My two-year-old Vivi loves to read! I declare this, of course, with beaming pride and affection...what's cuter than a two year old with a book on her lap, muttering a story to herself as she points at illustrations, chubby little toes peeking out the other side?! And I love the wonderfully imaginative world of children's books, too, and how transporting the stories can be. There's a flip side to this, though. I have developed a serious (perhaps maybe a little bit snobby?) hatred for terrible children's books. Of which there are many...all of which, it seems, end up at one point or another in a pile on my living room floor.
First there's the clutter issue. The bottom shelf of our coffee table is in a permanent Jenga-type situation, where you try to pull one book out and a whole sharp-pointed pile tumbles out the other side (usually on the foot of someone sitting on the couch). Then there's the issue of what I like to call crappity crappy crap. I'm talking books with buttons that play annoying music, books with thoughtless and ugly clip-art-style illustrations, and books with mind-numbingly stupid stories, pointless messages, or rhyme schemes that never match up. It took 86 readings of things like "turtle hides behind the ball / I hope that he won't accidentally fall" to realize I'm a total literary snob!
But this is not a post about terrible baby literature. This is a post about the great ones! The fact that Vivi, like all toddlers, latches on to these stories so voraciously, pouring over the drawings, noticing every little detail, memorizing the stories so that she can "read" right along with me, and asking "again," "again," "again" at the end of each book, makes me want to surround her with only the most quality language, art, poems, messages, and characters. And let's face it, I'm out for myself, too. I don't have time to curl up with a novel of my own these days (I've read the first 20 pages of Motherless Brooklyn 3 times during this pregnancy alone)...cuddling up with Vivi and reading these stories is cozy respite for me at the end of the day, too.
So enough with my ranting - here are four books we've been loving lately. The classics are classics for a reason, and most of them hold up so well and are worth reading again and again. We have Madeline, Ferdinand, In The Night Kitchen, and Make Way For Ducklings on heavy rotation in our house these days. But I figure you've already been given about 3 copies of each of those already...which takes us back to the clutter problem. So here are a few of Vivi's and my recommendations for books you might not have on your bookshelf already:
The Watermelon Seed, by Greg Pizzoli
This is a simple story of a watermelon-loving crocodile who swallows a seed and has a Woody-Allan-esque panic attack about what will happen to him as a result. What drew me to it initially is the bold graphic design - the screen printed illustrations in a simple color palette is appealingly retro. But the endearing character and the comedic pacing of the story make Vivi and me chuckle every time.
Mo Willems' characters are just adorably likable, with great comedic timing. His illustrations have such subtle and clever expressions, they seem like stills from an animated film. The series is listed for older kids (4-8yrs), and some if it definitely goes over Vivi's head, but she enjoys it on her level, while I get cracked up on mine. We started with this story, in which a snake tries to join Gerald and Piggie in a game of catch (despite his lack of arms), but I recommend the whole series. They're all a light, funny, clever, quick read.
If You Want To See A Whale, by Julia Fogliano, illustrations by Erin E. Stead
This book is so lyrically beautiful, and has lovely linoleum print illustrations to match. With dreamy passages like this, I could read aloud for hours!:
"if you want to see a whale
you shouldn't watch the clouds
some floating by, some hanging down
in the sky that's spread out, side to side
or the certain sun that's shining
because if you start to look straight up
you might just miss a whale."
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell, illustrations by David Catrow
Molly Lou Melon is a tough little cookie, and I love sharing stories of tough girls with my daughter. Faced with a bully in a new school, Molly is unphased and unwavering in her individuality. In addition to a great story about standing tall (a worthy message for boys and girls alike), I really appreciate the unique and wacky illustrations, with interesting points of view that fascinate Vivi every time.
Happy cuddling! What are toddler books that you'd recommend?? I'm always looking to for new ones (after putting some crappy ones out on the stoop to make room, of course).