Monday, March 31, 2014

My three favorite picture books for the littlest readers

Since I have a toddler again, I get to repeat read board books, too. Depending on your perspective, and the book,  this could either be a treat or a trial. In my case, because I'm a snob and have very decided preferences when it comes to books, especially regarding those I read to my children, it's both. And because this is my blog and i get to do whatever the hell I want, I will now list my top three board books/ first reads and then another time, I'll list three board books that really get on my damn nerves


There's a reason people have been reading Where the Wild Things Are for as long as they have. I have my childhood copy, though I won't let Terza touch it because I made that mistake and now the book looks like a bear mauled it. Reason number one I love the book: my kids love the book. Terza goes crazy for the wild things; she loves getting her wild on, gnashing her terrible teeth and rolling her terrible eyes and then, acting out despotic Max when he tells them to "Be still!" There are just the right amount of words on each page for her to be able to soak them in, and the repetitive nature allows her to remember the language which is really gratifying to her. 

Then, there's my love affair with the book. I will never get tired of reading Wild Things. This is a theory I have tested. I don't even look at the words anymore, because it's memorized. By the time I get to "and it was still hot," I linger, not quite ready for the book to end every time.  The characters! Who wouldn't love Max, that power-hungry, hell-raising scoundrel? Who wouldn't love the wild things, feral beasts just desperate for an object of affection? Who wouldn't love his mother, his beleaguered, fed-up mother, who knows to set limits but then also knows when she's gone too far. She gives him his dinner after all, AND IT WAS STILL HOT. The hopefulness of that last line SLAYS me. It just does. I swear, let that be my epitaph. And it was still hot. You know what that means? It means, kids, it's going to be OK. It means you can have adventures and make mistakes and we will still be here, because we will always be here, even when we're not anymore, and you can still have your dinner AND IT WILL (EVEN) STILL BE HOT.

Goodnight Moon is, in my personal opinion, a damn near perfect first book for kids. It seems so basic and straightforward, and then you get to "Goodnight nobody" and you're like, "WHAT THE FUCK?"  You're like, "Where did THIS come from? And what does it MEAN?" It's so creepy and enticing and it just begs a bunch of questions that I never tire of asking. Yet, at the same time, those spare, simple rhymes totally lulls you into this hypnotic trance of total calm and peacefulness. "In the great green room, there was a telephone. And a red ballon, And a picture of  . . . (WAIT FOR IT!) the cow jumping over the moon."  That just what I wanted the picture to be of!  Damn near perfect. 

I really love Taro Gomi's Spring Is Here, for precisely the same reasons. It doesn't have the creepy caesura of "goodnight nobody" but you know what? Sometimes you don't want that. I have this certain feeling that after all my kids are grown and off to college or wherever their futures take them, that I will be sitting at my couch, reading Spring Is Here to myself because it kind of is the best treatment for anxiety ever invented. The flowers bloom. The snow falls. The world is white.The snow melts. Ahhhhhh . . . And at the end you circle back to the beginning, except look! The calf has grown. Which is MAGICAL AND AMAZING. And oh-so-gratifying. And it's what we experience watching our kids get older year by year. Damn near perfect, too.

And there ends the positivity. Next time, I'll bitch about the ones that grate on my nerves.