Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Children's Books

I am proud of my kid. She is in the top reading group in her 1st grade class and she reads really, really well. I attribute this to the fact that I started reading to her when she was just a few days old and I’ve read to her every day since then. When she was young, it was a story before every nap and bedtime. Now, it’s about 20 minutes of chapter books before bedtime at night (in addition to the time she is required to read herself for homework).

Over the years, I’ve read some really good children’s books (and some not so good ones). So I thought I’d tell you about my favorites.

There are some great board books out there (intended for the infant to toddler set). One of the first board books anyone gave us for my daughter was the book “Silly Sally” (by Audrey Wood). This is a lovely book filled with deliciously sing-sing rhymes and an alliterative character (alliteration, by the way, is my favorite rhetorical device). The book chronicles how “Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards, upside down". The artwork is entertaining for even the smallest children and the story is lots of fun.

My favorite bedtime book from when my daughter was small is, “Time for Bed” (by Mem Fox). All I have to do is hear the words, “It’s time for bed, little mouse, little mouse. Darkness is falling all over the house”, and I get all nostalgic for those great snuggly moments we had together.

The book “Guess How Much I Love You” (by Sam McBratney) created a very fun tradition in our family. The book goes through a competition between Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare of how much they love each other. “I love you as high as I can reach,” says one. “I love you right up to the moon,” says another. And so now my daughter and I will occasionally start a little competition of our own. “I love you more than all the stars in the sky,” is definitely a favorite.

Once my daughter came more to the age of awareness of her surroundings, we moved on to books for the 2-5 crowd. There are lots of books in this age group that help to teach young children values and help to strengthen their character. One of my favorites is “Webster, the Scaredy Spider,” (by Max Lucado). The beautiful computer-generated photos, and the path to Webster learning to be brave through God’s help, are a very fun read.

Another favorite for this age group is “Olivia” (by Ian Falconer). This is a wonderful book about a little girl and the stresses of her day-to-day existence. What to wear, a trip to the beach, the confusing art at the art museum, her cat and her little brother, are discussed in such a childlike tone that it is easy for your child to relate. The illustrations in this book are simple, and yet enough. I love at the end when Olivia’s mother tells her, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” And Olivia says, “I love you anyway too.”

It was about this age that we discovered the “Little Critter” books, by Mercer Mayer. This is a fantastic series of books about a little porcupine named “Little Critter” and his family. Over the years we collected at least 20 of these books because they are just so fun to read (for both child and parent!) One of my favorites in this series is called “Just Me in the Tub,” about Little Critter taking a bath. In this story Little Critter tells us all the steps to taking a bath, from running the water, pouring in the bubbles, washing, time to get out, etc. But what makes these books so much fun, is the illustrations. As Little Critter is telling us how important it is to carefully step out of the tub onto the bath map so he won’t splash water everywhere, you see in the illustration all the water that Little Critter already splashed everywhere from his game of pirates being caught in a terrible storm at sea. This series also features books that open up lines of discussion between parents and children. With titles like “Just a Trip to the Dentist,” “The New Baby,” “Just Lost,” “A Very Special Critter,” and “I Just Forgot,” these books make it easy to talk to your children about important things they face in their own lives. I highly, highly recommend owning at least a few of these books!

For the next age group (5-8), check out anything written by John Lithgow. My favorite is “Micawber,” a tale about a squirrel who discovers a talent for painting with his, er, tail. Lithgow’s books are magical for his use of rhyme and verbosity. Where else could you find the word “peregrination” in a children’s book? I also love his book "I'm A Manatee."

To help children learn how to tell time, try “The Grouchy Ladybug” (by Eric Carle). By far, my favorite of Eric Carle’s books.

Another fun book that all kids this age like is, “Skippyjon Jones” (by Judy Schachner). Just something intrinsically entertaining about saying that name 40 or 50 times!

My daughter is sort of a bat fanatic. She loves all things bat. So, of course, we have about 20 books dedicated to bats. My favorite being, “Bats at the Beach” (by Brian Lies). An ordinary group of bats takes a trip (at night, of course) to enjoy all the things the beach has to offer. From “bug-mallows” toasting "on slender sticks", to “sailing in the wing-boat races,” to wearing their “moon-tan lotion”, this is a clever take on what going to the beach would be like for nocturnal creatures.

As my daughter has gotten older, we’ve moved onto “I Can Read” books and a variety of chapter books. My favorites of the “I Can Read” books are the “Frog and Toad” series (by Arnold Lobel). Frog and Toad are best friends and are always getting into one scrape after another, but their friendship always pulls them through. These are fun to read to your children, and then once your child is learning to read, fun for them to read to you.

We are just beginning our foray into children’s chapter books. We have loved the “Little House” series (by Laura Ingalls Wilder), and are getting ready to start reading “The Secret Garden” (by Frances Hodgson Burnett). I can tell you right off that I do not particularly like the "Magic Treehouse" series (by Mary Pope Osborne). In my opinion, they are the same story written over and over and over in different locations. But for some reason, my daughter just LOVES these books.

Two other children’s books that I find to be highly overrated are “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” (by Bill Martin Jr. and Jon Archambault), and “Where the Wild Things Are” (by Maurice Sendak). Both are award-winning books that are really hyped in literary circles. I felt like there was basically no purpose or redeeming quality to the book “Where the Wild Things Are”. “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” is highly irritating to read and I just don't think it succeeds in it's intended goal of helping children learn the alphabet.

So there you have it, my favorite children’s books (and a few not-so-favorite). Now get out there and read to your kids!


  1. Skippy John Jones is one of my FAVORITE books ever. I also love all of the book by Schiezka (they guy who wrote "the true story of the three little pigs). And "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" drives me INSANE...hate it! But my children's literature professor reamed me for saying I disliked it.

  2. I enjoyed looking over your blog and I got some great book suggestions. I love how you rate the books with bookmarks. I also have a book blog and was wondering if I could use your bookmark idea. I am happy to give you credit and provide a link back here to you. Thanks!