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.
The 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.
Little 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 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.
Bark 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.
Mindful 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.
Giraffes 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.
My 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.
The 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?
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