Book #20: Morris Goes to School

Ray had his kindergarten orientation today, and he starts school on Monday.  He is not the least bit anxious or upset about starting school; in fact, he can’t wait to get on that bus.  He’s been watching older children board the bus for the past three years, and he feels that it is finally, at […]

Book #19: Fireflies

Forgive me, readers, for I am having formatting problems.   You can always tell a book is well-written if you type the words onto a blank page and they still look beautiful: In the dark I watched the fireflies from my bed. They blinked off and on, and the jar glowed like moonlight. But it […]

Book #18: Tikki Tikki Tembo

This evening while I was answering a few emails, Ray came into the room carrying this book.  He said, “Mom, I want you to put this one on your blog.” Which was pretty cute, considering he had no idea what a blog was until I started this one. Part of the reason I am featuring […]

Book #17: Ferdinand

I don’t think you can get through three-hundred-and-sixty five of this century’s best-loved children’s books without talking about Ferdinand the bull.  In many ways I see dreamy Ferdinand as children literature’s first gay icon.  He is quiet and peaceful.  He doesn’t want to fight or run or butt his head with the other little bulls. […]

Book #16: The Great White Man-Eating Shark

Back in 1991 I got a job as an intern at The Horn Book magazine, which is a  publication devoted to reviewing the best of children’s books.  It’s a journal of some reputation; books that are considered mediocre or shabbily put together don’t even make it to the journal at all.  The Horn Book puts […]

Book #15: Greek Myths

When my son was about four-and-a-half he went through a phase where he only wanted to read Greek myths.  He loved the stories of Hercules and Icarus and Orpheus of course, since like many boys his age he is a hero worshipper, but it was the monsters he revered the most.  Not all the stories […]

Book #14: Possum Come a-Knockin’

Here’s a must-have.  Written in a rhyming, Southern vernacular, this book tells the story of a possum bothering a family while they are inside their home doing their respective southern thangs.  It reads incredibly well, and even though it’s a rhyming, cumulative story, the meter switches up before you have a chance to get burdened […]

Book #13: Swirl by Swirl

Here’s a paean to both art and science from an award-winning author and illustrator.  You can enjoy this book on many levels, and it’s appropriate for a wide age-range, which is always useful.  Joyce Sidman is a poet, and the language she uses to describe spiral shapes has a warm quality: A spiral moves.  It […]

Book #12: I Love You, Mouse

Sometimes I like to feature a lesser-known children’s book by a greater-known author or illustrator. Tomie dePaola is enormously prolific. He has illustrated hundreds of books.  His art is distinctive and recognizable; once you have read Strega Nona or Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, you will recognize everything else he has done. Which is why it […]

Book #11: No Roses for Harry

Harry.  What do we do with you?  You were born in 1958 at a time when men were men and girls didn’t carry heavy artillery.  Yes, you’re a dog.  But an animal in a children’s book is just a human with excessive fur, and so, dear Harry, what are you but a boy who doesn’t […]

Book #10: The Scrambled States of America

Generally, I don’t like goofy, cartoony books.  I know, I’m a stodgy old stick-in-the mud and I’m snotty about high literature besides, but sometimes you just have to cave into the silly.  Plus the idea and its execution is so clever that you can’t resist. The states on the map are feeling restless and bored, […]

Book #9: Knuffle Bunny

First of all, I’d like to apologize in advance for the quality of these reproductions.  Mo Willems would probably have me killed if he saw what I have done with his beautiful drawings-over-photographs, but I am a new blogger, so this is about as good as it gets for the moment.  Check back in a […]

Book #8: Corduroy

Look at Corduroy.  How can you resist that little face?  Don Freeman’s Corduroy has been around since 1968 and still continues to sell.  It’s hard to believe the story was first rejected by his own publisher (eventually they took it). This uncomplicated story is about a teddy bear that wanders around the department store in […]

Book #7: Babar

It has colonialist and racist undertones, this is true.  It’s also marvelous.  But only when your child is ready for this traumatic opening: Babar is riding happily on his mother’s back when a wicked hunter, hidden behind some bushes, shoots at them.  The hunter  has killed Babar’s mother!  The monkey hides, the birds fly away, […]

Book #6: Where the Wild Things Are

I know, I know.  I had planned a different book for today, but when Ray asked for the wild things, how could I say no?  I hadn’t read it to him in years, and this was a favorite when he was three. This book is arguably the finest illustrated children’s book ever published.  You could […]

Book #5: Happy Birthday Moon

A bear buys a top hat for the moon.  He hangs it in a tree until the moon moves toward it, as if to try it on.  Can you even stand it?  Frank Asch has written a number of books about this little bear, and they are all beautifully written and totally charming.  How can […]

Book #4: Rotten Ralph

Jack Gantos has published a lot of material for both children and young adults, and he’s won numerous awards, but at the end of the day I still like the Rotten Ralph books the best.  The crazy-looking illustrations with the messed up perspective, the purposeful and obvious lack of message, and Rotten Ralph sawing off […]

Book #3: Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

The premise of this book is so peculiar that you wouldn’t imagine it being such a hit with small children. But this was my go-to when I had to substitute a class at the elementary school while their teacher was undergoing the breathalyzer test in the hallway. Honestly, if you had to silence a room […]

Book #2: Millions of Cats

Not every book will have a medal on the front of it, but Ray was in a feline kind of mood today, so here was today’s choice. Hundreds of cats Thousands of cats Millions and billions and trillions of cats. Who doesn’t find this lovely refrain enchanting? Wanda Gag’s brother did the hand-lettered text. The […]

Book #1: One Morning in Maine

I am going to try and read an illustrated children’s book to our son every day, 365 days a year, right after we complete violin practice.  What the hell.  We’re alone together  at this time, and for now I’ve given out so many skittles that Ray won’t be able to enjoy being a virtuoso when […]