Friday, April 6, 2012

what we're reading now

Friday, April 6, 2012
For the longest time, I have had an entry entitled "baby library" sitting forlornly in a list of unpublished posts (there are many of these, by the way).  I aspired to write about baby A's rather extensive collection of books, selecting the ones I thought best to recommend.  I don't mean to brag, but my knowledge regarding children's literature is extensive.  I come from a long line of librarians, and great number of my family are employed as educators.  Books have been a part of my life as long as I could remember.  Naturally, I wanted baby A to be exposed to just as many wonderful ones as I was, almost from the moment he emerged into the world.

As it happens, I have spent a lot more time reading books with baby A than I have blogging, which is of course a good thing.  Now that we have naps under control, I am earnestly hoping I might have a few extra minutes to write again.  I can't promise a lot of coherent thoughts, however!

I thought it might be interesting to attempt a bimonthly post on the books we're particularly enjoying.  Granted, it's mostly me that's enjoying the books, though I can definitely tell there are a few titles that A likes more than others.  We're at a stage now where he wants to "explore" the books, and his favorite thing is to slam the cover down and beat relentlessly on top of the book with his chubby little hands.  It takes us a while to finish, as you might imagine.

Rain Drop Splash, by Alvin Tresselt. A beloved family friend who also happens to be a former librarian passed this along to me.  Actually, every time she see us, she brings baby A a new book-a generous tradition!  I wasn't familiar with the Alvin Tresselt title, though my mother ensured that I had a copy of his White Snow, Bright Snow.  Both books were recipients of Caldecott Medal honors.  I was initially a bit disdainful, having grown used to the splashy illustrations and bright colors of our modern picture books.  There is something entirely captivating about Rain Drop Splash, however, which I discovered the first time I cracked it open, on an appropriately rainy day.  It's an incredibly soothing, peaceful book.  I think even baby A was lulled by its essential concept, the path of a single rain drop as it eventually spreads into the sea.  

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen. A very funny book that will probably be more amusing to me than to baby A for years to come.  The illustrations are great, as you can see, and the book was favorably reviewed by the New York Times.   I'm not entirely sure how I feel about A eventually understanding that the bear in the story gobbles up the rabbit that steals his hat...then again, I'm all about fairy tales, and we know they feature all kinds of wicked behavior!

Llama Llama Home with Mama, by Anna Dewdney.  I came across the Llama Llama books after reading an article on Baby Center or some other parenting website about the best books for kids.  Initially, I had no interest in looking at them, because I am a ridiculous book snob who felt that anything I hadn't heard of simply wasn't any good.  I HAVE SINCE MENDED MY WAYS.  Repentantly, I tell you that these books are adorable and perfectly pleasing for baby A.  Even at his tender young age, I can tell he appreciates the singsongy rhymes and vibrant illustrations.  We have three Llama books including this one (Llama Llama Red Pajama and my personal favorite, Llama Llama Misses Mama), which we've read a lot lately because baby A had a minor, but annoyingly persistent cold.

George and Martha Round and Round, by James Marshall.  George and Martha are certainly beloved literary characters, and I confess to feeling a nostalgic sense of deep satisfaction every time I crack a book that was read to me as a child.  There is something special about the enduring charm of a classic, which might explain my occasional frequent bouts of snobbery when it comes to newer titles.  What is a bit unusual about the George and Martha canon, I admit, is that the humor in the illustrations largely defines their appeal.  The stories themselves are refreshingly short and simple, but they aren't for babies.  In fact, you could eventually count on your child's vocabulary improving a bit after being immersed in a bunch of George and Martha tales.  I decided to purchase a GREAT collector's edition that contains all of the stories.  Baby A and I usually read 3 books before each nap, and a good ol' George and Martha story is perfect for the days when he's a bit sleepier.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Paul Galdone.   When I worked at PS 209 in the Bronx, an entire section of our reading curriculum was devoted to fairy tales.  I was excited about this prospect, for who doesn't enjoy a delicious fright or humorous lesson shared via tale or fable?  There are many modern derivations of fairy tales, such as Jon Scieszka's The Frog Prince Continued and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs or James Marshall's versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears (all of which I heartily recommend, by the way) but our curriculum opted to employ the classic retellings by Paul Galdone.  At the time, I grudgingly went through each book with little enthusiasm, far preferring the funnier versions.  I'm not exactly sure what brought about the change-perhaps it's that I am 1,000,000 times more invested in my own darling child than I was with my kindergartners (whom I did adore, of course)-but I now confess that there is something truly wonderful, and also very important, about a traditional fairy tale.  One would be hard-pressed to find someone who has done this better than Paul Galdone.  Right now, our favorite (ok, my favorite) is The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Incidentally, while searching for an image to go with this section, I happened upon Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac. Silvey, an esteemed editor and publisher, features a different book each day, accompanied with info about the author and trivia for the date.  Very cool.

The Little Mouse, the Big Hungry Bear, and the Red Ripe Strawberry by Don and Audrey Wood.  Baby A has the board book version of this little gem.  Board books were another thing that I used to thumb my nose at, but I've changed my tune.  I love that A can really manhandle them, gnawing and throwing about to his heart's content.  It's good exploration, and I don't have to worry about the book's condition.  This particular treasure is one that I first discovered while teaching the aforementioned, especially adorable kindergarten class in the Bronx.  It's an extremely simple story, so I'm imagining it's going to be an early favorite.

There we have it!  My first edition of "what we're reading now."  Of course, we've actually been reading a lot of bunny books over the past few days (PLEASE look up I Am A Bunny-it's so sweet and delightful!) and an Easter book post might have been more appropriate.  Alas, this will have to do.  Happy reading to all!

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