Monday, February 11, 2013

Toddler Book Reviews

Having a small child means I spend quite a lot of time reading children’s books these days. My daughter enjoys being read to quite a bit and so it is both a part of our daily routine, at naptime and bedtime, and something we do throughout the day on demand. We’ve also learned that reading often calms her when she’s upset and sometimes tantrums can be stopped by a parent sitting down, picking up a book, and starting to read aloud in her hearing.

Reading to a two year old has both special joys and special challenges. It is amazing though, to hear my daughter repeat words and phrases back to us when looking at pictures. As she goes about her day to day life she will sometimes appropriately comment on something she sees using a phrase from one of her books, and then tell us “that’s in a book!” It’s hard to describe the delight I find in seeing her apply her books to figuring things out. On the other hand, it can be extremely boring to read the same book three times in a row (my husband and I imposed the three time limit for our own sanity) or ten times in the same day. The books themselves vary in appeal to adults; some are just dull while others have illustrations or rhymes that are interesting enough to please me as the reader.

Here are some of the books our family has come to love over the past two years. Although none of these books quite stand up to the ten times a day test (if you know of any that do, please let me know!) but they do provide enjoyment to both my daughter and me over and over again.

1.     Llama, Llama series by Anna Dewdney. These books have a rhyme pattern that is reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe (Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary…) but deal in humorous but practical way with childhood traumas such as bedtime, having to share, and other common issues. There are six books in the series so far and they have all been well illustrated and fun. My daughter loves them, particularly “Llama, Llama Time to Share.”

2.     You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series by Mary Ann Hoberman. These are funny little poems written in two parts, designed for two readers to read together. My mother gave me the first of these books before my daughter was born so my husband and I have taken the parts but when my daughter is able we will share the reading with her. Besides the original book there are books with fables, fairy tales and scary stories. There is also an older “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” book by John Ciardi and Edward Gorey that I remember from my own childhood, but is a little scary for my two year old.

3.     Olivia by Ian Falconer. There are modern updates to the Olivia series that I haven’t read, but the original books that I’ve checked out of the library feature a stylish, independent and strong minded female pig named Olivia and are quite funny. Some of the comments are over my daughter’s head but she enjoys the stories and asks for them over and over.

4.     The Cat in the Hat Learning Library Series by Tish Rabe. This series of books was designed with the intention of filling in basic science knowledge for preschoolers. We have books about butterflies, space and how the human body works and my daughter enjoys all of them. There are at least twenty books available in the series about all kinds of topics. I am not always certain how much my two year old really understands of the science but my husband and I find them interesting and she definitely likes the pictures.

5.     Dr. Seuss. This is a classic, of course. My daughter loves all of the Dr. Seuss books we have read to her so far, with The Cat in The Hat being her top choice. The pictures are amusing, the rhymes are funny, and often the stories carry a moral. What more could a parent want? They also tend to be a little longer (One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish is about 60 pages) which is nice in terms of keeping her busy for a while, although tiring at night when tired parents are putting a tired toddler to bed.

6.     Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton goes through different emotions and then lets small children know it is okay to have negative feelings. As a psychiatrist, I have to love it. Actually anything by Sandra Boynton is a crowd pleaser. Her illustrations are cute and funny and her books are simple and geared towards a toddler level. She has a set of five books about a toddler pig called Little Pookie and has books about colors, musical instruments, opposites, body parts, rhyming words, counting; pretty much any teaching concept I can think of, she’s written about in a way my daughter enjoys hearing over and over.

7.     Good Night World by Adam Gamble is one of an entire series called “Good Night Our World.” It is not related to Good Night Moon. The books are not all written by the same person, but they read like toddler travel guides. The series includes Good Night Washington D.C., Good Night Israel, Good Night Lake, Good Night Beach, and many others. They are beautifully illustrated and have been led to quite a few discussions with my daughter about the pictures and also the places we have been.

8.     You are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love is an incredibly sweet poem about the different roles parents and children play in relationship to each other. I have a soft spot for this book because it was given to me shortly after my daughter was born and so was one of the first things I read to her in those teary, emotional new Mommy weeks. The illustrations are sweet and calming and my daughter will actually pick this book off the shelf for us to read when she feels a need for comfort.

9.     Disney Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales is actually a book that I had when I was little. When I saw it on the shelves I recognized the illustrations and had to buy it for my daughter. The Fairy Tales are gentled significantly but my daughter will still ask us to skip the parts with “bad” characters who are trying to hurt the main characters. The nursery rhymes are more classic. This is one of our bedtime standards.

10. Teeth are Not for Biting by Elizabeth Verdick is a book that I bought in e-book format that talks in very simple language about why a young child might want to bite, and then reminds them “ouch! Biting hurts!” and suggests other things they can try. There are quite a few books in the series; we also own “Sharing Time” and “Calm Down Time” and there are many more I haven’t purchased. The suggestions are practical and I like the fact that they acknowledge and are accepting of the intense feelings small children experience. The books also have a page of parent tips after the stories.

So, there are some of our recent family favorites. Happy reading!