In year four there were so many favorites.
Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant seemed fitting for our son’s third birthday as we were still on tour in the US and knew Australia was next. BUT on the page where Mouk goes to Australia, there are a lot of big sharks-so that wasn’t super (for me).
Fox in Sox by Dr. Seus is the best-there’s nothing else to say. It’s impossible to read and makes you trip over your tongue and everyone involved laughs and laughs.
George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall is so ridiculously sweet. This friendship primer teaches valuable lessons about how to treat your friends and how to expect them to treat you. Plus it’s hysterical because George ends up with a gold tooth.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie happened while we toured through Canada. It was our first official chapter book. A bus ride through the plains of Saskatuan never saw so many pirates and crocs. It was impressive to watch a three-year-old pay such close attention to a book with few pictures, but I did mention we were on a bus in Saskatuan, right?
Many Moons by James Thurber is a book I had as a girl about a princess who wants the moon and her father goes through all of his advisers to try to get it for her. It is laugh out loud funny for kids and grown ups alike and especially entertaining for anyone who has ever been asked to deliver the moon.
Should I Share My Ice Cream by Mo Willems is a classic Elephant and Piggie Book. These books are great early readers since Mr. Willems is so stinking good at depicting emotions through his illustrations. Elephant gets some ice cream in this one and he wants to share it with his friend, but he also wants it all for himself. What to do? I want to squeeze Mo Willems for being so awesome.
Paddington by Michael Bond is one illustrated chapter of his original book, A Bear Called Paddington. It is delightfully English. Paddington’s love of marmalade and tea has not been lost on our son. Plus, every major city in Australia has a district called Paddington in it somewhere.
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd is our favorite New Zealander children’s book discovery. Lynley Dodd is outrageously talented and everything about her books-from the stories to the rhythm to the illustrations to the names of all of Hairy Maclary’s friends-is perfect. The dachshund from around the corner is named, Schnitzel Von Krum with a very low tum. A very low tum?? Well, now we have to say that all the time.
Hairy Maclary’s Bone by Lynley Dodd is just as great if not better than the first Hairy Maclary. All of his friends try to get his bone, but Hairy’s too smart for all that.
Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French was a book I just had to investigate. Before we moved to Australia I didn’t know what a wombat was. I honestly didn’t know, but now I do and so can you. If you need a refresher on the cuteness of the wombat, here is a three-minute video of one eating grass.
The Diary of a Wombat is almost exactly the same as this video. In his diary he sleeps and scratches and sleeps some more, and yet, you just can’t take your eyes off him.
This is New York by M. Sasek was delivered by Santa because all the wombats and marmalade are great, but let’s keep it real.
Hairy Maclary Scattercat by Lynley Dodd is probably the best book ever written. A three-year-old’s idea of hilarity is pretty much encompassed inside this book. The dog hides, the cat is unsuspecting-you know the rest. The delight on a preschooler’s face is worth the price of admission. When I’m an old woman, I will sneak this book out of the closet and reread it just for the memory of that small, beaming face.
Hairy Maclary’s Rumpus at the Vet by Lynley Dodd is next in line for the best book to capture a pre-schooler’s understanding of silliness. This book is like a mini Three’s Company episode and if you don’t know what that is, that’s ok. Just take my word for it, in fact, you don’t even have to take my word for it, the word ‘Rumpus’ is in the title. That should be enough to sell you on this book. It is a rumpus started by a naughty cockatoo in the vet’s waiting room. Giggles will ensue.
What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis is simply the lyrics to their hit song written down with illustrations. It is very silly and kind of existential in its Swedishness. The reason this book is special is because it was given to our son by his ninety-three-year-old great-grandma who saw the video of the song on Ellen. She loved it so much, she had to get it for her great-grandson. So. She’s awesome. In case you missed the fox video:
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a beautifully melancholy classic. I think it’s probably more suitable for a five-year-old’s grasp of the world, as it opens the conversation about impermanence through an anthropomorphized bunny. It’s never too early though to begin to understand we all have to say goodbye to so much in life so often.
Doctor DeSoto by William Steig is a story of survival, yet it is also a story of kindness. If they say altruism is an unnecessary trait in the harsh and cruel reality of evolution, well Dr. De Soto offers a different approach. He’s altruistic, but is smart enough to know the true nature of his adversaries. He helps, but keeps himself protected, a lesson for the ages. Again, maybe better suited to a five-year-old, but it’s never too early to cultivate a child’s inner scrappiness.
Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman is a fantastic early reader. The pictures depict the words and an almost four-year-old gets their confidence bolstered as they grasp the words’ meanings. Our nephew told us it was the very first book he could read all by himself. Well done there.
Put Me in A Zoo by Robert Lopshire is silly, rhyming fun. This crazy animal can do all sorts of fun things with all his spots. They make him seem magical. It’s nice to end the day with a little magic.
Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne is-well, what is it? Perfect? Classic? Peerless? Timeless? My grandmother read this collection of poems to my mother and my uncle. My mother read it to me. My uncle recently asked me if I could remember all the words to the King of Peru (who was Emperor too) and I could. So when I heard my son at only three at the breakfast table one morning quietly say to himself, ‘He would whisper and whisper until he felt crisper,’ I beamed. I know AA Milne had other plans as a writer that didn’t work out, and I’m sorry about that, really, but what would childhood (or life for that matter) be without Christopher Robin and Pooh?
Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems is just classic Mo Willems. Just the title makes me giggle. All of the Elephant and Piggie titles make me giggle. There’s a Bird on Your Head! I’m Invited to a Party! Pigs Make Me Sneeze! The man is a living, breathing example that intelligence is the ability to distill broad ideas down to their barest essence. And he’s still funny! He’s a master.
The BFG by Roald Dahl is terrifying. They say Steven Spielberg is going to make a movie out of it, that’s how terrifying it is. Honestly it is so scary I just don’t know how Roald Dahl ever got away with it. I guess it helps he’s simply a genius and has no equal in his ability to weave the most outrageous tales. As scary as it is and as suited to seven-year-olds rather than three-year-olds, we couldn’t put it down. The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant who helps save the world. If you like to read stories in crazy voices and maybe want to catch a glimpse of the Queen of England, you will love this book.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Well, it’s the winner isn’t it? I didn’t read this story as a kid and I missed Gene Wilder’s version of the eccentric candy maker, but that made it all the more delightful to experience for the first time with our son. On the cusp of four-years-old, he was enraptured. We read it two or maybe even three times in a row. I don’t know how many times we watched the movie. There was a little hiding behind couches when Augustus Gloop and Violet Beauregarde received their just desserts, but that’s ok. All we have to say is, “Pardon me Veruca Salt?” when he is acting a little princely and he backpedals it right up!
all images: amazon.com