Books People Hate…What’s Your Take?

On our Facebook page I asked readers what book they just don’t like!  We got a big response, by the time I started writing this post there were almost 80 comments. Read them all here . Many of the books mentioned were ones I love.  Books I have read and taught with for years but apparently are also passionately disliked by others. Here are 5 of the books people hate that really surprised me because I like them all.

Would you want these books on your child’s bookcase?

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is a classic for a reason. My son has loved it since day one and it really does a great job of calming before bed, like all great bedtime stories should. As a teacher I hated this book probably because it’s not a great book for groups. I was wrong, this is a gem ! The rhythm and rhymes are perfect to go from a busy day to a calm night. My son chooses this book to read to us often since he knows it by heart and when he’s having trouble sleeping I can lay with him and simply recite it to bring him back down. I say that is pretty great proof of the power of this classic. Edited for 2012 My daughter is now a big fan of this book too, my son loves reading it to her before bed and they are both calmed and engaged with it’s simplicity. I was shocked to see it disliked by so many even though I wasn’t the books biggest fan until I was reading it to my own kids.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch has enchanted me for years. I bought it while volunteering as a leader in training at a day camp when I was a teen. It’s followed me to many schools, children I babysat and finally my own son. I can’t remember one child ever not liking it. It’s a story of Elizabeth a princess who outwits a dragon to rescue her prince. I love that the author has switched the typical damsel in distress and has the princess as the heroine. Some parents have expressed concern about Elizabeth calling the prince a “Bum” in the end of the book, personally I love it. I have always used it to explain why she was so angry, and as a reminder why calling names hurt. That said I think she is totally justified !

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak probably doesn’t need an introduction especially with the current film adaptation. We read this book often and my son randomly quotes the book throughout the day. Telling me to “Be still” just like Max tells the Wild Things. If by chance you are not familiar with this book, it’s a story of a little boy Max who is sent to his room for being wild and his imagination turns it into another world, filled with Wild Things and freedom from rules for behavior. Ultimately though Max’s heart pulls him back home where he is loved most of all, even when he’s wild.

No, David! by David Shannon is probably the author’s best known book, in it we follow the misadventures of little David and his eventual disciplining and hug from his mom. This book is a wonderful icebreaker for talking about rules with a class.  I have successfully used it with many groups of kids and my own as a reminder about rules and why we have them. Kids love watching other kids do naughty things ( and are quick to remind each other of the right way to do things) so this book is always a hit with toddlers on up.

But the most mentioned book was this one.

Love You Forever was called creepy by so many. I admit I have given it a good review relating to the desire to hold my baby even when he is no longer a baby. I personally  like it. My husband nodded and agreed with the masses not me, he thinks it’s creepy too.

So what do you think of these books?

Love them or hate them I am just glad so many of you are as passionate about children’s books as I am .  Even if books make us wonder if the publisher was sleeping when they gave it the go ahead, reading to our kids is essential and in my opinion one of our great responsibilities as parents.  So read on !

Favorite Books Of 2010

These are our top 10 favorite books from reviews we did this year. Some are newly published books, some might be your old faves that were new to us in 2010.

It Hurts When I Poop!: A Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty by Howard J. Bennet was a life saver for us. Many kids start holing their poop after one painful one, and that happened here and we went from no issues to fussing, fighting the potty and finally he admitted he was scared it will hurt. Of course holding it made that worse but try to explain that to a frightened toddler. This book was amazing. The story is long, I skipped some text with my son , but read it all for myself since it’s packed with awesome information for parents too! The book explains digestion, why it hurts and how to make it better on a kids level as well as in more detail for parents. I can’t recommend this more for parents who’s children have hit this very common but very distressing problem.

In the Town All Year ‘Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner is amazing.It’s premise are the comings and goings of a town in all four seasons. There is limited text, which serves only to steer readers to look for specific people in the highly detailed illustrations. Each season has multiple pages and the people remain constant throughout the seasons. So you see inside an apartment building , the town square, the park, railroad station etc… in every season.  You see the changes in town, the progression and of course the distinct weather in each section. The pictures also progress within the seasons, so a fire truck with a flashing light can be seen on every page in one season with the last page showing it getting to the fire . I can’t possibly explain the amazing detail and sheer number of things to find, make up stories about and spark your child’s imagination in this book.  My son adores it. After renewing it multiple times from our library I bought it as his Valentine’s gift.  It goes everywhere with us, perfect for long drives , waits in the Ob’s waiting room and plain old playtime  he picks it up every day and finds something new.

What I really love is that because there is no text but still multiple story lines it’s helped my son to understand that literacy isn’t just about words, it about explaining what’s going on, and reading the pictures too. The absence of text has allowed me to really show him that . Now he has started grabbing books with text and telling me he’d read me the pictures, which boosts both his confidence and his enjoyment of independent reading.

Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley   is on my must buy list. I don’t say that often, especially with such a great public library, but this book is wonderful. Nate is a little boy who after seeing a ballet school production with his class at school, decides he too wants to take ballet. Of course his older brother has something to say, and say and say but Nate is pretty confident with the help of his parents , that boys can take ballet.  I love that Nate wants to dance but he hates the idea that he might have to wear pink, clearly pink is not a good thing to him, he just wants to dance.  what I love about this book as a woman who spent more than her fair share of time at a ballet bar in her growing up years, is that it depicts boy dancers well. The stereotype of a “sissy” doesn’t often fit and I knew many boys that danced that were masculine and graceful. I encourage parents of boys and girls to read this, to open our kids horizons to being interested in whatever their heart desires, not to what older brothers, neighbors or anyone else tells them to be.

Road Builders by B.G. Hennessy was a birthday gift for my son in November and he was not interested at first. Maybe because of the plethora of lego that was taking over our house… however it has since become such a favorite he recently “read” it to my sister’s dog. It’s a story all about how a road is built , explaining what the crew does, and how each type of construction vehicle has a different role in building a road.  I like that it explains the process from start to finish, in just the right level of detail for preschoolers.  I also like that there is a female crew member and her participation is seamless .

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse by Rebecca Janni is everything a children’s book ought to be. It’s clever, cute, and has a great message without being preachy. It’s Nellie Sue’s birthday and the one thing she really wants is a horse. See she is a cowgirl, everything she does she relates back in her imagination to some chore on the farm. When she is cleaning out her guinea pig cage, she is “cleaning the stalls at the barn” and when she is filling her dog’s water bowl she is “filling the trough” . When her birthday surprise isn’t a horse but a bike instead she is a little skeptical but with her imagination and true cowgirl spirit she makes it into the best horse ever! I loved how her parents play along with her imagination but don’t simply get her a horse, rather they present her the bike as if it is one, in her own terms. Great book!

Doctor Meow’s Big Emergency by Sam Lloyd was taken out of the library late last week and has been read at least twice a day since, we both know it off my heart.  In the book readers meet Dr. Meow and her trusty ambulance driver Woof as they care for patience and rush to the aid of Tom Cat who has been injured falling out of a tree. Really it’s a story about being kind to others and forgiving, as Tom Cat learns not to pick on little Mr. Bird and in turn Mr. Bird forgives Tom Cat for his mistakes.  Both my son and I loved the little cheeky details, humor and fun little world that the author illustrator created in this book.

Snowman in Paradise by Michael Roberts is genius. There I said it. I very rarely think that of books. I like the majority of books I read and think there are so many good ones to share but I don’t want to return this one to the library, I want to keep it! The book is about a snowman from Manhattan who is glum after Christmas and wants to go on a vacation too. A magical bluebird grants his wish and he flies first class to a tropical island , with the only rule being he needs to come back in time for Christmas next year. This book is written like the traditional “Night Before Christmas” and although I thought the copy would be too long for my son at first , I was so wrong. The rhymes are unique , my favorite being :

In May after splashing with buckets of paint, He threw down his brush, saying, “Gauguin I ain’t.”

Even if some references are more for the adults reading it than the children listening , both parties will close the book smiling and wanting to start all over again.  Grab it and see why I love it so much!

Baby on the Way by William Sears MD, Martha Sears RN and Christie Watts Kelly  has been the very best baby book we’ve found. It explains much of pregnancy from nausea, to aching feet and even nesting. It also describes labor in a really kid friendly non intimidating way. I love that it explains that in mommy’s belly is a baby holder called a uterus. My son has been asking me how my uterus is since reading this daily for the past week. Explaining contractions, that others will likely be taking care of them for a little while and what mommy is doing when she is not with you is all really useful. It also goes on to explain what babies will do , like nursing, crying and what that funny crinkled thing is on it’s belly!  The book also offers many many resources for expectant parents.


Firefighter Frank by Monica Wellington was a huge score at the library. My son and I both love this author/illustrator and have read many of her books , but this one has never been available, and I can see why. The author has a knack for sharing information with her readers in a fun, simple way that is perfect for preschoolers. This book is no exception to her other great books.  I particularly enjoy some of the vocabulary she uses in this book about Firefighter Frank, words like shrill, intense, and exhausted. They aren’t obscure words but they are not often seen in books geared to those as young as this one, and the context is supportive so that even a young child can help decipher the meaning of the words.  The book itself tells a simple( and common) story but between the author’s ability to tell the story better than other authors, and the bright and beautiful illustrations this books stands out from the firefighter crowd.

One Red Apple by Harriet Ziefert is stunning. I really enjoy this author but most of my praise for this book lands squarely on the illustrator Karla Gudeon’s shoulders. WOW. I just adore the look, and creativity of this book. The story follows the cycle of one apple from orchard, to market back to seed, tree and back into the hands of a child. I enjoy books like this that simply explain the cycles of the natural world to young kids , but you can’t miss this one.  As I turned each page I gasped, it’s one of those books you just need to sit and look at because eqach time you do you find some little detail you missed before.


Christmas Books Worth Reading!

Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like snuggling up with my kids and reading Christmas books. I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet but if you are hoping to find these books at your local library you need to get them now!  No time to read this week? You aren’t the only one. I collaborated on an article with Stacie Billis at The Family Kitchen all about ways to keep your kids busy while you are preparing for the holidays.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown will sound very familiar to you if you are a fan of her book The Big Red Barn, which both my son and I am. I like this book but my son kept saying ” That’s not right” thinking that this was the other book. They are that similar. In this book though there is something that the other doesn’t have, most notably Baby Jesus. It’s a calm and gentle book about the birth of Jesus in a way only Margaret Wise Brown could accomplish.  I would like to read it next year to my son when he can appreciate that it’s not supposed to be exactly the same as  the Big Red Barn. Great book for toddlers and preschoolers alike!

Happy Christmas, Gemma by Sarah Hayes is a hidden gem. The book is narrated by a preschooler, the older brother to little baby Gemma. Throughout this family’s preperations for and celebration of Christmas he notes how he does what he is supposed to and his baby sister does not.  She makes messes,  pulls the ornaments off the tree, has terrible table manners during Christmas dinner and so much more! What makes this a gem in my mind is that no one ever corrects her, these are all age appropriate behaviors and the family is loving and accepting.  Perfect for families like mine who are expecting a baby, or those with older siblings who like to boss their younger ones around and may need a reminder that babies are still learning, just like they are!

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston made me cry. The story is about the hardships and love of one family torn apart by World War 1 as they prepare for Christmas with no resources. I love how strong the mother in this book is, she does the best he can with what she has, treks through snow to cut that big old Christmas tree down , and the part that made me cry uses her own wedding dress to make her daughter an angel costume for the Christmas pageant. Oh but that is not all she sacrificed, she  used the silk stockings her husband sent her from the war to make a doll for Santa to give to her daughter. The father coming home right as they were leaving the church service – once again starting my water works.  It’s an awesome story but probably too long for a group of kids , or toddlers , but perfect for a bedtime story for preschoolers on up. Also this book and the one previous were illustrated by Barbara Cooney , who captures such meaningful stories with her amazing work.

My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is a perfect book for this activity. In this story a little boy writes to Santa and asks for a very specific gift, a real live penguin! It’s not long before he realizes that a real live penguin is not as much fun as he thought it would be. He is very responsible though and sacrifices a lot for Osbert. He is thankful to Santa for getting his gift exactly right but writes a follow up letter explaining how it would be ok if Santa sent a replacement. Very cute story, it’s not short though but my 3 year old listened to it happily for a bedtime story. Laughing at the funny parts and pointing out that he wrote a letter to Santa too, but he didn’t ask for a penguin… thank goodness!

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky is a fun and surprisingly practical story about Santa and how he developed the skills needed for his one of a kind job.  It starts with Santa as a young man and as he keeps bouncing from job to job he acquires skills like going in and out of chimneys as a chimney sweep with ease and without getting dirty,  develops a relationship with reindeer as a zoo worker and gets chubby eating all the food at a all night diner gig!  There are more but i don’t want to spoil the story. My son loved it, especially once the elves showed up, which was when the toys did too! I know when i was a kid I wanted to know how Santa got his job, and there are movies dedicated to this so this book  jumped on the bandwagon and did a great job , it’s very cute!

Bear Stays Up for Christmasby Karma Wilson is such a heartwarming story about friendship. Bear is hibernating but his friends wake him up to celebrate Christmas. It’s not easy at first , Bear is super sleepy and wants nothing more than to cuddle back up and fall back to sleep.  They get a tree, decorate it, hang their stockings and sing carols. When all the other animals snuggle in and go to sleep Bear stays up. He is busily making gifts for all his friends, he is so busy he doesn’t even notice Santa coming and filling the stockings. He delights in the friendship and when his friends present him with a lovely quilt, he snuggles under and goes back to sleep happy and filled with friendship. This is such a wonderful book , I love it’s focus on friendship and the excitement of giving gifts!

Halloween Books

Halloween will be here before we know it and all the good Halloween books will be gobbled up at the library soon too.  I thought I’d share my favorites now so you have time to grab them before someone else does. Remember preschoolers love to relive special days after they happen so don’t put the books away with your decorations, leave them out a little longer.

Wobble, the witch cat by Mary Calhoun is a vintage story that is charming and much loved by my son. Wobble is a cat who belongs to Maggie a kind old witch , but Wobble hates riding on Maggie’s slippery broom. The other cats tease him and with Halloween coming up he decides to get rid of Maggie’s broom. When Maggie can’t find her magic broom, all she finds is a vacuum cleaner, but will it fly?  My son loves vacuum cleaners and thought it was hilarious that a witch would try to fly on one. I liked the  idea that witches sweep the sky so that the children can be safe under the stars on Halloween night.

Inside a House That Is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli was the hands down favorite Halloween book for my 3 year old class in 2005. I must have read this 200 times and even after Christmas had come and gone it was still requested all the time. The story is a rebus read along, so it is repetitive and it builds upon itself. This is great for children who are eager to “read along” before they are able to read words. The repetitiveness allows them to anticipate what is next and feel included. Very cute even after reading it hundreds of times.

Peek-a-Boooo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti is a perfect toddler Halloween book. The premise is simple, each page has a well known Halloween character including a witch, skeleton, Frankenstein all hiding behind their hands playing peek-a-boo with the readers. The characters hands are flaps and when you lift them they reveal the character’s face – which is always sweet and happy , never scary.  At the end of the book there are more flaps to lift to reveal trick or treaters and the same Halloween characters hiding in their haunted house. My son loves this book too and  I think it’s a great completely gentle way to read about Halloween with toddlers.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! by Lucille Colandro was a huge hit! It’s a reworking of the classic song ” There was an old lady who swallowed a fly” only this one swallows a whole bunch of Halloween creatures, like a goblin, ghost and of course a bat.  She continues to swallow bigger and bigger things much to my son’s amazement! He was giggling through the whole book and the end when the old lay belches he laughed hysterically. It was predictable but I have to admit was a really fun , silly read.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is on my must buy list! A little girl moves into house and soon finds out it is haunted. Luckily she is a witch and knows just what to do. The ghosts in the story seem mischievous but never scary and even when she washes them in the washing machine, they are still smiling! My son loved this book, the text was the perfect length for a 3 year old, short but still descriptive.  I loved the simple  black and orange colors and had to look at the copyright twice because I was certain this was written sometime in the 30s, nope 2008. The simplicity of the book and colors is balanced so well with the little details like the litt;e girl’s constant companion , a white cat that puts on a black costume when the little witch pops on her hat. This detail had my son in stitches, “Cats don’t wear clothes , silly cat!” .  Absolutely a perfect Halloween book for children not yet ready to be scared for fun!

Books My Baby Loves

Are you reading to your baby? I try to remember to when I am not already doing 3 things at once. I love sitting in my rocker and reading to my daughter and she has already shown preference… ok yes she is only 3 months old so maybe it’s coincidental but she doesn’t fuss when I read her any of these books. It’s never too early to read to your babies so if you aren’t already grab one of these books and read!

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown isn’t an innovative choice but I make babies who love this book. My son could be “Goodnight Mooned ” to sleep as a baby if we simply recited the words and while my daughter isn’t at that point yet she sits happily listening to our voices as we read it to her. I will be the first to admit I didn’t always love this book but as a mom it’s been more than a book, it’s been a signal to my son that it’s bedtime and I hope that it becomes part of my daughter’s routine soon too.  The story is simple , it’s not even really a story so much as a baby bunny saying goodnight to all the objects in his room including the moon peeking in the window.

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley is a rhythmic rhyming book that suggests movements for the readers ( perhaps when she is sitting or standing she will follow along) with fun and silly pictures of kids mixed with animals doing the actions. What probably appeals to my 3 month old are the bright colors on the white background and the rhythm of the text.Also it’s a fun book to have an older sibling join in with and do the actions as you read.

Moo Baa La La Laby Sandra Boynton always makes me laugh. There is something about the facial expressions her animals always have that crack me up, and lets me honest if the book is good for the adult reading it, it’s always a plus. Super bright colors on each page is a huge plus for my baby girl as I flip the pages, and even though she doesn’t get the humor yet she will soon enough and it’s a book that will grow with her.

Good Night, Gorillaby Peggy Rathmann is simply one of my favorite books ever. I love it and love that my daughter doesn’t fuss when I read it to her because it was a special book for my son when he was little and it’s a book he will still curl up and read quietly with us, making it fun cuddle time for all three of us. If you aren’t familiar with this book it’s all about a sneaky gorilla who unlocks all the animals at the zoo and they quietly follow the zoo keeper home and climb into bed with him, until his wife wakes up! I love this book cause I relate to the zoo keepers wife , when I wake up there is always a sneaky 3 year old gorilla in my bed!

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger is a book that makes me crave dumplings something fierce but my daughter seems to like the rhymes and pink and red colors throughout. The book explains in a zippy text all about Dim Sum . It’s a board book targeted to babies it’s really useful to use to teach children about foods they may be unfamiliar with. There is even a little appendix with Chinese words for all the items mentioned in the book like tea, rice and tarts.