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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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Friday
Nov122010

Books I'm saving for my grandchildren

Children's books floor me. The well-written ones, that is. Boy, are there some crap kid's books out there. But the good ones--they're like magic. They seem so simple and effortless, and yet they're such a pleasure to read out loud. Damn it, I wish I could do that.

I love some of Henry's books more than he does. And even now that he's (maybe) outgrown these, I will be keeping them. Forever and ever.

Hondo and Fabian


Hondo is the dog. Fabian is the cat. Hondo goes to the beach. Fabian stays home.

I not only want Hondo and Fabian to be my dog and my cat, I want to live in this world. Look how peaceful it is! Nothing bad ever happens in Hondo and Fabian's home. You can tell. There is always tidiness and order and turkey sandwiches.

I bought Hondo and Fabian when I was pregnant with Henry. One look at the pictures, and I was hooked. We read it together pretty much from the time he was born, and even though it's way too babyish for him now, he'll still deign to let me read it to him, if only to humor me. He is a patient and understanding boy. While I'm reading it I try not to cry into his hair.

Cars and Trucks and Things that Go

All the Richard Scarry books are so charming and magical and witty, but I especially love this book. It's like ten books in one. Henry has loved it since he could sit up, and he'll still spend an afternoon flipping through it, when he thinks I'm not looking. It's incredibly weird, like all excellent children's books are.


The Story of Ferdinand


Ferdinand is a gentle bull. He doesn't want to fight in the bullring, like all the other young bulls do. All he wants is "to sit just quietly and smell the flowers."

I love that "just." The first thing I was told in my first writing class was to remove the word "just" from all of my stories, but that is one hell of a perfect "just." 

And check out this line [the italics are my own]: "His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy."
Even though she was a cow. Come ON.

Also, is she not the best mom ever? I wish I could be as sanguine about my kid when he refuses any and all opportunities to get some fresh air. She leaves him alone, and Ferdinand ends up being happy and content with himself!  Some of the best children's books are also excellent parenting guides.

Toot and Puddle

There are a bunch of Toot and Puddle books, but I'm partial to the first, which was gifted to Henry by my friend Lexie. (I've also heard that there's a Toot and Puddle cartoon, but I have never seen it and hope to never have to. Don't ruin the Toot and Puddle who live in my head! Yes, they live in my head! Don't judge me!)

The watercolor illustrations are stunning. And I never stopped snickering at the name "Woodcock Pocket," because I am a child. Also, what is this relationship between Toot and Puddle? They've got some kind of Boston marriage going on, here. And yes, I realize that's a term reserved for two women, but you tell me what you'd call this Bert-and-Ernie living situation going on between two pigs. You tell me!

So! I'm sure you have some favorites, too. And now you're going to share them with me and the rest of us. Yes, you are. Go on.


References (1)

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  • Response
    Reading Books I’m Saving for My Grandchildren over at Finslippy has spurred me on to write a blog post that’s been in my head for months. The best children’s books? No, I’ve been arranging that one in my head for a good decade; it’s just become more relevant and finely tuned ...

Reader Comments (112)

I hope you and H have found Goldbug on all the pages of "Cars & Trucks & Things That Go"! TOTALLY my favorite part... I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to be able to put the patience into finding him.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason

My son adores the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, but I bet I love it more.

Probably because it's my copy, given to me by my grandparents when I was six.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Don't get me started!

OK, I'm starting.

Ahem.

The Seven Silly Eaters (Mary Ann Hoberman)
The Tale of Custard the Dragon (Ogden Nash)
The Caboose Who Got Loose (Bill Peet)
Big Red Barn (Margaret Wise Brown)

My kids are 13 and nearly 9, so they are LONG past picture books.

SOB.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterslouchy

I have always had a special soft spot for The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, written 60 whole years ago. The last line is perfection.

I second the recommendation for The Seven Silly Eaters. It puts other rhyming books to shame with its effortless musicality.

Also, any of the Susan Boynton board books are winners. She is a children's book genius, in my opinion.

But Richard Scarry, I gotta say, is one of my least favorites. It always sounds to me like he got just a little bit high and then looked at the illustrations and just wrote down whatever came into his head.

My children request his books every night, of course.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

One more! The Garden of Abdul Gasazi—something about that illustration from Hondo and Fabian made me think of Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations. His books, and The Garden of A. G. especially, fascinated me as a child and made me feel a little frightened and believe in magic all at the same time.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

My oldest son, now 33, loved that Richard Scary book. At age two he knew where Goldbug was on every page. My son now lives in Brooklyn and will be having his first child next spring. I still have the book but it is pretty beat up!

My kids also liked Old Hat New Hat. A Berenstein Bears book.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarenP

Oh dear, I'm kind of a lurker here, but on this topic I just have to chime in. "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" is truly, truly one of the greats (as is Styron's "Pearl and the Amazing Bone" [best title ever]). I also love Mary Chalmers' "Merry Christmas, Harry" and "Harry Goes to the Doctor." Oh! And what about "Bread and Jam for Frances," "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and "Strega Nona"?

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is the best children's book ever, the end. But you have to promise me that if you read it out loud you will use special voices for all the characters. Like the Duke has to sound like a smart-alec know it all.

We also love the Giant Carrot and the Walloping Window Blind. And Miss Tizzy's House. And all the Janell Cannon books.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeana

Another lurker here.
And a childless one at that.
But I adore the book ' The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein.
It will always have a place on my bookshelf next to my Winnie the Pooh books :)

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany

I loved loved loved the Frances books (Bread and Jam for Frances, Bedtime for Frances, etc) as a kid and will be getting those for my 19 month old when he's a bit older. Same with Maurice Sendak's weird ass books like "Outside, Over There" and "Mickey in the Night Kitchen" and "Higgeldy Piggeldy Pop." Some of the current hits that I'm passing around to other young parents include "I Love You Stinky Face" and "Please Baby Please." "Stinky Face" features a child protagonist who isn't explicitly gendered, and "Please Baby Please" features a protag who is Black and Female. Niko loves them and I find them very, very re-redable.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbrigid keely

I just handed Cars and Trucks and Things that Go (and sweet little Goldbug) over to my cousin's son, and I'm kicking myself for doing so. Might have to ask for that one back when he's done having fun with it.

I can't seem to part with our Sandra Boynton board books, because we had such fun reading them when the kids were really young. And who doesn't love The Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Also, I second the emotion of @slouchy who loved The Caboose Who Got Loose. Bill Peet made my son want to learn to read. He couldn't get enough of that book or Smokey. His prose was perfect and the pictures were wonderful. I painted Katie Caboose on my son's wall (and a pair of red high-top sneakers!) so he could always see her. He outgrew the sneakers, but I'm hoping he'll always want Katie on the wall. I sure do. *sigh*

There were a couple big brother books we enjoyed as well: "Tell Me Something Happy Before I go to Sleep" and "Bear and Roly-Poly." Beautiful illustrations and sweet stories.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWombat Central

Good to know I'm not the only one giggling surreptitiously through toot and puddle. And wondering why shirts but no pants?

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Ah....wonderful magical Richard Scarry! That takes me back to my own childhood, in South Africa, I might add. Some great things transcend time and space.....

I want to read them all now.

Love your parenting guide comment too . A friend and I were just talking today about how she thought that maybe her insistence that her bookish boy get out and play more was harming his self esteem. I shall direct her to the cow-ish wisdom of Ferdinand's dear mater in order to confirm her fears.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKirsty

and speaking of children's books we love, how about the ones that we can't wait to burn? Yes, "I'll Love You Forever" or as I lovingly refer to you, Kindle. (OMG. Is that why Kindle is called KINDLE?)

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarinka

Anything written by Sandra Boynton...

Fifteen Animals = Hilarious
Personal Penguin = Also Hilarious

I could go through more titles, but it would be very repetitive.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwhitney

We read "Trucks and Go," as my 3-year-old calls it, just this morning. And I bought Toot & Puddle years before I had a kid, because of the illustrations. "Puddle's ABC" is also excellent. I love the classics like "I Am A Bunny" and "The Snowy Day," but my obscure favorite is "The Big Orange Splot" by Daniel Pinkwater.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Any Richard Scary book, Sandra Boyton, the Carl books, Arnie the Doughnut, Mr. Dog. OK, a lot of Margaret Wise Brown's books, Arnie the Doughnut, the Pigeon Books, The Monster at the End of This Book, Chester the Cat!!!

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Did I mention Arnie the Doughnut??

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I can read this without getting dizzy!!

Oh my favorite book... A monster named Dennis. It came with a little stuffed monster and he was afraid to go to bed because he was afraid of the humans under his bed.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack is a sweet and gentle night-time story that celebrates imagination through stunning artwork. Kids love it!

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

I have a deep fondness for the books by Shirley Hughes. Specifically the stories of Alfie and his sister Annie Rose, but "Dogger" gets me every time.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

I just love books with beautiful illustrations. But if the story fails, well, then the book fails, too.

One that wins on both counts is "Something from Nothing" by Phoebe Gilman. It's based, apparently, on an old Jewish song. The illustrations are so wonderful, with lots of details to talk about and squeal over.

"The Napping House" by Audrey Wood is another lovely. Too babyish for Henry, of course, but oh, so lovely.

And I do like a lot of Robert Munsch's books. "Stephanie's Ponytail" and "The Paperbag Princess" are both favourites. Hunh, wonder if the "girl power" theme is a coincidence?

One that might still be Henry worthy? "Zen Shorts" by Jon J Muth. It contains three traditional (and philosophical) Chinese tales woven together by a giant Panda named Stillwater. Beautiful pictures (again with the detail, but these ones aren't busy), good springboards for discussions about attitude and behaviour, and three stories for the price of one. I don't thin anyone could not love this book!

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFawn

Graeme Base & Chris VanAllsburg are two of my MOST favorite author/illustrators. I think anything they've done is a favorite...I used to work in the library & shelved children's books. I love the beautiful ones. :)

I also adore The Velveteen Rabbit...

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaegan

P.S. I don't get what's so awful about "I'll Love You Forever"...I mean, I have seen the reviews about the bizarre imagery...but c'mon folks. It's a book. Not a memoir or reality TV!

It's not on my list of favorites or must haves...and it doesn't even involve canabalism or anyone being shoved into furnaces!

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaegan

I'm going to have to go get most of the books from the post & several from the comments! I don't have kids yet but am well-prepared for when we do since I collect childrens books. Some personal favorites:
Bunnicula
Millions of Cats
Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang
The Just So Stories
Knuffle Bunny

November 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCrystina

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