Friday, September 01, 2006

Bedtime Reading: 9/1

It's the beginning of a new month, so what better time to start a new feature? I think about and read a lot of books for kids (since I have two sons, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and I read to them, or at least one of them, nearly every night), and I've wanted to write about those books here for a while. But I hadn't really found the right way to do it, until today.

On nights that I read "short books" (the most recent "long book," Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, went into hibernation when I went off to Worldcon and hasn't come back out yet), there are four of them, which is a nice workable number. So I'm going to try to jot down some thoughts about the books I read on the nights I remember to do so and have time to spare. (Even once a week would be OK, and I think I can do better than that.)

Tonight, Thing 1 decided to read a My Neighbor Totoro storybook in his own room, and Thing 2 decided tonight's breakdown would be that he picked one book and I picked three. And those were:
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (him)
    I was hitting the puns very hard tonight (draw up the bed, make land, etc.) to emphasize them to Thing 2 -- his brother is at the age of memorizing and telling jokes, so the little one wants to work out what makes things funny for himself. And, of course, this is a wonderful little book.
  • The Little Farm by Lois Lenski (me)
    One of the middle books in the long-running "Mister Small" series (originally published from the '30s through the '60s, I think). I discovered these with Thing 1 and bought the nicely colored reissues as they came out over the past few years. Some of them seem a bit dated (The Little Auto is from 1934!), but it hasn't bothered the boys -- I'm not sure if they've even noticed. I picked this one tonight because it's from later in the series, and has fewer words. (Some picture books have too many words for their own good; you need to be able to read them at a natural pace and still turn pages at a reasonable speed. It is possible to have a crammed-full book that takes forever to read and is screamingly funny -- like Laurie Keller's great Arnie the Doughnut -- but that's very hard to pull off.)
  • Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells (me)
    One of the Max & Ruby books; Thing 2 noted that this story was one he'd seen on TV. It's funny and enjoyable, like all of the Max & Ruby books, and it also has "shopping lists" of single words several places, which are very good to use as a reading/word recognition exercise. (That sounds awfully highfalutin', but Thing 2 is starting kindergarten in less than a week, and I'd like to help him learn to read if I can.)
  • One Monster After Another by Mercer Mayer (me)
    I love Mercer Mayer's books; I imprinted on them when I was a boy in the '70s and he was doing some of his best work. This is from that era, and has lots of odd creatures with great names (the Stamp-Collecting Trollusk, the Bombanat-Munching Grumley, the Free Floating Ice-Ferg, and so on). This one doesn't have all of the silly things going on in the background, like some of his books of that era do (like How the Trollusk Got His Hat), but the art is nicely detailed and...I'm afraid I can't be objective about Mercer Mayer. He's just one of the greats to me.

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