I have a love-hate relationship with early-reader books. Here’s the love: George loves them. I don’t get it. It must be the artwork? Here’s the hate: The sentences are short, words simple, and stories mundane. In other words, they’re booooring.
Side Note: I have a personal issue with very young children’s books being incorrectly marketed (why should baby books have one-word pages instead of rhymes or playful wording? Early readers should have the one-word pages…) Anywho. Another whine for another time.
But, then again, whenever George actually begins to read, early readers will be his gateways into the vast, unequalled world of literature. Therefore, they have a bit of my respect.
Last weekend, our church librarian pointed to the sale rack and said I should take a gander, as someone had donated numerous children’s books. For a quarter apiece, I left with 10 books, which I then tried to cover with my bulletin during the service, lest someone more pious than me wonder why I brought Pokémon books instead of my Bible (I use an app!).
And so, George’s Top Three List is swarming with young-reader books…published about 20 years ago.
The Toddler’s Top Three:
Chocolate Chippo Hippo by Vincent Andriani
Here’s the scoop: Ed the Hippo loves all things cookie. Technically, he’ll eat any cookie, but he loves chocolate-chip cookies. He has those morseled, little rounds of goodness on his clothes, in his dreams, and even on his sunglasses. A baker hippo with an obsession for his creations? What a perfect life, eh?
Thomas and Percy and the Dragon, based on The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry
I didn’t grow up in a Thomas-the-Tank-Engine household, even though I have an older brother, and neither did my husband. He said the faces were too creepy (I concur). However, for only one shiny quarter, I couldn’t resist investing in yet another easy-reader book, as well as my son’s future (that sounds a bit grandiose but cheap, doesn’t it?).
In this thrilling saga, Percy (who is this Percy?) sees a big, yellow, scary dragon during the night. He tells his friends (frenemies? I’m not very well-versed in the melodrama that is polite locomotive society) about his frightening encounter, and, they, like any supportive pals, laugh in his face. Thomas heroically steps in to help Percy save (creepy) face, and Percy is glad he told his friend about the scare. Cute-ish and simple. Then again, my George had his first nightmare this week (something about scary, red eyes? Yikes.), so maybe this isn’t the best bedtime story?
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Eric, Eric, Eric, you stole my heart with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but where, oh, where, did your editor go with this novel? Why is it so wordy? It’s about (you guessed it!) a tiny seed’s journey through climates and environments to finally settle in and grow. It’s a story about perseverance and not always having to be the biggest and strongest. Birds and oceans and children fill the pages in typical Eric-Carle illustrative fashion. It’s just too wordy, man. Help a mother out!
Mama’s Top Three:
A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
A cat sleeps in a bed of daffodils, and a dog cools off in a pool of water. A chickadee enjoys birdseed, while a squirrel nibbles away at corn. Everyone is having a perfect day until an unwanted visitor scares each away from its idyllic spot. There’s not much of a moral, but I love the artwork and the final page. Sweet stuff.
Shy by Deborah Freedman
This book took me by surprise. I checked it out from the library on a whim, so I never know what to expect.
Shy likes to stay between the pages of books (as do I, Shy, as do I). He likes the “in a land far away” and “once upon a time,” but never ventures out to experience either for himself. Then a bird lands near him, singing. He’s never seen a bird in real life, so he gets tongue tied and fails to reach out. Sadly, the bird flies away. But Shy decides to follow the bird and take on a slew of adventures.
The artwork is just lovely. It’s subtle and dreamy. And I had no idea what to expect when Shy finally emerges from his hiding spot.
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett (illustrated by Jon Klassen)
This ironic masterpiece comes from the guy who wrote Triangle and the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back. It’s such a simple concept. The inside flap reads, “Sam and Dave are digging a hole, and they will not stop until they find something spectacular.” And that’s exactly what happens. Honestly, I don’t want to give any more away. If you like dry, deadpan humor, check out Triangle, I Want My Hat Back, and this book for a chuckle (and maybe toss in Stuck). Also, this book has that shiny, silver Caldecott sticker, so you know you’re in good hands.
What Mama Reads:
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Basically, a non-conventional Indian girl from a very traditional family tries to choose her career of computer coding (how very STEM of her!) over her mother’s desire to see her wed and barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. The girl, Dimple, meets an awkward, but endearing Indian guy (boy? man? What do we call 18-year-old males?), whom she discovers her parents have arranged for her to marry. And…I’ll leave the rest of the discoveries up to you.
I finished this book in two days (I stayed up too late rather than neglecting my children). There were a few religious and moral sticking points for me, but the social and romantic aspects were fun, playful, and totally enjoyable. I’ve never read a book by an Indian author, and I loved the insight into their culture. I may have to rent a Bollywood film or two to play catch up. Shame on me for waiting this long!
On Mama’s To-Do List:
- The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding
- My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
- Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson (I’m terrible at finishing non-fiction books, but this one looks fairly interesting.)
What children’s books are your kids bringing to you?