"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Books you love to read, too?

Books_mosaic My boys' current favorite books in the whole world are Stan & Jan Berenstain's Berenstain Bears series. And, certainly, I'm always finding pearls of wisdom in them -- like the time we learned about too many extracurriculars with Under Pressure. We read Too Much Junk Food, like, every night. Everett can finish all my sentences.

But these books? They aren't my favorite to read. I find much of the text pedantic, repetitive (not in a good way), the very opposite of melodic. And Papa Bear with his childishness and pratfalls always bugs me; Mama Bear's eternal calm perfection and dowdy dress makes me crazy.

I'd much rather read something that makes me feel like singing (or crying), such as Spaghetti Park (the tale of a little boy who works with his grandpa and the community to put a bocce court in a neglected neighborhood park); The Lemon Sisters (in which little girls and older women come together because of lemon, sugar, and snow); Mystery Bottle (in which a little boy dreams of his grandpa, who he's never met, in Iran); The Unexpectedly Bad Hair of Barcelona Smith (in which a little boys lets down his hair, literally and figuratively, both silly and smart); Open Me... I'm a Dog! (a witch's curse turns a dog into a German shepherd, a bullfrog, and finally, a book) or the sadly out-of-print Penelope and the Pirates (in which a cat goes on an adventure with a sea captain, and learns about friendship).

Which books do you try to put at the top of the stack when it's time to read?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I love "Mama Do You Love Me" about the native Alaskan girl testing her mother to see how much she loves her. I also a great little board book on Martin Luther King, but for some reason, my daughter has never even let me open it to read to her! I have some books that my grandmother used to read to us when we were little and staying over her house. They even smell like her house. They include "The Merry Mailman," "Little Lulu," "Debbie takes a Nap (my favorite title)", and my all time favorite, "Mr. Dog" in which Crispan's Crispian, a dog "who belongs to himself" meets up with a boy who also "belongs to himself" and they decide to "belong to themselves together." I love it. Nothing like nostalgia. And for all of you Red Sox fans, and I know you are out there, I found the ultimate in bedtime reading at Pottery Barn Kids this week: "The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino!" A must buy!!!!

I love "Some Dogs Do," by Jez Alborough. The artwork is great, the phrasing rhymes, but in a way that's pleasing, not annoying. And I love the message, which is essentially: just because everybody tells you it's impossible for you to do something doesn't mean they're right.

The nostalgic in me always has me reaching for "The Monster at the End of This Book" starring "ME!, Loveable, Furry old Grover:" I used to read that book to my brother & sister in a greatly exaggerated fashion. I think there's a current version of that one w/ Elmo playing the adventurous one to Grover's fussy old frightened thing.

For current books, among others I favor "Little Mister," which is the very wryly wrought day in the life of an active toddler - African American dad is an artist, white mom is a musician. Nice subtle touches all around.

We're lucky in that our daughter likes the classics like Madeline -- boy, does she like Madeline -- and Snowy Day. We read Snowy Day all summer long, which was a weird feeling.

I started reading to my first child when he was two weeks old, and ten years later, we still read aloud almost every night. In fact, I'm so obsessed that I started a blog on the subject last spring--I've been on hiatus since school let out in June, but this inspiration to get back in. Check it out at www.thelittlebookroom.typepad.com. And my own personal favorite? Randall Jarrell's The Animal Family, with lovely, haunting illustrations by Maurice Sendak--the story of a man who lives by himself, with no one to share with, and who gradually assembles a family. You can read it with children as young as six or so...

I LOVE "Hooray for Wodney Wat" (Lester), "Just in Case You Ever Wonder" (Max Lucado), "Are You My Mother? (Eastman)", "Goodnight Moon" (Margaret Wise Brown), "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" (Martin), "Guess How Much I Love You" (McBratney), "To Market, To Market (Anne Miranda), Rumble in the Jungle (Andreae)...Guess I should stop now! I love children's books and can't seem to get enough of them (thanks to a teacher grandmas, we are well stocked!).

Seven Silly Eaters! love the illustrations in this book - so great and real looking. And also seems timeless. It's silly and cute, without the attitude I see in so many modern kid books.
Ox Cart Man.
The Mitten and The Hat (Almost anything by Jan Brett)
Grandfather Twilight.
oh, I so love books...

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson...so much fun to read aloud.

Oh do we love to read. Here's a few of the tried and true favorites.
Tough Boris by Mem Fox, with the perfect last line: "All pirates cry...and so do I."
Child of Faerie Child of Earth-awesome book about otherworld journeying
Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There, beautiful, same topic
The folk tales in "Story Tree" from Barefoot Books
The Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Don and Audrey Woods for the silliest book (and the best artwork) in the west
and my new favorite: Nikki McClure's Awake to Nap

The Animal Family sounds really interesting...I'll have to check out that blog!

My latest fave (which I think has just been re-printed recently) is Gyo Fujikawa's "A Child's Book of Poems" http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781402750618-0 I wish someone had read these to me when I Was a child. There are sweet poems, silly poems, rhyming poems and rhythm poems. Poems for the seasons and for moods and really pages and pages of not only great poetry but the beautiful illustrations that Gyo Fujikawa is known for. I love her little people - they're just adorable! Definitely check this one out - you can always change up story time with this one.

I absolutely love to read Jez Alborough's "Duck" books - the illustrations are really funny (a grocery-shopping duck waving a leek around in frustration?) and the language dances right off your tongue with the hyper-rhyming ("This is the rock / struck by the truck / and this is the muck / where the truck becomes stuck. This is the frog who spies from the bush / and croaks, "I'll help give it a push!"). I'm also fond of Sandra Boynton, and often give "Moo, Baa, La la la!" to new parents. Finally, "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type" is the story of the cows who go on strike until the farmer gives them electric blankets - an interesting lesson in negotiation. Hmm, I just realized I have a thing for anthropomorphized farm animals ... ah, well.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I stumbled on this collection of three stories about Zoom, a kitty that loves to go sailing, in a random boutique that had nothing to do with books. I had never heard of the Zoom books, or the Canadian author, but for some reason the book spoke to me: I love cats and the introduction mentioned a girl named Emma, a name I was considering if I had a girl. It turned out to be fate. I indeed had a girl, named her Emma, and the book is perhaps the most beloved in our house -- one she often sleeps with at night.
The stories are very sweet and adventurous, with a healthy dose of magical realism. The illustrations are so beautiful and detailed, you can stare at them forever and find something new every time.

One book I never get tired of reading aloud is "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb"--a kind of Dr. Seussian book by Al Perkins. It's the former percussionist in me...but it's actually FUN to read, varying the tempo, etc. I am on the lookout for a book I loved as a child called "Thee, Hannah" about a little Quaker girl and her escapades. There's nothing like having a child that makes you want to revisit all your favorite childhood memories...!

These are some of our many favorites.

The Three Questions

Little Bo Peep Has Lost Her Sheep

Goldilox Has Chickenpox

The Lorax

Lately my favorite has been the Shamlanders, by Betty Paraskevas. The story is cute, encourages imagination, and the illustrations are amazing. When it comes to the "classics" I also love the Eloise books and of course Winnie the Pooh.

Words cannot do justice to my loathing of the Berenstain Bears. They will not darken the door of my house.

I love "When Jessie Came Across The Sea" about a girl who comes to NY in the early 1900's.

We are also big fans of "Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie" about a girl who tends a lighthouse during a big storm when her father is away and her mother is sick.

"The Quiltmaker's Gift" has gorgous illustrations and a (gentle, not preachy) message about it being better to give than receive.

"Boxes for Katje" tells the story of a small town in the U.S. who sent care packages to folks in Holland after WWII (bet you can't read it without crying like a baby).

Herbert Wong Yee has a real fan club in our house: beginning with his board book "Truckmice" and on through his rhyming "Fireman Small: fire down below"

SkippyJon Jones is a fabulous read-aloud book. It is so full of energy! We even had to ban it at bedtime for awhile because my son would have to settle back down again once we finished. Lots of fun. And, of course, the old classic Winnie the Pooh stories (with the old pen and ink drawings -- love it!!).

"A House is a House for Me" is the one I just never get sick of. It has wonderful old-fashioned illustrations and a fun rhyming rythym. New York Times says: "It is an astonishing book, one of the best of the year!"

My 3 year old son is really into books about the alphabet. Really into them. Some of them are dull, but the two that I really like too are "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and Winton Marsalis's "Jazz ABZ," a beautifully illustrated book with a jazz great for every letter of the alphabet. Wynton Marsalis wrote a poem for each musician, and most of the poems are rhythmically similar to the musician's playing style.

We are also fond of:

"The One and Only Shrek! (Plus 5 Other Stories)" by William Steig. It's the book the Shrek movies were based on, but, apparently, very loosely based.

"Monster Night at Grandma's House" by Richard Peck. (This is more for my 5 year old.) A little boy spends the summer at his Grandma's and imagines he hears spooky sounds at night.

"Slinky Malinki" by Lynley Dodd. A cat who steals from his neighbors, "a stalking and lurking adventurous cat." I don't even like cats, and I like this book.

My five year old is mostly in to comics, which he reads with his Dad, pretty much every night.

An old favorite that the boys have outgrown, but highly recommended for babies and toddlers, is anything by Sandra Boynton, but especially, especially, "Snuggle Puppy." (We don't read it anymore, but my younger son still likes me to say it to him sometimes..."Oooh, snuggle puppy of mine...").

Someone just mentioned Lynley Dodd - perfect read alouds with an advanced, but approachable vocabulary. But I have to mention "Bats at the Beach" - we have passed beach weather, but I just LOVE the pictures in this book. I've been getting a lot of good books from the recommendations of Daniel Pinkwater in Wondertime magazine:


He is also interviewed often on NPR.

Looking forward to checking all of the ones mentioned here out! By the way, I'm sure this is obvious to many, but you can put books on hold at the library online. You can also do this for a future date. I let my boys pick out a few random books when we go and then as we are checking out, the nice librarian hands me a stack of 7-8 good quality books that I have reserved. I have "holds" all the way through January! Great system! It allows me to take lists like this and reserve over the next few months.

One more comment on finding books... I often take the title of a book I've enjoyed reading to my boys and search it out on Amazon. Then I use those Listmania and "So You'd Like to..." lists that they build to find other books that might be good. I figure if someone who liked this book liked others, maybe we would too.

It's so nice to see so many favorites here! I would repeat the endorsement for The Zoom Trilogy by Tim Wynne-Jones--it's fantastic, with incredibly atmospheric black-and-white drawings. Two other favorites of ours for children around the age of four are the Alfie stories by Shirley Hughes (Alfie Gets in First, Alfie Lends a Hand, and many others), about a little boy who lives in London--also beautifully illustrated with compelling stories that really resonate with children's own experiences--and the Litle Tim books, by Edward Ardizzone, recently reissued, wonderful tales of sevenish Tim and his adventures at sea, at once dramatic and mundane.

My 3-year-old daughter also loves the Berenstain Bears books - but I too, would much rather read just about anything else. Although the early Berenstain Bear books, published before 1970, are MUCH better than the later ones. They're less wordy, and written more for laughs than to try and teach a lesson about a particular subject. And they are mostly about Papa Bear and his son (as Sister Bear doesn't show up until later). Still, I try to hide the newer Berenstain books, and hope she picks something that's easier to pull off the bookshelf!

Our current favorites are:

The "Toot and Puddle" books by Holly Hobbie

The "Frances..." books - by Russell and Lillian Hoban. A series of books written in the sixties about a badger family, Frances being the 4 or 5-year-old badger with a little sister named Gloria.

The "Ella" books by Carmela and Steven D'Amico. Beautifully illustrated, sweet stories about a little elephant living in the mysterious Elephant Islands...

"How To Make an Apple Pie and See The World" by Marjorie Priceman. A good choice for reading now during the apple harvesting season.

Thanks for your recommendations, Sarah! Here are a few of my favorites; now that Everett is old enough to enjoy things with a real story--you might as well enjoy them, too!

1. The Magic Well by Piero Ventura
(out of print, unfortunately, but you can probably get it from the library or buy a used copy on Amazon--it's worth owning!)

2. The McBroom series by Sid Fleishman (These have been reissued with inferior cover art but the illustrations inside are still original, by Quentin Blake)

3. The 13 Clocks and the Wonderful O by James Thurber (this one might be a little advanced, but have a look and see what you think)

4. No Such Things, and others by Bill Peet

5. My Father's Dragon (and sequels) by Ruth Stiles Gannett

i have to second SkippyJon Jones...i love the energy!

also, Where the Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen (Sendak)for their illustrations...

and i adore the Harold and the Purple Crayon books - such creative storytelling and rhythm in the language.

my littlest one loves Ogres, Ogres, Ogres (Smith) and it makes me laugh too ;) which also reminds me...Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (mo willems)is hysterical, though his others weren't as funny, i think.

Don't forget Steven Kellogg...I can't wait 'til my little one is old enough for "The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash". I still remember when he came to our elementary school and signed that book for me. There is also a sequel: "Jimmy's boa bounces back." He also makes a great rendition of "The Owl and the Pussycat" which was my mom's favorite when she was a kid.

My one year old LOVES a book called "DOG" which has textures and sliders and real pictures of dogs. He just learned how to make the sliders work and loves to make the dog pee on the tree, where it says "all dogs poop, all dogs pee".

I am Eloise
I am six.
I am a city child.

Enough said!

I never seem to get tired of making the British nanny voice for some reason.

We love Flotsam by David Wiesner. No words, Caldecott Medal and it's about the magic of photography and time. What could be better?

One of my favorites from childhood: "Strega Nona" by Tomie dePaola. :)

We love many of the books mentioned, and sort of dislike Berenstain Bears ... but we do have one. I really dislike Clifford and some of the later Curious George books.
I want to mention Richard Scarry -- we have many of his books, and even a lot of the ones published by his estate after he died (I think his son might of worked on them). Definitely like the real Richard Scarry books better -- although some of them are dated and, let's face it, sexist. Despite that, we love them. My son really loves "Babykins and his Family." Of course, "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go," is a classic.

My newest most favorite book (for my four y/o but appropriate 3-8ish) Mars Need Moms! by Berkeley Breathed - awesome illustrations and so touching it made me cry the first time I read it. Great for girls or boys and especially those who love aliens. Also a great Mom's Day gift... enjoy!

"A Glorious Day" by Amy Schwartz - it's got a great flow and a whatever-your-family-is/does-and-eats-for-breakfast-is-cool attitude.

I can't stand the Berenstein Bears either. They aren't allowed in my house. I've also started a Disney ban--why do my in-laws keep giving us Disney books over and over?

So, to keep my daughter satisfied with fairy tales I go to the fairy tale section of the libraries. "Cendrillon" is a Carribean version of Cinderella by the same author of another favorite "Sukey and the Mermaid". Some moms shy away from the "violence" of the Grimm fairy tales but the only time it seemed to bother my daughter was after Trina Schwartz Hyman's "Little Red Riding Hood"--TSH is one of my favorite illustrators since childhood. My daughter was disturbed about grandma being in the wolf's tummy for a while but it gave us a great opportunity to talk about real & pretend.

If you didn't read them when you were little you should now: the Garth Pig books by Mary Rayner. You can still find a couple of them at the Central Library & I found a few for sale on Amazon.

I could go on & on, but I'll stop there!

Someone above mentioned Daniel Pinkwater. His Bad Bears series never fails to crack me up while I'm reading them out loud. They are a fabulous antidote to the goody-two-shoes Berenstein Bears. And did I mention they're hilarious?

* The Little Engine that Could (much more fun when you put different voices to the trains and the clown)
* Gilberto & The Wind by Marie Hall Ets
* My Many Colored Days by Seuss
* The Harry the Dog series by Gene Zion
* Clap your Hands by Cauley
* Anything by Edna Miller - the Mousekin series were my favorite when I was a little reader. All about a "whitefooted mouse" and his adventures. My favorites were "Mousekin's Golden House" (about a pumpkin) and "Mousekin's Christmas Eve". I have found these on Ebay.
* Chugga Chugga Choo Choo (can you tell my son likes trains?) by Kevin Lewis
* Any Leo Leonni books
* Blueberries for Sal (love that book!)
* I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by David Catrow
okay, okay, I need to stop!!

alright, I said I would stop, but I forgot a new favorite that is hilarious to read aloud!
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

I love to read the Lorax; Yertle the Turtle; and other longish Dr. Suess books. The Lorax has such a great lesson to teach and it does so in a much more entertaining way that can reach out to even a four year old. This morning on NPR Steven Martin was talking about his new book "The Alphabet from A to Y with the Bonus Letter Z" http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15612235
It's not your average alphabet book; but a zany and wacky version. From the sounds of the excerpts, it should be a fun one to read to the kids as well as entertaining for parents! You can't go wrong with Steve Martin paired up with a The New Yorker cartoonist.

I saw an article in The Oregonian right before Thanksgiving about customized books for your kids. I checked out the website, www.memediakids.com, and it is wonderful. I ordered a book for my 5 y.o. daughter and I can't wait until she opens it X'mas morning. The story is sweet and perfect for a toddler or preschooler and the artwork is amazing! Best of all, it is written and illustrated by two Portlanders and it doesn't contain lead paint or otherwise recall-able junk.

Need help finding old book "Debbie Takes a Nap" saw a comment by one reader in oct 07 mentioning that book. would love to buy

So glad to see I'm not alone in my Berenstain Bears hate -- icky, humourless, judgemental tripe. Hilariously, these 8 books aren't even pardoies of them http://www.toplessrobot.com/2008/12/the_8_most_awkward_berenstain_bears_books.php

That said for younger kids I love Frances, Eloise, The Story of Holly and Ivy (has me weeping every Christmas)and the beautifully photographed Lonely Doll books.

Anything by Oliver Jeffers (lost and found, the incredible book eating boy, the paper caper, stuck, etc etc)

Jan, I have that book. Won't part with it though but you are welcome to look at it! I think it was me that made that comment in '07. It was a favorite of ours. It belonged to my grandmother.

The comments to this entry are closed.