Top Three List: Books for the New Year

Question: What am I supposed to do with all of these Christmas gifts?

Yes, I realize that’s the epitome of a first-world problem, but, for real, y’all. Eventually, I won’t be able to laugh off the mess with a “oh, this? Yes, we just returned from our Alabama Christmas road trip…seven weeks ago.” At some point, it’s just embarrassing. Additionally, I’ve come to realize that I first have to clean before I can actually clean. Why did no one explain that to me before?


New year, new reading goals! Well, this mainly means that I already have a big stack of thick novels waiting for me. Whenver I know I’m going to love my next book, I always feel guilty as I trudge through my current one. As if I’m cheating on my current novel by dreaming about my next. Is this normal?

Well, I’m currently mind-cheating on Beartown by Fredrik Backman (of A Man Called Ove fame) with Renegades by Marissa Meyer. I’m simultaneously cheating on Wonder by R.J. Palacio, because I promised you that I would read it next, and it hasn’t even come in the mail yet. I truly lead a tough existence (as I’m still in my pjs and under a pile of blankets at 1:45 p.m. as my children nap simultaneously).

I’ve picked up a few enjoyable books for the kiddos recently, so I thought I’d give you a quick Top Three List for your viewing pleasure.

The Toddler’s Top Three:

Side Note: I just Googled, and George no longer counts as a “toddler”. Apparently, he’s a “preschooler,” while Olivia now falls into the toddler category. Hand-over-heart-and-sigh moment for my sweet, growing babies.

Escargot by Dashka Slater

escargotOK, I tend to think it’s a bit morbid to name your snail protagonist after an appetizer, but it’s a fun word to say. This sweet picture book is about a little French snail who 1.) Wants to be your favorite animal, and 2.) Wants to make it to the salad at the end of the book. Also, he hates carrots, but (spoiler!) learns to love them. He asks the reader to pet him, kiss him, and ask him to come out of his shell. I also love how he asks for the reader to make a “fierce face” and roar to scare away a carrot. Hil-arious results from the preschool crowd. This book is fun because it’s sprinkled with French words, which makes me put on a terrible French accent. Eh, c’est la vie!

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

First of all, can we talk about unicorns? Because unicorns…

(17-year-old Zoolander reference)

Thelma the pony also knows how hot unicorns are right now, and she desperately wishes she could become one, even though her best friend—a donkey named Otis—loves her the way she is—short, chubby, and decidedly not pink and sparkly. She ties a carrot onto her head to try to look more like her idols. In a freak accident, a truck tips and spills pink paint and glitter all over her. Fame is instantaneous. But, of course, as every children’s book needs a good moral, the grass truly isn’t greener on the other side. Sometimes, you should simply eat the grass instead of looking elsewhere (pony/donkey reference…).

circleCircle, Triangle, Elephant!: A book of shapes and surprises by Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi

George found this board book to be hilarious. We’re used to typical shapes books, like, “What shapes do you see? A circle?” Basic, simple, and expected. This cutie adds little surprises along the way. What if, instead of a square, there’s an elephant? Or a boat? How silly and absurd! Tickles that funny bone just right.

Runner up? Animals Hide and Sneak by Bastien Contraire

I see duck, goose, rooster, swan, chicken, and teapot.

“George, which one doesn’t belong?” 

“No, honey, the goose is a bird. Just like all of the other birds.”

“Maybe the teeeeeapot??”

“Good job, big boy! You’re great at finding things!”

Gotta build that self-esteem!

Mama’s Top Three:

abcABCs of Science by Chris Ferrie

Tired of “A is for apple?” Then look no further than Baby University books! Want to introduce Junior to physics (ABCs of Physics – A is for atom) or mathematics (ABCs of Mathematics – A is for addition, B is for base)? There are a whole slew of indestructible board books for your future genius. Thankfully, after each letter, there’s a brief, simply explanation of each item.

I’ve seen these books gracing Books-A-Million’s shelves, but I’ve resisted. It just seemed cliché to buy these books since my husband is a biologist/botanist/geneticist. Then I found a buy-2-get-1-free sale, so I went with it. That and I think it’d be fun for my kid to say, “M is for mitosis!” when his preschool teacher introduces the letter “M” to his class. “H is for hydrogen” would also be acceptable. Does this make me obnoxious?

catThe Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned his ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell (of MUTTS comic strip fame)

Again with the clever alphabet books! This book has no words, only the appropriate letter on each page. A cat leaves his house and runs into an alligator. As he runs from the alligator, they pass a bear, who also takes up the chase. Then a chicken follows suit. It’s just a clever romp through the ABCs. Even I enjoyed figuring out what each letter represented on each page. For “E,” the chicken lays an egg, which promptly sprouts legs and follows along. Also, there is a unicorn. Why? Because not much else starts with “U,” and because unicorns are So. Hot. Right. Now.

uniUni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

OK, this book actually came out in 2014, so maybe the unicorn craze just has amazing staying power? I dunno. This book was also part of my 3-for-2 deal at BAM. For everyone’s info, I was a major horse fanatic as a kid. Well, at least until I realized how much effort and commitment I’d have to put in to actually own a horse (my parents did offer, if I could show some kind of effort and commitment). Then I decided to wait until I was 16 and enjoy a nice Pontiac instead.

But! Before you shake your head in judgment…

I’m going to impress all of my horse-loving nostalgia on Olivia and relive my childhood through my daughter. It’s only logical, after all.

This story is about a sweet, potential relationship between a unicorn and her girl. Uni believes little girls are real, but her friends laugh at her. The girl believes unicorns are real, only to get mocked as well. Both dream of a day when they find each other. In addition to twirling, sliding down rainbows, and helping forest creatures in need, the duo dreams of sitting quietly and talking about important things. Maybe a bit much? But so true of little-girl life. I can’t wait to read this to Olivia someday.

What Mama Reads:

beartownAs previously mentioned, I’m reading through Beartown by Fredrik Backman. After reminiscing about the wonderful story that is A Man Called Ove, I made the dedication to read more of Backman’s books. I’m about 3/4ths of the way through, but I don’t think it’ll make my favorites list. First, I’m not a big sports fan (it’s about a dying town obsessed with hockey), and second, I just can’t get over the exposition. Between most paragraphs and at the beginning and end of each chapter are these bumper-sticker “Truths.” It’s gotten a little old and redundant. There is a lot of heart and human conflict, though, which I’m actually enjoying.

Mama’s To-Do List:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: It’s just this book I’ve been meaning to read!

Renegades by Marissa Meyer: She wrote my favorite YA series: The Lunar Chronicles, and followed it up with Heartless, which I found thoroughly enjoyable. Looking forward to this one.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan: This one just keeps popping up. When the opening line on the jacket reads, “Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker,” it’s going to catch my attention.

Yikes! I need to get reading!

What books are kicking off your new year? Any to share and recommend?

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