For those that may not know, the 1000 Books Project is for me to read 1000 different books with my child before his sixth birthday. It is not meant to be a stress for us; I really chose an arbitrary number. I didn’t want to stop habit of frequently rereading favorites, but I also wanted to explore as many new books as possible. It was eleven months ago that I decided to this project with my then just two-year old. Almost a year into it, my son loves this project and beyond that, we read together far more than I ever imagined. He loves books.
The first month, I made an effort to remember to get more picture books from the library than I had before. Pretty soon, however, I found that my son needed very little encouragement to get a book and say, “Mommy, I want this one, and this one, and this one.” Or “Mommy, read it to me!” We often have more than 50 picture books checked out a time and he frequently during the day says, “I want to go read stories!” We keep them in the family room where he can easily access them. The books he owns are, for the most part, in his bedroom bookshelves.
As for how we pick books, I occasionally steer him towards shelves or actively seek out a subject he’s interested in (trucks or fairy tales or ABC books or Numbers books), but other times he tells me just what books he wants to get from the library. I also put an inordinate number of reserve requests in if there is a book I too want to read (and right now, for the Cybils I’m trying to read). He has recently turned three and we’ve surpassed 500 different books that I, personally, have read him.
Here are a few new favorites I’ve found, all of which are on the Children’s and Young Adult Blogger’s Literary Awards (CYBILS) picture book list, a list I’ve decided to adopt as my own for the next few months, just for fun.
First, a few words on the Cybils. I was really excited for the Cybils books lists simply because I love book lists and I’m excited to be finding the next new classic picture books. And although I’ve only been reading Cybils books for a few weeks, I’ve already found some new favorite books! This is very promising. I’m realizing, however, that I could never be on the committee. Although I’ve read at least 50 of the books on the Cybils list, most of them have been quick reads (although read in full) to determine if the book is one my son would sit through and if I like it enough to want to read it aloud many times. Most of the books are not ones my son would be interested in, but that doesn’t mean other, older kids wouldn’t like it!
Further, I’m glad I’m not on a committee because it would be near impossible to assign values and “winners” from the books I’ve read. So many of the books are amusing but not spectacular, or have a wonderful story but I personally don’t like the art style (or the art is just blah and ordinary), or contain wonderful art but I don’t like the story. Many books I rejected for my son simply because he’s still only three years old. Maybe in a few years he’d like some of them, but for one reason or another, it’s not age-appropriate right now.
That said, some definitely stand out.
The first Cybils book is one that we discovered together months ago: LMNO Peas by Keith Baker. LMNO Peas combines two things my son absolutely loves: the alphabet and peas. (I kid you not. With the right amount of salt and pepper and butter, must have butter, he will eat a whole bowl). Each letter of the ABC books stands for a job that the peas can do, represented by a group of peas doing said occupation.
First, I loved that it was an ABC book of careers! Many ABC books are animals or generic nouns, so it was a welcome break. Further, it is absolutely adorable to see little round peas with legs and arms doing all sorts of things. The art is great, with bright illustrations and big block letters dominating each page and providing a stage for the pea actors. I think it was a creative way to illustrate the alphabet. The best testimony to this kids picture book is that we keep returning to (at least when no one else has checked it out!). A few weeks ago, the library had an image of the cover on a back-to-school display poster and he pointed to it and said, “Oh, let’s get the LMNOP book again, Mommy!!” Unfortunately, it was checked out. We may have to invest in it!
Since I have been placing holds on the Cybils books, I’ve also decided it’s worthwhile to visit the “new books” rack each time I come to the libraries (I visit a few different branches in the area) since many of them may be there. The next book, Subway by Christoph Niemann, was on a new book shelf recently; it caught my eye because my son loves trains and has never yet been exposed to what a subway is. He loves this book! The illustrations are on a black background, with white-painted rounded-edged figures of a parent and two kids, taking a fun excursion on the New York Subway. I haven’t been to New York since I was young and I’ve never ridden the subway, but that did not stop me from enjoying this book, which has plenty of Big Apple place names! I love the simple art, which looks like posters you’d see for a subway. I also love the little details, like a watch in the midst of the shapes. My favorite page is the that in which the train is coming; the artist indicated wind by blurring the white paint of the circle faces. So clever! The author treats taking the subway as a fun family adventure, and I love that emphasis. Raisin loved finding the letters for the different trains, he loved pretending the train was moving down the track, and he loved pretty much everything about the book. He has frequently requested it in the past weeks.
The next is a book I knew my son would love as soon as I skimmed through it. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein tells of a father rooster who is trying to tell his daughter chicken some traditional fairy tales, but she keeps interrupting to save the character from the wicked witch, the mean old wolf, etc. Since my son has serious fascination with fairy tales right now (more on that another week), this was just perfect for him. He loves it when I retell a familiar story (Goldilocks is his favorite story. Often she visits the house of the three walrus’s or alligators, etc., in my story telling.) Besides the fact that it teaches manners (“Don’t interrupt!”) and fairy tales with more appropriate endings (“Don’t talk to strangers!”), it’s also very funny!
The art varies in the book: the chickens are fully illustrated, the fairy tales are black and white line drawings, and whenever the young chicken adds to the story, it is child-like crayon and stick figures. Again, my son loves this book. It perfect for him, given his current interests.
And then we come to the ever-talented Mo Willems: City Dog, Country Frog. This is one that is not illustrated by Mr Willems himself, but rather by the also talented John J. Muth. I love both the story and the art in this one. A dog from the city forms an unlikely partnership with a country frog. They play all spring and summer, and remember during the fall. But in the winter, the frog is not there. Yet, all ends well, for in the spring, once again, city dog finds a friend. It is a precious story for an adult, like me, who has lost friends in the past, either through moving or death. Although my son may or may not have picked up on the death of the frog he did learn that we can always find friends if our other friends aren’t there. We just have to be a friend to them. The art work is gorgeous, as you can tell from the cover. I seriously could frame the Winter image of the dog on my wall, and I’m not even a dog person! The sweet story and the beautiful artwork make City Dog, Country Frog a definite winner.
Are you reading any of the Cybils nominated books? Have you read any of these picture books?