I loved The Queen Who Couldn't Bake Gingerbread -- we've read it recently at my parents' place. Yes, you definitely gave me Stories for Free Children. That's the first place I read "X: A Fabulous Child's Story," by Lois Gould, which Orenstein writes about in Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I now use it to open the discussion of nature vs. nurture in my senior Women's Voices class. It's a good read. The other major memory I have of Stories for Free Children is a piece about Amelia Bloomer and women starting to wear pants which I remember finding fascinating. Ironically, at the time, I was refusing to wear pants myself. So I suppose I have my own history to look back on as I recite the mantra: this too shall pass....
With so much interesting stuff happening on the Big Kid front, I fear that Isabel's reading habits have been getting short shrift. At 16 months, she is in love with books (she "reads" to the other babies at daycare), and extremely specific in what she will and will not let you read to her. She refers to a number of books by name: "Munny" ("Bunny") is Home for a Bunny; "Up" is Olivia's Opposites; "Doss" ("Dogs") refers to any of the roughly 5000 board books we now have about dogs.
One of her latest favorites came from you: "Meow" refers to Where's the Cat?, by Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter. This is a wonderful book. Each right hand page asks "Where's the cat?" and provides a clue by showing a tiny bit of ear or paw poking out from under something; when you turn the page, the wide-eyed black and white cat reveals itself in an active catlike pose: "on the chair," "up the stair," etc. The drawings are intense and colorful. Eleanor often joins in on reading this one too, answering every "Where's the cat?" by pointing to the right place on the page matter-of-factly: "There he is."
Margaret Wise Brown's Big Red Barn, illustrated by Felicia Bond, is another go-to book right now, so much so that the corners are starting to fray. I could read pretty much anything Margaret Wise Brown writes a thousand times in a row and not get tired of it -- something about her rhythm and her simplicity which is pitch-perfect for children but never cloying. (I just tried to refer to her as "Brown," and couldn't do it -- why is it that some authors need to be referred to by their full names?) Here's a sample:
There was a big pile of hay
And a little pile of hay,
And that is where the children play.
But in this story the children are away.
Only the animals are here today.
The sheep and the donkey,
The geese and the goats,
Were making funny noises
Down in their throats.
An old scarecrow was leaning on his hoe.
And a field mouse was born...
in a field of corn.
There are lots of animal noises, and, happily, dogs and cats show up a little later. Everyone goes to sleep at night, under a big beautiful moon.