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Challenge: Reading Together

Best Books for the Younger Set

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When my cousin came to visit recently, she asked what gifts she could bring for the kids. "You don't need to bring anything, but if you want to bring something, a book," I replied. When she arrived, she mock-confronted me: "I talked to my friends with kids, and they said that kids don't want books for presents! They want toys! Are you trying to get me in trouble!"

Now sure, my kids would have been happy with Lego or transformers, but they really do love books. They are a huge part of their lives and their routines. Here is a list of our favorites over the past five years -- so aimed mainly at the ages 2-5 set. Hopefully you will find some good new suggestions here, either for the holidays or to pick up next time you go to the library. And most of these are great bedtime-length books (I’ll note when they’re not).

1. Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

This one is great for babies on up to Kindergarten. When a rude dump truck gets stuck in the mud, no one is willing to help him get out – except Little Blue. When Little Blue gets stuck too, the animals – and the big dump truck – all learn a little bit about team work and helping out. There’s a great rhythm to this book and lovely pictures.

2. How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long. Illustrated by David Shannon.

This one is better for ages 3-6 or so, as it’s a bit longer and more involved. It tells the story of Jeremy Jacob, who is sitting innocently on the beach when he is recruited by a band of pirates to help bury their treasure. The story is funny – particularly the illustrations – and has been read in our house so many times I know it by heart.

3. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

This is not a bedtime book – it can easily take an hour to read through it. But it is a great way to spend some quiet time with your kids, particularly your truck-loving kids. The basic premise is that the pig family is going to the beach for a picnic, and along the way they encounter all sorts of interesting vehicles. This is my favorite Richard Scarry book, with lots of whimsical pictures (a pickle truck! A mouse riding a cheese-mobile!). The best part is that you get to find Goldbug hiding on each page – sort of a Where’s Waldo precursor.

4. Oh No, George!, by Chris Haughton

This is my absolute favorite bedtime book. It’s the story of a dog who tries so hard to be good but doesn’t always succeed. It is sweet and whimsical and absolutely hilarious. And it ends with a bit of a cliffhanger!

5. Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein

For kids who love a good fairy tale, this is a must-get. Little Chicken wants her dad to read her a fairy tale, but Little Chicken can’t help but interrupt to make sure everyone gets a happy ending. Another great book by the same author is Dinosaur Kisses. Can’t go wrong with either.

6. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak

This book is written by one of the guys from The Office, so you know it’s going to be funny. My kids love this book, because it is basically an excuse to make the person reading it say ridiculous things (e.g., “Boo Boo Butt”). I first tried to read this to my son when he was recovering from a procedure at the hospital, and we had to stop reading it because he was laughing so hard it hurt. It’s that funny.

7. Go! Go! Go! Stop!, by Cherise Mericle Harper

This is the tale of a green light who helps out at a construction site, until the green light realizes he could use a little less go and a little more stop. This is a good story about team work, and a great book for budding readers, who can sound out “Go” and “Stop” as you read.

8. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf. Illustrated by Robert Lawson.

This is such a sweet book. It’s the story of a little bull who just wants to sit quietly and smell the flowers. But he happens to get stung by a bee right when people are visiting the ranch to recruit bulls for the bullfight in Madrid. Ferdinand gets chosen, and doesn’t behave quite as expected in the ring. This is a great book for introverts and other kids who march to the beat of their own drum.

9. Surprise, by Mies Van Hout

We got this book at the library one time, and it was such a hit we had to add it to our collection. This book is the story of a mother bird who watches her eggs hatch and then eventually lets them go free. With just one word per page, it’s all about the right verbs (yearning, listening) and the gorgeous illustrations. I thought about taking this book apart and hanging the pictures on the walls of my baby’s room, but couldn’t bear to destroy the book.

10. Red Sled, by Lita Judge

A little girl leaves her sled out, and you will never guess the motley crue of animals who take advantage of this. Not a ton of words in this book, but lots of really, really excellent pictures. And who doesn’t need a nice snowy story over the holidays.

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