- I feel like I'm trapped if I read a long story. Of course I have to finish it, but what if Bradley decides to have a melt down in the middle of it? Then I have to read for another ten minutes with a fussy baby. Short books give me flexibility.
- Lame writing, lame plots. Does anyone else feel like there is an overabundance of poorly written picture books containing more than their fair share of words and pages? Of course there are lame short books, too, but they are more easily endured.
- A lot of the longer books have more mature themes that my boys don't understand yet (i.e., dealing with bullies or divorced parents, etc.).
I now present to you three just such books:
1. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Robert McCloskey's stories are practically legend. I'm sure you grew up on them and probably your parents before you, and maybe even your grandparents before that. They're now being passed onto the fourth generation of kids and still holding strong. And why? Because they are great stories.
In Blueberries for Sal, Sal and her mom spend a day filling their buckets with blueberries. It scores points right off the bat with Aaron and Max because (1) they love blueberries and (2) they can't imagine anything more fun than picking them right off the bush. Heaven.
But then, things get even more exciting when a black bear and her cub wind up on the same hill, and somehow the cub and Sal switch places and start following the wrong moms. Aaron has lately been obsessed with bears (he is firmly set on a grizzly bear cake for his fourth birthday), but then there are also the elements of humor (Little Bear is following Sal's mom! How silly!) and suspense (what will happen when the moms find out they're being followed by the wrong children?).
This is actually one of Robert McCloskey's shorter works (if you're feeling especially long-winded, make sure to check out Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man...you'll feel like you went on a vacation in Maine), but even it takes a good ten minutes. But it's well worth every one of those minutes.
2. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
I honestly was not sure about this one when I first picked it up (many months ago). Mike read it to the boys before I did, and he loved it. Always a good sign. And after I read it, I had to agree; it was a keeper.
This story encourages kids to use their imaginations. It is about a siamese cat who pretends he's a chihuahua. He goes on a wild adventure (all within the safe confines of his bedroom closet) to the land of Mexico where he must help save the chimichangas from the evil bumblebee, Alfredo Buzzito. Isn't that what every good story should do? Take you to a new and exciting place, somewhere you've never been before?
Besides that, this story offers the opportunity to use some fun accents. I'm not as good as Mike, but even I think it's fun to say "serious beez-ness" and "Holy Guacamole!"
Skippyjon Jones has many more adventures in later books. So far, I haven't been as impressed, but I think I've only tried the outer space one.
I thought it might be a little too long for Max, my two-year-old. But during a recent re-reading, just as we got to the climax, he shouted out, "What's going to happen?! WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN?!" And I knew we'd struck gold.
3. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
So I'm somewhat reluctant to recommend this one because I've only read it once. Yes, once. Why did I pick this one to write about when there are so many other great stories out there that have stood the test of dozens of re-readings? Well, because sometimes first impressions are authentic and real and long-lasting, and I have a feeling it will be so with this book. And also, because this is my blog, and I want to review it even if I've only read it once.
Flat Stanley is flat because a bulletin board fell on him in the middle of the night. Rather a dramatic beginning but with the result that for most of the story, Stanley is only half an inch thick. Being flat has its perks (like being able to slide under doors or be mailed to California for a vacation), but its greatest advantage is made manifest after several valuable paintings have been stolen from the museum. Suddenly, Stanley has a great idea...
From creativity and ingenuity to danger and intrigue, this book has all of the makings of a good story. During my first and only reading, the plot carried me along, and I wanted to find out how Stanley was going to catch the art thieves.
I've yet to make mention of the illustrations in any of these three books. Usually it is the pictures that pull me into children's stories (we refer to them as picture books after all), but in the cases of these three, it was the words that grabbed me first. That said, I do love Robert McCloskey's art; I would happily frame and hang it in my children's bedroom. It is simplistic yet detailed. As for Skippyjon Jones and Flat Stanley, I would say that the illustrations perfectly complement their stories, and really, you can't ask for more than that.
So if you're in the mood for a nice, long story but have no desire to read Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon or Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (those are real titles, btw), then try out one of these great books.