Wonder Bear, by Tao Nyeu. The only bear Harper has ever not been afraid of.
There are few things that make us happier around here than a new stack of library books, all fresh and unread and fragrant of plastic covers and other kids’ boogers. But I have to admit, we have checked out some real losers. Once, sure, I used to look up books ahead of time, read children’s book bloggers’ recommendations, put appropriate reading material on hold, or at least pre-screen at the library. But these days every trip to our local branch is a hectic dash involving Ollie making avalanches of board books before toddling over to the evil bank of computers where inevitably some big kids are playing video games while Harper finds every single book she can find about ballerinas, and I frantically try to grab something that looks interesting, and we end up with books that mention terrible things like death and sibling rivalry.
Still, there is nothing like the joy of finding a great book completely by accident. The other day Harper was sifting through our newest haul and came running. “Mama! It’s one of those make-up-a-story books!” She LOVES make-up-a-story books. You know, those great wordless picture books that allow a child to invent her own story, by which I mean tyrannize her parents into telling stories until their tongues turn to wood. These books are so fun; they allow Harper’s crazy imagination to run wild; I especially love them for their “Here, entertain yourself while I change this horrifying diaper” properties. Our most recent and thrilling finds were The Red Book and The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman — both amazing, evocative, and with that quality of adventure I want my kids’ childhood to have but maybe without the wandering down sewer pipes kind of thing. Still, lovely and surreal and mind-bending — like Haruki Murakami for toddlers.
The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman. Every time we look at the gorgeous page where the girl buys a huge bunch of balloons and takes off, Harper says, “That is not a safe idea!”
We’ve also loved The Adventures of Polo, by Regis Faller, The Wonder Bear, by Tao Nyeu, A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, by Mercer Mayer. That last one is totally a lie, actually — I loved it but Harper was not that into it. But you get what I’m saying. Wordless picture books. Good stuff.
Any others we should check out? Maybe I’ll even actually reserve them at the library like some sort of thinking, planning fancy pants person.
I have hazy memories that may or may not be fabricated (no, it’s nothing salacious or exciting, sorry) of — what else? — teaching myself to read while lying on the pleasantly cool floor of our basement, obsessively going over and over the Mercer Mayer book Just For You. It recently occurred to me that Harper, who is obsessed with letters and rhyming (she drew an H on the table the other day with a hunk of cheese, an action I had to work very hard to pretend to disapprove of), is doing the same thing when she asks me to read the same books again and again and again and again. What’s crazy is that it’s actually these very same Little Critter books that have captured her attention. I swear, she came to these on her own — her grandmother gave them to her, and Harper’s the one who brings me stacks of them to read.
Right now her “favorite and her best” is Just Me and My Mom. It’s a little heartbreaking, actually — okay, I get the message, you want some undivided attention that you never ever wait sorry I have to go change the baby’s diaper what was I saying?
Anyway, I have to admit this is not my most favoritest of the Little Critter oeuvre. The volumes created in the 90s have a certain extra-sassy “What would Macaulay Caulkin do?” vibe to them that seems to me a little meaner than the earlier stories, you know, from the good old days, when I was a kid and the Little Critter was trying to do everything right but failing because he was hapless and small, not because he had ADD. (Yes, I am actually trying to channel my inner Andy Rooney in order to honor his memory, so it’s okay that I sound like an old fart.)
But for the most part, these books are just all pretty great. Of course I’m partial to Just for You, but I also really like The New Baby, which is one of those rare new baby books that doesn’t make it all sound like a horrible drag. Whichever Little Critter book you choose, though, there is fun to be had — finding the frog or spider or cricket on each page has been a favorite past time of Harper’s for ages. You know, since she was a little kid.
I tried to make this blog post good just for you...but I didn't have enough time, so I'm lucky if it even makes sense..