I don’t know about other parents out there, but I am particular about the picture books I like to read. I don’t like mushy sentimental books with no substance, but I also don’t like plodding through a plot that’s been used a bunch of times. I like picture books that are innovative, funny, ironic, and aesthetically pleasing to adult eyes as well as children.
And I don’t like having to read the same books over and over, which is why we are regular patrons of our local library system. But how to wade through the unwashed masses of children’s picture books is a mystery to me. I heard from my more writer-ly friends that it is exceedingly difficult to publish a picture book, but I have a hard time believing it because it seems like some pretty lame stuff gets out there. Sometimes a book looks great but turns out lame when we actually read it. (Can’t read it before checking out because I’m trying to wrangle children.) Or I’ve been looking at some book on display for weeks thinking how dumb it looks, and when we finally check it out, it’s a hit. (Turns out librarians have pretty good taste.)
Anyway, my current picture book obtaining routine includes a lot of different things to get us out of our comfort zone and finding new books which might be hidden gold. First, we pick some easy readers for Monkey to practice his reading on. Possibly we visit the folk tale section to pick up some classics. Some non-fiction on whatever concept Monkey is interested in this week. And a few board books for good measure. Then to the general picture book section, which I will from now on refer to as the stacks. Lately, I’ve been picking some sort of book topic and go through a random section of shelves looking for books about bunnies. Or trains. Or the alphabet. (Usually the alphabet.) I pick up 3-5, so that we have a good chance of finding something not annoying. And then Monkey usually grabs a few books on his way out.
All this is to say that we read a lot of very random picture books. My goal with “Library Hits” is to review them for anyone searching for good picture books, and also to remind me of what we’ve read in case I want to find it for other toddlers in my future. :D Here are my thoughts on the books headed back to the library this week.
In homage to Harry Potter, our rating scale contains no simple numbers, but is useful nonetheless, and largely self-explanatory:
The Red Lemon by Bob Staake
A hit with Monkey, who finds the idea of things being the wrong color pretty funny right now. (This tendency will be showing up in future weeks’ books.) The words were a bit rhyme-y for my taste, but it worked well enough. I rather liked the picture style: understated, but still striking.
No Hugs till Saturday by Julie Downing
The prose was definitely fun to read, but the pictures were a bit confusing for Monkey, especially the pages conveying story without words. It was somewhat unclear to him what was happening, even after several readings.
Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee
A pretty typical story and average pictures, but not obnoxious. Good filler.
What! cried Granny: an Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum
Both Monkey and I thought this book was pretty funny. Doubleplusgood for portraying grandmas as awesomely capable instead of just sweet old ladies who offer cookies. The illustrations were not my favorite, but you can’t have everything.
Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss
Obviously, this book is a complete hit, thanks to Monkey’s alphabet obsession. And of the alphabet books I’ve read, it’s one of the least obnoxious. And that’s really saying something because we read a lot of alphabet books.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
It’s possible that this book has fallen from my good graces simply because I’ve had a sore throat for a few week which made reading this book torture. I know kids like repetition, but isn’t it a little much to say essentially the same sentence 8 times on a page, then repeat that on 12 or so pages? I will probably now be banished from the picture book world for criticizing Green Eggs and Ham. Just get the animated version and save your throat.
Bonus Item: CD Review
At the Bottom of the Sea by Ralph’s World
I’m always prowling for kids music that is listenable, nay, enjoyable by adults. I personally think this fits the ticket. I mean, any CD containing a song talking about how the Itsy Bitsy Spider is about existentialism is a for-sure win in my book. It doesn’t hurt that the CD has a cover of “18 Wheels on the Big Rig” by Heywood Banks, my husband’s childhood musician.
Disclaimer: These reviews are not intended to be a review of the overall quality of any picture book, but are totally biased and based on their suitability for this mom and her two children reading together. Your mileage may vary based on your children’s maturity, attention span, and interests.