Dear Aunt Debbie,
Before returning to toddler-book world, where I live most of the time these days, I want to mention one more YA fantasy series: the Avatars trilogy (So This Is How It Ends, Shadow Falling, Kingdom of Twilight), by Tui Sutherland. (Full disclosure: Tui and I have been friends since college, and she's already one of our main comment-writers on this blog. But they're still good books.) It's a post-apocalyptic trilogy, in which the only surviving people on earth appear to be several teenagers in different parts of the globe, each of whom has been invested with the powers of a god from a different pantheon. Sutherland clearly did a lot of research into the various beliefs and myths of cultures from around the world, and the resulting mash-up is a lot of fun to read.
And now, back to toddlers.
Last week, we took out of the library the latest book I Must Buy for Eleanor. Why? Because it cracked her up, and she made me read it four times that day and several more in the last week, and I loved it just as much. It got me thinking about what makes a toddler laugh -- I mean, really laugh, belly laugh, get so tickled by something that the laughter comes in spite of themselves. For Eleanor, right now, one of those ticklish points is the idea of opposites and things being backwards. Which is why this book is perfect.
The Backward Day
The Backward Day was written by Ruth Krauss. Before this, I knew her only as the author of The Carrot Seed; I'll be looking for more now. (Fun fact: she was married to Crockett Johnson, who illustrated The Carrot Seed and wrote the Harold and the Purple Crayon books.) It's a simple, short story about a little boy who wakes up and decides it's backward day. He explains to himself, helpfully, "Backward day is backward day." After putting on his clothes backwards (underwear on the outside), he goes downstairs backwards, and sits backwards at the table. When his parents and little sister come in, instead of making fun of him, each of them sizes him up and joins him in backwardness. It doesn't last long. Warning to parents: Eleanor has started making us read the book backwards to her now, too.
Then there's humor via banter and wordplay, as in the Cynthia Rylant series The High-Rise Private Eyes.
The Case of the Desperate Duck
The first of these we discovered (and still our favorite), is The Case of the Desperate Duck, which includes the line, "Hello, I'm Mabel. Let me show you to your table." (Ha! This started one of our first discussions of rhyme, too.) The private eyes are a raccoon named Jack and a rabbit named Bunny. Bunny is smart, Jack is distractable, and they have quirky personality traits throughout. We only read a few books in the series, but the plots seem generally to revolve around theft, and be resolved when the thief apologizes and explains that he didn't do it on purpose. No major crimes here.
Finally, here are two wacky books that you sent Eleanor in the last year or so, both of which remain in heavy rotation.
Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette
We've discovered that Frank Asch's tale of a baguette used for a wide variety of purposes (to rescue a cat from a tree, to rescue a baby from a crocodile, to lead a parade in lieu of a baton, etc.) is especially funny when you read Monsieur Saguette's lines in a very bad French accent. We often provide different accents for the other characters (a construction worker, a robber, a little girl) as well. This book has a blithe spirit.
Chickens to the Rescue
Chickens to the Rescue, by John Himmelman, tells the story about all the things that go wrong on a farm during the course of a week ("On Monday, Farmer Greenstalk dropped his watch down the well."). After each mishap, a giant cloud of chickens flies in and fixes whatever's wrong, and you get to yell "Chickens to the Rescue!" The pictures in this one are awesome, and it makes a great group read-aloud.