Recommendations from the kid lit shelves

by DaniGirl on January 17, 2007 · 18 comments

in Ah, me boys, Books

I’ve often thought about reviewing a couple of kids’ books here. Trouble is, by the time you get 10-pages-in, you’re mostly done. Maybe I should switch to a 20-words-in format for kids’ lit? We struck gold on our last trip to the library and through random luck ended up with quite a few books that were clever enough to engage me while still appealing to the boys.

In university, I took a Canadian Literature course that eventually became one of my favourite courses of all time. The first day, the prof asked us to contribute, anonymously, a few books we would like to study. I don’t remember which books I said I did want to study, but I do clearly remember him laughing as he read out loud my plea: “Just about anything is fine, but please – no more Margaret Atwood.” I’ve since changed my mind about her, and Margaret Atwood is in fact one of my favourite authors, one whose prose I savour and whose writing I hold as a standard to strive towards. I have not, however, warmed entirely to her poetry.

With the charming book Up in the Tree, even her poetry is appealing to me. (The fact that I am only drawn to poetry for beginning readers must surely say something about my level of literary sophistication.) The book was recently released to the US for the first time, and the new edition contains a small note from the author says that in 1978, when the book was first published, it was considered too risky to publish a children’s book in Canada. To mimimize costs, Atwood not only wrote and illustrated the book herself, but she hand-lettered the text and used a simple two-colour process of red and blue ink. Between that and the thick, glossy pages, I think I enjoyed the tactile experience of reading Up in a Tree as much as I enjoyed the words themselves.

The same day, we also got Judith Viorst’s Just in Case. It’s a lovely little book about a little boy named Charlie who likes to be prepared “just in case”. He does things like making 117 peanut butter and jam sandwiches just in case the food stores are all closed and bringing a net and some oars to the beach “just in case” a mermaid grabs him by his big toe and drags him off under the sea to play. It’s quite charming, and the prose has a lyrical quality that makes reading it out loud a pleasure. And the repitition at then end of each section works for both the almost-three year old, who hears it coming and likes to say it along with me, and the almost-five year old, who recognizes the words and likes to say them along with me.

Also on the same day, we got a silly little mystery book by Karma Wilson and Jack E Davis called Moose Tracks. The narrator wonders, in perfect verse, who has left the moose tracks all over the house. The bear hair is explicable, the wood chips are from the beaver, and the chipmunk is responsible for the shells. But who has left the moose tracks? We also enjoyed the witty, cartoonish illustrations in this book.

Care to share a few recommendations?

(Edited to add: for a comprehensive list of toddler-approved books from a toddler who happens to be the daughter of a librarian, not to mention a “cultural nationalist in training”, be sure to see this post from the Mad Hatter!)


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Not So Little Sister January 17, 2007 at 2:54 pm

My favorite books growing up were “I’ll love you forever” (not sure about the author)and “The Pain and the Great One” by Judy Blume. That one’s great for sibling rivalry. And also “Green Eggs and Ham”. That’s the first book I remember reading by myself. Reading a lot and loving it seems to run in my family so I ate up everything I could. My older sister read The Babysitters Club books so I read Babysitter Little Sister. Looking forward to hearing what others have to say…

2 Not So Little Sister January 17, 2007 at 2:54 pm

My favorite books growing up were “I’ll love you forever” (not sure about the author)and “The Pain and the Great One” by Judy Blume. That one’s great for sibling rivalry. And also “Green Eggs and Ham”. That’s the first book I remember reading by myself. Reading a lot and loving it seems to run in my family so I ate up everything I could. My older sister read The Babysitters Club books so I read Babysitter Little Sister. Looking forward to hearing what others have to say…

3 suze January 17, 2007 at 3:25 pm

I loved, loved, loved “alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”. I also loved “the monster at the end of this book” and “the shrinking of treehorn”. and many, many, many others too numerous to mention. I’ve loved books from before I could read…

4 suze January 17, 2007 at 3:25 pm

I loved, loved, loved “alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”. I also loved “the monster at the end of this book” and “the shrinking of treehorn”. and many, many, many others too numerous to mention. I’ve loved books from before I could read…

5 mad_hatter January 17, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for the link, Dani. My wee urchin sweated typing in all those titles ๐Ÿ™‚ so it’s nice to know that people are getting use out of it. I think I should try to synthesize all the recommendations I got in the comments into a master list that I can make permanently available on my side bar. But that smacks of ambition. I’m not sure I have me enough of that.
Now I need to go check out your recommendations. I haven’t looked at that Atwood in years.

6 mad_hatter January 17, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for the link, Dani. My wee urchin sweated typing in all those titles ๐Ÿ™‚ so it’s nice to know that people are getting use out of it. I think I should try to synthesize all the recommendations I got in the comments into a master list that I can make permanently available on my side bar. But that smacks of ambition. I’m not sure I have me enough of that.
Now I need to go check out your recommendations. I haven’t looked at that Atwood in years.

7 Myra January 17, 2007 at 4:38 pm

DENNIS LEE!! Alligator Pie; Garbage Delight and many more… our girls love those rhymes and recognizable places. “Wiggle to the laundromat; Waggle to the sea; Skip to Casa Loma and you can’t catch me!”
Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and The Giant Peach, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory for good chapter book reads (and we’re working through Peter Pan).
Other recent faves are The Day the Babies Crawled Away, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Freckle Juice, The Paperbag Princess and Mud Puddle.
I could go on…
Great post!

8 Myra January 17, 2007 at 4:38 pm

DENNIS LEE!! Alligator Pie; Garbage Delight and many more… our girls love those rhymes and recognizable places. “Wiggle to the laundromat; Waggle to the sea; Skip to Casa Loma and you can’t catch me!”
Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and The Giant Peach, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory for good chapter book reads (and we’re working through Peter Pan).
Other recent faves are The Day the Babies Crawled Away, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Freckle Juice, The Paperbag Princess and Mud Puddle.
I could go on…
Great post!

9 Valerie January 17, 2007 at 5:32 pm

We loved “the Day the Babies Crawled Away” which you recommended in the past, so will check out these, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sarah just discovered that she can read “the Foot Book” (Dr. Seuss) by herself, so she’s pretty thrilled about that one.

10 Valerie January 17, 2007 at 5:32 pm

We loved “the Day the Babies Crawled Away” which you recommended in the past, so will check out these, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sarah just discovered that she can read “the Foot Book” (Dr. Seuss) by herself, so she’s pretty thrilled about that one.

11 Trixie January 17, 2007 at 6:05 pm

Last weekend, Sam and I decided to pass his baby and toddler books on to his new cousin, Anabel. But he grew anxious watching the pile build up and started rethinking his decision on board books like “Me Papa Tickle Me Feet” and “Moo, Baa, La La La.” We haven’t read those in months (we’re on the third run through of James and the Giant Peach), but he held them tight to his chest with a rising panic that he tried to mask as staunch resistance. I completely understood: I don’t know if I’m through with “Zoe’s Sunny Day” yet, and that book doesn’t have any words! Even with the recent move to chapter books, Sam and I are still fans of Julia Donaldson: The Gruffalo and The Smartest Giant in Town being faves, with their clever and kind protagonists, dash of the outlandish and beautiful illustrations. We haven’t ventured far from Shel Silverstein for poetry, but I keep meaning too (will pick up that Atwood!) And the Curious George Treasury that Great Granddad sent for Christmas has been a surprise hit (I’m waiting for Sam to ask me why George smokes a pipe after supper, so I can sagely respond “because this was written in 1941 and monkeys didn’t know any better”…).

12 Trixie January 17, 2007 at 6:05 pm

Last weekend, Sam and I decided to pass his baby and toddler books on to his new cousin, Anabel. But he grew anxious watching the pile build up and started rethinking his decision on board books like “Me Papa Tickle Me Feet” and “Moo, Baa, La La La.” We haven’t read those in months (we’re on the third run through of James and the Giant Peach), but he held them tight to his chest with a rising panic that he tried to mask as staunch resistance. I completely understood: I don’t know if I’m through with “Zoe’s Sunny Day” yet, and that book doesn’t have any words! Even with the recent move to chapter books, Sam and I are still fans of Julia Donaldson: The Gruffalo and The Smartest Giant in Town being faves, with their clever and kind protagonists, dash of the outlandish and beautiful illustrations. We haven’t ventured far from Shel Silverstein for poetry, but I keep meaning too (will pick up that Atwood!) And the Curious George Treasury that Great Granddad sent for Christmas has been a surprise hit (I’m waiting for Sam to ask me why George smokes a pipe after supper, so I can sagely respond “because this was written in 1941 and monkeys didn’t know any better”…).

13 alison January 17, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Pierre Berton’s “The Secret World of Og”. I just finished reading this to my 4 and 7 yr olds. It was as good as I remember it being.

14 alison January 17, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Pierre Berton’s “The Secret World of Og”. I just finished reading this to my 4 and 7 yr olds. It was as good as I remember it being.

15 mamatulip January 17, 2007 at 9:39 pm

I think someone mentioned it, but one of our faves is Alligator Pie. Another fave is The Paper Bag Princess.
My personal faves are the Franklin books. I love me some Franklin…and the illustrations kick ass, too.

16 mamatulip January 17, 2007 at 9:39 pm

I think someone mentioned it, but one of our faves is Alligator Pie. Another fave is The Paper Bag Princess.
My personal faves are the Franklin books. I love me some Franklin…and the illustrations kick ass, too.

17 Valerie January 18, 2007 at 2:36 am

I have a fave by Franklin’s author – Big Sarah’s Little Boots.

18 Valerie January 18, 2007 at 2:36 am

I have a fave by Franklin’s author – Big Sarah’s Little Boots.

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