In honor of Maxwell's recent birthday, here are three books that have recently been popular with this three-year-old:
1. Let's Sing a Lullaby With the Brave Cowboy, Jan Thomas
Our family first fell in love with Jan Thomas when we read and loved the extremely popular Rhyming Dust Bunnies (extremely popular for good reason). But this one is a very close second.
Cowboy and his cows are hunkering down for the night. Cowboy is singing a lullaby (It's time for little cows to rest their heads...), but his lullaby keeps getting interrupted when he sees scary looking shadows. His cows bravely assure him that there's nothing to be frightened of, until Cowboy sees a shadow that bears a striking resemblance to a large gray wolf...
Jan Thomas has a unique, recognizable style. Her illustrations are set apart with bold, thick strokes, and the details are limited. They kind of have a cartoon-like quality that is both engaging and fun. The text is also a part of the illustrations; it is contained in conversation bubbles and is big or little, colored or plain depending on the emphasis desired. (The one thing I'm extremely curious about is why Cowboy only ever has four fingers on each hand instead of five?)
This book is a great readaloud (as are all of Jan Thomas' books) because of all the delightful little twists and surprises: Cowboy is happily singing his lullaby when, "EEEEEK!" he sees a spider. The "EEEEK!" is perfectly placed for maximum hilarity. Towards the end, Cowboy thinks he has everything figured out--surely that shape that looks like a huge, shaggy gray wolf is really just a big giant bunny rabbit. Such a moment offers the listeners a chance to jump in and shout, "No, Cowboy! It's a wolf!"
It's more than just interactive: the text is simple and sparse enough that Aaron can easily read it, and Maxwell can easily memorize it and pretend to read it. One evening not too long ago, I read it once, then Maxwell read it, then Aaron read it, then Maxwell read it again. The only problem occurred when they kept jumping in on the other one's turn to read. They couldn't help themselves. It's that addictive.
2. Too Tall Houses, Gianna Marino
Sometimes we check out too many books from the library. I know, can you believe I'm admitting that such a thing is possible? But it is. Sometimes we check out so many books in a week that we literally cannot keep up with them. The problem with this is that then, when Max asks me to read a book we've already read, I tell him, "Maxwell, we have a huge stack of books we haven't read yet! I'm not going to read that one again." And that's really too bad. Because sometimes, most of the fun and joy comes in the rereading, and if you never reread it, then you really miss out. It's one of those balance issues I'm trying to work out.
But this book couldn't help but be reread. Not only is it a super cute story; and not only are the illustrations something to be sucked into; but also, it is the perfect length (meaning, it is not too long), and I am far more likely to reread a book that will only take me 3 minutes instead of 23 minutes.
Owl and Rabbit are next door neighbors. Rabbit loves to tend his garden while Owl prefers perching and enjoying his gorgeous view. But one day, the harmony of their universe comes apart when Rabbit's vegetables grow up into Owl's view. So Owl builds his house a little taller, but that throws Rabbit's vegetables into the shade, so he builds his house a little taller. This continues until both houses are high up in space with the earth a mere dot below them. Neither one can enjoy the things he loves. Luckily, both houses go crashing to the ground, which puts an end to the ridiculousness and leaves them with just enough materials to build one perfect house to share.
The illustrations are what really pull the reader into this story. If you think about it, the story doesn't really go anywhere: the whole thing involves the same two characters squabbling over the same piece of land for the entire book. But the perspective is constantly changing, and in such creative ways, too. This makes each page look and feel very different from the one before it.
I actually thought about buying this one for Maxwell for his birthday because he has enjoyed it so much, but the bookstore didn't have it, and I didn't leave myself enough time to order it. (Plus, they did have Let's Sing a Lullaby With the Brave Cowboy, and I decided that one would do just as well.)
3. Yes Day!, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. Tom Lichtenheld
We discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal only a few months ago, but she was something of an instant favorite, and we have now read a sizable number of her books.
In this book, Rosenthal takes an ordinary day and turns it into Yes Day, which basically means saying "yes" to all silly, extravagant, and ridiculous requests. Can I have pizza for breakfast? Yes. Can I stay up really late? Of course you can. It is a kid's dream come true.
Maxwell was completely enthralled. It had never occurred to him that such a day might even be possible. He loved the examples in the book, but he also loved thinking up his own things he would love for me to say yes to.
I've been tempted to give my kids a Yes Day just for the sheer fun of it. But I haven't because I'm also a little worried with what they might ask for, and Yes Day would only be fun if you really did say yes to every single request. I had a little trial run on Maxwell's birthday, but I failed. I asked Max what he wanted for his birthday breakfast. I said, "You can have anything! Whatever you want!" And what do you think that little stinker said? "Oooh, I want candy for my breakfast!!!" It would have been the perfect opportunity to say yes since birthdays are kind of like Yes Days anyway, but I said no and promptly squashed that moment for fun.
I shared this post with The Children's Bookshelf and the Kid Lit Blog Hop.