Category Archives: 2 years+

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

By Alice and Martin Provensen. Aladdin Books, 2001

Who lives at Maple HIll Farm? People live here. Two dogs and five horses live here. A pig lives here. Then there are — some geese, lots of chickens, a few cows, a few goats, several sheep, and four special cats…

I can’t imagine a better picture book for any animal-loving kid. On each page are illustrations of the dogs, horses, pigs, cats, chickens and goats who live (or used to live) on the author’s real Straatsburg, NY farm, followed by verbal snapshots of their unique personalities. For instance, the big rooster, aptly named Big Shot, doesn’t like children. Willow the cat “is very beautiful, but not very interesting.” And Whiney the sheep is always lost and never knows where the gate is. My kids can look at these gorgeous, simple drawings forever. We’ve decided we all want to live at Maple Hill Farm.

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The Bear With Sticky Paws

By Clara Vulliamy

Tiger Tales, 2007

There’s a girl named Lily and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door. She says, “I DON’T WANT ALL THIS BREAKFAST!” and throws down her spoon.” “NO, I won’t wash my face. NO, I won’t brush my hair. NO, I won’t get dressed…” “NO! NO! NO!”

I could criticize many things about this odd little book, but the Lily in me says “NO!” The truth is, its luscious candy-colored illustrations and sparse,wackadoodle text tap into what all kids genuinely want: the love of their parent(s). Continue reading

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Ideas, sound effects and pictures by Stephen Michael King

Roaring Book Press, 2008

No running text in this small book, just the occasional sound effect — the snip, snip of a mother’s eager scissors, the pitter, patter, splot of  a trickling shower. But the gorgeously simple drawings do a fine job of telling the story. Continue reading

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Blueberries for Sal


By Robert McCloskey

Viking, 1948

Little Sal picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail…kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! She picked three more berries and ate them. Then she picked more berries and dropped one in the pail — kuplunk! And the rest she ate. Then Little Sal ate all four blueberries out of her pail!

Continue reading

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The Paperboy


Story and paintings by Dav Pilkey

Scholastic, 1996

The mornings of the paperboy are still dark and they are always cold even in the summer. And on these cold mornings the paperboy’s bed is still warm and it is always hard to get out — even for his dog…but they do.

Continue reading

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Boo and Baa Get Wet


By Olof and Lena Landstrom, Translated by Joan Sandin

R&S Books, 2000

Boo and Baa left the croquet set outside. “We have to go out and get it,” says Baa. “Do we have to?” says Boo. “We’ll have the flashlight with us,” says Baa. Boo still thinks it’s very dark outside. And the croquet set has so many pieces!

The excerpt above doesn’t do Boo and Baa justice, and neither does a synopsis: In the middle of a thunderstorm, two little sheep run outside in the dark to rescue their croquet set. They scare themselves silly, have a good laugh about it, the lights come on… and then they go to sleep. You really need to see the accompanying pictures to fully appreciate the Landstroms’ offbeat humor and the vigorous cuteness of Boo and Baa. My daughter sleeps with this copy in her crib — at least until it’s due back at the library.

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Fancy Nancy


By Jane O’Connor, Pictures by Robin Preiss Glasser

Harper Collins, 2006

I love being fancy. My favorite color is fuchsia. That’s a fancy way of saying purple. I like to write my name with a pen that has a plume. That’s a fancy way of saying feather. And I can’t wait to learn French because everything in French sounds fancy.  Nobody in my family is fancy at all. They never even ask for sprinkles.

I resisted Fancy Nancy for a loooong time. Each time I saw it at our local book store or the library, I’m fairly certain I sniffed audibly and/or rolled my eyes. It just seemed so, well, fancy. But when someone gave my daughter a copy for her second birthday, I finally got past the tiara and chorus-girl coyness of the cover illustration and actually read it. And I freely admit I was wrong: Fancy Nancy is fairly marvelous — which is a fancy way of saying “pretty darn good.” What you’re getting isn’t a compelling narrative, but a compelling character. Nancy has such a unique way of seeing the world, you just can’t help but be charmed. Oh, and just for fun, take a look at Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest, the 2001 book Glasser illustrated with Judith Viorst. Any red-curly-haired girl with an exuberant attitude look familiar?

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We Eat Dinner in the Bathtub


By Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers

Scholastic, 1996

“Do you want to eat dinner at my house, Josh?” “Okay, Harris.” “We eat dinner in the bathtub.” “THE BATHTUB?” “Yes.” “Why do you do that? You should eat dinner in the dining room.” “We sleep in the dining room.”

I don’t know what I love most about this slight little book, which is perfect for beginning readers. The hilarious premise?  (Harris’s kooky family uses every room in their house for purposes other than what they were intended for.) The wonderful illustrations? (Which beautifully underscore the idea that it’s not only okay but more fun to be different.) Or, quite possibly, it’s the fact that throughout this book, Josh and Harris are carrying on a conversation while having a totally free-range adventure: reading comics in a treehouse, climbing down a steep cliff face, biking down a curvy, narrow mountain road… Ah for the good old days.

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By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Illustrated by Scott Magoon

Disney Hyperion Books, 2009

Lately, Spoon had been feeling blue. “What’s wrong?” asked his mother. “You look a bit out of shape.” “Nothing,” mumbled Spoon. “It’s just that…I don’t know…All my friends have it so much better than me. Like Knife. Knife is so lucky! He gets to cut, he gets to spread. I never get to cut or spread.”

Sad little Spoon thinks everyone’s got it better than him. Fork gets to plunge face-first into a fiery BBQ grill and lasso spaghetti, for instance. And Chopsticks are just so cool and exotic. Fortunately, patient and wise Mama Spoon is there to remind Spoon of his unique abilities. This picture book offers a refreshing spin on a heard-it-lots-before message (“Everyone’s special in their own way”). Rosenthal’s droll insight is as welcome as ever and Magoon has somehow managed to make various kitchen utensils as cuddly and winsome as Winnie the Pooh.

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Half a World Away


By Libby Gleeson, Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006

Amy and Louie built towers as high as the sky. They dug holes deep enough to bury bears, and they saw magical creatures in the clouds…But one day Amy and her family moved a long, long way away…to the other side of the world.

I’ve come across precious few children’s books that deal gracefully with death (Up in Heaven, by Emma Chichester Clark, is by far the best) and way fewer which acknowledge the smaller, yet also significant, losses kids might experience as well. At the top of that list? Having your best friend move away. The beauty of this very simple book is its reassuring message: A special friendship won’t be broken by distance. When my son’s best friend moved to the opposite coast last fall, he was devastated — but didn’t want to talk about it. I like to think reading this book offered him some comfort.

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