Yummers. I'm not quite sure what it was about this book that piqued my little A's interest. Our copy is one of the precious few that I have from my own childhood (inexplicably, my librarian mother did not keep our books for posterity!), and boasts a plain, faded white cover, bereft of illustrations. As is James Marshall's way, the illustrations within the book are extremely simple, each facing a spacious page with five or six lines of tightly packed text in a smallish font. Even the story seems a bit beyond a toddler's interest, a rotund pig named Emily who adores every food she encounters, perhaps a bit too much, and after a long day of eating with her best friend Eugene ends up home in bed. For whatever reason, he loves it. Of course I love it too, and always smile to myself when I feel a twinge of the childhood fascination with the sandwich machine, where Emily simply can't just choose ONE sandwich, but must get two, a tuna fish and a "jelly delight."
I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean. A dear friend and former colleague posted a picture of her classroom lesson on this book to Instagram, and I immediately knew that A needed to read it. Nemo and all things ocean-related are big in our house, and I was sure he would love the book. Hearing him say "ocean" ranks fairly high on the list of "cutest things I've ever heard" but my favorite experience with the book, by far, was hearing him say "What happened?" when a whale swallows the eponymous squid of the title. Granted, it's a phrase I always utter on that particular page, but that just makes it sweeter. A bonus of the book for older children is the opportunity to compare and contrast, talking about large and small.
The Lorax. Repeat offender (written most lovingly, of course). A's first fascination with The Lorax was short-lived, but now I will admit that I cringe a bit when he finds it, because IT MUST BE READ IMMEDIATELY. The whole thing. I have it memorized. It haunts my dreams a little.
Oh My Baby Bear. This particular gem is one of Audrey Wood's lesser known titles. I picked it up on a whim at the library because A enjoyed Silly Sally so much. It's adorable, and made even cuter for a toddler because it's about a baby bear learning to do things on his own. I do NOT eagerly anticipate that day, of course, but I love to see how A enjoys reading about the baby bear turning into a "little bear."
Rosie's Walk and Goodnight Owl. I absolutely LOVE the beautiful, vintage-style illustrations of Pat Hutchins' books, and have seriously debated making a few prints of book pages to frame. What I did not expect was for the incredible simplicity of the books to appeal to A. That may sound strange, because he is only 21 months old, so one would assume simple is great. However, I tend to associate books with little to no text as being more useful to slightly older children, who can really converse with you about what might be happening on the page. This is not the case-with engaging illustrations children are almost inevitably interested.
Mr. Messy. I loved these little books growing up, and I'm sure part of their appeal lies in the novelty of their size. My favorites were Mr. Messy and Little Miss Splendid, although my mother always used to say that Little Miss Bossy must have been written for me. I tried to pick out a few that I thought A might enjoy, and he loves this one. We tried for Mr. Greedy too, but the giant in the middle of the story scared him. They are not especially well-written books, in my humble opinion, but are classics in their own right.
The Giant Jam Sandwich. If I was not overly cautious about exposing my baby to the world, I would definitely have embedded a video of him demanding that I read this book, which sounds something like "Damn sammich!" over and over. Utterly adorable. At first, I wasn't especially bowled over by the book-I found it via a recommendation over at Dinner A Love Story, and had never heard of it before. Over time though, I have grown to appreciate it. It's like a less complicated version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and like the early Pat Hutchins books, contains lovely illustrations undoubtedly of a different era.
Fox in Socks. I was excited to pick this book up, in no small part, I have to admit, from Deb at Smitten Kitchen's hilarious cocktail story about it (featured in her fabulous new cookbook). I am not deeply familiar with a lot of Seuss titles, actually. Even The Lorax was only a foggy memory for me until I started to read it to A. To say that it is not my favorite wouldn't be unfair, but it completely warms my heart when A turns to me with a thrilled expression once we reach his favorite pages, the "bluey gluey" section. If he loves it, I will grow to love it too.
Bread and Jam for Frances. Ah, I saved this one for last. I have longed for the day when I could share these most beloved books with my child, and while I read them to him all the time when he was a wee infant, they are lengthy, with long sections of text and sparse illustrations. Once he really began to enjoy books, it was even more time before he would sit down for a Frances book. His newfound enthusiasm is aided, in no small part, by the wonderful audiobook collection that is still in existence. My whole family knows and loves the collection, and I still have our original cassette tape. Thankfully, the CD is available, and it is now in near-constant rotation in our car. My little guy runs out to the car shouting "bread jam!" After we began listening to it all the time, A was quick to jump on the actual book, and I could not be more happy about it. Even though each reading is almost ten minutes long. I don't mind reading Frances books forever. Really.