My Babe's Favourite Books

As an active reader, I was thrilled when my daughter started taking interest in books.  By taking interest I mean that one day she started demanding (by grunting) that I read to her and would complain until I read the book over and over and over.  I'd been hoping for and anticipating this day.  Last summer I brought over nearly 23 kg/50 lbs of children's books back from America.  (This year I plan to do the same.)  And of these books some have emerged as favourites, so today I share with you a few of our daughter's preferred board books.

Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
A friend bought our daughter this book, in addition to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, at Wild Rumpus (a lovely children's book shop in Minneapolis) telling us they were her two favourite Eric Carle books for littles. I watched an interview with Carle where he talked about how impressed he was with the text of this book and it's rhythm.  Only after reading it about 300 times did I get what Carle meant: the rhythm of the book is perfect.  The amount of text per page is ideal for a one-year-old and the repetition is such that if the baby/child turns the pages a bit too fast, you don't have to panic because the book is so well patterned that you know what to say next.  In addition, they include the always beautiful illustrations of Eric Carle--simply a pleasurable experience for both baby and adult.

Pojd'te s Námi na Houby by Radomír Socha and Andrea Popprová I first saw this book at my dear friend Jana's house and I was instantly impressed by the concept.  Translated, the title is something like "Come pick mushrooms with us!" Each page features a different mushroom, complete with illustration and poem.  The poem reveals to the reader the main features of the mushroom as well as whether it is edible.  Our daughter was first transfixed by the illustrations, but soon began demanding we read it to her.  The poems have nice rhythm and rhyming, so even I'm memorizing the poems.  The one I recite most often is "Křemenáč" which is about the edible mushroom leccinum rufum.  As I translate the poem, it goes something like this (sorry that I didn't make it rhyme) "Jarda tells little Kacka, 'leccinum rufum grow in the forest, they're hidden in thick grass, but we'll find them with ease.  They have red hats and legs like flour.  They stand straight like candles and will be tasty fried.'" As mushroom hunting is a common Czech pastime, I'm happy to give our babe any advantage we can now to make sure she knows how to properly identify the edible ones.

Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton This book was a gift to our daugther from a former English teacher of mine.  It's another whose brilliance is discovered upon re-reading.  The subtitle is "a little love song." Not only is the song between a mama dog and her puppy -- and our daughter LOVES dogs -- but the message is lovely.  Similar to I Love You Through and Through, it's a story/song about how we love our kids unconditionally.  Since it is supposed to be a song, it's quickly memorized and can thus be easily read/sung while your child turns the pages at his/her own pace.

We have received some textile books for our daughter, but they haven't been as popular as her bath books, but we received one "touch and feel" book, which has been a favourite from the beginning:

This Little Snowman written by Lucy Lyes and illustrated by Emily Bolam is another repetitive book that names each snowman and describes something about the snowman.  Each page has a textured section, be it a fuzzy snowman tum, rough coal buttons, or a snuggly snowman scarf.  It sometimes feels absurd to be reading it in the middle of the summer, but anything for literacy!

Posmíval se konipásek bz Josef Kainar and Zdeněk Miler is a long known and loved Czech children's book, filled with poems.  The illustrator also created the beloved Little Mole (krteček) who for over 50 years has enjoyed fame both in the CZ and worldwide in books, animations, and derivative toys. This book has plenty of puns and delightful illustrations.  My favourite illustration is featured below.  The poem is about a barber who forgot his keys, thus leaving a long queue of bearded men waiting at his barbershop door.

The last book I'll mention is Rotraut Sussane Berner's Summer.  Perhaps you notice that that's not the title on my book, which is the Czech version of the originally German book.  Both the German and Czech versions are printed in large board book forms.  Unfortunately the English version combines all the seasons into a normal paged book, without the heavy pages that make it so easy and delightful for a baby to peruse.  When my friend Jana first excitedly showed me these books, I was at first baffled.  What was so special about them?  But after having some time to sit down and page through the illustrations, I began to understand.  The book includes 14 pages and no text (aside from the text on some poster or car in an illustation).  Each page shows a different scene, but with repeated characters.  For example, the first spread shows an apartment building and the road below, the next shows the continuing road, but with a farm and a gas station behind, the next shows a train station and some surrounding shops, and so on.  But as you pay attention, you catch little visual stories: a cat chasing a mouse through each scene, a boy who loses his stuffed penguin which is found and then returned to him, people preparing to go to a birthday party, and so on.  The illustrations are detailed, and both my 14-month-old and my husband equally spend plenty of time pouring over the pages.

It would be easy to include plenty more books in this post, but I wanted just to highlight the current all-starts.  Perhaps you can pick one up for the next first birthday party you go to.


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