In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two small girls and a baby boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Birthday books and bedtime reading routines

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Oh, how I wish we could get you to open up a bookstore near us!  We're overdue for a DC and Child's Play visit.

Isabel turns one this coming weekend (I still can't quite believe it -- this year has gone so fast), and I've been putting away books to give her for her birthday.  In addition to the favorites I've mentioned before (Doggies and  Cat top the list), she is currently obsessed with another great Sandra Boynton book:  Moo, Baa, La La La!  She's big on animals and animal noises, and has started referring to most animals, including pigeons, by her dog noise ("Fwoof").

Our pre-bedtime reading ritual has gotten a little more complicated since Isabel started to be just as interested in books as she is in milk.  Eleanor, of course, wants us to read her nice long books.  But as soon as Isabel is done with her bottle, she squirms off my lap, finds one of her board books, picks it up and shoves it at me.  Often, one of us will read Doggies again for the umpteenth time while the other finishes Eleanor's current library book.  On nights when Jeff works late, however, I find myself doing double duty: pausing in the middle of a dramatic scene to direct a "Moo" or a "Woof" at a delighted Isabel.

I remember that your girls had an elaborate routine that involved each having her own book read by a parent, plus having a common book you all read together -- am I getting that right?  I'm starting to wonder how old my girls will have to be before we can all read the same book together and all get real enjoyment out of it.  Not to say that I'm not enjoying this stage, too.  I am.

Two books are hidden on my closet shelf right now.  Dog, of course, is a companion book to Cat.  Pretty sure that will be a hit.  The other is a recommendation from my dear friend Cyd: Maisy's Amazing Big Book of Words.  Cyd's oldest daughter, Rebekah, loved her copy to destruction and they had to get another for Rebekah's sister Ellie.

I'm not the biggest fan of the Maisy books in general.  Maisy herself is a fine character -- she's a mouse, and not too girly, and Lucy Cousins's paintings are bright and appealing.  I like the way she outlines everything in black, making it feel at once childlike and sturdy.  Truth is, though, they're kind of boring.  Maisy does things -- goes to the hospital, bakes gingerbread, makes Valentines, goes to preschool, celebrates pretty much any holiday you can think of -- and nothing very interesting happens, and everyone is fine.  Okay.  Eleanor really likes them, of course, but they are difficult to reread.

Maisy's Amazing Big Book of Words, however, is pretty awesome.  It capitalizes on what Cousins does best, in page after page of bold drawings and words, without being hampered by a plot.  Each 2-page spread has a picture of Maisy doing something on the left (playing the piano, driving a police car, watering plants), often with a lift-the-flap piece, and a series of illustrations of thematically-linked words on the right.  For "Rainy Days," the words are "frog, lightning, ducklings, umbrella, boots, worm, puddle, snail."  There's a page on dress-up, a page on fish in the sea, a page on noisy things, etc.  I'm looking forward to obsessive reading on the part of both girls.  Let's hope I'm right!

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. Hi Annie,

    I stand with you on the Maisy front (I wrote about it here: http://www.playingbythebook.net/2009/08/23/what-makes-us-happy/ ), and my youngest stands with Isabel and Ellie - adoration and delight are words that come to mind. Our most recent Maisy acquisition is Maisy's street - a concertina book, that at least can be played with (out come the plastic animals and so on to walk down the street) as well as read (oh, and there are flaps - always a hit).
    When J turned 1 she was really into Monkey Monkey Monkey by Cathy MacLennan and Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett. Both have great rhythm and were fun to read aloud.

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