Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Books I Recommend

I've had a couple different people ask me about children's books recently. Which ones are good and which are my favorite. One of the best parts of my job as Children's Lead at Barnes & Noble was helping customers find the exact book that fit their need, of course the discount didn't hurt either. Children's books will always have a place in my heart. There's nothing like it to touch your heart, inspire you or make you laugh. All of the books below are a part of our bookshelves. I have little to no problem getting rid of chapter books and random fiction, it's children's picture and board books that I hold onto. I always have room for one more laugh, one more tearful read, one more spot in my heart.

One of my favorite board book authors is Sandra Boynton. She is hilarious. Her books are aimed at infants-toddlers, but Gabe definitely still enjoys Blue Hat, Green Hat. That silly turkey can never get his clothes on right. There are plenty others that she has written, we have even more than those in the picture, these are our favorites. What Wrong, Little Pookie? is also very good.

Another favorite board book author is Karen Katz. She does a lot of lift-the-flap books. I bought both of these the year my Mom came for Thanksgiving and my Dad came for Christmas. She writes lots more, and we have lots more. I grabbed these two as examples. Zander's favorite right now is Where is Baby's Belly Button?.

While I don't normally like Lois Ehlert (please don't take offense if you enjoy her books or let this opinion dissuade you from reading/buying any of her other titles), I saw this the other day at Osan's BX. They have quite a big selection of children's books (and by that I mean four rows that are usually well stocked) and I had never seen this in board book form. What I like about this is the illustrations.

All the fruits and veggies are either painted or cut out of paper. I like the "homemade" look of the pictures. Also, I enjoy the creativity of the fruits and veggies per letter. It prompted many discussions between Gabe and myself about what we eat all the time and what we could try next time we go to the Commissary. Conversations about trying new food is always a good one to me.

Let me preface this by saying I don't normally enjoy celebrity author's children's books. There's just something about them that irks me. Do they think they're not popular enough? Are they doing it for money? How much of the book did they actually write? Some of the subjects make me wonder their target demographic. However, to condemn celebrity authors altogether would be unfortunate. There are a few who have written books (and not collaborated with a writer) that I enjoy very much. John Lithgow wrote The Remarkable Farkle McBride and I Got Two Dogs, both are fantastic. Hilarious and witty, even better if you hear him narrate the stories. Julianne Moore wrote a series entitled Freckleface Strawberry based on her school yard nickname, so sweet and endearing. By far, however, my favorite celebrity author is Jamie Lee Curtis. We have Is There Really a Human Race? - all about how everyone is moving so fast that we miss all the small things. She has a book for everyone and every situation. Some of them are funny, like Today I Feel Silly and Where Do Balloons Go?. And some of them move your heart, like Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born and I'm Gonna Like Me. Her newest book, My Mommy Hung the Moon is her greatest yet. The words she uses are funny and silly, but the message and heart of the story speaks for itself. The story starts with the same three sentences, "My mommy hung the moon. She tied it with string. My mommy's good at everything."

I bought this book for my "niece" Isabella, because her mommy IS good at everything.

Another author that I buy regularly is Mo Willems. He has multiple children's series: Knuffle Bunny, Pidgeon, and Elephant and Piggie. We enjoy them all. These are the Elephant and Piggie books we own. All hilarious, all written from a child's perspective. He's a fantastic author for 2 year olds and up. There aren't a lot of words on the pages, but the illustrations and the subjects he writes about capture the mindset of a child perfectly.

This is my favorite of those we own. It was the first one I read and bought immediately. Elephant is sad. Piggie spends the whole day dressing up as different things to cheer up Elephant, but all Elephant wanted was his friend.

My favorite part of the whole story is the last page. The two best friends - an elephant and pig.

For the patriotic family, this is a must. I first read this while I was still working at Barnes & Noble. It came out right before the 2008 elections when all the other patriotic and presidential nominee children's books came out. Lynne Cheney wrote another children's book that was published around the same time entitled A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. While I agree with her choice of subject, it was this one: America, A Patriotic Primer, that stole my heart and earned it's place on our bookshelves. This is one I LOVE sharing, especially with military families, because it hasn't won any awards, gotten any publicity really, but it's great none the less.

This page is what sold me. "V is for the Valor shown by those who've kept us free." I can't read that without getting emotional. It's like the lines at the end of the National Anthem, " O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave." Gets me every time. And while it might seem a little morbid for a children's book, talking about those that have given their lives for their country, it is a truth and a life for so many American children right now.

This is the other letter/page that touches my heart. It is that sentiment that makes proud to be an American.

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