Over the past two years, I’ve checked in periodically to share my son’s favorite books. It’s been fun to look back on his past favorites (as a one-year-old and then as a toddler), and to see his interests growing up and diversifying as he gets older. It's possible that as his parent, I find these posts more interesting than anyone else, but I feel like it’s worth checking in on the blog every year, because whether you’re reading to a baby or a toddler or a threenager, you always need good books.
Now that Calvin is three, he’s a little bit more interested in reading lots of different kinds of books rather than the same books over and over. As you’ll see, he spends a lot of time in the 500’s (nonfiction animal books), but he also loves Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems.
It’s getting harder to pick his favorites; what I’ve chosen to highlight here are the books that Calvin keeps asking us to get every time he comes to the library (which is often). There’s also a strong bent toward books that I enjoy reading out loud, because if you are also someone who spends a lot of time reading to children, you will know that not all books are created equal in this regard. I want Calvin to have books he’s interested in, but our reading is a shared experience, and it’s nice if I can enjoy it too.
by Nic Bishop
Calvin is obsessed with bugs and creepy crawly things. When we go to the aquarium, he runs to see the bird-eating tarantula; when we play outside, much time is devoted to catching and attempting to feed various insects (Calvin is always dismayed that Box Elder Bugs don’t seem interested in sticking around for the feast he’s created out of grass and twigs). I credit a lot of this interest to a copy of SPIDERS by Nic Bishop that I brought home from our Used Book Store.
If you have small people living in your house and haven’t checked out Nic Bishop’s books yet, repent immediately and get them. Nic Bishop is a photographer first, and it shows. However, one of my favorite things about his books is that they offer a lot of information but remain easy to read aloud (a surprisingly difficult balance to strike!). Calvin’s favorites so far are SPIDERS, BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS, and SNAKES, but we haven’t really met a Nic Bishop book we haven’t liked.
This book is cool and gross. Calvin loved it so much we exhausted our renewal options from the library. For the first week we had it, Calvin asked for this book by saying, “Can we read that book that has that worm coming out of that girl’s leg?” Great bedtime book or stuff of nightmares? You decide…
ZOMBIE MAKERS is about parasitic organisms that cause involuntary reactions in their hosts’ bodies. From a fungus that makes a fly stop flying (does that mean it’s called a walk?) to a virus that makes rats attracted to cats, this book makes you realize how bizarre the world can be. It also makes me realize that wasps are the biggest jerks in the animal kingdom. You’ll have to read more to find out why!
It’s hard to choose which Mo Willems book is Calvin’s favorite; between the Elephant and Piggie books and the Pigeon books, there’s usually at least one of them in the bedtime lineup. But THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH was our first, and I credit it for teaching my toddler the phrase “That is a matter of opinion!”, so it gets the feature here.
I love voicing the pigeon. He is witty; he is funny; he is easily exasperated. I laugh every time when he complains that the bath water is “too reflective.” The pigeon is, really, an eloquent toddler, incredibly stubborn until he’s forced to try something new and discovers that it’s his new favorite thing. I think the character of the pigeon hits on the sometimes absurdity of these small people that share our houses, and helps us all laugh a little at those times when someone refuses to bathe or asks again and again to do something that they aren’t allowed to do.
I said I only wanted to share books that I enjoyed reading, but I lied a little bit. Maybe you are more Dr. Seuss savvy than I, but the thing that surprised me when we first read this book together is that it does not rhyme! I try not to be bothered by it, but it’s a bit strange read a Dr. Seuss book without that Dr. Seuss signature cadence.
BARTHOLOMEW AND THE OOBLECK is the story of a king’s disastrous decision to try to rule the sky as well. In his hubris, he asks for his magicians to create something to fall from the sky other than the standard sun, rain, and snow his kingdom is used to. What he gets is oobleck, a sticky green goo that mucks everything up. I don’t know why Calvin loves this book, but he asked to check it out every time we came to the library, even if we already had it checked out (at one point we had two copies from two different libraries). My only thought is that he really likes the look of various people and livestock covered in green goop.
Calvin really likes all the Ballet Cat books, but I think that THE TOTALLY SECRET SECRET is his favorite favorite. Like many easy readers, this one’s done all in dialogue, and is especially fun if you can have two readers to voice the different characters. We love the simple art; we love the different colored pages; we love this story about friends learning that it’s important to listen to each other. Our only complaint about the Ballet Cat books is that there aren’t more of them!