KidPages: Three Books For a Three-Year-Old

Sep 26, 2014

Bradley turned three on Tuesday, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find another little boy as excited as he was about having a birthday.

I know people have mixed feelings about the threes, but I loved them with my first two, and Bradley is well on his way to continuing the trend. Almost everything that comes out of his mouth is delightful or hilarious or sweet. My husband loves going to the store with only him because he is just so fun to talk to. Seriously, I can't believe people aren't lining up on my doorstep begging to borrow this kid for an hour or two.

I have mixed feelings about birthdays because they just keep coming so my kids just keep getting older, and I want them to stay little for a long, long while.

But . . . birthdays give me an excuse to buy new books, so, you know, to every cloud its silver lining.

Here are three of the books Bradley got for his birthday (and he loves all of them):

1. Rhyming Dust Bunnies, Jan Thomas
This has long been a favorite of our family, but about a month ago, I realized (with something of a start) that it had been a loooooooong time since we'd had it from the library. So long that I was sure Bradley had no recollection of ever reading it.

So I remedied the problem by buying it. It won't be forgotten about again.

The story features four dust bunnies: Ed, Ned, Ted, . . . and Bob. They love to rhyme, except for Bob, who doesn't seem to understand the game. Little do they know that Bob actually has more important things to tell them than a word that rhymes with "dog."

The pacing of this book is brilliant: Ed, Ned, and Ted are totally oblivious to everything around them while Bob grows more and more frantic. Each set of rhymes brings a greater sense of urgency until the dust bunnies meet their fate.

Oh, and if someone hasn't designed a plush dust bunny to accompany the book, well then, someone dropped the ball. Those bunnies were meant to be plush.

Aaron and Max helped me wrap it up, but before we did, they just had to read it. They started giggling two pages in and couldn't stop.

(When Maxwell turned three, he received Let's Sing a Lullaby With the Brave Cowboy, so it's settled: Jan Thomas is perfect for three-year-olds.)

2. Count the Monkeys, Mac Barnett, illus. Kevin Cornell
One of the delightful things about three-year-olds is that they have this emerging sense of humor that stories like this one really bring out.

On the title page, the narrator promises lots of monkeys for the reader to count. But while there are many other things to count (crocodiles, bee swarms, even polka-dotted rhinoceroses with bagpipes and bad breath), the monkeys keep getting scared away . . . until the book finally runs out of pages.

Besides being funny, the story is also really interactive: when the 5 swarms of bees show up, the reader is asked to hum a happy tune and smile while he turns the page (because bees can smell fear). Or when the 8 lumberjacks show up with no intention of leaving, the reader is told to say, "Scram!" and then to say it even louder (it doesn't work, by the way).

Also, I think sometimes we assume that counting books are for babies, but really, my kids haven't been able to actually point and count all the way up to ten (without missing something or counting the same thing two or three times) until they hit about three. So a counting book (especially a funny, interactive one) is actually perfect for a three-year-old.

3. The Story of Little Black Sambo, Helen Bannerman, illus. Christopher Bing
In honor of Banned Book Week, I bought Bradley a banned book. Just kidding. The fact that it's been banned had absolutely nothing to do with my purchase of it, but it is a nice coincidence, I guess. I know this story is surrounded by controversy, but I love it. I have loved it for as long as I can remember. My great-grandma owned a copy, and every time we visited her, one of my parents would read it to me.

I loved Little Black Sambo's purple shoes "with crimson soles and crimson linings." I was indignant when the four tigers took away all his beautiful things but absolutely tickled when they all turned into a pool of melted butter (which Little Black Sambo's mother made into pancakes). And every time, every time, I was amazed (and delighted) when Little Black Sambo ate one hundred and sixty-nine pancakes "because he was so hungry." I guess outsmarting tigers is hard work.

Several years ago, I happened upon this newly illustrated version by Christopher Bing, and I fell in love all over again. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous: vibrant and golden and full of light. I seriously think I could read it over and over again without ever getting tired of looking at them.
Good thing, too, since with the way my kids like it, I might be doing just that.

Which books would you recommend for a three-year-old?


  1. We read The Complete Adventures of Curious George hundreds of times with our boys. They also loved King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (gorgeous illustrations and great for a boy who never wanted to get our of the bath!), Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever and Cars and Trucks and Things that Go (they'd look at the pictures for a long, long time even when we weren't reading it with them). Thanks for a few new-to-us recommendations.

  2. "Rattletrap Car" by Phyllis Root is one of our all-time favorites.


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