The Most Memorable Children's Stories
I woke up this beautiful Easter morning thinking about my now 13 and 11 year old and how seldom I read to them at bedtime anymore. They still have bookcases full of long and short little books that we used to read together for hours when they were toddlers - their thumbs in their mouths, eyes transfixed on the page, and completely enraptured while I read, animating my voice as I spoke through the words of each character. I remember sometimes getting tired, and trying to occasionally skip a sentence, but my daughter would catch me on it - "Daddy, you missed that part!"
Every once in a while, even now, one of them will ask me to read one of those stories before they go to bed, and it's funny, but they're just as memorable, peaceful, even Zen-like to me.
So, this morning, I raided their bookshelves for a list of some of our favorite stories. There are so many, I can't possibly do them all justice, so if someone reading has a significant or particularly memorable book, please mention it. Here goes:
The baby years...
On the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, there's a picture of me reading a Winnie the Pooh book to her on our rocking chair. Pooh books are great - and very Zen-like, and I read plenty of Pooh books to the kids over the years, because of their simplicity and peace. But not on Day One. That belongs to books like Chicka Chicka ABC: "Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room? Look who's coming! L M N O P!"
Sandra Boynton is a champ for young parents. I scooped up every book she created. From Moo, Baa, La La La!: "A cow says Moo. A sheep says BAA. Three singing pigs say LA LA LA! "No, no!" you say, "that isn't right. The pigs say OINK all day and night." From Barnyard Dance: "Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance! Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how!"
Another of our favorites, still on my son's bookshelf, is Guess How Much I Love you. Little Nutbrown Hare is trying to tell his father, Big Nutbrown Hare how much he loves him: "I love you right up to the moon," he said, and closed his eyes. "Oh that's far," said Big Nutbrown Hare. He settled LNH down, kissed him good night, then as he drifted off to sleep, added, "I love you right up to the moon - and back."
Keep in mind, I'm compiling the list below from raiding my kids bookshelves this morning, so I expect to have forgotten or overlooked a number of really great kids stories, but there are a number of stories that transcend generations, and what I mean by that is that when I read them to my kids, they resonated. I have to say there are many that we want them to like, but they just don't. Here are some they really liked:
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. I can't believe they're going to make a movie based on the book. We'll see how that goes - sometimes these things are better in the quiet, connecting interpretation between you and the author. A similarly themed newer book my son also liked was The Salamander Room, by Anne Mazer.
The Funny Little Woman, by Arlene Mosel. I have no idea why my son likes this book so much, but he asked me to read it to him just the other night. Goofy little story!
Any Curious George book. The recent movie actually did these simple, fun little books some justice. Selecting Jack Johnson songs for the soundtrack was brilliant.
Caps For Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina. Monkeys keep stealing a peddler's hats
Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey. A little girl and a bear cub get their mothers mixed up.
Fireflies in the Night, by Judy Hawes. When you live in California, kids can only imagine what fireflies are truly like!
Go, Dog. Go!, by P.D. Eastman. One of the very, very best kids books ever! Also great by this author: Are You My Mother?, and Snow, among many others.
Anything by Dr. Seuss, but I'll mention him in rhymes, limericks and funny stories next!
Rhymes, Limericks and Funny Stories!
I have to admit, there were some stories I love to read more than others, and I really loved reading stories that had a rhythm to them, which I could make into a song for them. First on those list are Seuss books:
Yertle the Turtle: "Deep in the heart of salamasond, Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond..." Green Eggs and Ham. The kids book of all kids books! One Fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. I could go on and on.
Jack Prelutsky has created a huge inventory of short, fun little rhymes. I used to read the poems from Ride A Purple Pelican ("Justin Austin went to Boston, dressed in dusty jeans..."), and Beneath A Blue Umbrella.
A smattering of just fun books: Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash, My Monster Mama Loves Me So! (I substituted "Daddy" when I read it! ;-)), Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (the title alone is worth the price!), Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (just a really run read about instruments coming together in an orchestra - instructional as well: "With steely keys that softly click, it's breezy notes so darkly slick, a sleek black woody clarinet is number seven - now septet!")
Laura Numeroff has a series of fun books, starting with If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, that are fun and easy to read. They always wrap around - one thing leads to another. David Shannon has a number of probably autobiographical books about a little boy getting into trouble, starting with "No, David!" Audrey and Don Wood have created a number of beautifully written and illustrated books, such as The Napping House, which my kids also really enjoyed.
I always kept my nighttime rituals the same with my kids - to give them a sense of safety, and to send them a signal the lights were about to go out and it was time to go to sleep! Here's how it went:
First I'd pick something peaceful and meditative to read to them. Something like Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, Puddles, by Jonathan London, Kiss Good Night, by Amy Hest, or Lullaby Raft, by Naomi Shihab Nye. Or Guess How Much I Love You, mentioned above. Then I'd read the following two books, so religiously that even today, I have the entire text of the stories memorized. Here goes:
Boynton's The Going To Bed Book: "The sun has set not long ago. Now everybody goes below. To take a bath in one big tub, with soap all over - SCRUB SCRUB SCRUB! They hang their towels on the wall, and find pajamas, big and small. With some on top and some beneath, they brush and brush and brush their teeth. And when the moon is on the rise, they all go up to exercise! And down once more, but not so fast they're on their way to bed at last. The day is done. They say good night, and somebody turns off the light. The moon is high. The sea is deep. They rock and rock and rock to sleep."
Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon: "In the great green room there was a telephone. And a red balloon, and a picture of - the cow jumping over the moon. And there were three little bears sitting on chairs. And two little kittens, and a pair of mittens. And a little toyhouse. And a young mouse. And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush. And a quiet old lady who was whispering "hush." Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon. Goodnight bears. Goodnight chairs. Goodnight kittens. And goodnight mittens. Goodnight clocks. And goodnight socks (our dog was named Socrates, so at this point, I'd interject the name of our other dog as well - "and goodnight Cleo!") Goodnight little house. And goodnight mouse. Goodnight comb, and goodnight brush. Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush. And goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush." Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere."
And nine nights out of ten, the kids' Mom would come in an hour later to wake me up, because I would fall asleep right beside them!
The most peaceful sleep you can ever imagine.
Check out my related hub: The Most Memorable Children's Movies
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