I will read just about any picture book once, but I have been known to hide particularly annoying picture books until I can sneak them back to the library. Usually, I prefer a book that is light on text. (But not too light. Books with just a single word or two per page bore me.) When it comes to extremely wordy books, I find they are a hard sell for me as the reader and my children as listeners. The younger children start turning the page mid-sentence in search for new pictures, and the older children sometimes turn their noses up at being read “baby books.”
We do have a handful of wordier books at our house that we love. If you have a little more time at bedtime this week, here are 5 books I heartily recommend.No Such Things by Bill Peet. Anything by Bill Peet could make this list, really, since most of his books are fairly text heavy. This is my favorite of his books. It was not easy to find, but I am holding out hope for a reprint. It’s clever, it rhymes, and each two-page spread spotlights a different fantastical creature. This keeps me from getting bored while I read. It’s a real struggle, folks, especially at bedtime. (Anyone else here fallen asleep reading books at bedtime? Or the near miss: closed your eyes and somehow find yourself started speaking gibberish? Not that it’s ever happened to me.)
What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry. My children adore Richard Scarry. I find his books a bit overwhelming. Still, all three of my children come back to this book as a favorite. Here’s my trick: I sometimes just read the story and leave the captions and labels alone. Did you read the part above about me falling asleep and starting to speak nonsense? Sometimes sacrifices have to be made. An added bonus that I didn’t expect is this: I only have one child that reads on his own at this point, and he loves going back and discovering everything going on in this book. We recently checked out Best Busy Year Ever at the library, and I was surprised when it was requested at bedtime every night for a week. Given our experience with What Do People Do All Day? I don’t know why I was surprised. There’s a reason these books are classics.
The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. My children love these stories. My husband especially loves reading them. They feel a little bit to me like Aesop’s Fables meets Wile E. Coyote. Brer Rabbit is a wiley thing, but he gets trapped by his mischief as often as it saves his skin. This is the version we have at our house. Our library has a few other solid editions, but we keep coming back to this one because of its size and many illustrations.
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers ; or, the Roly-Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter. For the life of me, I cannot get my children interested in Peter Rabbit. I’m going to keep trying with each child because I’m sure someone is bound to love him. They’re classics! But no matter how uninterested they are in Peter Rabbit, the two oldest adore Tom Kitten. Our love affair with the mischievous cat started when we were given the tiniest version ever of this book. The first 5 or 6 times I read it, I tried to get away with skipping pages. Now that I have it more or less memorized, I have to admit that it’s charming. We followed this one up with The Tale of Tom Kitten which I like even more. The kids keep requesting The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, though, so it’s probably time for us to buy a larger copy.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Each of my three children have taken a turn falling in love with this book. This is especially great for anyone who has ever struggled with a long or difficult-to-spell first name. My first name is neither, and I have still always loved this book.
A note on folk tales: Our library has a fantastic collection of folk tales, most of which are quite long. Check out this list of some of my favorites for some ideas, or just go wander the folktale aisle at your local library. When I asked for recommendations a few weeks ago, the children’s librarians working that day rattled off a list of four or five favorites each without skipping a beat.