Thanks again for subscribing to this random newsletter. A lot of you guys seemed to like the first one (if you didn’t get it, click here to read it… it’s version one of my baby must-have list). And this newsletter is all about my favorite thing ever: children’s books!
Tom and I are both Readers-with-a-capital-R (Tom is finishing up a six volume series about the decline of the Roman empire… and I’m re-reading Wolf by Wolf, a (yes) YA book that’s like Mad Max meets Arya Stark meets X-Men) and we feel really passionately about raising fellow book people. A few of you have DMed me to ask me how I instilled a love of reading into Ren… I’m not sure, to be honest, but we read a lot to her and we read our own grown-up (okay, in my case, YA) books around her—teaching her to love books by osmosis, perhaps?
This list is for kids up to three or four years old and is is by no means a truly comprehensive list of books. I know in my sleep-deprived state I have forgotten several. Future newsletters, btw, will likely follow a different format because, man, compiling these comprehensive lists is really stressful (I already have like 10 more things to add to the baby must-have list).
Happy shopping… and reading ☺
Goofy books for goofy kids
Arlo Needs Glasses: the first time Ren ever really laughed hysterically (around 8 months) was when Tom read her this book. Her laugh has not changed since then, actually.
Please, Mr. Panda: Manners, pandas, and a polite lemur. NYCers, I suggest visiting the Central Park Zoo after reading this to see a lemur IRL.
Dragons Love Tacos: I don’t think Ren knows what tacos, jalapenos, or salsa are but it doesn’t matter. She loves this book.
Barnyard Dance: Best read in a hoedown voice.
Leave Me Alone!: The book has a wormhole, which means it’s automatically awesome.
Book that can keep Ren busy for, like, an hour (okay, closer to twenty minutes but that is a LONG TIME for kids)
In the Town All Year ‘Round: No words just scenes in a town, yes, all year ‘round. Ask your kids to find things like the lost parrot, the dentist, etc… Ren also makes this into a game with her friends, she’ll say she spots something and her friend will find it.
Barefoot Book of Children: A book about children all around the world. Good for diversity messaging and reminding children that there’s a bigger world out there and things are done differently all around the world.
Book series (AKA you will never stop spending money on these books)
Elephant and Piggie: PEALS of laughter the first time I read I Really Like Slop. I see myself in Piggie and Tom in Elephant, especially in our food taste (Tom still does not understand the appeal of congee).
Pigeon: Mo Willems is the king of the toddler series! Ren is Pigeon: short-fused, somewhat irrational but ultimately endearing (and easily distracted).
Berenstain Bears: I used to read these when I was a kid and Ren loves them now. There’s a book for pretty much every “lesson” you want to teach a kid (dentist visit, messy room sharing etc). We get the paperback version and she’ll bring them with her and read them on the way to school or before bed. She also likes to examine the back of the book (which have a grid of all the books) and point out the ones she owns. Weirdly, that is actually her favorite part of the books I think.
Poetic picture books
Wolf in the Snow: the illustrations remind me of Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl. This book doesn’t have any words at all and Ren loves to “read” it to me. A new favorite.
Over and Under the Snow: Why do kids love books about snow so much? This book makes me sleepy whenever I read it which I suppose is the point. The illustrations are really beautifully done.
You’re Here for a Reason: This was the first book Ren chose on her very own at Barnes and Noble.
Chee-Kee: A Bear in Pandaland: OK, I didn’t really know what other category to put this book under but it’s a cute story about a panda moving to Bearland and learning that what makes him different (his Asian heritage) also makes him great. Awww!
Goodnight Already: A grouchy bear and a hyper duck. It’s not the most somnolent of books but it’s cute and I really feel for the grouchy, sleep-deprived bear.
All Tucked in on Sesame Street: I recently realized that Oscar the Grouch’s “twiddlebugs” are probably bed bugs and I am shook.
Goodnight, Moon: I don’t know why this book is so sleep-inducing but it just is. Also, reading it as an adult, you realize it’s a bit creepy.
Goodnight, Construction Site: Ren loves construction (luckily for us, NYC is crawling with construction sites :I) and this book combines her interest in construction with my interest in her going to sleep.
Rhyming Books that 100% Yass, Girl
Three Ninja Pigs: The illustrations are super cute and comic book-y… And have inspired me to look into karate classes for Ren.
Rosie Revere, Engineer: And Ada Twist, Scientist! The best! The best! The energy, pacing, non-cheesy illustrations! The pages are visually rich so there’s lots to look at and keep Ren’s eyes busy. I really, really love these books.
And Some More Non-Cheesy Rhyming Books
The Pout Pout Fish: Blub, blub, blub! I can literally hear this book in my sleep sometimes.
The Snail and the Whale, the Gruffalo, anything by those authors, really: I’m not sure where these writers are from but I would guess England because there’s a bit of, well, wistfulness to these books that I think US books don’t usually have.
The Snatchabook: A very cute caper about an unlikely book thief.
Little Blue Truck: Started this section with a blub, blub blub… Ending it with a bump, bump, bump. A very sweet modern classic.
If you have a friend who’s expecting, just get them this bundle of books for their baby shower and be done with it. I’m not going to say much else about these books because, honestly, they’re pretty classic.
Where the Wilds Things Are
Make Way for Ducklings: I will say that I met with a children’s book editor a few weeks ago who mentioned how this book is a metaphor for gentrification and I was like OMGWUT. I had no idea.
Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you See: I didn’t realize that this book was supposed to be sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” until I sat through the 193438th singalong of this.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
There will be a whole separate newsletter one day about potty-training (honestly, I’m still emotionally scarred… it’s too soon to discuss) but buy Everybody Poops, Big Girl Panties, and Pottytime for Chickiesto prepare your kiddo for potty-training.
Best potty-training book for parents to read that is not Oh, Crap: Potty-training in Three Days. I liked the tone of this book better. I actually ended up tracking this author down via IG/FB/every available source possible and did a phone consult with her.
Books about losing things (parents in particular)/finding them
Are You My Mother: My mother told me this was my favorite book when I was a baby… and now I read it to my babies. I literally tear up every time I read this to them.
Monkey Puzzle: Literally Are You My Mother, except with a monkey.
Little Owl Lost: Literally Are You My Mother, except with an owl.
Found: A cute little book with cute little illustrations. I like that there’s a nod to I Lost My Hat (see the next book) and LOST (the TV show) in there. The best kids books have little surprises for the grown-ups too.
I Lost My Hat: I love this series of books (but this one is the best one).
Baby Books: Tao, to be honest, prefers to eat/throw books to reading them right now. So this section is REALLY short.
I Kissed the Baby: I challenge anyone to read this book to a baby and NOT smother the baby with kisses at the end of it ☺
Art for Baby: When Tao was teeny-tiny, we’d prop this book up in front of him and he’d just gaze at the books for ages (by “ages” I mean, like, a minute which is a long time for a baby).
Your Child’s First Word Will be Dada: Buy this for your bro friends/brother/dudes in your life who are having babies.
Ubabub: these are the clear, flat-to-the-wall ones in Ren’s room that so many of you guys ask about. http://amzn.to/2hjMMgD
Land of Nod: and these are the ones in our living room.
Happy shopping and reading!
PS: I use Amazon links and, last month, together we donated $450 to Unidos Por Puerto Rico. Next month, I’ll donate to DonorsChoose. Even if you don’t buy any of these books, please consider finding a classroom that needs your help. I was fortunate enough to attend schools that had overflowing bookshelves. It helped light my imagination on fire. Not every child is so lucky.