Friday, May 28, 2010

Books to Share with Little Ones

Here's my vision: after nursing her little brother and tucking him into his bed, my little girl and I tiptoe off to her new "big girl" room and cozy up in her bed to read stories.  "Big kid" stories with true story lines and descriptive words and beautiful illustrations (but moving toward more words than illustrations).  During the dark, winter months, maybe we'll read by candlelight.  During the summer months, when it's still light outside when we're heading off to bed, we'll read by the rosy glow of the setting sun. 

I've been searching high and low for some seriously sweet and light tales to read to my very sensitive and tender-hearted girl.  Although she'll be turning five (I can't really believe that, but the math adds up to five!) in a few short weeks, she's really not at all ready for some of the more heavy drama and suspense that many reading lists have recommended for fives.  Just a couple of examples: she sobbed profusely and made me turn it off when Peter Rabbit got caught under Mr. McGregor's fence in this DVD version of Beatrix Potter's lively tales.  And, watching that evil cat Lucifer try to get those sweet Cinderella mice proved too much for her to bear.   Of course, both of these examples cite movie versions of stories.  And I think the combination of sight and sound on the TV screen makes the story come alive a little too much.  I've observed that her tolerance level for such dramatic scenes increases when it plays out on the storybook page.

So, I stumbled upon a couple of books that are not yet chapter books, but have more words than the books we read during the day with her little brother joining us.  She has the attention span for longer reads, but we're limited to reading shorter, simpler books so as to include her nearly two year old, I-must-stay-in-constant-motion sibling.  These books contain a series of stories, or vignettes, if you will.  And they involve animals (which are our favorite kind of characters).

The first is by Cynthia Rylant (we almost always have one or two of her books in our book bag on return trips from the library), called Thimbleberry Stories.  I came across this book in the Chinaberry catalog.  I mean, come on, do you see that squirrel in slippers, cleaning his thatched home?  That doesn't look like a book that will scare my daughter, does it?  Truth be told, only time will tell.  I haven't given the book to her yet, and I haven't read it yet either.  I prefer to read books for the first time with my children.  That way, I'm just as excited to see the outcome of the story as they are, and I think that comes through when I'm reading.

The second book I chose is James Herriot's Treasury for Children, a collection of happenings in the life of a small-town veterinarian, set in the English countryside.

Amazing illustrations: warm, homey, inviting...

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Brambly Hedge series.  I got her a set of these books for Christmas.  We choose to read them during Rascal's nap, so we won't be interrupted.  To be completely honest, the stories fell flat for me.  I expected to love them.  I wanted to love them.  Every review I had read online loved them.  Maybe they were built up too much in my mind.  But, aside from Winter Story, the tales just seemed a bit stale.  Regardless, I would read the Brambly Hedge every day just to gaze at the lovely, intricate illustrations.  Pure beauty.

So, that is a very brief selection of books for the slightly older, little one.  Looking at books for my son, who turns two in just over a week, I think this is going to be a winner:

Yes.  I have two copies of this book.  A couple of years ago, Oh, What a Busy Day was out of print.  I went online and found prices for used copies of this book ranging from $30.00 to $700.00.  Yes, I know.  Unbelievable.  But, countless reviews and blogs had cited this book as a staple in any child's reading collection.  I was convinced that my daughter had to have this book (although, it takes very little to persuade me to buy any children's book).  So, I splurged on the best used copy I could afford.  I think it's a 1976 edition (it's the one on the left).

Then, naturally, someone got smart and decided to start reprinting the book in April of this year.  For less than $10.00!!!  Yes, I know.  Unbelievable.  It is exactly the same book that I convinced my husband that I had to buy, no matter what the cost, just a few years ago.  Exactly the same. 

Which is 99% a good thing.  The reason I say this is because I was hoping the new edition would be without a particular two-page spread.  There is a horrible (completely my opinion, but I hardly think I'm alone in thinking this is inappropriate in a children's book) story about two children going out into the woods and dying there.  Complete with birds dropping feathers and leaves over the children to "bury" them.  Yes, I know.  Unbelievable. Why, oh why, put such a story in a book for children??  The first time I read the book to my daughter, I started reading that awful story and immediately sensed where it was going.  I told my daughter that they were napping after their long journey to the woods, so they would have enough energy to walk back home in time for dinner.  

I put the book back on our shelf and didn't touch it again for years.  I contemplated re-selling the book.  Since it was still out of print, I figured I could make a little money.  But, the rest of the book is delightful, and I hated to get rid of a great book just because of one story in it.  So, I considered just taking my x-acto knife and cutting the depressing little story out.  But, as my husband pointed out, I could never re-sell the book if I removed any pages from it.  So, it has been sitting on my bookshelf all this time.  Not being read.  Not being enjoyed.  And now I have two of them.  I decided to keep the 1976 version on the shelf, since it has more monetary value than the 2010 edition.  Maybe one of the children can sell it years from now and buy themselves their first car.  I am going to give the brand-new copy to my son (although I know my daughter will pore over the pages as well).  My son is the energizer bunny, except instead of beating a drum, he wields a wrecking ball.  Every day is a busy day when it comes to mothering him.  So, the book seems an appropriate choice.  Gorgeous, colorful, detailed illustrations give little eyes plenty to take in.  It's a very whimsical, fun read.  Well, minus those two pages, of course. 

I also have my eye on the Big Alfie series.  It looks like a charming collection centering on life for a young boy and his sister.  We have so many books where the central character is a girl, I love the idea of a series of books where a little boy is highlighted.  Especially a tender, thoughtful, creative, brotherly boy.  So, I think I will trust the reviews I've read, and start collecting books in the Big Alfie series.   If anyone out there has read Alfie, I'd love to hear what you thought.  Or, if you have a particular favorite book for the little crowd, please do share.  I'm always looking for new additions to our home library or to check out from the public library.

And that is making just a small dent in my bank of ideas on books for children.  I love books, but especially picture books.  I could discuss books all day.  In fact, I have.  I started this post early this morning and I'm just now finishing it at 11 pm.   :)   Good night!


  1. Hmmm...either no one out there has any favorite childhood books that you feel inclined to tell me about OR you all are just a shy bunch! ;) Please don't be shy, I really do want input from my readers! I'm super friendly, and even if I don't like your book suggestion, I will pretend that I do so you don't regret coming out of lurkdom, ok?

  2. While I'm not coming of out lurkdom, I'm coming out of computer issues:) As you know I've been a bookworm from birth and I could talk about books from sun up to sun down. You know many of my favorites, but I think one we haven't chatted about are the Paddington Bear books. Have you read them? When I read them they were chapter books for older kids, very few illustrations, but know I see them in stores for little ones with bright colorful pictures. I enjoy the little mishaps that Paddington gets into, and love that he's always wanting tea and little snack. Let me know if you check them out!

  3. Oh, I completely forgot about Paddington. I even had a stuffed Paddington Bear complete with blue coat and brass buttons and that yellow hat! I too recall the Paddington books I read in my youth having few pictures. I would love to get my hands on some of the stories I remember with colorful illustrations for my littles to enjoy. Thanks for the idea!