We haven’t been leaving the house for our regular activities since the middle of March. With no visits to grandparents, no trips to children’s museums, no playgrounds, no playgroups, no swim lesson and no library visits (this is a particularly hard pill for me to swallow) to break things up, the days sometimes… well… drag by. I would be perfectly happy to sit on the couch all day, sip enjoyable beverages, eat comfort food and read. Since my four year olds seems to need more variety to their days then this (whyyyy?), we mix things up with other activities, but we still squeeze in quite a few stories every day. Here are a few of our recent Covid-19 companions:
Hello, Neighbor: The Kind and Caring World of Mr. Rogers by Matthew Cordell. Most (ahem, all) people who know me have a vague idea that I have a soft spot for a certain television neighbor in cardigans and sneakers. And when I say soft spot, I mean that my wife and I drove ten hours in a car with twin two-year olds to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the premier of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. But we met the real Mr. McFeeley so obviously it was well worth it. Anyway… I digress. Hello, Neighbor is the recently released authorized picture book biography for children, so naturally I had to do curbside pick-up to get a copy from our local independent bookshop. And I ensure you, my Internet neighbors, it does not disappoint.
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon. To make myself feel better about purchasing the Mr. Rogers picture book for myself… I mean for them, I let my kiddos select a book to get from the bookshop at the same time. This is the one they chose. I wasn’t familiar with Dory before this and I can say truthfully that was a shame. The whole family read it together within two hours of arriving home with our new books. We were giggling like crazy at Rascal’s antics. This is the first in a series and we’ll certainly be finding a way to get our hands on the others. And I am dead serious.
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. We are currently reading a chapter a day of this classic bear’s tale. Somehow I never read Paddington as a kid, but as an adult I have developed quite a book crush on Paddington. Plus this emigrant bear’s antics are sure to elicit at least one laugh out loud reaction everyday from each of us.
Rescue Bots books. When I was working full time as a librarian I spent a lot of time exalting the value of parents and school letting children choose what they want to read. I felt very virtuous when I would quote Maya Angelou: “Any book that helps a child form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Of course, at the beginning of my career I didn’t have children and then later on, they were too young to express a preference in story time material. In those early days, I was free to read them whatever wonderful literature I deemed worthy. So such advice was easy to dispense. Now that my kiddos are four and half, however, my chickens have come home to roost. They love the television show Rescue Bots. It’s an older show, but a couple of seasons stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Transformers are at the center of their lives right now. They watch as much Rescue Bots as we allow, play with Rescue Bot toys, pretend to be Rescue Bots and recently started dictating Rescue Bot fan fiction stories for us to transcribe. So I knew they’d love the various TV-show tie-in books and I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of used ones from Better World Books. Predictably, they want me to read them frequently. And I do. Time to practice what I preach, right?
Chandra’s Magic Light by Theresa Heine. After seeing a solar lamp in the market, two sisters set about earning money to buy one in hopes of easy their baby brother’s breathing difficulties caused by their family’s kerosene lamps. Chandra and her sister are compassionate, determined and hardworking. This is a lovely story set in Nepal that I really enjoyed sharing with my little ones.
The Story Tree by Hugh Lupton. Anytime I make oatmeal for breakfast, the kiddos are sure to request that I read the Magic Porridge Pot from this collection. Like all Barefoot Books, this compilation of classic folk tales is heavily and eye-catchingly illustrated. Including classics from around the world like Jack and the Beanstock, The Three Billy-Goat Gruff and Monkey-See, Monkey-Do, these seven stories have been read-aloud hits around here.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst. This book was gifted to us by an important person in our lives and one of my little ones frequently requests this book at bedtime. In it a mom tells her twins that no matter how far the distance, they are always connected to the people they love by an invisible thread. Here’s a story that may bring comfort to kids and adults who are missing family or friends during the pandemic.
Two Times the Fun by Beverly Cleary. This was the kiddos first chapter book and it continues to be much-loved. My own childhood was heavily flavored with the wonderful characters and stories created by the indomitable Beverly Cleary (who recently turned 104!), so I love sharing her work with my children. They’ve enjoyed several of her stories on audio (stayed tuned for a future post on audio books that we’ve been enjoying), but this story of four-year old twins we read as a paperback. Jimmy and Janet are thoroughly relatable four year olds, who love getting new boots, surprising their mailman friend and digging holes with real shovels. Even though Beverly Cleary was writing several decades ago, my thoroughly modern kids easily see themselves in her characters. I am always on the lookout for good books featuring twins (there’s another future post) and this one tops my list!
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo. Mercy Watson is a porcine wonder! Or at least that’s what Mr. and Mrs. Watson of 54 Deckawoo Drive believe. Our family tends to agree. These silly tales of a pet pig and her neighbors are sure to delight. After checking each of them out of the library several times last year, we added a complete used collection of Mercy books to our shelves. If your kids are as taken with this darling, dear pig as we are, you’ll want to do the same.
Dara’s Clever Trap by Liz Flanagan. I have two avid future inventors around here, so they love almost any story about engineers, inventors and makers. Dara’s Clever Trap fits the bill nicely and gives them the additional thrill of hearing about a princess who outsmarts the “bad guys.” For my part, I love that it features a strong female character from Cambodia. Add the appealing illustrations and there is much to like about this short chapter book.
My hope for all of you is that during this time when you can’t be physically present with others, your family will meet some new friends and revisit many old friends in stories. What is your family reading and loving during self-isolation?
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