Thinking Outside the Box This Valentine’s Day

February 5, 2013 § 4 Comments

Lovabye DragonIs there a better way to shower our children with love this Valentine’s Day than by snuggling under a blanket with them and sharing a new story? And yet, I’m never thrilled with the list of books that the media typically puts forth as gift ideas for V-Day. Chances are you already have your fair share of books about parental affection (the Guess How Much I love You? sort). If I’m being totally honest, I feel a tad exploited by these lovey-dovey books about hugging and kissing and eternal love; too often they’re lacking in imagination and art and feel instead like a cheap move by publishers to go after our vulnerability as parents (I’ll get off my soapbox now). There are some wonderful classics, like Judith Viorst’s Rosie and Michael and Sandal Stoddard Warbug’s I Like You, but their content is arguably more appropriate for grown-ups to give one another.

So when it comes to Valentine’s Day, I like to think outside the box. In the past, I’ve given my son the glorious Red Sings from the Treetops (hey, there’s red in the title) and The Jolly Postman (Valentines are like letters, right?). But this year, I have an especially good one pegged for my two-year-old daughter; I’ve been hiding it under my bed since it came out last fall and biding my time to spring it on her.

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January’s Birthday Pick

January 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

I Took the Moon for a WalkFor this month’s birthday pick, I’m doing something a little different: 1) I’m focusing on the youngest ages for a change; 2) I’ve chosen not one but two books (which make a perfect pairing); and 3) I’m encouraging you to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on books that aren’t brand new but are commonly unknown.

In short, the next time you are headed to a birthday party for a one or two year old, you’re in luck. I Took the Moon for a Walk (Ages 1-4) and Listen, Listen (Ages 1-4) are both illustrated by the supremely talented Alison Jay, whose praises I have sung here before. With their over-sized 9” by 9” format, these hefty board books mirror another favorite by Jay, her ABC: A Child’s First Alphabet Book (which tends to be well known and for good reason: it may just be the best alphabet book ever illustrated).

Alison Jay’s books are the ultimate gift. Packed with hidden surprises, layered with detail, and shimmering in vivid colors underneath a “crackle” finish, Jay’s paintings beg to be poured over again and again.

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Now Please Go to Sleep

November 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

The best parenting advice I ever received—and didn’t listen to—came when I was in the throes of sleep training my six month old. The advice was: “Make sure you pick a short bedtime ritual, because you’ll be doing it for a long time.” Of course, when you’re knee-deep in sleep deprivation, it’s not easy to see into the future and predict that five years later, your son will still expect a book, water, two songs (one being a made-up “Curious George” song, don’t ask), a hug, a kiss, and a very involved tucking in of the covers every single night.

We all get wiser the second time around; and consequently, I have a five year old who takes 45 minutes to put to bed, and a two year old who takes 45 seconds. But one thing remains the same: I love a good bedtime story.

The best bedtime stories are filled with gentle, lulling rhymes; jewel-toned illustrations; and ample opportunities for whispers and kisses (see my full list at the end of this post). The witching hours of dinner and bath time behind us, pajamas donned and teeth brushed, our collective bodies relax as the first words are read. No matter what madness has just transpired in the moments leading up to this one, peace is now restored; those big juicy bonds of love can flow freely once more (because, let’s face it, it’s almost over).

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Hoot Hoot

July 24, 2012 Comments Off on Hoot Hoot

As a city girl who spent her summers in the country, I was easily awed by how pitch black the night could get in the absence of city lights. My kids are similarly fascinated and spooked by the Darkest of Nights, like the ones they recently experienced while vacationing at my grandmother’s lake house in Ontario. Especially on cloudy nights, with the lake on one side and the woods on the other, everything becomes enveloped in pure blackness—and yet the darkness is alive with a chorus of strange and unusual sounds.

I love reading books that infuse nighttime with a dose of friendliness—with delight, if you will—and encourage kids to see the darkness outside their windows as something accessible. I also happen to think that owls in picture books are ridiculously cute (including how my 22-month-old daughter says “hoot hoot” with a perfectly rounded mouth); and, as luck would have it, some of the best books about nighttime happen to star precocious and energetic young owls.

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Putting Dad to Bed

June 15, 2012 Comments Off on Putting Dad to Bed

This Sunday is Father’s Day, so Dad deserves a break. Maybe he should go to bed early. But what if he starts doing cartwheels and runs around the house yelling, “No, no no, I won’t go to sleep!” What if he tries to negotiate one more story (after he has already had two) and then needs to be tucked in just right and then calls you back to leave the hall light on—until you realize: “A Dad who doesn’t want to go to sleep is exhausting!”

This is exactly what goes down in the delightful new picture book (originally published in France), titled My Dad is Big and Strong, BUT…: A Bedtime Story (Ages 3-6), by Coralie Saudo, illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo. A little boy tell us: “My Dad is big and strong, but every night it’s the same old story. And this is how it begins: ‘I don’t want to go to bed!’” The ordeal that follows, turning a classic parent-child struggle on its head, will have both boys and girls in stitches.

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You Thought You Could Talk on the Phone?

May 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s a situation we moms know all too well: The kids are playing nicely together; it’s quiet, even harmonious. You tiptoe to the other end of the house to make a “quick phone call.” As soon as the person on the other end answers the phone, there’s a tug on your leg. Suddenly, someone needs milk. Another someone is stepping over you trying to pull the scissors down to open a Zappos box (didn’t you leave that package on the porch)? Another someone has decided now is an opportune time to start poking his sister’s eyes. Another someone (or is it the same someone?) would like dinner and would like dinner NOW but not broccoli no way not eating that and why can’t we have mac ‘n cheese like so-and-so does every night and blah blah blah.

So, it’s no surprise that we sympathize with the mom in While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat (Ages 3-6), by newcomers Amy Reichert and Alexandra Boiger (pub. 2012). Bedtime is approaching, so Mama asks her daughter (think Eloise with red hair): “Rose, dear, please get ready for bed while I have a quick chat with your Uncle Fred. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. It’s getting late! I want you in bed by half past eight.” Naturally, Rose is well intentioned and would go straight to bed (truly), but what’s one to do when the doorbell rings and your mom doesn’t hear it and so you open the door and in bursts a team of men with party supplies for a party you didn’t know you were throwing?

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