Rachael Cole.  Oh my gosh.  This adorable poetic story melts my book loving mama heart.  It follows a mama mouse and her journey to share the magic of stories with her little mouse.  Here is a mouse who sings lullabies, reads books and poems in abundance to her little one and is rewarded with the joy of watching her kiddo become an independent reader.  I hope this mouse mama still basks in the connection of reading aloud to Mousie even after she could read to herself.  This sweet and slow-paced celebration of raising lifelong book lovers makes a delightful bedtime story for all your mousies.

So that’s it for now.  Let us know what books your toddler loves in the comments!

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

 

 

 

 

Top Toddler Read Alouds, Part 2

Picture Book Picks for Toddlers, Part 1

If narrowing down my picks for top books for babies was hard, selecting my top picks for kiddos who graduate to the toddler phase is next to impossible.  I’ve done my best to curate a list from all the books I enjoyed reading to my kids at this stage, but the toddler years are prime picture book time, so I am splitting this list into Part 1 and Part 2.

spiffiestgiantintownThe Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. To be quite honest, I am impressed that I have made it to week two of writing this blog without mentioning this book. This is my all-time favorite picture book.  I have easily read this book to my kids five hundred times.  I know it by heart and have been known to recite it in the car when I am driving and can’t read to the kids.  Julia Donaldson achieved picture book fame for her story The Gruffalo, but in my opinion, she should be famous for this one.  George is a giant and he always wears the same patched-up gown and old brown sandals.  One day, he splurges on a whole new set of spiffy new duds. On his way home, George meets a series of animals in need and cheerfully parts with his new outfit, one piece at a time.  A laugh-out-loud climax and a fitting gratitude filled ending to the story of the Kindest Giant in Town complete this tale.  The illustrations, done by Axel Scheffler, are vibrant and detailed: there is always something new to pick-up on (even after the five hundredth read).  An all-around beautiful book that deserves to be widely read and well-loved.

littlebluetruckLittle Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.  I am a sucker for kids’ books featuring kind characters and like George, Little Blue Truck fits this description.  He cheerfully drives through the countryside greeting all the farm animals along the way with a friendly Beep Beep Beep.  When a grumpy, self-important dump truck gets himself stuck in the mud, Little Blue helps him out and shows him the importance of being a friend and having friends.  There are sequels to this story, but nothing can compare with this first rhyming rollick.

Shape-Capers-9780061236990Shape Capers by Cathryn Falwell. This prolific Maine-based author has written a number of stories I enjoy reading aloud, but Shape Capers is a natural fit for toddlers. A diverse cast of kids play, arrange and re-arrange shapes into boats and more. A effortless introduction to shapes, this book with its eye-catching, bright illustrations will spark your kids’ imagination and has lots of easy play connections.

barkgeorgeBark George by Jules Feiffer.  Laugh out loud fun for the whole family.  George the dog’s mother tries to get him to bark, but despite her best efforts, George makes just about every animal noise under the sun except for the appropriate one for a dog.  A trip to the vet reveals the problem, but just when we all think George’s troubles are over, a surprise ending will provide one last giggle.

mindfultotsbundleMindful Tots by Whitney Stewart. Kids have a lot of big feelings, don’t they? In my house, their big feelings have been known to give me big feelings. And then things spiral downward.  Teaching kids (and adults) to recognize and constructively express their emotions is a big undertaking, but a worthwhile one.  Mindfulness may be trendy right now, but it’s not new.  Mentioning and managing emotions was my hero Mr. Rogers bread and butter all the way back in 1968 when his show first aired. After September 11, 2001, Mr. Rogers told parents, “I’m convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings–ways that don’t hurt them or anyone else–we’re helping to make our world a safer, better place.” I think if our favorite television neighbor were still around to help us out today, he would be delighted at the new mindfulness tools that exist for families. These Mindful Tots books were inspired by the success of the Mindful Kids card deck for older kids that Barefoot Books debuted. The Spanish/English version of these books will be a great addition to classroom libraries or on the home shelves of bilingual families.

giraffescantdanceGiraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. A lovely, poetic story about listening to your inner music. Gerald the Giraffe can’t dance, which makes the annual jungle dance an ordeal for this lovable animal. When the event arrives, it unfolds just as Gerald dreaded.  He slinks off in embarrassment and has a lucky encounter with a cricket who shows him that “sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.” Charming.

mygrannywenttomarketMy Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone. My kiddos were born in November, so their first Christmas arrived shortly after they were born.  There wasn’t much we needed for them at this age, so my mom graciously gifted them a whole stack of Barefoot Books that I was drooling over.  My Granny Went to Market was one of them.  This adventurous grandmother buys a magic carpet and proceeds to visit local markets across the globe to pick-up treasures from cats to kites. This delightful story is an easy introduction to geography and counting. If you are the crafty type (which I am decidedly not), there are plenty of fun tie-ins from decorating kites to making Japanese lanterns to making your own Russian nesting dolls.  The story’s open-ended conclusion can also spark plenty of opportunities speculate about where you and your kids would take your magic carpet.

peacebookThe Peace Book by Todd Parr. I am a big Todd Parr fan.  His illustrations are charming,  quirky, humorous and bright.  He breaks down large, complex topics that we may struggle to explain to kids (peace, environmentalism, family relations) into regular bite size peaces.  Since I am your average certified tree hugging hippie, The Peace Book and The Earth Book are my top two Parr selections, but you can’t go wrong with any of his work.  If you prefer not to purchase them, hit the library when it reopens.  I’ve yet to see a library that doesn’t have a healthy collection of his titles.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more picture books I love sharing with toddlers.  In the meantime, what books do you and your toddlers turn to over and over again?

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

Picture Book Picks for Toddlers, Part 1

Books that are getting me through self-isolation

Canva - Book Page
Photo by Dzenina Lukac

If you do not know me outside of my blog, reader, you will not be aware that I have rather, shall we say, eclectic reading interests. I love a good teen book, middle grade novels delight my heart, I can’t get enough stories about bookshop owners and librarians, I enjoy a great deal of historical fiction, political nonfiction (sometimes) engages me and I go through phases where I devour bonnet fiction (for the uninitiated, “bonnet” fiction are novels about the Amish). Spiritual memoirs have done as much for my faith as any church service.  Anne Tyler, L.M. Montgomery, J.K. Rowling, Shane Claiborne, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Cindy Woodsmall, Barbara Kingsolver and Sarah Bessey compete for space on my way too small bookshelf. And obviously I adore picture books of many flavors (they have their own bookshelf… and baskets and bins).

I do a lot of re-reading. I always think of it as re-visiting old friends, but I saw something online recently that suggested that people with anxiety like to re-watch their favorite shows in times of stress because they don’t want the tension of finding out how it ends.  I’m sure that’s at least partially why I re-read so much. I tend to read very quickly on my first pass through books, especially fiction ones so I can reach the conclusion. If I enjoy the story and re-read it, I can then take a more leisurely journey back through it the next time or the next one hundred times.  Since we’ve been spending most (ok, all) of our time at home, I have done about equal parts diving into new tales and reading over old favorites. Here’s the recent line-up:

afterlifeAfterlife by Julia Alvarez. When I worked at a public library, I met some truly amazing people, including a number of writers. Because I love meeting authors (seriously, I swoon… it’s a bit embarrassing), each of these events stand out clearly in my memory. One year, we received an NEA Big Read grant to do a community read with the novel In the Time of the Butterflies and we were able to do a Skype visit with Julia Alvarez.  Technical difficulties aside, it was amazing.  She was soft-spoken, eloquent and even more inspiring than even I could have hoped. I envy the students at Middlebury College who get to take writing classes wit her. I loved her stories before I met her, but afterward, I knew I would never miss another book she penned. Which is why I literally gasped with delight (yes, I am that nerdy), when I saw that she was releasing an adult fiction book this spring. Oprah’s magazine listed Afterlife as one its most anticipated books of the year and I quite agree with that. Afterlife did not disappoint.  It’s the story of the newly retired and newly widowed Antonia Vega who is trying to process her grief while still navigating the world of family and societal responsibilities. Her erratic older sister goes missing, requiring her to engage with familial drama at the same time that she is drawn into the trials and tribulations of the migrants on the farm next door who are undocumented. Antonia is generally sympathetic, flawed, but shows an enviably amount of self-knowledge.  There is a certain amount of humor in the story, plus some heartbreak. I sped through this story and can certainly see myself pulling it off my shelf for a re-read in the future.

pastrixPastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I laughed out loud when Nadia Bolz-Weber admitted that she gets more admiring glances from truck drivers than from good church ladies.  I can see why.  She’s a rather unusual Lutheran minister. Now any good spiritual memoir requires a lot of honesty, some deep insight into God, a healthy amount of humor and the ability to relate seemingly non-spiritual life events to the formation of personal theology.  Bolz-Weber has all of these ingredients and more in her writing.  Here is a pastor who is both down to earth and a deep believer in God’s grace.  She doesn’t sanitize herself, the world or her understanding of God before laying it all out before her readers. I have read Pastrix twice now and I know I will continue to return to it when I am not in the mood for any sugar coating about life or sweet stories about Jesus. Somehow Pastrix gives me comfort that God can meet me where I am even if I am wallowing in cynicism.

fiercefreefireFierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker. Here’s an author who has been on quite a spiritual and writing journey over the last fifteen to twenty years. Her books reflected the changes she has experienced as a mother, a wife and a faith seeker.  Before I became a mother, I discovered her book Interrupted and connected with the message of social justice. Then I read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and connected with its message of anti-consumerism. It seems there is a Jen Hatmaker book for all my moods.  When I am feeling down about my mothering skills, I read For the Love and when I am feeling a general mess and in need of a little general encouragement, I turn to Of Mess and MoxieGoing forward, I am sure I will pull out Fierce, Free and Full of Fire when I am in need of some bracing words about the power of community or a reminder to knock-off the body-loathing we all seem to have internalized from our culture’s none too subtle messages. There’s no one quite like Jen Hatmaker to remind us that our struggles are not ours alone, but that we should and do share them with our sisters around the country and the world. While, I miss the fun asides that were present in the hilarious how-tos and lists of her last couple of books (as Jen reminds us humor is not a throw-away quality!), there is a lot to chew on in this latest offering, which shows that Jen has reached the stage in her life when she has become all the adjectives she used to title this book. One last word on Jen Hatmaker (for now): if you can get her books on audio narrated by her, do it.  For real.  You will not regret it for a minute.

firsttestProtector of the Small Series by Tamora Pierce. I am a reluctant and selective fantasy reader. But if I can get into a book, I usually love it.  Happily one of my favorite fantasy authors is quite prolific. Tamora Pierce writes fiercely feminist fantasy for teens and this “grown-up” is here for it.  This series has four volumes: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight.  The main character Keladry is determined to be the first known female knight in her kingdom in hundreds of years. Some people are less than pleased about this ambition. But instead of putting her head down and trying not to stand out as her older knight brothers advise, Kel’s passion for defending justice and protecting the weak and innocent brings her to the notice of just about everyone.  She may have to work three times as hard as the boys, but she will prove that she deserves her shield.  One of the great things about teen literature is that the books are often quick reads.  There have been times during this pandemic that my brain just didn’t feel up for anything but quick reads.  Plus I could get it through the NH State Library Overdrive collection so I could read them while the kiddos were falling asleep next to me at night.  Tamora Pierce books are awesome for teens and just as good for adults.

lostforwordsbookshooThe Lost for Worlds Bookshop by Stephanie Butland.  Why are bibliophiles always portrayed in novels as liking books more than people? And why do I love all these books so much?  (Readers, these are rhetorical questions; no need for you to analyze how much I may or may not have in common with said characters). This is all by way of saying that the premise of this story isn’t original. Loveday has her dream job in a bookshop and despite her feelings of being alone in the world, she is actually tenderly watched out for by a number of people.  But she has a secret that she guards obsessively.  Again, perhaps not the most original point of departure for a novel, but I enjoyed it.  And what’s more, when it was over, I found myself thinking about it for several days. For some reason, Loveday’s story is one that is sticking with me.

emilystarrEmily Starr series by L.M. Montgomery.  When pushed, I often admit that Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book.  This is the truth. But in some ways and during some times, I love L.M. Montgomery’s lesser known works just as much. If you are only acquainted with Anne, I’m happy to introduce you to Emily (If you are not familiar with Anne, just stop reading this blog and go read the whole series.  All seven books. Do not do anything else until you are finished.  Your kids can fend for themselves).  Emily is not inflicted with Anne’s despised red hair, but she too is an orphan who goes to live with an older, stern guardian.  In Emily’s case, she moves to the family homestead, New Moon, and finds much beauty there, but not much tenderness from her Aunt Elizabeth. I first read these books as a young teen, but for me now, as a parent, I find Emily’s story more poignant as it opens while her father is still alive and you walk with her through his death and her departure from their house to her new home. Once installed in New Moon, this young, highly imaginative heroine discovers her affinity for writing.  The sequels to Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest follow Emily through her high school years and into adulthood as she pursues her rainbow gold (a successful writing career), but continually finds love elusive. I have probably read these books a dozen times and just writing about them makes me want to close my computer and go read them again.  Looks like we’re having cereal for dinner.

marthaMartha by Diana Wallis Taylor. The Red Tent introduced me to the concept of fictionalizing Biblical stories.  I’ve yet to find anything that compares to Anita Diamant’s imagining, but Martha is a solid entry in this genre (is it even a genre?). When I was about four years old, I told my family that “I am not domestic.” This line became the centerpiece of one the family’s most oft-repeated stories.  I’m not sure a four year old really should be “domestic”, but even now over three decades later, my declaration would still be accurate. Which is why in the Biblical story of Mary and Martha, I have always been firmly in the Mary camp.  No sense pretending I’d want to be the sister buzzing around cooking and serving.  Nope.  Still Martha often gets a raw deal in sermons and commentary on this story.  Although this story doesn’t paint Mary as a duty-shirker, but as a day dreamer who has a crush on one of the disciples. And Martha is not a nagging shrew, but a typical oldest sister with too much responsibility thrust upon her.  I love the emphasis the story has on Jesus as a healer and reading the story of the raising of Lazarus from the perspective of one his sister made me see the miracle from a new angle. While I found the romantic resolution unsatisfying, I still enjoyed this re-telling.  Diana Wallis Taylor also retold the stories of Mary Magdalene and the woman at the well and I’ll likely give those a shot at some point too.

travelingmerciesTraveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. I’ve heard Anne Lamott referred to as a [living] “patron saint.”  She is the kind of patroness I could see appealing to for help. Certainly not too holy, she’ll relate to my everyday struggles and not judge me for my less than loving thoughts towards some inhabitants of this world.  Although if she’s having a bad day, she might tell me to bug off.  This spiritual memoir is an older one, but the reluctant Christian, recovering alcoholic and bestselling author is super quotable, humorous and not hesitant to reveal her shortcomings.  Whether or not she’d appreciate me adopting her as a patroness, she is someone to whom I can always return and find fresh insight.

 

Reviewing this list, it strikes me that this is a fairly accurate representation of what I like to read. I have dipped often in the past couple of months into the wisdom of my favorite storytellers. As usual, they have not let me down.

Your turn. What have you been reading to get you through these strange times?

Disclosure:  I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

 

Books that are getting me through self-isolation

Books are not broccoli

Canva - Photo Of Man Carrying Baby
Photo by nappy

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like broccoli.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite veggies.  Even my kids like to eat “little trees” sometimes. But, let’s be honest here, if someone offered me a choice between broccoli and a donut, I will take the donut almost every time. I do have some friends who, bless them, would honestly prefer kale to pizza. But, readers, I’m just not one of them.

This is what we hear: Books are good for you.  You have to read to your children so they will do well in school. So they will be straight “A” students, go to a great college  and get a high-paying, stable job. This is the message parents hear from early literacy experts, schools, librarians, children’s museums and more. In fact, when I worked for libraries and a children’s museum I probably promoted this message too. Reading to your kids is the single most important thing you can do to ensure Kindergarten Readiness.

My concern is that those of us who love books enough to make it our career or, you know, blog about it, are doing literature and children a disservice by making reading books seem like eating your vegetables. We do it only because we know it is good for us.  I don’t want children to believe they should just read books because they are good for them. That message may motivate some competent readers, but I don’t think it can transform this proficiency into love.

I read books because I think they are the salad, the main course and the dessert. Like food, stories nourish me, comfort me and give me energy.

So let’s talk less about reading to children as a way to promote academic excellence and more about it as a way for families to connect, bond and create memories.

readaloudfamilyMy favorite book on this subject is The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie.  She describes how to “build your family culture around books.” I just about swooned when I heard that phrase for the first time. She is an evangelist for the power of stories to bind families together.  Sarah’s book waxes far more eloquently than I do about the joys, the benefits, and the beauty of reading aloud as a family. Plus she provides questions you can ask your children (or anyone) about books to stimulate deep conversations. And there are booklists with suggestions for little ones all the way up through teens. I am always here for a good booklist. Sarah’s podcast (honestly my favorite podcast) and website are called Read-Aloud Revival.  A revival of reading aloud?  I am here for that.  I want the t-shirt.  Seriously, if anyone knows Sarah Mackenzie, please ask her to make t-shirts.

BFB_Pinterest_Medium_RaisingAReader_564x846px_0520What I am not trying to do is discredit the hard work that early childhood educators and advocates do. I am grateful that they are out there helping families raise readers.  Some children do not grow up in homes where they are literally tripping over books. The adults in their lives may very well be too exhausted from working low paying jobs or juggling the many demands put on caregivers to read lots of books to their kids or take them to the library. Which is why I am beyond thrilled that Barefoot Books is currently donating a book to Raising a Reader for every order placed until July 31, 2020. Anything that gets books into the hands of children and families is good work.

Frankly, all families need and deserve support from the community to create life-long dedicated readers.  All children need as many people in their lives as possible to share the magic of stories with them.  People who will say “This is a lovely tale.  Let me read it to you.”  Reading to children takes time and it requires your attention. For very little children time and attention show love.  Actually, for most people of all ages, time and attention show love.

What I am advocating, really, is both a change in messaging and a change in thinking.  To paraphrase John Wesley, “Read all the books you can, to all the children you can, for as long as you ever can.” Do it because books provide connection, books stimulate the imagination, books change lives.

All the Books You Can (1)

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

Books are not broccoli

My favorite books for babies

welcomebaby

Sure, parents need clothes and diapers and stuff for their babies, but they also need books.  I love when people asked guests to bring a book for baby in lieu of a card, although I always think “a book???” My favorite baby shower gift to give is a laundry basket full of books and zip up sleepers.  Because in my experience if you have laundry baskets, sleepers and books, you are almost all set for a baby (or two babies in my case).

My trouble comes in when trying to narrow it down.  I am embarrassed to admit that I once actually thought there were no interesting board books out there.  I can barely believe it now.  There are so many that today’s list is a bit long. But after all, what else will new parents want do with their babies’s early waking moments if not read to them?

whereveryouareWherever You Are My Love will Find You by Nancy Tillman. You can’t go wrong with any of Nancy Tillman’s lovely, sentimental (but not maudlin) books for a new tiny baby.  Her most famous is probably On the Night You Were Born, but Wherever You Are edges it out for my favorite of hers.  The illustrations are so absolutely stunning, I wish I could frame them and hang them on my wall like the art that they are.  The poetic text sends just the message we all hope our children will take with them in life.

Clare-Beatons-Nursery-Rhymes-GENBB_HRES_W_1Clare Beaton’s Rhymes. Mother Goose has been a part of childhood for many, many years for good reason.  Nursery rhymes are a solid addition to any young child’s at-home library. There is no shortage of options out there.  For my kids, I discovered Mother Goose Remembers at our library. I fell in love with it right away, mostly because of Clare Beaton’s artwork. Her fabric art is just delightful.  Unfortunately, Mother Goose Remembers is no longer in print, so I purchased a copy used.  You can still get one from Better World Books and if you and your recipient don’t object to second hand gifts, that would be my recommendation.  Happily, if do want something new or if you prefer board books that can take a lot of baby touching, Clare Beaton now has a set of rhymes featuring her same fabric art. You can select from Garden Rhymes, Animal Rhymes, Farmyard Rhymes, Bedtime Rhymes, Action Rhymes, or Nursery Rhymes.  They are also available as a complete set.

global babiesGlobal Babies from the Global Fund for Children. When I worked at a public library, we put together kits to distribute to new parents in the community.  We needed a book that would appeal to our diverse community.  Global Babies was an obvious choice.  Babies love to look at faces and the photographs in this board book are just that: faces of babies from around the world.  Our personal copy of Global Babies got so much use, it is basically falling apart now. If I had it to do over again, I would have gotten one for each baby so they could have each had one to gaze at.

mommy mama and meMommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman. As a pregnant mama, I scoured all sorts of lists of books about diverse families.  I was excited to find this one, which was one of the first baby books to portray a two-mom family.  My favorite diverse books for children don’t show diversity as an issue to be solved, but just a fact of life.  Mommy, Mama and Me fits this description very well.  The moms feed their baby, play with her, read to her, push her on swings and put her to sleep. It was nice to have a board book on our shelves that reflected our family.

notwoalikeNo Two Alike by Keith Baker.  Speaking of reflecting our family, we purchased or borrowed a number of different board books featuring twins.  To be frank, many of them were a disappointment.  This one was an exception. With a lovely winter setting and featuring two baby birds, the text and illustrations will appeal to families of multiples or singletons.

babysfirstwords_genbb_cover_rgb_72dpi_wBaby’s First Words by Sunny Scribens and Stella Blackstone. This book wasn’t available when my kiddos were babies, but if it had been it would have graced our shelves for sure.  Honored as an American Library Association Rainbow Pick, this book, featuring two dad and their little ones, is full of pictures and words that fill a baby’s life.  One of the reasons that I became a Barefoot Ambassador is their commitment to diversity and I love that they have children’s books available in Spanish, French and bilingual options. Baby First Words is one of those available as a bilingual Spanish/English board book.

paperbagprincessPaperbag Princess by Robert Munsch.  I don’t care for lists with titles like “10 Books You Must Read” or “1,345 Every Child Must Hear Before They Turn Two”.  I’m more of the Read What You Want kind of bibliophile.  So when I started this blog, I promised myself I would share my suggestions and trust my book-loving readers to pick which ones are best for them and their children.  This one time, however, I will make an exception.  You must read the Paperbag Princess.  And every child should hear this book. Preferably many, many times. As I am writing this post, The Paperbag Princess is available for $2.49 on Bookshop.org, so there is no reason not to slip this gem into every baby shower gift, birthday gift, Christmas gift or International Women’s Day gift that you give. Do it; don’t be a bum.

thechillypenguin_bb_cover_rgb_72dpi_wThe Chilly Penguin by Constanze von Kitzing. This poor little penguin is cold and tries a number of ways to warm up. This story has a sweet message about friendship.  Plus penguins are just cute.

littleengineThe Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper.  If you haven’t guessed by now, I deeply love both brand new, modern children’s books and classics.  The Little Engine that Could is obviously the later.  And I do highly recommend this book.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can also take my mother’s (the original story loving mama) or Dolly Parton’s. This may very well be my mother’s favorite picture book of all time and I listened to it while sitting on her lap many, many times.  Sharing this story is a bit of a family tradition now and both she and I enjoy reading it to my kiddos.  While a shared love for this book is probably one of the few things that my mother and Dolly P have in common, Dolly loves the Little Blue Engine and her can-do attitude so much that she wrote a song about it.  I love the song; I love the book.  In fact, this iconic and fabulous lady has sent over a million books to children through her super cool Imagination Library and the very first book every child receives to start their home library is this one. If you want baby to be able to handle the book freely, you can get it in board book format.  Be aware, though, that the board book is an abridged version.  Once the kiddo can be trusted with regular books, you may have to do what I did and buy a full length version.  I don’t recommend getting the sequels or a treasury including other stories about the Engine and friends.  Often treasuries have different illustrators and the pictures can’t compare to the original.  Plus, the “sequels” are simply not very good.

sounds-around-town_fc_bb_wSounds Around Town by Maria Carluccio.  I read this one a lot to my kids from the time they were born and through their fist couple of years. The collage illustration spreads give kids plenty to look at and the sound words are always good for keeping their attention and working on early speech. When kids reach the toddler stage, they will love joining in to purr like a cat, tick like a clock and honk like a horn. This one will get plenty of use.

Bear-about-TownBB_WBusy Bear series.  If Clare Beaton is one of my favorite Barefoot illustrators, Stella Blackstone is one of my favorite Barefoot authors.  And I am not alone.  The Busy Bear series has been a favorite in the Barefoot Books collection for over twenty years. In various volumes, Bear bops around town, rides a bike, goes to school, take a trip, works and celebrates his birthday. Classic stories that will reflect the world that babies and toddlers are just beginning to explore.  If you want to set a new family up with lots of hours of reading pleasure, you can get the entire Busy Bear library of nine board books or a smaller a paperback library with five classic bear tales. If you are looking to get just one tale of Bear, I’d suggest Bear About Town. Many of the Busy Bear books are also available in the Barefoot Books Spanish collection and French collection. And if you are looking for a book/ toy combo gift, you could pare any of these options with an adorable Busy Bear stuffie. Really, there is a busy bear option perfect for any baby gift giver.

peek-a-booset_w_1Peekaboo Set by Phillis Gershator. As much as we read and enjoyed The Sounds Around Town, if I had to pick just one Barefoot Books board book collection to recommend to someone purchasing books for a baby, it would be this set.   You can get each volume separately – Who’s in the Forest?, Who’s in the Garden?, Who’s in the Farmyard? or together as a set. I can’t imagine a little one who wouldn’t love the sweet, bright and vibrant animals and settings, plus the peekaboo feature is a sure crowd pleaser.  These books are just made for babies and toddlers to delight over.

corduroyCorduroy by Don Freeman. I simply couldn’t consider this list complete without mentioning my favorite bear in search of his lost button, a bed and a friend. Another classic in the kidlit world, Corduroy will charm a kiddo from their first days all the way through their first years of elementary school. If you are lucky enough to ever read this one with a child you love, don’t forget to end your read-aloud with a nose nuzzle.

What is your favorite board book to give as a baby shower gift? Is there one missing from my list that you and your babies love to enjoy together?

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My favorite books for babies