Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Because it’s Shrove Tuesday, the night before the Discipline really begins, and because I miss my husband who got back from like, five days in California last night only to travel today to a Fairfield Inn somewhere in Kentucky before he goes to the Abbey of Gethsemani tomorrow to meet with an author, and because I’m bored and stir crazy, I once again violate my hiatus.

Over at HMS, Robert Gotcher offered a list of favorite kids’ books in his household. Veddy nice, but oh, our list would be much, much longer.

My mother was a children’s librarian, and, thank God, took great care in selecting books for me as I grew up, a habit I learned and practiced with my own children. I still do – although now I hand them Peter Kreeft and say “read this” instead of E. B. White. ANd sometimes, they even comply.

I go the children’s section of our library – especially now that all of the “old” books are out of storage – and I’m simply overwhelmed. There is so much wonderful, magnificent stuff out there for children, we’ve absolutely no excuse for ever turning on a television at all. I see the sense of my friend Meggan (whom I haven’t heard from since my blogslowdown, by the way….Meggan? Meggan?) who is a children’s librarian, choosing her profession. What fun – to be able to just deal with such beautiful books all day and put them in the hands of wondering children.

Can you think of a better job?

Anyway, I have twenty years of child-rearing behind me, not to speak of a childhood of reading, and I never, ever tire of sharing books with my kids. Never. Of course, at the moment, we’re starting over with Joseph, and since Joseph is an active child, we’re still concentrating on board books. He can handle books of small dimensions that have regular paper pages, but anything bigger risks being ripped – so we stick mainly to board books which our library has in great supply. What follows is a list of some that I think are the best for that age, offered for you to share with your own children or children of friends and family.

I think that way too much of the time with small children, we give in too quickly to media cross-promotion. That is – they love Blue’s Clues, so when we give them a book, we get them a Blue’s Clues book. Or Bob the Builder. Or (gag, gag, gag) Sesame Street. Most of that stuff is fine on TV, but you know – there’s so much more out there on the printed page – er – piece of cardboard – that’s worth sharing.

Happy and Sad

and others in the series by Alison Lester. I like this book, in particular, because not only are the illustrations rich – the many things a baby can be during a day – it includes “Baby is Bad!” with a wrecked living room, right after the very helpful little “Baby is Good” assisting with the laundry. I think it must not be an originally American-produced book, because American publishers would not allow such devastation to self-esteem pass by uncensored.

Tom and Pippo Go For a Walk by Helen Oxenbury

Of course, anything and everything by Oxenbury is wonderful, but these are charmers that I’ve just discovered. Tom is a little boy, and Pippo is his stuffed monkey. Joseph is our little boy and George is his stuffed monkey. We identify. Tom and Pippo have lovely 8-page adventures (just the right length for a 2-year old) and the amusing thing is that somehow, Tom always suspects that Pippo must be to blame for his troubles.

Big Dog and LIttle Dog Wearing Sweaters Dav Pilkey

These are cute books too – very simple, short and amusing, as they teach the concept of big and little. And the concept of trouble. Must not be American either.

Davy Goes Places and I Like Winter by Lois Lenski as well as many others. These books are not board books, but they're small, so they can't be easily wrecked. Lenski wrote many books like these, including the popular books featuring "Littles" doing various things, and they are all absolutely charming. Lenski, of course, also wrote books for older children, including a series featuring children from different regions of the United States. We're most familiar with Strawberry Girl since it's required reading in the 4th grade in Florida, being set in Plant City, a mere 10 miles from our former domicile called Lakeland.

Skip to My Lou by Nadine Bernard Wescott

This is a riotous interpretation of the song, featuring a little boy left in charge of a farm while his parents go off for a while, what the animals do in their absence and how they clean up. Sort of like the Cat in the Hat, but much less tiresome to read.

Curious George Counting 1 to 10 and back again

Well, of course we love Curious George around here because Someone sleeps with his arms tightly wound around his own personal C.G. Beware, though - the original Curious George books are wonderful, but there are those that were published later that are dreadful - I think the illustrations are simply reproductions of images from a cartoon based on the character, and they are fuzzy, simplistic and uninteresting. The board books using the character are very nice, though - and I like this one because it not only counts forwards, but backwards, too!

What Sadie Sang by Eve Rice

Again, not a board book, but small in dimension. It doesn't seem to be in print any more, but it might be at your library. It's about a baby being taken for a walk who sings the whole way, and keeps singing until she falls asleep for her nap. Joseph is absolutely enraptured by this book.

Sheep in a Jeep and its companions by Margot Apple. I love this book - it's very funny. Always good in a book you anticipate reading 3,712 times.

We also like the books about Wibbly Pig and this baby.

Now for the standards, and my typically iconoclastic take on them:

Goodnight Moon and its companion My World by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, smokin' their cigarettes in the vintage author photos.

Here's my question. It's simple.

Does anyone else think these two must have been on drugs?

Good-night, nobody...Good-night mush...Good-night air

Kind of scary, if you ask me.

Happy Lent to all, and to all a Good Lent!

See you Monday - really.

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