Monday, June 30, 2014

Twelve Terrific Books for Toddlers

A day in the life of a toddler is a busy one. They wake up with the sun and spend their day discovering, experimenting, playing, climbing, i.e. wearing you out. When you have pulled him off the top of table for the zillionth time, and think your head is going to explode if you have to do it again, grab a book. You get to rest while simultaneously bonding, teaching, entertaining, keeping him out of mischief and safe—multitasking at its finest. Below is a list of books and author series my family loved the most. Don't get rid of those baby books just yet, as most kids will stay interested in them until around age four.

Note: Links to Powell's are directed to a new version of each book. Used and sale versions are listed on the right, in a box labeled: More copies of this ISBN. 
If you're a relative or friend of a toddler, books are a fantastic gift, there's no mess, no batteries (usually), they're not noisy (usually), and your thoughtful inscription will be a daily reminder of how much they are loved.

  1. Available at Powell's
    The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor  by Stan Berenstain
    This book gets top billing because it helped both my girls through their scared-of-the-doctor phase that set in around the eighteen month mark. It's brilliant simplicity, it walks your child through a check-up and even tackles the scary vaccination issue by quantifying the pain rather than dismissing it. “‘Will it hurt?’ asked Sister Bear. ‘Sure, but not nearly as much as biting your tongue or bumping your shin. There all done.’” I've read this book to them so many times that not only do I have it memorized, sometimes I can hardly stand to look at it. The doctor book—again!? Ug! 
    Pair this book with a toy doctor kit and act out the story as it unfolds. Then watch as they use their newfound understanding of check-ups to perform check-ups on you and their stuffed animals. 

  2. Available at Powell's
    Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
    My girls loved (and still love) this book. The repetition and rhythm makes it easy to memorize, and it is not long before they'll start saying it along with you or taking over “reading” the story. *Warning: This book reinforces jumping on the bed. Personally I'm a fan of jumping on the bed, but if you're not, you may want to shelve this one...* 

  3. Available at Powell's
    Little Boat by Thomas Docherty
    “The ocean is a big place and I am just a Little Boat.” Little Boat charts his own course and braves the many treacheries of the ocean, “in search of—my friends!” Then he sails over the edge of the world only to find himself righted on the other side. One could write a thesis exploring the oceans of wisdom in this lovely book of a few hundred words. Oh, and it's a favorite of the girls too...

  4. Available at Powell's
    We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
    "We're gonna catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We're not scared. Uh Oh…"  Go along with the adorable family as they go out looking for a bear… and find one. This book has lots of repetition your toddler will quickly memorize and start repeating with you. The story is easily adapted into an engaging imagination game; pretend that areas of your house are the different obstacles in the book, then run away from your child's teddy bear, ending up snuggled in your bed, shouting, “We're not going on a bear hunt a-gain!!”

  5. Available at Powell's
    The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
    O.K., you busted me, I put in a classic book we all remember… But the list felt incomplete without one of my girls' absolute favorites. Ferdinand the Bull, who likes to sit just quietly and smell the flowers has captivated my girls. They laugh when he sits on the poor honey bee and roar when he leaps up with his mouth open and his eyes bugging out.  They ask me why the bullfighters would want to stick spears in a bull, they laugh at the haughty matador when he gets mad, and they are relieved when Ferdinand simply sits on the arena floor and smells the flowers in the hair of all the beautiful ladies. They grin when he is returned to his beloved pasture, where as far as they know he still is to this day, “sitting just quietly smelling the flowers.” My littlest, Berzo, has this book memorized and can be found “reading” it to herself in a basket of teddy bears.

  6. Available at Powell's
    Red Sled by Lita Judge
    The artwork in this wordless book does a wonderful job of telling a story about a curious bear that borrows a little girl's sled for the night.  Each flight down the hill accumulates another passenger on the sled.  The final passenger is the little girl herself.  Berzo can't get enough of this book and the playful animals.  I can see her wishing for a red sled and friendly pile of woodland animals.

  7. Toddler Series
    There were too many books by these particular authors to choose one to the exclusion of the others.  Toddlers have a voracious appetite for fresh material and these authors are happy to oblige.

  8. Leslie Patricelli
    Leslie Patricelli has a wonderful series of hilarious books dealing with typical toddler behavior and milestones. The text is short and sweet and the images are simple and fun. Berzo's favorite was the Potty book that she would act out in every detail when she was potty training, and could be heard shouting “Tinkle, Tinkle, TOOT!” while doing just that.

  9. Mercer Mayer
    Mercer Mayer books have been around since the seventies and they're only getting better. These funny, thoughtful stories are told from Little Critter's perspective. The humor is in the illustrations that often run somewhat contrary to the Little Critter's point of view. It is a humorous take on parenting trials that appeal to the grown-up reader and are a fun story for the kids. I never tire of reading them.

  10. Mo Willems
    Mo Willems writes several series of books the best of which are Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie, and The Pigeon books. The genius in these stories lies in his ability to caricature normal kid behavior, common parent/child struggles (pigeon books) and relationship issues (Elephant and Piggie), with adorable, expressive animals. The girls and I crack up reading these stories and I don't mind reading them again and again.

  11. The Berenstains
    Berenstain Bears  books isolate life lessons and parent/child struggles in a sweet nurturing way. They speak as much to the parent as the child, we see Mama and Papa struggle with their cubs and seek and find solutions, while simultaneously helping kids cope with normal growing-up troubles. I got tips on managing my daughter's Messy Room, as well as how to deal with The Gimmies when they showed up. They are fun, full of wisdom and good nature.

  12. Jan Brett
    Jan Brett's genius lies in her incredibly detailed and beautiful artwork. Her writing is passable and stories are sometimes a little thin, but her nordic style artwork is a feast for the eyes. The illustrations not only describe the current position in the story, but is also bordered by art that tells what has already happened and forbodes what will happen next. 

  13. Curious George
    Curious George The original series by Margaret and H.A. Rey are not my kids' favorite as the text is too long and story too wandering to hold their attention. Once Boots was old enough to digest them, she was into other types of stories. The newer Curious George books, such as Curious George Goes to the Aquarium are favorites. They love seeing George's curiosity get him into trouble and equally so, they like it when he redeems himself with some act of kindness.  The stories are thoughtful, funny and good hearted. Note: my girls don’t care for the PBS Kids' Curious George stories. They are educational, but lack the fun and mischief of the slightly older series.
The article Raising a Reader has tips for making reading a fun and engaging experience for you and your children.

[1]Note about list selection:
That's it?!?  Where's The Lorax and  Go, Dog, Go! and Where the Wild Things Are?
You're right, these are fantastic books, but I figured you would already know that...  I've omitted the books that we all remember from our own childhood, in favor of more contemporary and specialized titles.

1 comment:

  1. Love this list. Thanks for putting it together. I hope you'll keep up this "series" to include books as the girls get older, so I know what to buy my niece. :)