I have been thinking about this list for some time. First of all, I love to read. I love to read big adult novels, but I also love to read children's books. I consider myself a self-proclaimed enthusiast when it comes to children's literature - by literature I mean picture books that two-year olds love. I had a lot of experience with these types of books when I taught at the daycare, and definitely found my favorites. I even wrote a few books of my own (but never published them - obviously) about 6ish years ago when I was seriously considering going into writing children's books.
What makes a good book to me....well, as an art teacher, of course the illustrations. It also has to be short and to the point. One rookie mistake (which my husband always makes) is trying to read a book with too many words to a child too young. Also, I'm a sucker for rhyming, which I know my friend SS (an actual English and Writing teacher) would cringe at....but what can I say?
The Top 10 Books I Love to Read to My Boys (Today (because this is always subject to change)) And that I would recommend to ANY parent with little babies at home.
#1 - Number one has always been Ten Little Finger and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury. I started out loving this book because Miles loved it. When he first came home with us he would look at it for minutes on end (that's hours in infant world). It was always the first book he pulled out for nighttime reading. Then I started to love it because of the message - all little babies may be different, but they are all babies, and perfect at that. THEN it started to dawn on me - the irony of the story. Let's just say that the first two lines of the book are "The was one little baby who was born far away. And another who was born on the very next day." and in the illustrations these two little babies very closely resemble Miles and Liam. Now how could I NOT love it? Plus it has the essentials for a great picture book... it rhymes, has cute illustrations, AND it uses the word "eiderdown" which I had to look up. :)
#2 - All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee. I originally bought this book as a Valentine's Day gift for Dustin (who didn't buy me anything because he didn't want to "buy into the commercialization of Valentine's Day" (have I mentioned that before?)). Anyways, I bought it from this little independent book seller in town, because I fell in LOVE with the story and with the illustrations. Again, it rhymes, but the the rhythm is so clever that it is truly irresistible. Also, if you pay attention to the illustrations you can see how the entire story is connected. And the best thing about it? It promotes (in a very subtle way) being a global citizen, which is important to me and my ultimate wish for my children. I truly love every line in this book, but if I had to choose only one, my favorite line from the book would be the last one.... "Hope and peace and love and trust, All the world is all of us."
#3 - Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry. It helps that Miles loves trucks. But it helps even more that you'll get the lines from this book stuck in your head all day, and not necessarily in an annoying way. This story also teaches a lesson about being friendly and loving to others and how that ultimately pays off. Another good thing? The verse is so catchy that you find yourself reading it really fast in your excitment. And you'll be saying "BEEEP, BEEP, BEEP" all day in your head after you have read it a few times. :)
#4 - Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney. This book, like all of the llama books is just plain cute. I mean, what isn't to love about a bunch of llamas walking on two feet, dressing up in human clothes, going to a megastore (think the llama equivalent of WalMart) and then everything falls apart with the emotional collapse of the young llama who just really doesn't want to be there anymore. Even the little llama pout on the cover cracks me up. And the best part? You'll find out just how many words really can rhyme with "llama." And any book that uses the phrase "Llama drama" has got to be a keeper.
#5 - On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. When this book was first given to me the Christmas before we brought Miles home, I couldn't get through it without getting completely choked up. A year and half later I still have to pause at the last line of the book when I'm reading it to my little boys. "Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born." This is exactly how I imagined it when Miles was born....and then I actually gave birth to LIam and realized that when they're born it actually goes nothing like the sweet sentiments in the book. However, I still love the story. I love what it means and how it makes me feel. Sigh.
#6 - No No Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli. Okay, so this is the first non-rhyming book on my list. In fact, you probably couldn't even technically call it reading. The only words in it are "no" and "yes" repeated throughout it. However, what I love about it are the illustrations. Pretty much it's this little baby in a diaper (who doesn't wear clothes in ANY of the books) who demonstrates things not to do (i.e. pour food on your head, draw on your walls and pets, eat dog food, hit your friend with a mallet, and run away from adults) and then shows what you should do on the next page. (i.e. eat your food, draw on paper, eat a banana next to the dog food, hit the mallet toy with the mallet, don't run away from the adult.) It cracks me up because every no no reminds me of Miles. AND when we're reading it Miles totally cracks up at the pictures....probably because he is planning his next move.
#7 - What are You so Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld. Okay, I admit that this book is much better for me than it is for my kids right now. The humor is completely lost on them, but it is just SO FUNNY. There is no rhyming, and the words aren't all that clever, but the illustrations really do all the work. And anyone who has either worked with kids, or has had siblings that are significantly younger (I have both) would find the humor in this book to be spot on. The author/illustator really highlights all of the possible grumpy-inducing scenarios for young kids - having to eat healthy cereal, getting underwear for your birthday, falling into the toilet because someone left the seat up......I can't even do it justice here.
#8 - I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak. This book isn't necessarily clever, or full of amazing illustrations, but I just love the words that the author uses. I love the story it tells - that I love you unconditionally. It's a pretty cute book, and short enough that my son loves it too.
#9 - Truck by Donald Crews. You know I couldn't have a whole list of books and not include at least one book about trucks considering my oldest son eats, breaths, and sleeps trucks right now. This book has absolutely no words in it, unless you count the road signs sprinkled throughout. However, I still love to read it. The illustrations are simple, but as an artist I appreciate how the simplicity works. They successfully tell a story that Miles and I can totally ad-lib together. Everytime we read it, the story is a little different.
#10 - How do Dinosaurs.... by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. There is a whole series of these books. I first fell in love with How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? when I worked at the daycare, but I now also read How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? to Miles quite often. These books have so much going for them. First of all, they rhyme and have only one verse per page - the perfect recipe for little kids. Then, the illustrations are just great. AND if you have a dinosaur lover, each dinosaur's page is secretly labeled with the name of the dinosaur (so it's also like a science lesson - and who doesn't want a little learning now and then?). The greatest part is how the illustrator and author combine all of these things that the dinosaur could do if he or she were sick (i.e. "Does he drop dirty tissues all over the floor" or "Does he scream, is he mean, does he run off and hide?"). Then both go on to illustrate what a dinosaur REALLY does. (i.e. "He drinks lots of juice and he gets lots of rest...."). It's a pretty cute book that I definitely recommend.
Well, there you have it. I've been thinking about this list for a long time. I want my sons to look back at this and maybe someday remember reading these books together. All I know is I'm a sucker for a combination of good illustrations and great messages (and rhyming of course). I hope I'm raising readers, but more than that I hope I'm raising children that can appreciate irony, humor, and beautiful pictures. :)