My previous blog post was meant to help expecting parents decide what items were truly necessary to care for their baby in the first six months of life. If you read that post, you know that the list is rather short, but I err on the side of frugality and minimalism. However, I freely spend my disposable income on books for my son. When he hands me the book that he wants to read together and then turns around and scoots backward so that he is snuggled up next to me, I think, “This is what I always wanted parenting to be.”
It is in vogue to ask baby shower guests for books instead of cards, which is a great way to build up your child’s library. If you go this route, I expect you’ll receive many of the usual suspects: Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Blue Truck, or any one of Sandra Boynton’s books. As you add to your child’s collection, consider these excellent but lesser-known titles.
I’m Sticking with You by Smriti Halls. Illustrated by Steve Small. This book was gifted to my son by a school librarian, so I knew it was going to be good. Halls’ simile-laden rhymes tell the story of Bear and Squirrel’s friendship that, like all meaningful friendships, experiences rupture and then repair. However, Smalls’ illustrations clue readers in to the brewing conflict between these two best friends well before Halls’ words. Word and text are totally in sync at the end of the book, though, as Bear and Squirrel find a way to live together harmoniously.
How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague.
I picked up this book at a local thrift store for 25 cents, but if you gave me a quarter for every time that I read this book to my son, I’d have enough money to buy several brand new copies. The story’s message of a parent’s unconditional love for her child is a necessary one, but Teague’s ironic illustrations are the true star. His portrayal of everyday families is so realistic…except that these totally ordinary looking parents have dinosaur children. That drawing of a nothosaurus throwing a plate of pasta into the air during dinner makes me chuckle every time. You really can’t go wrong with any book in the How Do Dinosaurs? series.
10 Little Ladybugs by Melanie Girth. Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. Saying that 10 Little Ladybugs is about numbers and counting would be selling it short. It’s more of a sensory experience that allows readers to touch the red, yellow, and orange ladybugs before they disappear one at a time as the book draws to a close. The vivid colors and pleasant, simple rhymes also make this book a wonderful read.
Love by Mona Koth and Vicki Scott. Illustrated by Mona Koth. The primarily black-and-white illustrations in this book made me buy it for my infant son, who couldn’t yet see colors. Even though my son is almost two, we still read Love together. The main characters, panda cubs Beau and Dot, are drawn so that their faces take up most of the page, allowing little readers to easily detect the pandas’ emotions. My heart aches as the little pandas wonder if their parents will always comfort them, feed them, or love them. Every child deserves to know that the answer to all of these questions is, simply, yes. Feelings and Faces are also worth a read.
My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat. Illustrated by Shannon Wright.
This book conveys a truth that almost every mother has felt deep in her bones: some ailments can only be healed by a mother’s touch. While this tale is as old as time, Danticat’s text makes this book truly unique. Written like a prose poem, it contains such striking lines as “hot chocolate [with] misty foamy milk that looks like clouds or angel wings.” The specificity of the images throughout the story, from the comforting hot chocolate to the menthol backrub to the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, only enhance the universality of the book. After all, don’t we all have a memory of staying home from school, being doted on by a caregiver, and eating soup while watching The Price is Right? If you want a book that celebrates mothers as the most powerful force in the universe, I prescribe My Mommy Medicine.