William Steig’s When Everybody Wore a Hat captivated the both of us. It’s about what things were like when he was eight years old, in 1916. Little snippets of daily life: “Mom said Esther Haberman had a big mouth.” “For a nickel you could get a lot: a hot dog sandwich from a stand. A pound of fruit. A movie.” “There was no such thing as a hatless human being. Cops had hats. Criminals had hats. Even monkeys.” Rough, childlike art, yet so quintessentially Steig and brilliant in its rich storytelling—Rilla loved it, wanted the pages turned slowly so she could pore over every detail. Home run.
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day—three times in a row. She’s read it dozens of times before, of course; this is a perennial favorite here; but this time it tickled her more than ever. Real belly laughs, those amazing deep-chuckly ones that mean wonder and abandon. We never noticed the mischievous glint in Carl’s eye until today, right after the mother has left and the baby is climbing out of the crib onto his back. “He’s grinning!” Rilla cried. “I never saw that.” The aquarium-dunking and the living-room dancing made her laugh and laugh. “Again,” she begged. “Again!”
Let’s Do Nothing—another repeat favorite. She loves Tony Fucile’s art, loves to compare the expressions of the do-nothing boys to Bink and Gollie.
Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Konnecke. We’d read this once before and she squealed with delight when it turned up in the pile—“I’ve been looking for this!” Who knew? Anton fancies himself a magician—who wouldn’t, with that great big befeathered turban? This is a translation from German and the present-tense text feels a bit unusual in a picture-book context; most English stories of this kind are told in past tense. But it works well here, lending a sense of immediacy and tension to Anton’s unsettling discovery that he does, indeed, seem to have made his friend Luke disappear. Actually, now that I think about, the very simple, spare text is more like an early reader. I’m tempted to look for it in German: it might be just about my level.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alison McGhee, Bink and Gollie, Bob Graham, books I adore, books my five-year-old loves, books my four-year-old loves, books my three-year-old loves, George Booth, Hooray for Grandma Jo, How to Heal a Broken Wing, Jan Thomas, Jean Conder Soule, Kate DiCamillo, Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers, Never Tease a Weasel, picture books, Rhyming Dust Bunnies, Rillabooks, Sam Lloyd, Thomas McKean, Tony Fucile
Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile (Candlewick, 2009).
On July 24th, many unschoolers (and others) will celebrate “Learn Nothing Day.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek sort of holiday, the point being that it’s impossible to live a day of your life without learning something.
Well, I’ve just found the perfect picture book to read on Learn Nothing Day. Except, darn it, what if we learn something from the book?
Ah, it doesn’t matter. I’ll never be able to wait until July to share this with my gang, anyway.
Frankie and Sal are two small boys of the very busy sort. They’ve done it all—played all the games there are to play, baked all the cookies, read all the comic books. In a quest for something new to do, they hit upon the notion of doing nothing at all. Nothing. “Zero movement. NOTHING.”
Good luck with that, fellas.
Sal gets off to a strong start, suggesting they sit still as the stone statues in the park. Frankie’s game, but…statues attract pigeons, don’t they? Who can do nothing when there are pigeons to shoo?
I love it when a book actually makes me giggle out loud. Frankie’s expressions are priceless, especially when he’s being a giant redwood or the Empire State Building. Writer/illustrator Tony Fucile has a gift for visual punchline—which stands to reason, considering his background; Fucile is an animator whose credits include such films as The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, and The Lion King.
Well, in the end the boys discover it’s as impossible to DO NOTHING as it is to LEARN NOTHING. So I take it back. I don’t recommend reading this book for Learn Nothing Day after all—just like Frankie and Sal, you might accidentally learn something from the experience.