I am a female with a degree in English and I have never read Pride and Prejudice. I fear more shocking words have never been uttered. Not only that, but my emphasis was in teaching and I was never one of those English majors that loved the Classics. I read them, appreciated them, even enjoyed a small handful, but I greatly preferred more modern literature. (Dear would-have-been-students, I apologize for leaving the field of teaching and leaving you under the tutelage of others that will continue to have you over analyze the Scarlet Letter to the point that you no longer want to read another book again in your life. You have my deepest sympathies. Please don’t give up reading; there are so many good books out there!) In general, I’m fairly critical about the literature I read. I gravitate toward books that are nonfiction or at least read like nonfiction. They have to be well written, minimally sentimental, and preferably clever. Some of the ladies in the book club I belong to were a little concerned when I rarely commented on the books we read, but when I started speaking up about plot holes and author’s hidden agendas I think they wished I would go back to being quiet again. They didn’t realize I was just trying to hide my cynical nature because I wanted them to keep being my friends. (As it turns out, they are true friends because they haven’t kicked me out since I’ve started opening my big mouth.)
When I was pregnant with Cooper my father, a cynical high school English teacher himself, gave me a copy of Jim Treelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook. While all my pregnant friends were reading What to Expect While You’re Expecting and stressing out (check out one of my favorite reviews of that book here) I was engrossed in The Read Aloud Handbook and feeling better about my chances of successful parenting. I have many shortcomings as a parent, but there is one thing that even I think I am very good at and that is reading with my kids. I will often plop down on the floor in the middle of cooking dinner to read a book and think there is nothing more sweet than seeing a kid on each of Noel’s knees as he reads a bedtime story. (Side note: Someday I shall have to write a post about the hilarious commentary Noel gives as he reads books to the kids. There is a cynic living inside of him too.) While I tolerate all of the dribble written about trains because a certain little boy loves them so much, I am not afraid to hide or donate books that are just plain stupid, for lack of a better description. I’m constantly on the lookout for clever, well illustrated children’s books that entertain both me and the kids. Here are some of the ones we’re enjoying and I’d love any of your suggestions. If you are the kind of parent that takes things extremely seriously, you may not like some of these books because they have “obvious political agendas” or will “teach your children to cross dress” or whatever other horrible and hilarious things parents say in reviews of children’s books. However, if you’re an obviously terrible parent like me, you may want to read negative reviews of children’s books the next time you need a good laugh. And if that doesn’t work, perhaps sexy men reading children’s books will do the job.
- Olivia Books – The ones actually written by Ian Falconer and not the ones written after the Nickelodeon show his books inspired. My two favorites are “Olivia Saves the Circus” and “Olivia and the Fairy Princesses”.
- “All the World” by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee – The pictures are breathtaking and the poetic vibe of the book is nice.
- “The Bunyans” by Audrey Wood – I love the imaginative nature of this book.
- “Duck for President” by Doreen Crowin and Betsy Lewin – From the authors of “Click, Clack, Moo“, but slightly more hilarious.
- “My Momma Had a Dancing Heart” by Libba Gray and Raul Colon – Another poetic favorite. Every mom should read this with her daughter.
- “The Boss Baby” by Marla Frazee (illustrator of “All the World”) – I’m seriuosly thinking of making this my new mom gift.
- “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak – A classic that I do love. For an interesting interview with the author, check out this one on NPR.
- “The Lion and the Mouse” by Jerry Pinkey – A beautiful rendition of the classic fable.
- “The Wretched Stone” by Chris Van Allsburg – I like it for the underlying anti-tv message.
There are admittedly some classics that I do love. For some reason “Goodnight Moon” hasn’t gotten old yet and I only hate “Love you Forever” because I just cannot read that cursed book without crying. I also just checked out one of the booklists on Jim Treelease’s website and was intrigued with some of the titles.