As excited as I am to tell you about the books we adored last year, I’m even more excited to be done with it and move on to our new squeezes. So here we go!
I’m limiting myself to 10, in no hierarchical order, plus a handful of Honorable Mentions. In making this list, I included both books that I fell in love with, and books that Thalia asked for time and time again. Sometimes these were one and the same, but you know, kids have their own set of criteria. Ultimately, if a book made it on here, we both got a healthy kick out of it. Oh, and they weren’t all published in 2010. The ones that were are asterisked.
Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu
Oh, how smitten I have been with this book. Everything about it is a delight: the illustrations are so cute they make my teeth hurt (but hurt so good!), the story is hilariously whimsical, and Thalia saying the words “Muddy Bunnies” was truly a highlight of Toddler, Year 2. (OK, it started when she was not quite 2, but who’s counting?)
The bunnies get splooshed by mud, get sucked up by a vacuum, get their tails snipped off with pruning shears. Mr. and Mrs. Goat are the unsuspecting perpetrators. Mr. Bear makes everything all right again. Everyone is happy.
*Henry in Love, by Peter McCarty
Young love between a kitty and a bunny! It’s almost like the first story I ever wrote at age 6. Henry is besotted by Chloe, in that aching elementary school way, and of course that results in some good old-fashioned playground chasing:
The text is ultra-simple, so it’s one of the books that a toddler will soon be chanting with as you turn the pages. But an older reader is going to dig the romantic intrigue.
Skippyjon Jones, by Judith Schachner
Ridiculously fun to read out loud, this one. The “reveal” at the end is fantastic.
This is the kind of book that will liven you up when you think you’re way too tired to read any books tonight. It’s that fun.
*Seasons, by Blexbolex
Not many illustrated children’s books also fit neatly in the category of coffee table books. This one does. It’s exquisite, and I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.
Each season is represented a few times, and the words on the page spreads are sometimes (often) clearly associated. Sometimes, it’s more of a clever stretch. Always, it’s gorgeous.
Apparently Blexbolex’s style here is reminiscent of 60′s-era children’s book illustration. I wish I could confirm that myself, but the knowledge, she is limited. I’m quite enchanted by this book, so I hope to post more fully about it later. Thalia seemed more interested in it than I thought she would be, but I think she’ll dig it more and more as time goes on. It’s a fixture in our living room.
And If the Moon Could Talk, by Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben
Pure poetry. The text to this lovely, gentle book has become a sort of bedtime mantra for us. I feel spellbound, almost, myself, reciting it to Thalia, who’s more or less got the whole thing memorized.
“Moon Could Talk,” as she calls it, is melodic, it’s rich in imagery, it’s colorful, it’s just the right dreamy tone for that final night-night send-off. Ahhh.
*Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf!, by Judy Sierra and J. Otto Seibold
“Revised” children’s stories are definitely a thing these days (that probably started way back with the Stinky Cheese Man, I’m thinking), and this is an example of the subgenre at its best. It’s sort of a mash-up of famous tales, and a clever take on the theme of owning up to your bad deeds. J. Otto Seibold’s illustrations jump off the page as usual.
It’s another read-aloud winner. I read the B.B. Wolf’s song in a sort of swingin’ Frank Sinatra way. I love that, in an act of recompense, he builds the piggies not separate houses, but a sort of three-flat condo. With their own private mud wallow.
*Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String, by Bob Boyle
I’m not in love with the look of this one, but the story grew on me, and it’s fun to read (again, there’s some light singing involved–always a hit with the kiddos), and Thalia has asked for it many a time. Hugo goes chasing this “mysterious red string” alllll over town, making friends along the way. In the end, the string leads back to…his own house. It’s a string from his old red underwear; his doggie sidekick biscuit dragged ‘em alllll over town. Cute, eh?
Plus, the string gets dragged through a noodle shop, hitting all the patrons’ bowls along the way, not to mention the giant noodle vat in the back. Love it! Every single time I read this, though, I pine for a neighborhood noodle shop like the one I used to frequent (Penny’s) in Chicago… Sigh. Slurp. Thalia now loves to point out when we reach this page, “They don’t want stringin their noodles, ew!” No, they most assuredly don’t, my love.
The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger
And then there is this gem, which is the exact opposite of Hugo on this list: I salivate over its immense beauty, but it has not garnered much interest (yet, I say!) from the toddler. A delicate, precise work of collage, it’s truly breathtaking, and I’m bummed that my poor blogging skills mean you’re not going to get a satisfactory gander at it here.
The story is very Lionniesque, which is another reason I love it. But ohhh, the visuals. It’s a true work of art. Like another blogger said, I want to cut out the pages and hang them on the wall. Eventually I’m definitely going to get Forever Friends, another nature-y title by Berger. (There’s a bunny in that one, so it’s got to be good.)
Wabi Sabi, by Mark Reibstein and Ed Young
Another gorgeous book using collage/paper art. Stunning, really. And the story is fantastic: A cat (tortoiseshell, like ours!) named Wabi Sabi goes on a journey to find a wise old monkey who can explain the meaning of her name. Of course this is way over Thalia’s head right now, but she loves the book for its images, and who-knows-what ideas it sparks in her imagination. I’m always confounded by reviews of picture books that complain that younger kids won’t “get” the story. So what?! They’ll get whatever they want to get! That’s the beauty of it all….
This is one we’ll be reading for many, many years, I’m sure of it.
*The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out, Big Time, by Troy Cummings
Like B.B Wolf, this is a funny “revision” of a classic kids’ tale (er, rhyme). Like Hugo, the art doesn’t send me, but the story has been a real hit with Thalia, and it does hit a lot of notes that make it a pleasure for both kid and parent, much the way Pixar films do.
I mean, you have to giggle when Eensy’s mortified after her unfortunate fall from the waterspout ends up “all over the Web.”
Raindrop Plop!, by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Pam Pamparone
Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams
Lull-a-bye, Little One, by Dianne Ochiltree and Hideko Takahashi
Llama Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
Hubnuckles, by Emily Herman and Deborah Kogan Ray
Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
Phew. That’s done. We truly got a lot of story time mileage out of all these (and sooo many more that I can’t even do justice to here) in 2010, and there will be more to come, I’m sure of it.