Posts Tagged ‘books my four-year-old loves’

Picture Book Spotlight: Mustache Baby

November 23, 2013 @ 7:54 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

Mustache BabyMustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang.

Sometimes you just want a book that makes a kid belly laugh. From the moment Baby Billy makes his appearance, mustachioed from the get-go, Huck and Rilla were in stitches. As Billy grows, his mustache makes it easy for him to assume a variety of roles: cowboy, cop, painter, circus ringleader. But beware the toddler with a long, twirly, Snidely Whiplash mustache: you might have a wee villain on your hands. The surprise ending generated the biggest guffaw of all from my small fry. When Huck discovered the book had gone back to the library, he very nearly grew a bad-guy mustache on the spot. Don’t worry—just like Billy, he recovered his good-guy wits before any dastardly deeds were done. Mustache Baby will be making a repeat visit very soon.

Chapter book suggestions for a four-year-old

June 15, 2011 @ 2:24 pm | Filed under: Books, Chapter Books, Read-Alouds

Thought I’d start tackling some of your open thread questions. Here’s one from sashwee:

Do you have chapter book recommendations for a 4yo girl who is very verbal, and has a good attention span for listening, (similar to your Rilla?) but still only 4 (well almost 5) and not ready for the full brunt of…life?…fiction?

Matter of fact, I do!

(Last night, at the weekly kidlitchat on Twitter, I realized that one of the things I enjoy most in the whole world is helping people find good books to read—being a book matchmaker. If there were such a thing as eHarmony for readers, I could totally work there.)

All right, suggestions for a four-year-old who is ready to listen to chapter books:

My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Our family’s favorite choice for that first “book with chapters” read-aloud. Scott is working his way through the trilogy with Rilla right now.

• The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I’ve written much about this lovely tale here and here.

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards.

Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, and its sequel, More Milly-Molly-Mandy. Like Naughty Little Sister, these are episodic books; each chapter is its own little story. Milly-Molly-Mandy’s busy daily adventures—very much rooted in simple domestic village life, running errands for her family, staying alone for the first time, deciding what to spend her hard-earned pennies on—have enchanted all four of my girls around age four or five.

Winnie-the-Pooh (does that go without saying?)

• the first two Betsy-Tacy books can be perfect for a five-year-old, but I have found my girls really clicked with Betsy at a slightly older age—perhaps seven or eight. (More about my Betsy-Tacy devotion here.)

• Sid Fleischman’s hilarious Farmer McBroom tall tales. I recommend starting with McBroom’s Zoo, which can be found in the collection: McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales.

• Kipling’s Just-So Stories. I began reading these to Rilla at age four and she adores them—the belly laughs are irresistible. I rather suspect, however, that she believes “O Best Beloved” is referring to her specifically and is likely to be disgruntled when she realizes I read those words to her big sisters before her, in their day.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (the very first one, which has a special kind of sweetness and earnestness to it—this was a head-over-heels-in-love book for Jane at age 4).

Old Mother West Wind and other Thornton Burgess animal stories—now, for us these were hit or miss. I had come kids adore them, and others who found them dull.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater. In our house, this is a read-aloud reserved exclusively for the daddy.

Pippi Longstocking, of course!

The Borrowers by Mary Norton, and The Littles by John Peterson. When it comes to tiny people living hidden in human houses, I’m a Borrowers girl all the way. Then again, the Littles have tails.

Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn. Small animals behaving like people: almost as much fun as tiny hidden people. And what’s that other very young mouse-people series I’m forgetting? Hedge something. Brambly Hedge! That’s it.

• I don’t find Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann Stories very easy to read aloud—he tends toward the insipid—but I remember how magical I found those books as a very young child. Sodapop fountains!

The Cricket in Times Square. The kind of middle-grade story that always seems to hold our current four-year-old spellbound when Dad is reading it to the older kids.

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron. There’s a sequel, too—More Stories Julian Tells. I love these books! Need to pull them out for Rilla and Wonderboy.

This list could go on for a really long time. I know there are many great books I’m omitting, but these are the ones that come most immediately to mind. HOWEVER, it is almost guaranteed that as soon as I publish this post, I will kick myself for forgetting some particular favorite. Like actually just this minute I have remembered Doctor Boox. I adore Doctor Boox. I must go and find our copy of Doctor Boox immediately. Immediately!

I have a whole nother batch of suggestions for a six- or seven-year-old. For a four-year-old, I’ve seen the most connection and delight with very simple, homey kinds of books. That’s why I haven’t included authors like C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Kate di Camillo, E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, E. B. White, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and Frances Hodgson Burnett—I save those for a few years down the road. (Having said that, James and the Giant Peach might be a great fit for a four-year-old. Humongous bugs! What could be better?)

For a four-year-old, I would also reiterate my enthusiastic recommendation of Jim Weiss and Jay O’Callahan story tapes.

And folk and fairy tales by the dozens.

And I’ll add this thought—although Rilla (who turned five in April) has indeed enjoyed several of the chapter books I’ve mentioned above, and her My Father’s Dragon time with Daddy is her favorite part of the day, she would rather read picture books with me than a “Long Book” at this point. Almost every day she goes around the house collecting a stack of picture books for “quiet reading time.” (By that she means being alone with me—it isn’t actually all that quiet.) 😉 I haven’t added to the Rillabook list in the sidebar for weeks because lately all her choices are books we’ve read and read and read again. I find this to be very common at the emergent reader stage—as opposed to, say, a ten-year-old who seems to want new new new more more more at a rate nearly impossible to keep up with.

(I think these cycles of rereading beloved favorites and hungering for exciting new frontiers continue all through life. In my early teens, I was a binge rereader—both of my childhood favorites and of newer passions like the Pern books or—dare I admit it—the unflinchingly formulaic Silhouette First Love romances of the ’80s, for which I actually had a subscription. It makes sense that in times of great change or stress, formula fiction and the deeply familiar offer special comfort and appeal. This is probably the same psychological need that makes me crave nothing but Agatha Christie when I’m sick.)

I’m sure other people will have great suggestions in the comments! (Hint hint.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go introduce my children to Doctor Boox.

Related post: Early Readers as Read-Alouds, and Other Book Suggestions for Three-Year-Olds.

Me Want Her Come Back

March 10, 2011 @ 6:28 am | Filed under: Books, Friends, Picture Book Spotlight

When my blog-friend Hannah came to visit us last week—and a delightful visit it was—Rilla fell in love with her on sight. Actually, we all did; I’ve known Hannah online for years, and it was wonderful to get to sit down with her in person and talk books and kids and the virtues of dirty floors and all those things we’ve conversed about in the interwebz for so long.

(I say “blog-friend” only to convey that we met each other via our blogs, not in any way to convey a less real kind of friendship than the sort that blooms away from a screen. Some of my favorite people are people I got to know from their writing online.)

Hannah’s visit passed way too quickly; there was far more to talk about than we could squeeze into a morning. We need an encore, this time with her kids too. I think my favorite moment was when Rilla produced a copy of a picture book she has been entirely enchanted with these past couple of weeks, Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard, and roped nice Miss Hannah into reading it with her.

It’s about a cave-boy who tells his parents “Me hungry” but they tell him “Me busy” so he goes off by himself to hunt. He encounters a rabbit (“Me hide!”), a porcupine (“Me sharp!”), and a tiger (“Me mean!”) before running into a woolly mammoth who surprises him by becoming his friend. The caveman speech is funny and charming, not at all arch, the art is tremendously fun, and the little twist at the end elicits a belly laugh from my four-year-old every single time—seriously, after dozens of readings, many of them on the same day. The look on the daddy caveman’s face just cracks her up.

But why oh why oh why didn’t I get a picture of Rilla and Hannah reading together? Me kicking myself!

Eight Beloved Books

February 28, 2011 @ 6:48 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

After last week’s startling discovery that Rilla had not yet made the acquaintance of Miss Rumphius (that she remembered, at least), I realized there were a number of unmissable picture books that she has, in fact, missed up to now. This is what happens when you’re the fifth child. She listens in on the older kids’ read-alouds—The Hobbit, The Strictest School in the World, Tom Sawyer—and there has been a steady stream of newly published picture books in her world, thanks in large part to the review copies I often receive. But even for a reading family, there are only so many books you can cram into a day.

Which is why Rilla made it almost to her fifth birthday without meeting Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and the Lupine Lady.

I’ve been combing through the shelves in search of other must-reads, and there’s now a two-foot-high bookstack in front of the (never used) fireplace. Several of those appear in this week’s list of recent reads.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Top of the list in every respect. “I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more…though I know that IS the noblest ambition…but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me…to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.” That’s Anne Shirley, not Alice Rumphius, but they’re kindred spirits, aren’t they?

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Okay, I’ve been reading this book aloud for fifteen years, and I’m still undecided. Ouack: “Oh-ack”? Or “Wack”? I usually opt for the latter, but that kind of throws off the whole alphabetical rhythm. Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack…Wack?

Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybanez. The text of this gorgeous, lush, evocative book is a paragraph from Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. Rilla, like all three of her older sisters before her, is spellbound by its rich colors, rolling cadences, and the comfortable family warmth of this unusual book that is more prose poem than story, a little girl’s description of all the kinds of hair in her family. “My mother’s hair, my mother’s hair like little rosettes, like little candy circles…”

Koala Lou by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Lofts. Honestly, I think my little ones care less about the plot of this book than they do the mama koala’s cooing refrain: “Koala Lou, I do love you.” Me, I’m crazy about the colored pencil drawings.

Bub: Or the Very Best Thing by Natalie Babbitt. I pulled this one off the shelf for the aforementioned big stack of classics, but I knew I wouldn’t be reading it to Rilla myself. This one is reserved for the daddy of the family. It’s a special favorite of ours, and if I gave things stars, I would give it as many as I possibly could. An out-of-print gem. The king and queen want the “best thing” for their young prince, but what does that mean? Their quest for the answer takes them all over the castle—but it seems the young prince has known the answer all along.

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Bruce Degen. All you Five in a Row mothers out there just got a wave of nostalgia, didn’t you? 😉 Rilla faintly remembered it—it had been perhaps a year since it last found its way off the shelf into our laps. My little boys adore Jesse Bear too. Reading this with Rilla the other night was a particularly sweet moment for me; the text’s rhythm and repetition gave her just the right footing for a sudden spurt forward in reading. She took over on page two and what-will-you-wear-in-the-morning’d her way through the book. I could listen to that a hundred times in a row. (As long as you don’t make me count the stars.)

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood. This one’s a Huck magnet. Rilla’s frankly a bit suspicious: she’s pretty sure the narrator is putting one over on the little mouse. Didn’t stop her from asking for it six times in succession.

Brave Georgie Goat by Denis Roche. When I open this book, it doesn’t matter which child is on my lap: I’m 27 again, and Jane’s a two-year-old in a hospital bed. Our dear friend Joan Slattery, a Knopf editor at the time, brought Jane this book on one of her visits to the cancer ward, and we both fell head over heels in love with it. Scott too, actually. It’s difficult to convey the sweet simplicity of these three short stories about matters of vital importance to very small goats and girls. If Mommy Goat goes, how can you be sure she’ll come back? What do you do when your best friend and constant companion, your beloved red coat, doesn’t fit you anymore? And what are all those ominous shapes and sounds in your room when the lights go out? The grownup goats in these brief tales (Mommy and Grandpa) are a gentle and steady source of comfort for a little kid who is beginning to take notice of a very big world.

Recently Read to Rilla

January 5, 2011 @ 7:46 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule.

My very favorite book when I was a preschooler, made all the more wonderful by the art of the inimitable George Booth. “Never tease a weasel, not even once or twice. A weasel wouldn’t like it, and teasing isn’t nice!” This was one of the first books I learned by heart. Loads of fun with language, and that refrain is irresistible.

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile.

Bink reminds me of Tib: tiny, fluffy, determined. Gollie is just this side of an Edward Gorey character. Which is to say: I adore ’em both. Rilla won’t let me read this one to her just once. Gotta be two or three times in a row. A smart, funny, sophisticated Early Reader—which sounds like an oxymoron but isn’t. Rilla is captivated by the intense personalities of Bink and Gollie, and by the ups and downs of their relationship. Every time we read it, she wants to discuss and discuss. In a way, this is her first book-club book: that book you love so much you just have to talk about it.

Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers: Another Love Story by Sam Lloyd.

Poor Mr. Pusskins, tormented by that rogueish kitten, and blamed for his hijinks to boot. Wonderful expressions on the feline faces here. Rilla is smitten with cat and kitten.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas.

My SIL recommended this one and I bet I’ve read it a hundred times so far this week. No exaggeration. Huge hit with the three youngest, especially Rilla who is in a big rhyme phase. Bonus: vacuum cleaner sucking noises.

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham.

One of my favorites from my stint as a first-round CYBILs picture book judge in 2008. Now a repeat request from Rilla, who loves the quiet, earnest tone of this story about a boy who rescues an injured pigeon. The kind of book you pore over and talk about, heads together.

Hooray for Grandma Jo by Thomas McKean.

A family favorite. Grandma Jo loses her glasses the night before Little Lloyd is due for a visit. That’s how she happens to bring home an escaped zoo lion instead. She plies her furry visitor with ice cream and dancing, and they have a fine old time, managing to thwart a burglar while they’re at it. Big belly laughs from my littles over this one.

More book recommendations here.

Books We Love #I’ve Lost Count

October 6, 2010 @ 10:14 am | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel.

Some days are Miss Suzy days. (When you’re a four-year-old girl, pretty much every day is a Miss Suzy day.) Today is gray and drizzly, a rarity for us here in sunny SoCal. Especially in October, which I’ve been recalibrated (after four years here) to think of as That Baking Hot Month When It’s All About the Santa Anas. Wildfire month. But not today. Today is chilly, blankety weather. I was tempted to call off the older kids’ morning activity, just so I wouldn’t have to venture out from under the quilt. But I didn’t. Out we went, and home we came, and the baby went down for an early nap, and Rilla and Wonderboy and I cuddled up to visit Miss Suzy.

When I open its pages, I’m swept again with the same wave of love I felt as a small girl. Oh how I adore Miss Suzy’s house. The firefly lamps, the moss rug, the acorn cups. Please can’t I live there? I feel now exactly as I did at age—I don’t know, four? five? six? When did I encounter this book? Who read it to me?

Those horrible red squirrels. I remember how sick I felt the first time I turned the page and saw that awful squirrel cracking Miss Suzy’s dear twig broom in half. How impressed I was by the grand, cobwebby dollhouse, and how well I understood Miss Suzy’s not-quite-contentment there, even after she’d tidied it up, even after she had the nice toy soldiers to mother. She could see the stars from her bed in the little house in the old oak tree, her poor little ransacked house overrun with the quarrelsome red squirrels.

Wonderboy enjoys the book well enough, but Rilla is as enchanted as ever I was. As I write this, I can hear her humming in the next room; she’s writing (and I quote) “my own version of Miss Suzy, a-cept it has a chickmunk instead of a squirrel.” I’m under orders not to peek until she’s ready.

I hope she includes the acorn cups.

4oth anniversary edition published by Purple House Press. Who the heck are Purple House Press? Oh my goodness, I just looked them up—I had no idea! They’re doing reprints of out-of-print children’s classics! They’re the folks who brought back Twig! Purple House Press, you are my new best friends!

More book recommendations here.