Sasha loves a book with a dramatic “Oh no!” Which I guess could describe the climax of any good story. But she especially likes when the words “Oh no!” literally appear on the page. That is certainly her favorite part of the book at the top of our new We Can’t Stop Reading list: More by I.C. Springman, illustrated by Brian Lies.
There is a lot for a toddler to relate to in this nearly wordless beauty. On the surface, there’s all of the tiny treasured objects gathered into piles in nests. (Sasha’s favorites to point out are the pacifier, the keys, the necklace, and the sunglasses—things she is crazy about in real life, too.) Then, there’s the words, building from “nothing” to “more” to “plenty” to “enough!” to “EVERYTHING!” Followed by a tumbling avalanche of all of that everything. Hence the “Oh no!” Which leads to the deeper discovery of when more is too much and what one can do about it. I think this book has helped us a lot in keeping our play area neater and Sasha’s bed less full of stuffed animals and books. It also reminds me of her first day of school last year, when an assistant teacher asked me what Sasha likes to do. I racked my brain for an answer—she wasn’t really into drawing or dolls or blocks yet—and suddenly I had it: “She likes to gather up as many things as she can fit in her arms, carry them to a corner of the room, and make a pile.” The teacher gave me a perplexed smile, as if to say, “That is not an activity.” More proves that it is.
Another recent favorite is Simms Taback’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. Sasha is a fan of repetition in books, as well as anything that makes the experience tactile (Pat the Bunny, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, In My World, anything by Karen Katz), so it is no surprise to me that she loves feel the holes hinting at the next thing Joseph makes out of his overcoat, while reciting the refrain, “it got old and worn.” In the last few months, Sasha has entered the “why” stage of toddlerhood, where everything in the world is a question. So now, rather than just stating that the overcoat got old and worn, she will say it and then ask, “Why it got old and worn?” No amount of answers will ever satiate her, so I often turn the question back at her: “Why do you think it got old and worn?” “Because it is,” she’ll say. Her answer for all questions.
Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg with pictures by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey is a book I can remember my mom reading to me when I was a kid, as are the rest of the books on this list. I remember loving the illustrations—the bright colors and how all of the animals look a little floppy. Sasha is also enthralled with it, and gets great pleasure from pointing out where the rabbit is in each vignette, when the other animals hide him under the mushroom while the fox comes around sniffing. It must be so exciting for her to feel like she knows something the fox doesn’t.
Somehow we haven’t really read any Curious George books yet, aside from a box of adapted board books. I thought it would be fun to get one from the library, so I stood at the shelf and told Sasha all of the titles and she picked Curious George Rides a Bike. I know I read and loved the George books but I don’t have a clear memory of what happened in them. Turns out, I think the bike one was probably my favorite because of the DIY element. I was a kid who, when I saw a commercial, I didn’t want my parents to buy me the toy; I wanted to make it. So it was very exciting to me that Rides a Bike includes step by step instructions on how to make a boat out of a newspaper—an activity I remember my mom and I doing over and over again. The boat, it turns out, can also be worn as a hat! Maybe Sasha and I will try that when she wakes up from her nap.
Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Ronald Himler, is another one I remember my mom reading to me a lot. I found a brand new copy recently at a neighbor’s yard sale and memories flooded back of the feeling of cold clay and anxieties that nobody would play with me at nursery school and the warm feeling of a little girl named Bree who asked me to join her at the sand table, just like Paul asks Jim to play in this book. As I flipped through the book, I had these vivid memories but at the same time something about the book seemed off. I didn’t remember any of the pictures. In searching for an image of the jacket for this blog post, I realized that’s because the book has been updated with new illustrations. Perhaps, like, me, you remember this version, with pictures by Lillian Hoban:
Interesting to think about Sasha building similar early memories to mine, surrounding this book, but with different images in her head. I’m also glad to have rediscovered this book right now because we had our first back-to-school night a couple weeks ago and Sasha’s teacher told us that the kids are starting to gravitate toward certain people and figure out who their friends are. Whenever I ask Sasha who she likes to play with at school, she only tells me teachers’ names—I suspect that’s because they are the most inviting, constantly offering new experiences and things to play with and read. But Sasha is also very social—much more than me—and I wonder if reading a book like this will encourage her to seek out kids as friends, too.
What have you been reading lately? Anything from your own childhood?
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We Can’t Stop Reading
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