Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 25: I Like Myself

My friend Mellie recommended this book to me and I'm so glad she did!  I had to take it out on inter-library loan as only a small handful of libraries in our system have it, so it might be a bit hard to come by.  This is one book, though, that every library should have in its collection.  It's clever, silly, and has an absolutely fabulous message: love yourself for who you are, no matter what.  It is a self-proclaimed sassy "ode to self-esteem," and it delivers a message that I truly hope my kids will always take to heart.  The middle school teacher in me especially loves this book.   It celebrates the uniqueness in all of us and encourages our little ones to always be themselves and love the skin they're in.  One of my favorite lines is "No matter if they stop and stare, no person ever anywhere can make me feel that what they see is all there really is to me."   The illustrations are entertaining and it's just an all around feel-good book to read.  May all of our children grow up to be as happy and carefree as the little girl in the story!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 24: Pete's a Pizza

Pete is feeling sad one rainy day, so his dad decides to cheer him up by making him into a pizza.  The dad lays Pete down on the kitchen table and gets to work, kneading, stretching, and tossing him around, adding some oil and flour (really just water and talcum powder), and then adding the toppings.  Tomatoes (checkers), cheese (shredded bits of paper)...  you get the idea.  Pete's A Pizza is a clever little story about creative play and some good old father/son silliness.  I'll admit that the first time I read it, I thought it was cute, but nothing special.  My son, however, LOVED it.  He wanted to read it again and again, so we did... and each time I read it to him, I liked it a little bit more.  We act it out as we read, too, which makes it even more fun and giggle worthy.  "Pizzas are not supposed to laugh!"  "Pizza-makers are not supposed to tickle their pizzas!"  My son's absolute favorite part is when it's finally time to slice the pizza.  Pete's father brings him from the oven (couch) over to the table, and my son can't wait to turn the page and yell out, "But the pizza runs away!"  He laughs and laughs and just loves how the pizza gets chased, captured and hugged in the end.  After reading this a few times this morning and making my own little guy into a pizza, we decided to make some real pizza dough of our own.  And with that, my own little pizza ran away into the kitchen to pull his little chair over to the counter and get out the flour.   Pizza for dinner it was!   Next time your little one is feeling grouchy, try making him or her into a pizza.  It might just be the perfect cure!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 23: Sheep in a Jeep

"Beep Beep!  Sheep in a jeep on a hill that's steep.  Uh oh!  The jeep won't go."  We got this adorably silly story this past Christmas and my son thinks it is hilarious!  It's short and sweet, making it a great quick read that easily holds the attention of much younger readers, too.  He just loves following along as the sheep's fun escapades turn into a series of mishaps, and it doesn't hurt that it also features two of his favorite things, jeeps and mud.  I'm not sure which part he loves more:  when the jeep is in a heap and the sheep weep, or the very end when the jeep is for sale -- cheap.  It's simple,  with sometimes only two words per page, but the rhymes are engaging and the words are particularly fun to little ones to read aloud.  My son literally smiles his way through the whole story.  I can't ask for much more than that in a book!  Margot Apple's illustrations are amusing, as well, making this a perfectly fun story to read over and over.  The board book version even comes with a "make-your-own sheep" craft idea at the end.  We did something similar and cut a red jeep and wheels out of construction paper and used cotton balls to fill it up with sheep.  So fun!  There are other books in the Sheep series that we will have to check out at some point, too.  In the meantime, definitely check this one out!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 22: Waiting for Baby

I have a lot of friends who are pregnant right now, some of whom are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first child, and others who already have a little one at home and are awaiting number two.  Two friends are "waiting for baby" any day now, and dear friends of mine just welcomed their son into the world yesterday.  (Congratulations Josh and Becca and big sister Sophie!)  It's serious baby mania, and it's wonderful!  As I've naturally been thinking a lot about these friends lately, I thought I would feature a book today that was one of my favorites when we were expecting our second child.  Going into my third trimester, I really wanted to find a great book to read with my son that would get him excited about becoming a big brother.  I was exceptionally nervous about how he would handle this, given that he went through a rather long phase of seeming to despise babies.  He was a little more than two at the time, and whenever he saw a baby anywhere or even a picture of one in a book, he would point at it and say, "No baby!  No baby!"  (For some reason, he would also say he wanted a girl but "no boy!"  Phew!)   I was thrilled, then, when my cousin sent us some of the books that had helped her eldest son get ready for becoming a big brother, too.  Waiting For Baby was by far the biggest hit, and we read it before bed every night.  It tells the story of Max, who knows his mommy is about to have a baby any day and can't wait to meet his new sibling.  Each day of the week, Max tries a new strategy to encourage the baby to come out, and each day, he is disappointed that "no baby came."  My son's favorite was the song he would play on his drum:  "Rum tum tum, baby come!  Rum tum tum, baby come!"  At week's end, of course, Max's little sister finally arrives and he gets to go to the hospital and meet her.  To me, this book was a perfect way to get my son excited about becoming a big brother and a wonderful teaching tool about what to expect.  We changed the title to "Waiting for Emma," and he loved to hear me explain how he would get to do the same thing as Max:  Grammy would come and stay the night with him while Daddy and I went to the hospital, and then he would get to come to the hospital to meet his baby sister!  I explained what things would be like at the hospital -- how I would be in a big bed and he would be able to sit on it with me and hold Emma -- and how after that we would bring Emma home with us.  We especially loved looking at the series of illustrations on the inside covers of the book, which show the things Max and his family do together before and after the baby is born.  If you or anyone you know is expecting #2 and looking for a great book to share with the big brother or sister-to-be, this is the one!  Oh, and it turns out I needn't have worried at all.  My son adores his baby sister more than anything in the world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 21: Harold and the Purple Crayon

We got a hand-me-down  copy of this book when my son was one, but, as I didn't think he was quite ready for it yet, I put it away in his closet to be revisited later.  Last week, a new friend of the blog, Rose, mentioned this as one of her favorites and I remembered that we had it somewhere.  I wish I had remembered to look for it earlier.  What a wonderful book!  My son and I instantly fell in love with this fabulous story of imagination.  "One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight."  So off he goes, armed with only his purple crayon, to create a marvelous adventure for himself.  The illustrations are perfectly simple, and I love the way Harold meanders along and decides what he should do and draw next.  And following him the whole way, of course, is the moon that started everything.  My favorite part of the story might be the very end, when he remembers where he can find his bedroom window:  right around the moon, of course!  Most of all, I absolutely love the fact that this is a book about the beauty of creativity and the power of one's imagination.  If you are like me and love watching your child's imagination take flight, this is an absolute must-read.  Have your little ones guess what Harold might do next, or ask what they would draw.  Create your own Harold-like story together and see where their imagination takes you.  It can be easy to forget, but sometimes all we really need to have a great adventure is as simple as a purple crayon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 20: Martha Speaks

My son loves to pretend that he is different animal characters on a regular basis.  Lately, I've been having a hard time keeping track of who he is at any given moment.  Oftentimes, he's Curious George.  (If we're all home, my husband is the man with the yellow hat, I am Professor Wiseman, and my daughter is the doorman's little dachsund, Hundley.)  Other times, he is Mudge (of Henry and Mudge fame), or a little dog from the Clifford television show named Hamburger.  For the past two days, though, he has been Martha from Martha Speaks, so he thought we should make that book today's featured story.  I also just learned that the author, Susan Meddaugh, lives two towns away from us in Sherborn, which I thought was pretty cool.  If you have a preschooler who watches PBS, you've probably seen or heard of the Martha Speaks TV show which is based on the book.  We don't really watch it (not because it isn't good,) but we do love the story.  If you aren't familiar with Martha, she is an outspoken dog who is able to talk after eating alphabet soup.  The story line of Martha Speaks is cute, silly, and fun to read, but I think I enjoy the commentary that Meddaugh adds into her illustrations more than the plot itself.  My son loves the silly things Martha says and does, and my husband and I are amused by her colloquialisms and witty comments.  It's a fun book for parents and kids (and talking dogs,) alike.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 19: I Am a Bunny

This is another wonderful story that was given to us as a baby shower gift.  (Thank you, Alisa!)  Our first featured Golden Book, I Am a Bunny follows the adorable red-overall-clad Nicholas throughout the seasons.  We have the sturdy board book version, which is perfect for even the youngest readers.  The story, written by Ole Risom, is very simple -- we learn about all the different things Nicholas likes to do throughout the year such as watch the birds, chase the butterflies, blow dandelion seeds into the air -- but it's Richard Scarry's amazing illustrations that really make this book for me.  We love many other Scarry titles, too, but in my opinion, this is his best artistic work by far.  The pictures are beautifully drawn and his attention to detail is amazing.  I just love the way every butterfly, bird, and frog is different, and his wonderful use of color makes it seem like I can feel the seasons changing as we turn the pages.  I even love the illustration on the back cover of Nicholas lying in the grass admiring a cricket.  It is a soothing and peaceful book to read and a great way to teach little ones about the seasons.  It's a perfect story to read before bed, too, as in the end, Nicholas curls up in his hollow tree to dream about spring.  What better book to feature on this first full day of spring as we watch the snow falling outside?  Hopefully we'll all be outside picking flowers soon, just like Nicholas.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 18: Kitten's First Full Moon

In light of tonight's "Super Moon" -- the largest full moon in 18 years -- I thought it only appropriate to feature Kevin Henkes' adorable classic Kitten's First Full Moon.  This was another Melinda recommendation, and my little guy and I snuggled up and read it last night after admiring the moon rising out his bedroom window.  In this story, a persistent little kitten is determined to reach the bowl of milk she sees in the sky.  Try as she might, that pesky milk remains elusive, teasing her all the while.  "Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting."  When she sees its even larger reflection in the pond, she becomes even more determined to reach it, but again comes up emptyhanded.  (Imagine how hungry she would be if she saw tonight's super moon!)   My son loves the beautifully simple yet expressive charcoal illustrations, and takes particular delight in knowing all along what the kitten does not:  the bowl of milk is really the moon.  Silly kitten!  Though she eventually gives up and heads home, dejected, kitten's story has a happy ending.  I know a book is good when my son has parts (or all) of it memorized.  As he was playing with his trains this morning, I overheard him reciting part of the story to himself:  "... She sprang from the top step of the porch.  But kitten only tumbled -- bumping her nose and banging her ear and pinching her tail.  Poor kitten!"   If you haven't checked out tonight's moon, take a look outside, and if you haven't checked out this charming book, add it to your library list.  You and your little one are bound to love it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Barnes and Noble online discounts

When ordering some new books recently, I was surprised at how much cheaper it is to get books at Barnes and Noble online than in the store.  Most titles are anywhere from 10% to 40% off, with greater savings offered for the more expensive titles.  They also offer free shipping for orders over $25.  I guess I shouldn't really be that surprised -- it is their attempt to compete with Amazon, I suppose -- but I thought I'd share my discovery in case others didn't know about it yet.  If you're interested, check out their website at  Of course, there is still something special about going to the store and picking out a book in person, but if you're looking for the most books for your buck, online might be the way to go.  Happy shopping!

Day 17: The Napping House

Of all the titles in our current collection at the moment, this is the one that most appeals to me today.  After being up with my youngest at 12, 2, 4, and 6am, I would love for our house to be a napping house today!  Alas, I can count on one hand the number of times I have ever managed to get both of my children to nap at the same time, so we'll have to settle for reading this wonderful story a few times today, instead.  We checked this out of the library recently at the suggestion of our good friend (and children's librarian) Melinda, and are so happy we did!   Thanks, Melinda!  Don and Audrey Wood tell the story of the napping house beautifully, from the delightfully repetitive and cumulative text to the detailed, expressive illustrations.  My son loves watching everyone pile up on the Granny's bed, only to have a wakeful flea set off a hilarious chain reaction, and I just love watching his smile grow bigger and bigger until the Granny finally breaks the bed at the end.   After reading this for the first time, he immediately wanted to read it again, and now he loves looking for the slight changes in imagery and reciting what is going to happen next. I also love the way the book starts out with everyone napping the rainy day away (who doesn't love to do that?) and the subtle way in which the light in the illustrations gently changes from gray and dreary to warm and sunny with each turn of the page.  The rhythm and silliness of this story make it wonderfully engaging for little ones, and it is sure to be one that we read over and over again.  If I'm really lucky, maybe we'll even get to read it before a nice long family nap sometime.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 16: Frog and Toad Together

Frog and Toad are perhaps the most memorable literary characters of my childhood.  I remember reading these stories curled up on the couch with my mom, who recently found my old copies of these wonderful books and passed them along to me.  My son, husband, and I were amused to find my name and phone number written inside the front cover in my earliest handwriting, complete with the 6 written backwards so that it looked like a 2.  Classic.  I had actually already gotten my son his own copies of these stories about a year ago, hoping that he would love them as much as I do.  So far, so good! 

There are a few reasons that I chose this classic as today's featured book.  First, my son and I planted tomato and herb seeds in little container pots yesterday and are anxiously waiting to see them grow.  As we watered our seeds and set them in the sunshine of our bay window sill, I couldn't help but think of Toad in the story "The Garden," the second chapter of Frog and Toad Together.  Eager to have a beautiful garden like Frog's, Toad decides to plant some seeds of his own.  Being Toad, though, he is impatient, and can't figure out why his seeds don't grow right away.  Frustrated, he keeps yelling, "Now seeds, start growing!"  Hopefully my son will have more patience than Toad and our seeds will sprout in a week or two as they should.  Perhaps if we sing and read poems and play music to our seeds like Toad does, we'll end up with a beautiful garden someday, too. 

The other reason I picked this story today is that it features one of my other all-time favorite Frog and Toad stories, "Cookies."  This adorable tale about Frog and Toad's attempts to find willpower and stop eating Toad's delicious cookies is one that any sweets lover like me can appreciate.  "Let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop."  How many times have I thought that to myself?  But why the relevance today?  Well, it's Cadbury Mini-Egg season, that glorious time of year when I need to summon all the willpower I can not to eat an entire bag in one sitting.  I have hidden both bags of Mini-Eggs away and refuse to open them before Easter, for once I do, I'll be even worse than Frog and Toad at finding any willpower.  And there is no way I'm giving them to the birds.  "Cookies" has become one of my son's favorite Frog and Toad stories, too, along with my other favorite from this book, "The List."  If you and your little one have not yet discovered Lobel's delightful stories about the adventures of these two best friends, check them out the next time you visit your library.  As part of the "I Can Read" series, they are usually in the early reader section.  As with the Henry and Mudge books, I think Frog and Toad's stories are perfect for little ones long before they can read on their own.  I hope you love them as much as we do!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 15: The Caboose Who Got Loose

"When Katy Caboose rambled down the train tracks, the engines were steamers with puffing smoke stacks.  She was a caboose who disliked being last, with an endless black cloud of smoke rolling past."  So begins Bill's Peet's charming story about dear old Katy Caboose, who wishes more than anything to live a life uncoupled from her train amidst the quiet forest pines.  I could go on.  And on.  For the whole 48 pages of this fabulous book, actually.  I'm not kidding.  That's how many times we have read this story since receiving it as a gift when my son turned two.  When I first looked through it and saw how long it was, I thought it might be a bit much for him to get through.  His favorite books at the time were still mostly board books, few of which took more than several minutes to read.  The first time we read The Caboose Who Got Loose, though, I was impressed by how well it captured his attention.  Bill Peet's rhyming, lyrical lines make reading it fun and listening to it even better.  (They also make the book quite conducive to memorization, as I soon found out.)   It wasn't long before I could recite the whole story to my son from memory, which was quite helpful given that he always wanted to read it again after we had turned out the light.  The story line is clever, and Peet really brings Katy to life with her emotions, desires, and fears.  I don't know why, but for some reason I also love the fact that Katy is a girl caboose.  When we're actually reading about Katy's adventures from the book and looking at the pictures, my son also loves to count all of the train cars in the illustrations and find Katy in each one.  Although my son is all boy in his obsession with trains and wheeled vehicles, I think this delightful story would appeal to girls, too.  It's cute, fun, and a joy to read!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 14: The Story of Ferdinand

Sweet, gentle Ferdinand.  I just love him.  We checked this great book out of the library a few weeks ago at the suggestion of my friend Leonie and it quickly became a favorite in our house.  This charming classic tells the story of Ferdinand, a Spanish bull who would rather sit under his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers than fight like all of his friends.  Robert Lawson's black and white illustrations are simple and clever, and the story line is wonderfully endearing.  I love the underlying message about being an individual and doing what makes you happy, regardless of what everyone else is doing or expects of you because of your outward appearance.  Of course, I'm sure my son completely misses that part, but I like it, anyway.  He still asks to read Ferdinand at least once a day, so there is something about the pictures or the story line that greatly appeals to his three year old self.  I have a feeling this one will be checked out of the library several times until we eventually get our own copy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 13: Moo Baa La La La

Go to the board books section of any book store and you're bound to see rows of Sandra Boynton titles.  We have many on our bookshelf, too, but I think this one is definitely one of our favorites.  In the classic Boynton style, it's rhyming lines are silly and fun to read, and the pictures are charmingly simple -- a great combination for little ones.  This was one of my son's early favorites, and I'm convinced it helped us all survive a road trip to North Carolina when he was only 4 months old.  If we can read a story that many times and still like it by the end of the trip, it must be good!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 12: On the Night You Were Born

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a huge sap.   I cry easily.  Not in a wimpy kind of way, but in a sentimental/emotional kind of way.  When I was a little girl, I always thought it was really weird that my mom cried at the end of E.T.  Now I know why, of course, and I cry when he takes Gertie's flower and boards his ship, too.  I'm convinced that something about becoming a mom makes one cry more easily.  And every time I read On the Night You Were Born, I cry.  Every time.  I can't even get past the first page without getting choked up.  Whenever I pick up this beautiful story, I psyche myself up and am convinced I can make it through without crying this time.  I get through the first four lines just fine, but as soon as I get to the fifth line utter the words, "Life will never be the same," my eyes get teary and it's all over.  Consequently, I find that I don't actually read this story to my little ones all that often, even though I think it is one of the most beautiful children's books I've ever read.  It is touching, sentimental, poetic, and lovely in every way.  Kids like the soft, gentle rhymes and the gorgeous illustrations -- especially the dancing polar bears -- and the message that "you are the one and only ever you" is a wonderful one.  But to me, this is really more of a book for parents.  I love the way Tillman describes the magic and wonder of having a child, and every time I read it, it brings back the wave of love and amazement I felt the first time I held my little ones in my arms.  (Hence, the tears.)  I especially love the symbols and imagery she uses to show how the universe celebrated their arrival, from the moon that stays up until morning one day to the ladybug who lands and decides to stay.  "Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo.  It's because they've been dancing all night for you!"  No doubt, my kids will think it is weird that this book always makes me cry, but someday, I hope they will understand why.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 11: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

The "If You Give" books are definitely a popular series among my son's age group.  Most parents I know have heard of (and love) the classic If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but my son is particularly enamored by one of its adorable sequels, If You Give a Pig a Pancake.  Maybe it's because he loves pancakes with syrup, or perhaps it is the really cool tree house the pig builds in the end, but whatever it is, this book is a regular in our rotation.  Felicia Bond's illustrations are really what make the story for me, and I particularly love how she depicts the little girl as she tries to keep up with (and clean up after) that spunky little pig as she bustles from one activity to the next.  By the time the story ends and comes full circle, the little girl is asleep with her head down on the kitchen table and the pig is still going strong.  What parent can't relate to that?   This silly story will bring a smile to your face, and your little one is sure to love it, too. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 10: The Pout Pout Fish

This silly story about a grumpy fish and the power of a simple kiss is an absolute must-read!  A big, big thanks to my friend Page Warnke, who recommended this book to us.  We checked it out of our local library and have been in love with it ever since.   The rhymes are clever, the verses fun, and my son loves being showered with smooches at the end.  I think we all have days where we feel like a Pout Pout Fish, and sometimes a little kiss is all we need to turn our frowns upside down.   We actually love this story so much that I just ordered it the other day.  We would have taken it out of the library again (and again, and again) but this is one of those books we just need to own.  And besides, we figure it's such a great read, we should leave it in the library for other lucky kids to borrow.  Another big thanks goes out to my long time friend's mom, who recently sent us an amazingly thoughtful gift card to our favorite place, Barnes and Noble.  Thank you, Jane, for treating us to this wonderful story!   We actually got the sequel, too, which recently came out in hardcover.   Stay tuned on that one... if it's anywhere near as great as the first, it's bound to make our list later on.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 9: The Mitten

I was so excited when I bought this book as a gift for my son's first Christmas.  Jan Brett's illustrations are, as usual, amazingly detailed and beautiful, and I have always loved and admired her work.  I was naturally disappointed, then, when my son showed no interest in it for the first year or two.  He went through a rather long phase of only wanting to read books that rhymed and had a nice sing-songy meter to them, which I suppose made perfect sense given his young age.  Still, I couldn't wait to be able to read this wonderful story to him.   Finally, the winter he turned two, The Mitten became an absolute favorite!  He would even ask that I tell him the story in the car on the way to daycare in the morning while he held the book in the backseat, marvelling at all of the gorgeous pictures.  We just love following along with the woodland animals as they squeeze their way into the lost mitten, and my son particularly enjoys the little preview illustration on the side of each page that shows which animal will be crawling into the mitten next.   His favorite page, of course, is the one where the bear sneezes. "aaaa...aaaahhh... aaahhCHOOOOOO!!"  He'll laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and loves to yell, "All the animals flew out of the mitten!" as we throw his stuffed animals up in the air.  Needless to say, I got my wish of having him love this book as much as I do.  We even have a beautiful 200-piece Ravensburger "The Mitten" puzzle, which he asks to do at least once a week.  This is another classic book that we just love to read all year long!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 8: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

This might be my son's favorite book of all time.  He has loved it so much, in fact, that we are actually on our second copy.  The first one was given to us as a hand-me-down and was in near-perfect condition, but the poor book was soon loved to shreds.  Literally.  Even mass amounts of heavy duty clear packing tape couldn't save it.  Granted, we probably shouldn't have given my son a non-board book when he was still only one, but he was so obsessed with cars and trucks that we couldn't resist reading it to him.  Needless to say, it was an instant hit.   It features drawings of every kind of vehicle you could possibly imagine and then some (would you rather drive a carrot car or a banana mobile?) and a rather silly story line about the Pig family's day trip to the beach.  It's long -- almost 70 pages -- but jam-packed with vehicular delight.  We love following that naughty Dingo Dog, too.  If you have a child in your life who is like mine and is obsessed with all things wheeled, this is bound to be a favorite.  Don't forget to find Goldbug on every page!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 7: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Time to feature a fabulous book for the littlest of readers.  I would be surprised if anyone reading this hasn't heard of this classic story, but it is truly a wonderful book that deserves recognition.  This book is a rather sentimental one for me, as it is one of the very first books that truly engaged and captivated both of my children from the time they were born.  Even when they were just a few weeks old, I felt they truly connected to this story and loved reading it.  There is something magical about Martin's simple, rhythmic phrases and Carle's bold, collage-style images that make this a perfect first book for any child.  My seven month old daughter still loves to read (and chew on) this book, and I can just feel her brain taking it all in as she stares intently at the picture on each page, just my son used to do.  And even though he is now three, my son still loves reading this book with (and especially to) us.  Many thanks to my dear friend Alisa, who gave us this book before my son was born.  It is definitely a family favorite.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 6: Cha Cha Chimps

Shortly before my son turned two, he became obsessed with monkeys.  I don't remember why, but he thought they were quite possibly the most hilarious things on the planet.  One day before picking him up at daycare, I stopped by one of our local libraries so that I could surprise him with a  few new books to read that night.  I was in a hurry since I couldn't wait to pick him up, so I quickly scanned the shelves and judgementally grabbed a few stories whose titles seemed appealing or whose covers looked nice.  Cha Cha Chimps was one of them.  "Perfect!" I thought to myself.  "A book about monkeys!  He'll love it."  Without even cracking the cover, I checked it out and was on my way.  As we snuggled up and read it for the first time that night, we both giggled our way through the entire story and it instantly became a classic in our house.   Ten silly chimps put on their boogie woogie pants and sneak out of their tree to dance the night away with their animal friends at Mambo Jamba's.  My son loves to dance around and sing the chorus in his best monkey holler:  "Eee eee, ooh ohh, ah ah ah!  Ten little chimps do the cha cha cha!"  This is one story that I love reading again and again, which is a good thing, since we've read it more times than I could count.  Your little monkey is bound to love it, too!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 5: Over In the Jungle - A Rainforest Rhyme

Okay, I'm sure I'll say this many times over the course of this blog, but I love, love, love this book!   LOVE!  This is another random library shelf find, and another book I have long had memorized.  I was shocked and disappointed to find that my local Barnes and Noble doesn't carry it, (a book this good?  Seriously?) but fortunately you can find it in both hardcover and paperback on amazon.  Phew.  Marianne Berkes has written a fabulous story about the creatures of the rainforest set to the tune of "Over in the Meadow," and has conveniently even included the music to the tune in the back of the book.  (One play through on the piano to figure out the melody and reading this story became even more fun!)  Count your way from one to ten, meeting different jungle animals and their young along the way.  There are so many things I love about this book, I hardly know where to begin.  For starters, I adore books that teach me something new.  There are so many fun and unique animals in this story, and even a little write-up about each one in the back of the book that provides even more information about their lifestyles and habits.  Did you know that honey bears and kinkajous are the same animal?  Or that marmosets are only 7-12 inches tall?  Or that leaf-cutter ants fertilize the leaves they bring back to their colony with saliva and then eat the fungus that grows on it for food?  Yeah, neither did I... until I read this book.  Now my son knows all about poison dart frogs and morpho butterflies ("They are a beautiful blue!"), ocelots and sloths.  He often asks me to sing him this song as he's falling asleep at night or when we're just driving around in the car.  What better endorsement could you ask for?  Believe it or not, though, my favorite part of this book actually might not even be any of the things I've already mentioned, but rather the illustrations.  They are AMAZING!  I'm talking seriously fabulous in every way.  Artist Jeanette Canyon created all of the imagery for this story out of relief sculptures of textured polymer clay.  There is a little write-up about her process in the back of the book -- another cool bonus!  The colors are vibrant and her attention to detail is incredible, making this one of the most creatively illustrated books I've ever seen.  Berkes has her own little featured page at the back of the book, as well, which offers ideas for other activities that you can do with your child while reading this story.  This is another book I love to give as a gift.  Check out your library to see if they have it, or better yet, get a copy of your own.   You won't be disappointed!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 4: Llama Llama Red Pajama

"Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama!"  Oh, how many times I have thought that to myself (and even said that outloud in the appropriate exasperated way) since reading this delightful story!  Both my little llamas were overtired yesterday, so we had a rather llama-drama-rific day of our own.  Naturally, then, I was inspired to make this story by Anna Dewdney today's featured post.  We got this book as a gift from my cousin Heather when my son was one, and we immediately loved its silly rhymes, charming story line, and fun illustrations.  Little llama gets tucked in and says goodnight to his mama, but as soon as she is gone he starts to worry.  His quiet little whimpers soon turn into a full-fledged llama drama, until mama finally rushes up to reassure her little one that she is "always near, even if she's not right here."  Kids of all ages can relate to being scared to fall asleep alone, and parents can't help but smile when reading about those ever-intensifying post-bedtime calls.  ("mom...  Moommm... MOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!")  Dewdey now has several LLama books, but this first one is definitely a classic in our house.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 3: Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea

Cynthia Rylant's wonderful collection of stories about a little boy and his beloved, huggable, 180 pound dog, Mudge, are on heavy rotation at our house right now.  In fact, my son loves them so much, it was all I could do to convince him that we couldn't check out all 28 of them from the library this week.  (We settled on four.)  He also loves to pretend to be Mudge on a regular basis, which I find ridiculously cute.  We must read at least three different Henry and Mudge books a day, but we are particularly fond of the Forever Sea at the moment.  I think this is because, like me, my son can't wait to be able to go to the beach this summer.  (We've been dreaming about it all winter long.)  The Henry and Mudge books are part of the "Ready to Read" series so are presumably aimed at a slightly older age group, but I think they are just perfect for three year olds, too.  They have been around for a while -- The First Book was published in 1987 -- and I remember reading them with my brothers when they were little.  (And now, we are lucky to have all of their old books.  Thanks, Mom!)  If you've ever owned a dog, especially a big one that drools a lot and takes up too much room on the couch, you'll instantly love Mudge.  I often laugh and smile to myself as I read about the things he does, as they bring back so many happy memories of my childhood dog.  If you haven't discovered Henry and Mudge yet, I encourage you to go check them out.  There are many adventures to choose from, and no doubt other titles from the series will make our list further down the line.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 2: Imagine

If I were a children's book illustrator and author, this is the type of book I would create -- full of beautiful pictures of all kinds of animals from around the world.  Each page brings little ones and their imaginations to a different place -- the rainforest, icecap, farm, ocean, and African savanna, to name a few -- and shows the amazing variety of wildlife that live there.  The geography teacher in me adores this book; I especially love the fact that it has a key at the back telling you which animals are featured on each page.  My son loves looking at all the animals, and definitely knows more of them than I do by now.  When we opened up to the rainforest page this morning, the first thing he said was, "There is the water cavy, and there is the paca!"  (not to be confused with the peccary and tapir... obviously.)   The coral reef, dinosaur, and Australia pages are his other personal favorites. This is a book that he randomly pulled off the shelf the last time we were at Barnes and Noble, and I'm so glad he found it!  I loved it so much we just had to get it right then and there.  In fact, I looked for another copy to give as a birthday present to a friend's 2-year old, but unfortunately, couldn't find one.  I highly recommend this book -- you'll be amazed at how many animals your little reader (and you) will come to know!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 1: Bear Wants More

I'm happy to feature this book as our very first great read!  I decided to make this fabulous story my first post for a few reasons.  First, my mom gave us this book when my son was born and we have adored it ever since.  In fact, we have read it so many times that I can easily recite it from memory, which comes in quite handy when we're still telling stories before bed after we've already turned out the light.   It's also a perfect first post, though, because it is about the arrival of spring... and who isn't yearning for spring sunshine and flowers right now?  Karma Wilson's rhyming story lines are delightful and Jane Chapman's illustrations are wonderful, too.  We just love reading about the silly bear and all of his friends!  In this story, the loveable Bear has just woken up quite hungry from his winter hibernation and can't get enough to eat.  After reading this one a few times, we were left wanting more, too, so we just had to go out and get some of the other books in the series.  While they are available in hardcover, some (including this one) are also available as board books; a good thing for a book as loved (and chewed upon) as this one!  In fact, it is one of my favorite books to give to friends as a baby gift.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!