Monday, October 04, 2010

Amanda, on books for tiniest littles

Other parents-to-be get excited about buying tiny clothes or wooden toys or colourful nursery decorations for their little people and those things have tickled me intermittently, but books have been tickling us constantly since the first moment we sat down together on the floor of a children's book shop and started pulling things off every shelf.

Sitting there in a pile of books for children of every age we became completely overwhelmed. We put back every book and left the shop empty handed. As the door swung shut behind us I turned to N and said in a slightly broken voice "maybe we should ask Amanda what to buy?"

And so we did.

Amanda is a writer of poetry, a seer of wonder, an adventurer of adventures and a whisperer of children and here, in the first of a series of
guest posts, is what she has to say about books for little people.....

This is how it is for me: Of all the books, I am most fond of those written for children. It has been this way from the very beginning, and I have begun to suspect that it will be this way until the end as well. I spend a lot of time thinking about childhood and about witches and bears, and I believe that the stories must be told; we are set free so early by words and their sounds and meanings, by tales of mortals, voyages, wings feathered and waxed.

By no means exhaustive, what follows is a small collection of what I very humbly (if superlatively) consider to be the Best Books, and what I would recommend for Peonies in particular--for her sweet and clever and aesthetically discerning family. Beware that some solid contenders have been excluded; it is clear, for instance, that Peonies and her Boy and Rabbit will inundate their girls with the tales of Edward Bear, and I’m sure we’re all well aware that Eloise the City Child and Paddington from Darkest Peru cannot help but invite themselves into the lives of children who need them.

At the end of a day with small children, it has often been a long day even if it hasn’t. At the end of a day with small children, each of us needs stories to bring us home, send us off. If I were choosing books at the end of such a day, exhausted, and if children I love had been soaped and dried and jammied and if everyone had the wriggles and if there was a cool breeze and a warm duvet, these are the books I would choose. They are just-up-from-a-nap, bring-me-a-book reads; let’s-lie-in-our-fort-with-a-flashlight reads; goodnight, sleep tight reads. They are some of the best books I know.

So. Three small collections to be pulled off the shelves, with any luck by the sticky-fingered among us: for the very small, for littles, and for the slightly bigger too. I hope you will enjoy them.

For the Very Small

Dogs and apples, tigers, mush.

Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown/Clement Hurd

In the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.

The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown/Felicia Bond

By the big red barn in the great green field, there was a pink pig who was learning to squeal.

The Important Book, Margaret Wise Brown/Leonard Weisgard

The important thing about rain is that it is wet. It falls out of the sky, and it sounds like rain, and makes things shiny, and it does not taste like anything, and is the color of air. But the important thing about rain is that it is wet.

Two Little Trains, Margaret Wise Brown/Leo and Diane Dillon

Two little trains went down the track, Two little trains went West.

Puff, Puff, Puff and Chug, Chug, Chug, Two little trains to the West.

Little Cloud, Eric Carle

In which we learn that some clouds need more attention than other clouds.

Go, Dog. Go!, P.D. Eastman

In which very many dogs do very many things. Some of them go. Others do not.

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

He walked with his toes pointed out, like this:

A Family of Poems, Caroline Kennedy (editor)/Jon J. Muth

For beginning children on poetry before anyone can ruin it for them; Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams sing beside Dylan Thomas and Ogden Nash.

Pat the Bunny, Dorothy Kunhardt

In which the reader regards a handsome rabbit with solemnity. Sometimes the rabbit deigns to be patted. Sometimes he does not.

A Hole is to Dig, Ruth Krauss/Maurice Sendak

Mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough A face is so you can make faces Dogs are to kiss people

It Looked Like Spilt Milk, Charles G. Shaw

Sometimes it looked like spilt milk. But it wasn’t spilt milk.

Sometimes it looked like a rabbit. But it wasn’t a rabbit.

Chicken Soup With Rice, Maurice Sendak

The reader is introduced to the seasonal joys of chicken soup with rice.

In the Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendak

Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake! And nothing’s the matter!

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business, Esphyr Slobodkina

In which we learn one of life’s most important lessons: When up against monkeys, it is helpful to lose one’s temper almost immediately. Also, it is unwise to nap beneath monkey-infested trees.

A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson

The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.

A Tree Is Nice, Janice May Udry/Marc Simont

A tree is nice because it has a trunk and limbs.

Piggies, Audrey Wood/Don Wood

Various piggies are portrayed. We sometimes wonder why these piggies are drawn as fingers and not as toes. Other times we do not.

* first image from Lola's Room
* second image by Rakuyn
* third image by Simple Tess


  1. OMG A Hole Is To Dig is one of my all-time favorite kids books. You must have it. We all must have it. Noticed a number of other favorites on there as well, but seriously, that book is awesome.

  2. Holy crap this list is amazing/Amanda is amazing!

  3. I've been waiting for this. Wonderful, ladies.

  4. Thank you for having me, darling lady. You always choose the best pictures. Thebestones.

  5. I love all of these books but almost none in the world so much as In The Night Kitchen (I'm in the milk and the milks in me, God bless the milk and God bless me) and A Children's Garden of Verse (my mum got me a new copy when I went to college so I could take it out for a good sob when necessary. Fantastic list.

  6. oh yes...i remember reading some of these to my nieces and nephews but goodnight moon remains a wonderful favorite.

  7. ohsobeautiful.

    beautifully written, beautiful pictures, beautiful choices.

  8. oooohhhmmmyyyygooooddddd

    (i do not like that hat.....) yes. i LIKE IT! i LIKE THAT party hat!


  9. Thank you so much for the suggestions! I'm always looking for "classic" English-language books for my kid (soon-to-be kids), which I love to read him so he can somehow jump start the learning of his second language.

  10. Oh I love children's books! I just went shopping for one for my friend's baby shower, and ended up with one for her AND one for me. They are so difficult to resist. And I LOVE all of Amanda's suggestions!

    Have you heard of Strega Nona by Tommy DiPaolo? It's wonderful, too. You should add it to the list for Widdle and Puke. :)

  11. The BEST book for little girls is 'Princess Smartypants' by Babette Cole.
    It's a little bit of feminist sass for little girls who are going to grow up to rule the world.

  12. Amanda, this is an awesome list. I haven't read all of them, but now I want to.

    Go, Dog. Go! was one of my very favourites as a child. I thought I could read it when I was about 3-4, but really I'd just memorized what was on every page.

    The Pokey Little Puppy was another favourite and one I still haven't been able to find at any used book store close to me. Maybe my parents will just let me take their copy...

  13. Thank you for the list! I'm expecting my first child in February and are looking for books to read to it now and later on! Thank you!

  14. oh such perfect tiny memories in this list. Of course amanda is the only one who could compile a list so dear. Must dig through my parents' house for my old copies of so many of these.

  15. So many of my favorites made the list, but my two most favorite did not. They are The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood. Fabulous illustrations in both as well.

  16. Aww I remember "Goodnight Moon" :)

  17. I want Amanda to take care of the kids I'm not having.

  18. One small, but most necessary addition for the P&P family: Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.

    I think it's good for the small. And the quite biggish. It lives on my bedside table.

    Oh! And If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. It's less classic, but no less necessary.

  19. OHH! And There Is A Monster At The End Of This Book!!!

  20. PPPPS
    Can you tell that I particularly like books that lend themselves to QUITE DRAMATIC readings? Of course I do. I like to bring down the house (right before bed).

  21. Kimberly from AK4/10/10 7:44 p.m.

    I love the Fancy Nancy series as well as Walter The Farting Dog and Skippy Jon Jones.

  22. We're on day one here, Meg.

  23. I have two little ones in my life that I would love to give books to. But though I have very many ideas for six year olds, and have seen in this list and others many very nice ones for four year olds (I love the poetry one!) I can't seem to find anything good for 2 year olds. One of whom is very precocious. Should I just go ahead and buy the older books? They'll grow into them?


  24. Hi Anon. Most of those listed today would be appropriate for a two-year-old. Remember that two-year-olds are curious and learning a lot about their senses and their world; books that support these things are great. I'd get Caps for Sale (listed here) and something like Brown Bear, Brown Bear or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. They'll last well beyond age two.

  25. Yay! Many, many favorites here. I was a spoiled child where books were concerned. I had an entire bookshelf filled with the most beautifully illustrated picture books. The illustrators are quite important too.

    Looking forward to the suggestions for slightly bigger little people. That's where my heart lies.

  26. I love childrens books. In fact, that was the topic of my dissertation. (I am less familiar with books for littlies though, I most look forward to the 3rd installment).

    Sounds like an excellent list. I look forward to one day having an excuse to read some of them...

  27. The fact that I do not recognise a single one of these books alarms me deeply. What a wasted childhood I had. Actually, I think I was just reading Australian books. Possum Magic! Snugglepot and Cuddlepie!

  28. @ Kristy,
    pokey little puppy is still in production. unless you are specifically looking for a well-read copy?
    great list!
    cup of jo posed a question about children's books on her blog awhile back. the comment section is def. worth a look.

  29. @Elizabeth - Yes, I was looking for a used copy. I have a soft spot for old, worn, well-loved books. =)

  30. But those are for littles?

  31. this was beautiful. i don't have children, but i would imagine the most exciting part would be selecting books for story time. what a great list. i love story time.

  32. Oh these posts are gonna make my LIFE! I also have a hard time knowing what age is for what, so I'll wait for the next post before I squeal about my two favorites (even though the two year old I gave them to likes them a LOT). A great list though, with some I don't know which is very exciting!

  33. Just absolutely completely flipping brilliant. Thank you so much. Many many of our favourites on there, but more excitingly, lots more new ones to discover. *goosebumps*

  34. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, and Meg and Mog are my favourites to buy for littles but I'm always looking for more ideas so this is great

  35. So lovely... I love Amanda's writing style. I'm not in the slightest broody but the children's department of waterstones makes me want to buy books for my future children! Books like guess how much I love you and not now bernard are some of my favs so I'll need to have a look at the others on the list!

  36. love the itty bitty bunny collection all in white. <3

  37. Three of my faves:
    I Bought My Love a Tabby Cat
    Because a Little Bug Went KA-Choo!
    The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear


play nice.