In my last post, I shared my thoughts about picking fun and appropriate books for one-year-old children. In this post, I’d like to share some of the favorites and some of the questionable purchases from my 19-month-old daughter’s collection of books.
Let’s start with the hits:
Richard Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever
In my last post, I mentioned that it is a shame that there are so few large board books for toddlers, because toddlers love poring over large pages filled with lots of interesting pictures. After writing that post, I came across this book from Richard Scarry while browsing on Amazon.com, and I ordered it. Well, little did I know that this book isn’t just big, it is enormous! It is an almost 3-foot-tall board book, and every inch of every page is covered with Richard Scarry’s delightful illustrations of animals working away on everyday activities, from hanging up laundry on a clothesline to loading luggage into a big commercial jet. This book is absolutely marvelous. Not a day goes by that my daughter and I don’t lie the book down flat on the floor and talk about the funny things we see in the book, from a watermelon cracking open on the head of Sargeant Murphy the dog, to poor old Mr. Frumble the pig getting into some sort of vehicular accident on every page of the book. This book is so big and so dense that we continue to discover something new in it every day.
Igloo Publications’ Under the Sea
I bought this book on a whim in a department store, and it has turned out to be an absolute favorite for my daughter. It tells the story of sea animals preparing a surprise sixth birthday party for whale. Along the way, they blow up balloons, wrap birthday presents, and make a cake with seaweed frosting. The illustrations in this book are bright and cheerful, and every page has an element that a toddler can manipulate, but cannot easily tear or break. My daughter loves this book, and she reads and plays with it every day. I am especially enthusiastic about this book because it has been so helpful in teaching my daughter colors. The colors in the book are bright and easy to identify, and there are lots of pictures of fish and balloons of all different colors. My daughter loves balloons (what toddler doesn’t?), so I have used the balloon pictures in this book to teach her colors, with great success.
Gyo Fujikawa’s A to Z picture book
I adore Gyo Fujikawa’s sweet classic illustrations, and I own several of her books. This one is my daughter’s favorite, because every page has so many pictures of different things, arranged by letters of the alphabet. I especially love that there are so many botanical pictures in the book. I have learned the names of quite a few flowers from this book myself! My daughter’s favorite page is the V is for Vegetables page, which is a big, two-page picture of a vegetable stall in an outdoor market, filled with neatly arranged bins of different vegetables. If you want your child to know what rhubarb is at the age of one, this is the book for you!
Alas, not all of my daughter’s books have been such a success! Here are some of the misses:
Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish
I could not believe my eyes the first time I actually read this book (which I had received as a present, from a lovely person who undoubtedly bought it because of its beautiful illustrations). Here is the gist of the story: rainbow fish is the most beautiful fish in the sea, and none of the other fish will be friends with her, because they are so jealous of her beauty. She goes to the wise octopus for advice, and the wise octopus tells her to give away all of her beautiful scales so that the other fish will like her. So, she gives away her scales, and is no longer beautiful, but the other fish like her, so she is happy. This awful story teaches children that there is nothing more important than having people like you, and that you should destroy whatever it is that makes you special, unique, and exceptional if it helps your gain approval from some jealous brats. Stay far away from this book (and from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) if you want to raise happy and confident kids.
Beatrix Potter’s Meet Hunca Munca
My mother-in-law gave my daughter my husband’s baby book collection, which includes a few Beatrix Potter board books. In this one, Hunca Munca the mouse peeps out from her mouse hole one day, and sees a beautiful dollhouse full of lovely furniture and clothes that she would like to have for herself. So, what do you think she does about it? She steals it! She doesn’t get caught, and everything works out very nicely for her, because she has so many lovely new things for herself and for her mouse babies! I never read any Beatrix Potter book myself as a kid, but I know that her books are beloved classics, so I was quite shocked to learn that her books prepare young children for a life of crime. Books that encourage criminal behavior are a definite no-no in my book, so I keep this one stashed away.
Brimax Baby Friends’ Tiger
This book is another one of my husband’s old baby books. It is one of four weird books about stuffed animals, and this one is by far the weirdest. In this book, tiger goes out to the garden to play, but he can’t seem to find a playmate. The birds, the flowers, and the grass are too busy to play with him. Tiger is sad, so he sits down in the grass and waits for a playmate, but alas, no one comes. Poor, sad, lonely tiger wanders off and stumbles across a pond. In this pond, he finally finds a playmate: his own reflection.
This book seems to me to be the children’s version of Waiting for Godot. I don’t think that any adults deserve to suffer through Waiting for Godot, and children certainly don’t need to be exposed to existentialist books about futility and loneliness. This book might have a place in a college philosophy class, but not on a toddler’s bookshelf.
Parents – do you have any stand-out books from your children’s collections that you would like to share?