We are starting off the year with our first blog post celebrating our favorite books that we read in December. While we read a lot of holiday books, we sneaked in some great nonChristmas reads. Some have stunning illustrations, some are funny, and some encourage cuddling with a loved one. All are great!
Accident by Andrea Tsurumi, 2017
(Ages 4 – 8)
Lola, an armadillo, is cartwheeling through the house when the unthinkable happens. She falls into a table and spills red juice all over a chair. She panics and plans to run away to the library where they have “books and bathrooms”. As soon as she runs out the door, however, she encounters her friends who are having their own mishaps. As they all escape to the library for solace, they find that the entire town has erupted into chaos. Residents of this unlucky city are slipping, spilling, and experiencing just about any misfortune you can imagine. Shrieks of, “Oops! Mayhem! and Calamity!” follow the friends to the library, where they discover their sanctuary in complete disarray. Lola is ready to give up when a little red bird who has been following her simply utters the word, “Accident.” Then the bird proceeds to provide examples of how to make amends. Everyone begins to reconcile their mess and Lola returns to clean up her own when she discovers that even parents can have accidents too.
My five-year-old son loved this book and especially enjoyed taking his time to look through all the different “accidents” the townspeople are experiencing. He loved the book so much, that he actually memorized it and pretended to “read” it to us by repeating the lines I read on previous occasions. I was very impressed and amused!
I personally loved the message that accidents can happen to anyone anytime. The page showing examples of how to mend mishaps was particularly informative for children and not overly didactic. It clearly showed examples of apologizing and helping others. This book is hilarious and has wonderful life lessons. It is a real winner!
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney, 2017
(Ages 3 – 8)
I always found the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff to be a bit terrifying, so I was a little surprised when my two-year-old gravitated toward it at the library. I love Jerry Pinkney’s work and saw this book on several best book lists, so I decided to give it a try. As usual, I was blown away by Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations. His gorgeous pencil and watercolor pictures completely captivated my daughter and me. Even though I still find it horrifying that the troll tries to eat the goats and their escape plan is to convince the troll to eat their older and bigger siblings, my daughter requested it night after night for bedtime.
The book stays true to the original folktale by telling the story of three goats who attempt to cross a bridge guarded by an evil troll to reach the other side, which is filled with luscious green grass. Pinkney beautifully intertwines onomatopoeia including Trip Trap!, Crash!, Splash! with his stunning illustrations to make for an even more exciting story. He then adds his own thoughtful twist on the ending that brings new life to the classic tale.
My favorite part of the book is the end papers. The initial spread shows the family of goats grazing the barren countryside with the troll sitting on top of his house on the fertile grass looking smug. The last end papers reveal the goats enjoying their new bounty and one of the goats happily sitting on top of the troll’s old house. Across the river, the troll is seen building a new house out of rocks with one goat assisting him. My daughter loved pointing out the goat who was helping and it prompted a conversation about forgiveness.
Despite my initial trepidation with the storyline, both my daughter and I love this book and I will not be surprised if it is on the shortlist for the Caldecott Medal this year.
Jerry Pinkney’s fables, folktales, and fairytale adaptations are among my favorites and belong on every bookshelf. Here are a few of his other brilliant works:
Cookiesaurus Rex by Amy Fellner Dominy & Nate Evans; illustrated by AG Ford, 2017
(Ages 3 – 8)
This cookie is big, bad, and definitely not polite. When a dinosaur shaped cookie pops out of the oven, he is initially thrilled with his green icing, but soon grows jealous of the shiny adornments of his fellow cookies. He demands a do over and scoffs when the baker asks him to say, “Please.” He sneers, “Please?! Dinos don’t have to say please. Dinos say ROAR and GRRR and I’ll EAT YOU ONE TOE AT A TIME!” Obviously, the baker does not take this well and transforms Cookiesaurus into a ballerina creating an epic battle between the two. When Cookiesaurus throws a toddler-like tantrum, the baker uses the icing to add a diaper and bonnet. Soon Cookiesaurus takes control and uses the icing to turn himself into a super hero and ninja. In a hilarious scene, he uses all of the ingredients to make himself king of the cookies. Fed up with his nonsense, the baker finally picks up the indignant cookie and licks off all of the frosting leaving him to cool down with left-over goop.
The impolite attitude of the dinosaur served as a perfect model for my children for how not to act. Cookiesaurus’ rudeness is subtly reinforced by the look of horror on the other cookies’ faces when the dinosaur acts out. Every time we read the book together, my two-year-old daughter would chide, “He needs to say, please!” My five-year-old son on the other hand thought Cookiesaurus’ offensive behavior was hilarious and enjoyed the many puns in the book. This was a fun read that my children asked for again and again and prompted an excellent discussion on manners.
Lines by Suzy Lee, 2017
(Ages 3 – 8)
I first discovered Suzy Lee my first year as a school librarian. A teacher introduced me to her book, Wave, and I fell in love with Lee’s effortless illustrations that tell a beautiful story. Lee continues her magical storytelling in her latest book, Lines, where an unseen artist uses charcoal, pencil, and paper to create a scenic frozen pond. A single ice skater enters the drawing and as she glides across the ice, she leaves traces of lines showing her path. When she jumps and falls, the drawing is crumpled up. When it is unraveled, the lone skater is joined by others gliding past her on their bottoms with huge grins on their faces. One person stops to lift her up, and then the pond is filled with skaters enjoying a beautiful snowy afternoon.
Even without words, the message that everyone makes mistakes and that it is important to try again comes through clearly. This book is beautiful, meaningful, and a story that my two-year-old enjoyed reading night after night.
I Love You for Miles and Miles by Alison Goldberg; illustrated by Mike Yamada, 2017
(Ages birth to 5)
Reminiscent of the classic, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, this book is a celebration of the love between a parent and child. Using vehicles as an analogy, a mother compares the love for her child to trains, planes, construction vehicles, and a myriad of other things that go. “My love for you is longer than the longest train linking engine to caboose, winding for miles and miles.” Comparing love to vehicles makes this concept more concrete and fun to children. The lyrical text is reassuring and it is almost impossible not to cuddle with a child while reading this book.
The illustrations are vibrant and engaging. My two-year-old daughter was easily drawn into the bright colors and had fun pointing out different details in the pictures. This quickly became one of her favorite books to read at bedtime and always resulted in extra snuggling time.
With February around the corner, this would make a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, but will also be enjoyed any other day of the year as well.
Note: A copy of this book was provided to LibraryMom by the author in exchange for an honest review.