I’ve fallen behind with the reading logs again—it’s inevitable that I will, from time to time—but I can report that my Rilla-read-aloud time has taken a leap forward into snuggling in with long, text-heavy books of the sort she wasn’t terribly interested in a month or two ago. Brambly Hedge, crammed with all those detailed, pore-overable drawings, hooked her on tales of small, industrious, quaintly dressed animals with British accents (she was already a Potter fan); we’re now well into Tumtum and Nutmeg, and she hasn’t seemed to notice or mind that there are far fewer illustrations, and only black-and-white, at that. There are bustling, clever mice and I get to unleash my best Monty Python impressions on the dialogue. (Tumtum is Michael Palin, of course, and who else is Baron Toymouse but Cleese’s Black Night? My Nutmeg, on the other hand, seems to want to be the cook from the current Upstairs, Downstairs series.)
As for picture books, recent hits with my younger three include:
Rachel Fister has a blister, and everyone around her has a cure. Silly, satisfying rhyming text; Rilla in particular enjoys this kind of linguistic fun.
Good New, Bad News by Jeff Mack.
This one’s a great pick for the 3-6-year-old set, all ye aunties and uncles and godparents out there. A rabbit and a mouse and a picnic gone bad. No, good! No, bad! No, good…The kind of bright, bold, funny drawings my littles are especially drawn to, and unpredictable twists within a highly predictable (ergo comfortable and appealing to preschoolers) structure.
It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by the wonderful Jeremy Tankard.
You know how much we love Tankard’s work. Gorgeous coloring in this book and so much humor and excitement in the drawings. I love that heavy outline on the tiger; Jeremy was an inspired choice to illustrate David LaRochelle’s delightful tale. It’s a rollicking jungle adventure of the best kind, with a suitably ferocious tiger lurking in all sorts of unexpected places, and a kind of “We’re going on a bear hunt” vibe to the text. Huck loves it, and not just because you get to shout “IT’S A TIGER! RUN!” every few pages.
Amy MacDonald, brambly hedge, David LaRochelle, Emily Bearn, Jeff Mack, jeremy tankard, Marjorie Priceman, Picture Book Spotlight, picture books, Rillabooks, Tumtum and Nutmeg
“Mommy, can me have that book? You know, that one me like. Me want to read it. It’s called I’m Hungry.”
Today: My Very First Mother Goose, the Iona Opie/Rosemary Wells collaboration. A gift from my sister when Jane was tiny, so thoroughly loved by all six children overlappingly and in succession that the binding is cracked and peeling. Huck carts this one (and its companion, the red one, called something like “More Mother Goose” or “My Very Second Mother Goose” and yes, I’m being lazy) all around the house, loving on it, talking to the bunnies and cats, naming the nice big initial letters. Today Rilla chose it for our “quiet reading time” (it is seldom very quiet) and she basically read/recited the whole darn book to me, bearing out Charlotte Mason’s theories about using nursery rhymes to teach reading without actually teaching.
Also: selected poems from Milne’s When We Were Very Young.
Yesterday: Dinosaur vs. Bedtime at least a dozen times. And then three or four more rounds with Huck. This was one of my favorites from the Cybils nominees two years ago, and it is enjoying renewed popularity now that Huck is prime dinosaur material.
I can’t remember if we read anything but Dino v. Bed yesterday, but then again it kind of dominated the whole day, didn’t it? ROAR! DINOSAUR WINS!
The day before that: Diary of a Fly, another repeat request, and I know everyone already loves Doreen Cronin’s hilarious insect diaries so I won’t say much beyond: Cronin’s a riot and Harry Bliss’s art is a delight. I especially love the way this book and its mates (Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider) suck my older kids in too and engender such animated discussion afterward. Same goes for Click Clack Moo, which, as someone pointed out on my Goodreads page recently, provides a most excellent jumping-off point for talking about collective bargaining rights.
And finally, two books I pretty much need to mark down for every day this past week: Grumpy Bird and Boo Hoo Bird, both by Jeremy Tankard of Me Hungry fame. I was so enchanted with Tankard’s art in Me Hungry that I absolutely had to track down more of his work. The two bird books do not disappoint. The crabby-face of Grumpy Bird—who wakes up one day too grumpy to fly—actually makes us laugh out loud. We’ve seen that face around here before. Great twist at the end, too. I probably can’t say anything that tops Huck’s endorsement, though. I snuck some video of him ‘reading’ these books after dinner the other night and if I get my act together I’ll try and post it. Made me laugh.
Neither a bird, nor grumpy.
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!