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Wolfie’s Dad Presents: Top 5 Picture Books We Love.

It’s National Children’s Book Week! Hip Hip Hurray! Nothing makes me happier than being in a library or book store. The smell of paper….getting lost in the pages of a wonderful story….it’s simply one of my all time favorite things to do. We try and limit the amount of toys and junk we buy for Wolfie (not always successfully!!), but the one thing I’ve always been really lax about was books. If he wants a book, I pretty much always buy it for him, because encouraging a love of reading is so important! Putting together a list of Top Favorite Books is near impossible for me. So I enlisted some help from the hubs! Greg is an amazing dad and while I really enjoy reading with Wolfie, somehow we have made Greg the Official Bedtime Story Guy. I asked him to give me his Top 10 favorite books to read with Wolfie.

Hi Modern Kiddo readers. Greg here. In our house, I do the reading before bedtime. My wife, well, she does what we call the “cuddle up.” That means she lies down with the boy before he falls asleep. Yes, he’s getting a little old for that. Yes, he’s an only child.

While I love reading to him, it’s baseball season and there are definitely nights when bed time rolls around and I’m in the middle of a game. So the other day I asked, “Why do I always have to read to the boy?” It was a legitimate question. She loves reading to him and throwing down the gauntlet when it comes to who can do better character voices. In fine wifey fashion, she replied, “Because that’s what you do.” I was also informed a few days before that I was the member of the family that “called people”. Apparentely I’m the “phone person.” This arbitrary rule is classic Alix— and meant that I am the one who always calls the doctor, the tax guy, etc. In a relationship, this is called concession. But I digress.

When she approached me about reviewing my Top 10 Kids Picture Books, I toyed with saying, “But you’re the Blog Person.” I didn’t think that would go over well, so I simply countered with “How ’bout a Top 5?” She accepted.

So, here’s my Top 5 books that I read to the Wolf Cub before the cuddle up. This is by no means exhaustive, but these are books that we sure think are great.

1. Jenny’s Birthday Bookby Esther Averill

It’s a big day for Jenny Linsky, a shy little black cat in Greenwich Village. Her brothers, Checkers and Edward, take her out for her birthday. They pick up a bunch of other cats, including Pickles, the Fire Cat, who rounds up everyone in his fire truck to take them to the park. Originally published in 1957, it’s pretty darn cute.

The best part of this book is a secondary character named Florio, an eccentric cat who’s prone to wearing a feather headband to express his individuality. You can’t go wrong with a character who wears an Indian feather. Discovering Florio was like seeing Jon Bon Jovi wearing a Native American chest plate in the Blaze of Glory video. Like Florio, Jovi, (who is 1/128th Cherokee) was expressing his individuality through Native American garb. Love it.


2. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (Lyle the Crocodile) by Bernard Waber

Ahh, the simple urban tale of a domesticated alligator living in New York with the Primm family on the upper east side. East 88th Street, to be exact. All’s well until Lyle goes shopping with Mrs. Primm at a fancy department store. Lyle bumps into Signor Valenti, “star of stage and screen,” who happens to be Lyle’s old vaudeville partner. Valenti is dying to “get the band back together” so he and Lyle perform for the crowd—annoying Lyle’s curmudgeonly neighbor (who works in the men’s department) and who gets Lyle shipped off to the zoo. Will Lyle ever get back home? Will life ever return to normal? And more importantly, will Signor Valenti be forced to tour Australia by himself?? We love Lyle.

3. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems.

If I were 22, listened to The Black Lips and had a 4-year old from a tryst in highschool, I sure as hell would get a tattoo of this pigeon on my forearm. Pigeons get a bad rap. At work, when a pigeon flies through our side door into the building, I yell, “Get the hell out of here, pigeon!” To his credit, the pigeon usually turns around and flies out the door. If a sparrow does the same thing, the sparrow ends up flying into a window or floundering on the ceiling. This leads me to suspect pigeons are smarter than we think. And this book is smarter than you might think too. Super simple drawings and a fun interactive story (with the pigeon constantly pestering you to let him drive the bus) make for an instant classic. Bottom line? Pigeons rule; Sparrows drool.

4. Polkabats and Octopus Slacks: 14 Stories, by Calef Brown.

This collection of color illustrations and quirky poems is amazing. What other book can explores themes like funky snowmen, a disco octopus and even bird turds in a way that is silly and fun for both adult and child alike? The one-page, rhyming “stories” allow the reader to conjure up many voices: a Boston accent, a curmudgeonly recluse, an early hip hop guy, a hobo salesman. For some reason I never find these books in book stores, but order it online. You’ll be happy you did. This (along with Brown’s other book, Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers) was in high rotation around these parts for over a year. Plus, a famous friend of mine suggested the book. And I always listen to famous friends.

5. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

Like those Christmas commercials with all the sleeping babies, I cried the first time I read this…and maybe the second and third time too. Now, I’m hardened and, despite a personal fantasy of having a soft, fluffy pet lion that I can rest my head on during story time and that dusts and  who will lick stamps for me, my eyes are dry. I’m hard; the story is not. I won’t tell you what it’s about, but know that it is perfect.


So there you have it. My Top 5. I’m sure I’ll think of five more tonight. And I’m sure Alix will say, “See? You should have made it a Top 10.” To which I will respond, “Sorry….I had to go call the tax guy.”

— Greg Kim, Star of Stage and Screen

I love every book on this list (I especially love the Calef Brown books…..they’re super fun!). We’d LOVE to hear some of your favorite books!

You can find my snarky husband over on his blog, Sit Down Casper, where he writes autobiographical short stories about being a young punk/rock dude in the 70s/80s. I warn you, he is a little more irreverent then me. He also swears. But he really does get all misty eyed at those Silent Night, Sleeping Baby Pamper’s commericals….

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28 Responses

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  1. Dottie says

    Oh, that Greg–he’s such a dapper gent! I love Bernard Waber’s books! Especially Lyle! Check out Rich Cat, Poor Cat too–I dare you not to sniffle at the end!

  2. Mari, Small for Big says

    Sweet list! I want to add them all to our library forthwith.
    That picture of Greg reminds me of John Malkovich for some reason!

    • Alix says

      I think Wren would like all of these books! Let me know if you get any!

      • Mari, Small for Big says

        We DO have almost all of Mo Willem’s books – including the PIgeon Book above. I have a crush on Mr. Willem, I think.

  3. Jenny (VintageSugarcube) says

    Thanks for the tips! Just ordered 3 off your list for my best friend’s son’s birthday!

    • Alix says

      Well now I need to know, WHICH THREE???? 😉

      • Jenny (VintageSugarcube) says

        OK, so the narcissism in me had to buy my little Remy “Jenny’s Birthday Book”. And I bought Polka Bat and Octopus Slacks and Dutch Sneakers. Though I’m seriously considering keeping the Polka Bat and Octopus Slacks for myself. And I sooo forgot to say that you have the coolest hubby ever. But then I expected nothing less from you Miss Alix. XOXO

        • Alix says

          you picked some goodies!!! jenny’s birthday book is really sweet and oddly funky…..the cats ride to the park in Pickle’s fire truck and then have a dance. I love it!

  4. erinlucy says

    i haven’t read any of these! loved your post even if you aren’t the ‘blog guy’ especially loved the part about the pigeon tattoo – totally made me snort into my tea!

    • Alix says

      LOL you are funny, lady!

  5. Tracy says

    Can Greg be a regular on MK? He’s soo funny!!!

    Great list!!!

    • Alix says

      Just so long as you don’t think he’s funnier than meeeee! bwuahahaha!

  6. pilgrim says

    nawwww greg rocks! (also, my guy is the phone guy. and the bin guy. and the bug guy. and the story guy 🙂 i’m not familiar with any of these books, but they all seem worthy of hunting down! 😀

    • Alix says

      You would LOVE Calef Brown, I think! The others are all really sweet too….Lyle is from the 60s!

  7. kristin says

    I love this post! Greg’s picks are awesome! I have to tell you- I gave Polka -Bats & Octopus Slacks to Chris for a birthday present before we officially “hooked up”. I think that is what sealed the deal. 🙂 The illustrations are just great. Plus, Sayer adores the firecat book. He is on the lookout for a mini fire hat for our cat Kiki. We haven’t found one yet….

    • Alix says

      we have a cat named Kiki too! We had Pickles the Firecat book first, and then found Jenny’s Birthday Book.
      Calef Brown is FANTASTIC! I love you gave that to Chris!

  8. Crystal says

    Great suggestions — will definitely check them out! The retro style and the fun story of “Goldilocks Has Chicken Pox” (Erin Dealey) is really fun.

  9. bethR says

    excellent post!

    i’m terribly curious about those birthday cats up at the top there. and i’m also wondering if lyle is related to crictor, but my googling energy is gone for the day.

  10. lishyloo says

    funky snowman!!

    i need to get the library lion!

  11. jenny says

    well this just absolutely made my day.

    greg kim. you make me laugh! i loved this post. WOLFIE’S DAD needs to be a regular.
    i insist.

  12. katie says

    looove book recommendations! thanks! [the bear and boy on the “celebrate children’s book week” poster is actually our favorite right now! yay!]

  13. Tammy says

    I love reading Sit Down Casper…and I agree, Greg should be a regular on Modern Kiddo! 🙂

  14. Lynn Landry says

    Greg, I need you to call my mow and blow guy.

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