Thursday, June 16, 2011

Books Books Books

            This morning I noticed that the backing to the bookcase in my children’s bedroom had separated from the case itself. Books had begun to slide between the shelves and the back. So I took out my trusty tool kit and proceeded to empty the bookcase and reinforce the backing. The boys’ school is having a book swap this week so I figured this would be the perfect time to weed out a few volumes we never look at anymore. Big mistake. Not because I did a bad job of it. I can be pretty handy with a hammer when I need to be. No, my mistake was thinking I could clean out the bookcase without stopping time and again to pour over so many wonderful books.
            We read to our kids every night. They’re into some pretty substantial chapter books right now. Owen is in the middle of the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini and James is on book three of the Harry Potter series (we’ll probably take a break from it because the series is about to get a little too dark for my little guy). While I was cleaning out the book case I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I read Goodnight Moon or Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?.
            I’ll admit I’m not the perfect mom when it comes to playing with my kids. Yes, I’ve played my share of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Monopoly Junior. But I usually wished I was doing something else. Games aren’t my thing. I love it when the kids ask me to take out art supplies and get crafty. But by far my favorite thing to do with my boys is to read aloud to them. There have been rainy days when I read until I was hoarse. But not lately.
            These days, they can read picture books to themselves. I can hear them at night, getting out of bed to bring book after book into their beds. Occasionally I have to go upstairs and remind them it’s getting late and they need to be up early for school the next day. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I can’t sleep without spending a good chunk of time with a book myself. My husband sometimes has to remind me that it’s getting late so I’ll grudgingly finish the page I’m on and turn out the light.
Maybe it’s normal that the end of the school year is making me sentimental. Everywhere I turn there are signs that my little boys are growing up.  I love that they’re gaining a little independence and I am absolutely thrilled that they love to read on their own. But going through that bookcase made me sentimental for hours we spent reading together. These are some of the books I’m going to miss the most.

Virginia Lee Burton wrote Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel in 1939. Who would think that a tale about a steam powered machine would still be capturing the attention of children in the 21st century.  My boys couldn’t get enough of it. Talk about a classic!

Dinosaur and Ship Ahoy! by Peter Sis were read so many times I had to buy new copies. Sis uses simple, brightly colored illustrations and only a few words of text so we could tell the story our way. Sometimes I could even get the boys to “read” these ones to me.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin and it's many "sister" books.

The original was so… well… original and the subsequent stories seem formulaic to an adult, but kids gobble them up like a mouse with a cookie.

Yes, Margaret Brown's Goodnight Moon is the classic that we’ve all memorized but The Run Away Bunny is the perfect book to read while snuggling up with your little bunny.

First of all, Owen’s Marshmallow Chick by Christopher Henkes is about a boy (okay, a mouse) named Owen who has a special relationship with his blanket. For that reason alone we'd read it in this house. Secondly, it’s just plain adorable as Owen gobbles up everything in his Easter basket except for his marshmallow chick which earns a special place in Owen's heart. I suppose it’s an Easter time story but it got year round attention from us. We didn’t have as much luck with Henkes’ original story Owen. You can read about that experience here.

            The Curious George books by Margaret and H.A. Rey are brilliant and my little boy James (who is often called Monkey by his mother) loves and relates to George. I bet a lot of other kids do too. This is another character who has been around for ages but never goes out of style.

            You just have to read The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems for yourself—preferably out loud using silly voices. Mo Willems is a writer for Sesame Street. The man knows what kids like. There are a few Pigeon books and this one is my favorite.

Gerald McDermott writes and illustrates books based on folktales from all over the world. The Arrow to the Sun was Owen’s favorite for years. It is a Pueblo Indian Tale about a boy who discovers he is the son of a god. He goes on a quest to prove himself to his father and brings joy to the people of earth. By the time Owen was in kindergarten, he could recite every word. We also love McDermott’s Anansi the Spider and Zomo the Rabbit.

            So if you see me out and about this summer and I look a little blue, ask me to read Fox in Sox to your toddler. It will make both our days. What are your kids’ favorite books? If they’ve started reading, what are they reading this summer?