Our son, Tikoy, loves stories. We started reading books to him when Abi was still pregnant, so I guess that’s why we didn’t have a hard time introducing the habit to him.
We’ve been writing for months now in the blog, but this will be our first time to review children’s books. We chose these ten titles mostly because of their popularity: ones you will often see in book shops (with quite a hefty price tag) and are particularly rare in second-hand bookstores. Most of them are part of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Children’s Books of all Time too!
Here are our two cents on ten books to help you decide if you want to get a copy of your own.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
By Eric Carle
Plot: A caterpillar eats his way through fruits and, on the last day, had a feast that ended with a stomach ache. Then, he goes through a life-changing experience.
This was an instant favorite book of Tikoy. He loves the colors of the fruits in the book, especially the strawberries. Eric Carle’s books focus on different basic skills like telling the time and identifying colors. For The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it’s all about days of the week, counting and recognizing fruits.
The book is a quick read, so every time we finish reading it, he would immediately say, “Again! Again! Again!”. Sometimes, we recite the book from memory and forget to turn the pages, and he would nudge us as if to say “pay attention, dad!” Now that he’s almost three, he has memorized most parts of the stories and narrates it back to us.
Among Eric Carle’s books, Caterpillar is our favorite. It’s quite popular that you will see various print formats of this book. Get hardbound if you plan to buy one. If your kid likes this, expect that you will be reading it more than a hundred times. So, better get the sturdier kind.
And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
By Dr. Seuss
Plot: On his way home from school, Marco sees things beyond the ordinary happening on the streets.
When Tikoy was a few weeks old, I like reading this book to him. Early on, we realized that we enjoyed Dr. Seuss’s books more than Tikoy. We both like its humor, imagination, and rhyming words. There’s a certain cadence in how the lines were written that you’d be reading them in a sing-song way.
It’s a long book for a newborn, but Tikoy seemed engaged as he got used to listening to stories when he was still in Abi’s womb. Looking back, we realized that Mulberry Street was one of the books we read to him when we were still living in Mindanao.
A few months later, we discovered (through a podcast) that Mulberry Street was the first book that Dr. Seuss wrote. If you have some idea on Dr. Seuss’s history, you would know how memorable this book is to him, or maybe we can write another blog post about him.
UPDATE: As of March 2, 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has ceased publication and licensing of this book in their commitment to support all communities and families.
Guess How Much I Love You?
By Sam McBratney
Plot: A father-and-son hare show hand gestures and body movements to quantify how much they love each other.
I have been curious about this book primarily because it’s prominently displayed in children’s books corners, and it’s quite pricey. The first time we read it, we didn’t immediately like it because the character’s names are quite a mouthful: Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare! Why couldn’t they just be George or Harry?
But then we realized that it’s a cute book because of the hand gestures that you and your toddler can imitate. When Little Nutbrown Hare does a headstand and shouts- “up to your toes!”, Tikoy attempts to do a headstand himself. It’s a quick read too, so he doesn’t get bored.
Some say that the story is moving as it talks about how love for each other can’t be measured. We love it for the beautiful watercolor illustration, and Tikoy learned some moves from it. My heart melted when Tikoy described this as “Daddy and Tikoy’s book”.
Spoiler alert: the famous “I love you to the moon and back” comes from this book.
Are You My Mother?
By P.D. Eastman
Plot: A newly hatched bird searches for his mother and asks different animals (and vehicles) along the way. Eventually, he gets rescued by an unlikely “creature”.
This has been sitting on our shelf for quite a while before we read it to Tikoy. The newborn bird asks a lot of animals and other times, vehicles along the way, so it creates a little strain on our voices when we read it. But Tikoy enjoys these kinds of books because it’s repetitive, easy to recall, and introduces a variety of characters.
One time, after browsing through the pages, Tikoy went to Abi and asked: “Mommy, are you my mother?”
Oh, The Places You’ll Go
By Dr. Seuss
Plot: A boy in a yellow suit goes on an adventure and discovers the ups and downs of life.
This book is commonly gifted to college graduates as it talks about your ” mountain waiting and having to be on your way.” We like that it didn’t shy away from the struggles in between, and sometimes, we wished we read it ourselves while we were still in the university.
We think that for some of Dr. Seuss’s books, he presents hard truths in life so it’s something to talk and reflect about. Recently, we posted about how “the waiting place” part has sat differently with us under the pandemic.
Frog and Toad
By Arnold Lobel
Plot: A collection of short stories of two amphibian friends who have funny day-to-day experiences.
We got this as a gift for Tikoy’s 1st birthday. The stories are witty and funny that we read it for ourselves (not so much for the little boy) at first. It follows the adventures (and misadventures) of two socially awkward anamorphic best friends.
When Tikoy turned two, we started to introduce the tales to him, and he instantly had favorites among the collection: “Cookies” and “Ice Cream.” It probably has something to do with those being one of his favorite desserts, but we like the plot twists as well. In fact, it inspired an easy oven toaster cookie recipe.
Good Night Moon
By Margaret Wise Brown
Plot: A bunny says “good night” to inanimate objects in his room until he eventually sleeps.
For weeks, this was Tikoy’s favorite book. He enjoys the things the little bunny says goodnight to and helps him recognize similar items at home, such as the clock, the brush, and a bowl full of mush (his dad’s oats). It’s also effortless to read, so we didn’t mind reading them a couple of times in a row. But Abi laughs when I get scared when it comes to the part where the bunny says, “goodnight, nobody.”
Harold’s Purple Crayon
By Crockett Johnson
Plot: After some thinking, Harold decides to get out of bed and bring his purple crayon with him that turns his imagination into reality.
I was very interested in this book when a couple we know highly recommended it. When we had a copy, however, it felt “meh.” But they say that parents tend to appreciate things their kids like and to me, this is one of those. Perhaps we read it at the wrong time before, but I was glad to have given it another chance now that Tikoy is older. He was hooked with the story and the imaginings of Harold. I guess it also helps that he relates to Harold’s purple crayon now that he has a basic set of jumbo crayons himself.
Just like Frog and Toad, this is also available as a compilation of five books.
Horton Hatches the Egg
By Dr. Seuss
Plot: A lazy bird asks an elephant to hatch her egg.
This is a rather long story. When I was still single, I dreaded the nights when my goddaughter, Piper, would ask me to read this story before going to bed. It takes too long to read and strains my voice. But Horton is such a heart-warming story that it’s irresistible at the same time. Back then, I thought that Horton would be something I would love to tell my child and instill this message: “I mean what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”.
The Very Busy Spider
By Eric Carle
Plot: A spider busily spins her web and ignores answering several animals’ questions.
We think that this is Tikoy’s second favorite Erice Carle book, and his first, although subtle, touch and feel one. He was afraid to try it for the first few months until he learned the ritual, if you will, of tracing the spider web as we read later on. This book introduced him to farm animal sounds, thereby resulting in an unrelenting “neigh, neigh said the horse” throughout the day. Like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it’s repetitive that you’d memorize the whole book after a week’s reading.
1. Some books are suitable for babies or toddlers at a particular stage in their development. I know that someday Tikoy will outgrow The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and that’s okay. We will always look back to the days when his little fat hands try to get the red strawberries.
2. Since these are classics, some books were written in the 1940s. Do note that there are images/circumstances in the stories that may not be relevant now.
3. These are Western books. Some examples are very American in a way.
4. You will have your favorites, and so will your kid.
5. There’s a reason why board books are a thing for children’s stories.
6. If you don’t like a book for the first time, set it aside for a while and read it again. Sometimes, the magic happens at the second or tenth try.
7. These are popular books, but it doesn’t mean that they’re all popular with some parents. Some schools of thought discourage these kinds of stories, such as anamorphic characters or elephant birds. Early on, parents must decide if you’re okay to introduce these stories.
Talking about lists, we are honored to be part of this: https://blog.feedspot.com/philippines_parenting_blogs/