Mommy Needs a Drink: 9 Lovely Children's Books You Can Read Over and Over Without Succumbing to Death by Boredom
One of the joys and drudgeries of parenting toddlers is reading to them. It can be a joyful, calming experience, and a great way to bond with your kids. In fact, often life gets so busy with children that the only reading you ever manage to have time for are children’s books, so you want something that is fun for both parent and child. There can be a sinister flip-side, unfortunately, to reading: Toddlers love repetition, which often means reading Pat the Bunny over and over again, until the prose has bored its way so deeply into your brain, that you lose the capacity for intelligent thought.
However, there are some children’s books that are so good that their magic transcends repetition, that we never get tired of reading to our children, and that our children never get tired of hearing. They are few and far between, but they make the toddler years so much more enjoyable. So, if you find yourself reaching for a noose after reading Caps for Sale for the 750th time that week, consider one of these nine lovely books, which should make bedtime easier to cope with.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (by Bill Martin Jr., Author & Eric Carle, Illustrator) — My wife and I could have chosen any of a dozen Eric Carle books, as they’re all so perfect and gorgeously illustrated. But my son (and Mrs. TK, for that matter) has a special affinity for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, in no small part because he gets to point and shout “BAA!” at the black sheep and “WOOF WOOF!” at the dog and so on and so forth (his fish imitation is really the highlight). But more importantly, there’s something charmingly rhythmic about the cadence and the way Bill Martin’s words flow off the page. Each of us probably reads this once or twice a day, and we haven’t started hiding it yet. — TK
Vader’s Little Princess (by Jeffrey Brown) — Kids will be their own unique snowflakes, and you can’t force them to like to dislike things. Were that the case, I wouldn’t be watching as much Barney as I do. That said, I want the kid to like at least some of the things I like, things we can share, things we can have for us. It’s why she has a stuffed Dalek and it’s why I read her this book. Like most things I’d prefer her to enjoy, it’s far more enjoyable for me than for her, but I soldier on, and, luckily, this book is so fun, I could read it every night if I had to. — Courtney Enlow
Mr. Gumpy’s Outing (by John Burningham) — The sweet little story of a British gentleman and his boating adventure gone awry. The book offers an array of pleasures, from excellent vocabulary ( a pig “mucks about” and children “squabble”) to brilliant artwork. Plus, despite inevitable misbehavior, they all have tea together at the end. A must for Anglophiles and those adept at making animal voices. — Dustin Rowles
Goodnight Moon (by Margaret Wise Brown, Author & Clement Hurd, Illustrator) — What’s amazing about this lovely little book is that it’s been in the steady rotation of children’s books for over 65 years now. Published in 1947, it’s a sweet, somewhat nonsensical little bedtime poem that perfectly captures one of the weirdly adorable traits of children, which is their (at least, I’m assuming other kids do this too) weird penchant for addressing everything in the room. And so we say goodnight to the moon, the the two little kittens and a pair of mittens, to nobody at all, and finally to the stars and noises everywhere. I have, on more than one occasion, sat in a rocking chair with my kid, read Goodnight Moon four times in a row, closed the book, and then woken up 90 minutes later, still in that chair with him in my arms. It’s the perfect bedtime book. — TK
Beautiful Oops (by Barney Saltzberg) — When I got pregnant, I immediately bought the baby books I wanted to read her — the baby lit series with board books of Pride & Prejudice and other classics, and a lot of art-themed books. This one, purchased for her by my brother’s fiancee, is the best of the art bunch. It is visually stunning, and its message — not dumbed down or hit too hard — is that mistakes are OK, that imperfection can be beautiful. That’s a lesson I want her to understand far more than any other. —CE
It’s A Tiger! (by David LaRochelle, Author & Jeremy Tankard, Illustrator) — This is a recent one, both in terms of publishing (it was released in 2012) and in terms of my son’s affection for it. But now he’s addicted to the damn thing. Full of bright, lively illustrations that cleverly display both its characters as well as a host of other nifty little tricks, it’s a strangely exhilarating little read that has a ridiculously cute ending. There’s something great about a book with such a simple duality, just a boy and a tiger, running through various creatively-rendered environments, that makes less tiresome when you have to read the same damn story over and over, particularly due to Tankard’s lush drawings that enable you to always catch something new, while still enchanting the little one. — TK
Everywhere Babies (by Susan Meyers) — There are a lot of saccharine books for and about little ones, but this book lovingly and genuinely captures the joy, exhaustion and wonder of caring for - and maybe even being - a baby. Toddlers love remembering how little they once were, and this book celebrates how much they have already grown and accomplished. The lovely illustrations show all configurations and types of babies, caregivers and families. — DR
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Author & Tom Lichtenheld, Illustrator) — Oy. Trucks and machines, you guys. I’m not one of those guys who loves cars and trucks, who tries to force a particular gender model upon my kid. He has a doll, named Dolly, and a rhino named Rodney that is usually wearing a dress. But he also loves him some trucks and machines. The highlight of his week is when the garbage truck come by, when he rushes to the front door to watch them, while frantically waving and calling “TANKOO! TANKOO!” to them. And so, Rinker and Lichtenheld’s book is the perfect combination of the excitement of the big machines with the gentle rhythmic tones of a goodnight story. The lovably-rendered giant construction machines done with wax oil pastels pair nicely Rinker’s lilting verse, and so I’m happy to read it again without rolling my eyes. — TK
The Gruffalo (by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler) — Beautifully illustrated, The Gruffalo tells the tale of a mouse that outsmarts other woodland creatures that want to eat him by tricking them into believing he’s about to have tea with a terrifying fictional monster, The Gruffalo, only to learn that the Gruffalo actually exists, and his favorite food is a mouse crumble. The clever, sing-songy prose shares some themes in common with Where the Wild Things Are, and is easily the most favored book in my household; no toy, no food, and no other person can elicit the same gleeful reaction from our twins than the sight of The Gruffalo, which has never failed to stem even the worst of meltdowns. — DR