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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Making joyful noise with babies

Dear Aunt Debbie,

In the swirl of finding the right books for Eleanor to read independently and for Isabel to stay happily engaged, I sometimes worry that Will gets short shrift. He's certainly surrounded by books: the bottom two shelves of the main bookcase in the living room are stocked with board books he can reach; the coffee table is always piled with books the girls are reading, which he opens at will; and his crib is next to an adult bookshelf -- this past week, I found him playing with  Roland Barthes' Elements of Semiology.

Back when Eleanor was a baby, Jeff and I read to her every night, picking a few board books we loved, always ending with Goodnight Moon. Our routine with Will is far less stable: I read to him when we're alone during the day, and sometimes in the afternoon with the girls, but bedtime reading is overtaken by Eleanor and Isabel, and it feels like time is always short. Here on the blog, I fall into the same pattern, writing much more often about books at the 7 and 4 year-old level, and not so much the newly-1-year-old.

But 1 is an awesome age to read to a kid! While Will is still a big fan of books with photographs of baby faces, he's now really getting into books full of sounds.

The prime book in this category is, of course, Sandra Boynton's Doggies: A Counting and Barking Book, which I wrote about when Isabel was a baby, and for which I have a deep and abiding love. So simple. So captivating. So endlessly entertaining.

Two other favorites from Eleanor's babyhood are coming back into heavy rotation now:

Cows in the Kitchen
, by June Crebbin, is a rollicking version of "Skip to My Lou," repopulated with barnyard animals intent on taking over the farmhouse and wreaking havoc:

Cows in the kitchen, moo, moo, moo,
Cows in the kitchen, moo, moo, moo,
Cows in the kitchen, moo, moo, moo,
That's what we do, Tom Farmer!

The farmer in question is sleeping in a haystack, and comes running to shoo everyone out, but is so exhausted by the end that the animals sneak back in and jump on him quite joyfully. It's kind of like having a house full of kids, come to think of it....

Jamberry, by Bruce Degen, is a joyful set of berry-based rhymes, truly fun to read aloud. The illustrations depict a boy and a large friendly bear moving through a landscape filled with berries and other animals. The text riffs off of one berry name at a time: blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries. The blackberry rhyme may be my favorite:

Pick me a blackberry!


And then there's a new favorite which came as a gift from you: The Noisy Book, by Soledad Bravi. No narrative here, just more than 100 pages of things that make sounds:

The firecracker goes boom
The cars go brrmm brrmm
The drink goes glug glug
The monkey goes oo oo oo

And then there are a few cute ones:

This afternoon, Will let me read him the entire book. Noises are awesome.

Love, Annie

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