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, May 30, 2013

Day 207: Go, Dog, Go!

My inspiration for today's post came in the strangest of places.  This past weekend, we attended my brother's college graduation.  Like other people with small children, we happily situated ourselves at the back of audience so that we could get up and let the kids run around a bit outside if need be.  At one point towards the end of the 2 1/2 hour ceremony, my daughter was sitting in my lap, snuggling up against me and talking quietly to herself.  It didn't take me long to notice that she was reciting part of a story. "Stop, dog, stop!  The light is red.  Go, dog, go!  It's green ahead."  She repeated these phrases to herself for a while, unaware that I was listening, occasionally mentioning some of the story's other lines, as well:  "You're almost there.  Stop at that tree.  Climb that ladder to a dog party!" The story?  Go, Dog, Go!, a classic early reader book by P.D. Eastman.  We've actually been reading the abridged board book version (Go, Dog, Go! P.D. Eastman's Book of Things That Go, shown below), but both are wonderfully fun.  The simple, repetitive, rhyming text, and the silly, colorful pictures make this book a great one for emerging readers and toddlers, alike.  This book was also one of the first that my son ever read aloud by himself.  I'm surprised I haven't featured it on here yet!

Books like this one are classics for a reason.  Something about them magically connects and sticks with children across generations.  I can count on one hand the number of times we have read that story in the past month, and yet there was my daughter, not yet 3, reciting parts of it from memory over and over to herself.  Don't you just love the way those little minds work? They never cease to amaze me.

If you haven't yet checked out the works of P.D. Eastman, look for them the next time you are the library.  Go, Dog, Go! and Are You My Mother? are both delightfully fun.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 206: Oh No, George!

Teaching our kids to do the right thing -- even when no one is looking -- is a challenging and important job.  We've been stressing this a lot with our five year old lately ("How did you see that?"), and Oh No, George! is the perfect story to help deliver this message.

In this adorable story, George the dog is left alone at home while his owner, Harry, goes out.  George promises he'd be good while Harry is gone, but there are simply too many temptations for him resist!  A big plate full of cake, dirt to dig in, Cat to play with...  When Harry returns home to find his house a mess, George feels terrible.  "I said I'd be good, George thinks.  I hoped I'd be good, but I wasn't."  In what is perhaps my favorite moment of the book, George then brings Harry his favorite toy as an offer of forgiveness.  Harry takes George out for a nice walk, and along the way, George encounters more of his favorite things.  This time, though, George is able to restrain himself, proudly passing by a cake, Cat, and a lovely pile of dirt.  Well done, George!

At the story's end, George comes across his favorite thing of all.  A trash can!  "There's nothing more George likes more than digging in trash.  What will George do?  George?"  We love how we're left to decide for ourselves what we think George is going to do.  Will he be good and pass by the trash can, or dive right in?  My kids sometimes change their minds about what they think George is going to do, but mostly, they think he's going to be good and leave the trash alone.  We all get such a kick out of this cute story, and my kids just love chiming in on the early chorus of "Oh no, George!" each time he gives in to temptation.  They are just as happy towards the end, too, when George is able to do the right thing.  It's always cute to watch their reactions to this story.

George might be a dog, but he provides the perfect analogy for young children.  He's sweet and means well, but sometimes he just can't resist the temptation to do certain things, even when he knows he shouldn't.  As my son likes to say, "I just want to do what I want to do!"  I love the way this story gets children to think about the difference between knowing the right thing and doing the right thing, as well as see the way their actions can affect other people.  The illustrations are funky and unique, and the story line is one to which you and your kids can both easily relate (especially if you have a dog.) Next time you're at the library, look for Oh No, George!  It's fun, sweet, and an all-around great read.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 205: Green

Spring has finally sprung, and we've reached that magical time of year when the leaves are popping open on trees throughout town.  (Yes!  Finally!)  When I saw this stunning book on the "New Arrivals" shelf at our local library, I just had to bring it home.  Featuring only two words per page, Green seems extremely simple at first glance, but really, it is a work of beautiful complexity from beginning to end.

The simple language of the book is remarkable.  With each turn of the page, we are introduced to another shade of green:  "Forest green, sea green, lime green, pea green" and so much more.  As described on the book's jacket cover, "there's the lush green of a forest on a late spring day, the fresh, juicy green of a just-cut lime, the incandescent green of a firefly, and the vivid aquamarine of a tropical sea." I absolutely love the way the whole story encourages children to delve into the wonderfully descriptive world of language, showing them how something as simple as a color can be described in so many different and unique ways.  The verse is lyrically written, too, though we never manage to read it quickly enough to notice the rhyme scheme as we read aloud.  In fact, I don't think I even realized that the lines rhymed until the fourth or fifth time we read it, since we were always too busy studying the illustrations.

And oh, the artwork!  The texture of Seeger's acrylic paintings is simply gorgeous, and every time I read this book, I just want to reach into the pages and touch the illustrations.  Her use of die-cuts is brilliant, as well, perfectly placed on each page in a way that never fails to delight and surprise us.  My children and I just love flipping the pages back and forth after we peek through the cut outs, eager to see just what those colors were on the page before.  Seeger's creativity and designs are simply incredible!  They make me want to try our own die-cut artwork and see what we can come up with.  Hmm...  Perhaps I know what our art activity will be this afternoon...

Green is a 2013 Caldecott Honor book, and deservedly so.  It also is a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2012.  Creative, engaging, and positively lovely, Green is one book that's not to be missed.