Thursday, February 4, 2010

Two-year-old's favorite books: Bus & bear, flaps & flights

Here are our favorite books around here right now, favorite enough that I thought I should share with you! These are ones you should be able to find at your library if you want to check them out, too. Mikko is two and a half years old now and finally letting us read whole books through, so there's something to celebrate right there. I'll be linky-linking to my Amazon affiliates account, so fair warning. It's just so danged convenient to have the pictures right at hand like that.

The Boy on the Bus, by Penny DaleThe Boy on the Bus: A Sing-Along Storybook, by Penny Dale, is a story that you can either read or sing. The tune is the familiar "Wheels on the Bus," but the words have been changed just a little to make things interesting! The boy drives the bus out in the country, picking up a host of animals on his way. Halfway through, Mikko starts getting concerned. "Too full!" he shouts at the horse and cow and sheep who want to pile on still. "Too full!" But on they come, filling all the cracks and hopping onto the roof. Mikko allows this, grudgingly. Lest it sound like he dislikes the book, let me assure you that he read it through ten times in a row one day with Nana, to the point that he has it mostly memorized now. The painted illustrations are detailed and pretty.

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rosetti ShustakI Love You Through And Through, by Bernadette Rosetti Shustak, is a simple board book with a lovely message: that you love every part of your child, and every mood: silly side, mad side, top side, bottom side, giggles and cries. The illustrations by Caroline Jayne Church are absolutely charming, and I love that even the backgrounds of each page are uniquely coordinating. I like this book as a reminder to me to love Mikko unconditionally, through and through. Another thing I like is that the simple words are easy enough for me to translate, on the fly, into German, since I'm trying to raise Mikko bilingually and am always looking for places to insert our second language. Buying German-language books can be pricey when you live in the US, and the library has only a small selection, so books like this are a blessing in that I can read them in either language!

Caps for Sale by Esphyr SlobodkinaThis is an oldie but a goodie. Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, is, as the subtitle puts it, a tale of a peddler, some monkeys and their monkey business. Mikko likes to "read" along by calling out "Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!" which never fails to charm me. Plus, it has monkeys! What more could a two-year-old and his mama ask for?

I mentioned Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, in passing before when I was recommending the lyrical Jazz Baby. I decided it needed its own plug, because it's just such a fun book to Bear Snores On by Karma Wilsonread. I love these rhythmic, read-aloud books that roll so easily off the tongue. I don't even know or care if Mikko likes it as much as I do — it makes me sound like a poet and a dang good storyteller who has a way with words, so I keep it handy on the bedside table.

I'm not recommending or not recommending this next book, but I can't think where else to discuss how bizarre it is than here. The Little Fire Engine, by Lois Lenski, is another old standard that I happened across. It has charmingly primitive illustrations and a cute old-fashioned fire truck. But please, if you read it, gawk with me at the progression of the story. The family whose house is on fire spends its time pulling furniture out of the house onto the yard. A few pages later, it's discovered that one of the The Little Fire Engine (Lois Lenski Books)daughters and her cat are trapped upstairs. Whoops. "Sorry, honey, we were too busy saving the lamp to make sure we'd gotten all our kids out!" Then, moments after the fire's out, Fireman Small (for such is his name) tells the relieved family they can move their furniture back in. Riiiight. Clearly this is fantasy and bears no relation to what actual fires and their extinguishing do to a house. Isn't it strange that we idolize firefighters and police officers in this culture, particularly with little boys? I felt a little ghoulish yesterday when I took Mikko on a walk and we stopped to watch the flashing lights of a firetruck. I was fully aware that an on-call firetruck can only mean something bad has happened, whereas Mikko just thought it was pretty. Anyway! Back to the books:

Now I'd like to recommend a couple types of books, and you can see what's available in your area or those that would suit your particular kids.

First off, I've discovered that two-year-olds (or at least my particular little guy) love books with actions to them, whether it's flaps to lift or tabs to slide or pop-ups to ogle or textures to feel. I mention this only because for a long time I thought he would Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbellbe interested in such things, and he wasn't — not until recently. So if you haven't given books like that a try for a similarly aged toddler (or younger, if your kid's more advanced), you might get them out. I thought he might just be destructive with the flaps and such, and while it's true that he can be a bit clumsy and energetic in how he handles them, for the most part he wants them to work more than he wants to destroy them. What you have available will vary, and I don't suppose it much matters, but here are a few we have around the house right now: Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book, by Rod Campbell; Touch and Feel: Farm; Pat the Puppy, by Edith Kunhardt Davis; Where, Oh Where, Is Kipper's Bear?, by Mick Inkpen; Where's Spot?, by Eric Hill; a cloth book called Good Night, Freckles that they're apparently not making anymore; Where Is Baby's Belly Button?, by Karen Katz; and a great big book of movable and pettable kitties called Cat, by Matthew Van Fleet, that Mikko's godmother just bought for him. (See, I'm not the only one who noticed his new interests in interactive books!)

Here's a suggestion for if a particular action in a book is too hard for your kid (say, tying a shoelace or pulling a lever): Mikko is firmly in the "Mikko does it!" phase of toddlerhood, but he was having trouble pulling a tab that made a frog jump in Pat the Puppy. I started yelling at the frog, very energetically: "Come on, frog! What's wrong with you? Hop, already! HOOOOOOOOP!" On paper perhaps this sounds mean, but it served the purpose of making Mikko giggle and taking the blame off him and placing it squarely on the frog, as was proper (stupid frog). Even though Mikko has now mastered the art of jumping the frog on the first try, he still wants me to yell at the frog to get moving and then act very surprised and excited when the frog actually responds.

The second category of book is pure propaganda, and will vary according to the way in which you're trying to influence your kid. I was quailing at the thought of our upcoming flight to the East Coast this summer, given all the recent toddlers-kicked-off-airplane stories in the news. I decided to take action ahead of time and plant some suggestions in Mikko for how we behave appropriately (that is, in ways unlikely to get us kicked off the flight) on an airplane. Phase One of my plan was to check out a "going on an airplane" book from the library. I can't even recommend the particular book to you, because it's kind of inane and dated — it has nothing about partially disrobing to go through security, for instance, and it suggests to your kids that they might get to see the cockpit and talk to the pilots! (Not bloody likely, kiddo.) But it did the trick in showing real photographs of children sitting quietly (key word here!) in airplane seats, seat belts securely fastened. We have had many a talk since then of going to the airport, getting on an airplane, buckling our seat belts, sitting quietly, reading, watching movies, and then seeing Cousin Alex. (This is the big draw on the East Coast!) I don't want this to sound overly controlling, because I'm normally not this preachy to Mikko. The good news is, he's now super excited about the idea of going on an airplane and seeing his family across the country, and I think it's really a good thing to prepare him ahead of time. We've used other opportunities to reinforce our message, such as when we drove to the airport to pick up Nana, and when another friend brought him a gift of a wooden airplane toy. You could use these tactics for such upcoming events as going to the dentist, potty learning, the birth of a new sibling, starting school – anything that might rock your child's world and demand a bit of advance coaching.

These airplane books all have good reviews so I've put them on hold at the library: My First Airplane Ride, My First Airplane Rideby Patricia Hubbell (the description says it includes details about the X-ray machine and security wand, and one reviewer says: "It has also helped to stave off meltdowns at the airport. I just repeat the words in the book and then [my 11-month-old] remembers why we are waiting in line and gets excited" — that's quite the endorsement, no?); The Noisy Airplane Ride, by Mike Downs (sounds especially helpful for giving kids a heads-up about the loud noises of the plane, so it Airportwould be a great pick for sensitive children); and Airport, by Byron Barton (sounds like it does a comprehensive job of explaining all the unfamiliar and adventurous parts of an airport experience and has 21 5-star reviews and two 4-star!). Yes, I could have waited till I actually read these books before recommending them, but I like to live dangerously. [ETA: Here's my actual review!]

All right, those are the books in our current rotation. What are your kids' favorite books right now, and what are their ages? I'm always looking for new suggestions!

Previous children's book recommendations from me:


molly said...

Dear Zoo is one of our fav's, too, and I'll have to check the rest out.

Wanted to weigh in on the fire engine lights, though - we live by a fire station so we see fire engines go by all day (and night) long, and she has been fascinated with them from the very beginning. And, my husband's dad is a retired fire chief, so there's that. We always grab her up to look over the fence at the lights and say, "There go the firefighters, off to help somebody who is having an emergency!" So don't feel bad about fascination with pretty lights. Fire trucks are fun and fire fighters help people; what more can you ask for? :)

Thanks for all the great book recco's!

Lauren Wayne said...

Thanks, Molly! That helps put it more in perspective. I think it was that people were staring at us staring at the firefighters, and I wondered what they were thinking. (I should stop doing that — ha!)

I was thinking that one reason we (cultural we) emphasize firefighters and police officers and doctors and such is to familiarize kids with them, so that they're not afraid to accept help from them. For instance, a firefighter came to Mikko's school to show the kids how a firefighter looked in all his (scary) gear and face mask, so that kids wouldn't hide from him in a fire. So it makes sense in that way, but I couldn't help but worry about whatever poor soul had a medical emergency that that particular fire truck was attending, and here my son was just pointing and smiling. Oh, well! I think next time we'll chat about how the firefighters are helping someone; I like that.

P.S. A friend of mine just had an unexpected home birth attended by 5 EMTs, so maybe it was someone going through something joyful. A girl can hope!

Anonymous said...

I love Peter H. Reynolds. So far I've only read 'ish' and 'The Dot', but both are excellent books about our own innate artistic abilities. I would say they're good starting at around age 3 or so.

And my toddler loves Sandra Boynton. Anything Boynton makes him laugh out loud.

molly said...

Ah, yes, Boynton is great! Has anyone seen the BBKing/Boynton DVD/book? It's great. It's a short music video with BBKing about how he's lost his shoe. Too cute.

Jessica said...

Man, this is so timely for me! I'm always stumped as to what are good kids' books these days! We have another in the "Bear" series called "Bear wants more" and it's great. We also have "Love you through and through." At one point I had the whole book memorized and it was one of several I'd recite to Hollis when we were breastfeeding.

Thanks again for the ideas!!

Lauren Wayne said...

Speaking of Boynton and memorized, I have Moo, Baa, La la la memorized. :) It was a favorite of a baby we babysat for, so I knew I needed it for Mikko. We've gotten some others as gifts that I will have to break out again, including some of the CD sets. I haven't seen the BBKing music video, though!

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