Quick Lit = short reviews of our most favorite books read lately.
For the Toddler
Charlie and Lola: Say Cheese! by Lauren Child is one book that he begs for before naps and bedtime. I think he just likes to hear my attempt at a British accent. All of the Charlie and Lola storylines are funny, clever, and a little plain silly. They are full of dialogue and are great bridge books for reading longer stories.
Curious George Rides, Curious George and the Bunny (not pictured), Curious George and the Rocket, and Curious George Goes Fishing 4-Board Book Set by Margret Rey, illustrated by H. A. Rey. My son loves the repetition in the language – he can anticipate and end some of my sentences when I pause for him, “He’s a good little monkey, and always very…” to which my toddler says, “Curious.” These classics are so rich with cause and effect, discovery, and feeling. Reading them over and over builds language development and attention span.
Freight Train by Donald Crews True to toddler boy, my son loves trains, and Freight Train is simple, colorful, and poetic. With this book, we talk about colors, numbers, sounds, and movement. It’s perfect for the earliest of picture books for little ones because there are only a few words on each page. Also, it is a perfect book for a rushed nap or bedtime because it can be read quickly.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems. The first time I ever read a Willems book to my toddler, it was an Elephant and Piggie book and the action and dialogue completely went over his head. I remember him craning his neck to look at me, as if you say, “What in the world is going on in this story? And where are all the pictures?” Since then we have continued to read both Elephant and Piggie books as well as Pigeon books (my favorite is The Pigeon Needs a Bath!) to him, and it didn’t take long before he understood that the dynamic in the story was in the feeling of the conversation. Now, whenever he sees a Willems book, he flips through and mimics the emotion of the characters. Out of all the books we have read to him, this is the one that he will “read” on his own and crack himself up doing it.
For my 6- & 8-year olds
I try to balance their reading by requiring them to continue to read picture books even though they both have moved on into chapter books for their preferred level of reading. We have had a few favorites this month.
Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell This story is based on a true story from 1914. The first thing we did before reading this story was try to guess from the illustrations (by Ted Rand) on the front cover, what the story was going to be about. My kids had some pretty clever guesses but neither child guessed it right. So then reading the story, each turn of the page added layer upon layer of discovery and delight. I can’t imagine, nor would anyone repeat, the adventure today!
Angelo by David Macaulay A story about the importance of companionship, hard work, getting older, and providing for loved ones before death. Masterfully written, the lightness and pace of the text keeps depth and imagination in a good balance. The illustrations are so in tune with the progression (and sometimes downright hilarious) that by page 44 you don’t even realize the depth of compassion that has grown for Angelo until you see what happens to him. Both kids liked this story and were so tickled by the illustrations – the “crazy page” 9, the performing birds on page 20-21, and the most popular page 31 for the difference in the two daydreams.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig How can I begin to estimate the value of storybooks for teaching character and compassion? Sylvester finds and uses a magic pebble as a quick fix for all of his life circumstances only to realize (too late) that he created a problem far greater than he ever imagined and it cost him dearly. When his circumstances change again, he has a much better understanding of the power of wishing things to be different.
Pocahontas by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire I remember vaguely being taught about the Jamestown settlers and the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, but then I watched the Disney movie and the history was ruined in my mind. This d’Aulaire work of art and history set everything right about the life of Pocahontas with details I had never heard before. As we read this story, it was obvious that my children were more intrigued by Powhatan, Pocahontas’ father, than by Pocahontas. The life of an Indian Chief was something they had never accurately been exposed to before, and they have been asking lots of great questions about where Native Americans are today and what their lives are like.
The Tortoise and the Hare An Aesop Fable adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens Every child is exposed to this Aesop fable at some point in their life, but I recommend that it be this adaptation. The antagonism of the hare in this story makes the race personal, and the patience of the tortoise invokes a desire to not only root for the hare but also protect him from the bullying of the hare. This retelling has so many additional details that stay within the original intent of the fable but expand the personal application of the morals that it is worth owning and rereading. The story was a little convicting to my son, though, who finds speed and competition worth everything. He was a little sheepish narrating the story back to me with empathy.
The chapter books they are currently working on are:
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes My son is working on this chapter book – one of the biggest (250 pages) he has ever set his mind to conquer. At first, I asked him to read it aloud to me so that I would know what the story was about – I wasn’t too concerned about the content because it won the Newberry Award and I’ve read another book by the same author. This story is about a boy who wants a dog, his efforts to earn enough money to buy one, and the clever things the dog gets into once she (Ginger) becomes a part of the Pye family. There are charming sketches of the action every few pages which is helpful to my starting-chapter-books son.
Mandie and the Secret Tunnel by Lois Gladys Leppard My daughter and I saw a number of the Mandie books at our local library’s book sale. My daughter, the avid book collector, wanted to buy as many as she could with her own money. She brought this one home back in July only to read a few chapters and quit. I have never read the Mandie books but I’ve heard great things about them, and I believe them to be better for her than all the Dragon and Pony books she likes to read – so I required that she add this to her daily reading cue. And to my delight, she told me after reading it for 3 days that she really enjoys it. Mandie is an almost teenager, which an 8-year old immediately thinks is cool. In this story, Mandie questions whether God really loves her because of her life’s circumstances. This turn of the century story set in the back woods of North Carolina has Psalm 23 woven throughout it and has more depth and meaning than all of the other books my daughter has recently read put together.
Our Current Read-Aloud is:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming The wit, humor, and to-be-read-under-your-breath sentences make for a laugh out loud, delightful read aloud. At 126 pages, this petite story packs a powerful punch. The looks of shock and surprise on my children’s faces while I read is priceless. The key to reading this story though is to be able to get into the mind and language of the author. To read the story straight and dry would be boring indeed. One must have practice reading very long sentences with the right inflection to make it funny. The details, plot twists, and wildly imaginative adventure have made this book (quite possibly) my favorite read aloud to date.
To see these books in more detail, click on the titles. The links will take you to Amazon where you can read more, see inside, and purchase your own copy if you’d like. They are affiliate links – so thanks in advance for supporting this site! (To learn more about affiliate links read my disclosure.)
I would love to know your favorite books for kids too! Or just tell me what you’re currently reading aloud, what your toddler or preschooler asks for you to read (over and over), and what your older kids are reading on their own. I feel like it is necessary to have a book recommended at least 2 times before I pick it up otherwise there isn’t enough time in the day to read all the good books from all the “best” lists.
More thoughts on what books to read to/with kids:
- In Search of a Twaddle Free Childhood
- The Library Challenge: Change Their Reading Diet
- Tips for Reading More Books
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