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….