In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger 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.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Dear Aunt Debbie,

We like Henry and Mudge too.  Don't own any of them yet, but we have read a few here and there.  I suspect that we'll be reading more of them as Isabel moves up into the short chapter books age, since her dog obsession continues to date.

Some weeks, I feel like I have new and interesting things to write about.  And some weeks, like this one, both of my children just want the same books read to them over and over.  There are different kinds of repetition: there's the reading of Goodnight Moon once a night for two years, which is establishment of routine, and, because it's a great book, lovely.  Then there's the kind of repetition we're doing right now: a few books, the same few books, the same damned books, requested six or twelve times a day.  No, nothing else will do.  Even if these are great children's books, it gets old.  And when they aren't great....

Part of this is my fault.  I got those two Fancy Nancy books out of the library to blog about them on Monday, and then they were all Eleanor wanted to read for the rest of the week.

Isabel's books of choice at the moment are things we've had around the house for a while:

1) the Max books, which she's never allowed us to read to her before about a week ago (literally: she would bat them out of my hand), but which she now thinks are hysterical.  Max's First Word is her favorite.

2) the Little Bear books.  Isabel is actually too young to sit through a whole Little Bear book (except for A Kiss for Little Bear,which is a single story).  Nevertheless, this is what she wants: to have me start reading one of them, and then to take it away from me to examine the back of the book, or to announce "The End!" and close it, and then reach for another one: "Read Lil Bear!"  Her favorite thing to do is to identify each character in the pictures: "Tha's Cat.  Tha's Duck.  Tha's Hen.  Tha's Lil Bear!"

Part of it was circumstantial: Jeff had to work late several nights, and I usually do the morning reading time with the girls, so I was flying solo.  This made it harder to sneak in an alternate option, as both girls were unwilling to compromise on a book they might both enjoy.  Each sat there with her small pile of books, demanding attention.  I found myself on more than one occasion with two books balanced open on my lap, reading alternate pages.  At other moments, I just let Isabel fuss while I read to Eleanor, or let Eleanor pout while I read to Isabel.  (This may have affected my mood.)

I understand that repetition has great value in the child mind -- kids need to hear the same stories over and over, and enjoy knowing what's going to happen and taking part in it.  Their repeated responses aloud seem to be as important to their enjoyment of the book as the text itself. 

At the playground yesterday, I was talking to the mom of one Eleanor's friends.  The book on repeat at their house this week is Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi, so I guess I should count myself lucky.  Earlier this week, the mom told me, she had brushed one of the illustrations of poop with her finger as she turned the page, and jokingly said, "Eww, yucky!  I touched it!"  Now her daughter repeats the gesture and disgusted response on EVERY SINGLE PAGE, giggling hysterically the whole time.  There doesn't seem to be a way to get the repetition to stop until it runs its course.  Or you hide the books while your kid's not looking.

Love, Annie


  1. I totally agree, Annie, that children NEED this repetition - might have to do with the comfort of knowing something with certainty, even more than with the story. It must be reassuring, at a time when they're trying to figure out how the world works, to be able to predict an outcome. We all lived through the "again" phase of book reading to our kids, or watching The Little Mermaid 48 times.A great topic.

    Eva Grudin

  2. My mother used to deep six books that she herself could not stand. They just weren't there, when we went looking. "Well, they'll show up. I'm sure they will. Let's see what else there is..."

    My other comment is: Isn't 4 years old the age when we made a poop and pee joke book for Michael because he kept making up nonsensical jokes about this subject, and it was a way we could tame it?