Your kid like trains? Have I got the book for him! Or her! How To Train a Train by Jason Eaton and illustrated by John Rocco is an adorable picture book about how to catch and train your very own pet train. This “guidebook” takes the reader through the steps as though he were catching an animal in the wild, house training a puppy, or learning to ride a horse. Funny text blends beautifully with Rocco’s adorable art, such as on this page which asks, “Does it like to fetch?” We see the train eager to play with his boy. Because after all, aren’t a kid’s toys real to them anyhow? For ages 4-8.



Batman and RobinI’m so excited I found this really great book for introducing your special little boy (or girl) to superheroes or sharing your love of comic books!  It’s “Batman” series “Fright Club” by John Sazaklis.  This book could be suited for kids grades Kg – 2nd, depending on the child’s development and interest level.  I realize I’m expanding on my age level categories here, but so be it.

I’m usually disappointed with licensed character books, with the exception of the Early Reader or I Can Read variety.  Usually they are extremely wordy, boring the child and the parent with excessive blabbering about superfluous details, and with vocabulary levels way above the intended reader.  I kind of think this may be because they know it will sell regardless.  As in, who cares if it’s a quality book that engages young minds and creates a love of books – it’s got Mickey Mouse on the cover.  It’ll make millions.  Cynical, I know.  Anyhow, on to Batman Fright Club.   This book is well written for the younger crowd having an adult reading it to them.  The language has many advanced words, but the story is told in a way that the younger crowd can still follow it.  There’s also plenty of vocabulary that includes cool superhero  phrases like, “The joker is up to his old tricks again,“ and “The party’s over, Joker.“  It introduces the term “villain,” which I love- the more sophisticated term for bad guy.  A perfect word for showing off to other boys on the playground that you really know what you’re talking about.  This is a perfect way to build a child’s vocabulary, by building on words that already have meaning to them.

Batman ducks and The Scarecrow and Joker spray each other

Batman ducks and The Scarecrow and Joker spray each other

The pages consist of different panes just like a comic book, except one pane will take up usually an entire page whereas a comic has 9 or more panes on each page.  While comic books tend to be pretty lengthy, this book is short enough to read before bed.  And it has great illustrations!  The Illustrations are definitely very “big boy,” not baby-ish picture book, making younger boys feel like they’ve got an “in” with big boy territory.

Several great Christmas books I found! Check out the link…

I love this book!  Need I say more? 

OK, I will.  This is about a little duckling who is easily distracted and doesn’t stay by momma duck, and the pond becomes a very scary place full of danger when she finds herself all alone.  So it’s a cautionary tale.  I had really hoped that reading it to my son (who would constantly run off with zero concern about being away from mommy or getting lost) would learn a little lesson from it(heh heh).  Yeah, it didn’t change anything.  But it does provide a platform to talk about the importance of staying with mommy or daddy when out in public.

I love the word choice: my favorite page goes, “Plog! went a frog.  ‘Quack,’ said Daisy. ‘Ribbit,’ said the frog.”  And the pictures are darling.  This would be a good one to “read” to babies.  Pick a favorite page, or however many they’ll sit through, and just tell a simple little story about just that page.  Point out the characters and where they’re at and just let them take in the picture.

OK, maybe it’s a little late at this point (Look here again next year!) but I wanted to add a couple more fun Thanksgiving books that I found.  “Five Silly Turkeys” by Salina Yoon is a cute counting book for babies and toddlers. It’s a simple five-page spread where a turkey is subtracted on each page, until they all meet up again on the last page, and each page has a shiny textile feather that you can turn the page with. 

“Turkey Trouble” by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper is great for maybe 3 and up.  It’s about a turkey who is trying to escape being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner and so dresses up as other farm animals to hide from Farmer Jake.  “His costume wasn’t bad.  In fact, Turkey looked just like a pig…almost,”  is one of the repeated phrases.  The story structure has a funny repetition as he uses items from around the barn to make different animal costumes.  Repetition provides a great structure for children, and as they start to pick up on the pattern as you read it, have them predict (guess) what’s going to happen next.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This story is great for little boys who love trucks!  There are 2 main elements to this book: First there is a big mess, then the trucks get to work – what do you think they’re making?  Predicting is a great thing to practice.  Even if they’re wrong, they are thinking!  The 2nd element is all of the concept words.  You can show and play these concepts with your hands, body, toy trucks, or something you are doing, such as “Watch me mix mix mix the pancake batter!”

  • Buy it at: Your local independant bookstore or www.amazon.com
  • Author: I couldn’t find an Emma Garcia website but you could do a google search if you want to find out more about her

I had a request for a Thanksgiving book and I want to explain why I picked this one.  I don’t particularly care for books that awkwardly explain to a child in the story what Thanksgiving means; I can awkwardly explain to my child on my own. (I might add probably the best place to start with young children is talking about people and things that we love and make us happy.)  I also didn’t pick one that focuses on the food because it seems the adults are the ones that really appreciate the homemade feast.  I think most kids would be happy with a bowl of macaroni and cheese.  So I have picked this old song that was put into a book and illustrated with woodcuts by Christopher Manson, because kids love songs and songs can become family traditions.

If you are reading to a baby, they will be delighted to just hear you sing it.  If they are a little older you can talk about the pictures and how before cars, people would ride in a carriage or sled pulled by a horse.

I will be adding to this list so check back for more!

Here’s my listing of great picture books to check out.  A great book is one that you can read again and again without growing tired of it.  Great literature inspires imagination, whether it reminds you of something or someone familiar, allows you to see the world in a new light, or drives you to create something in response to it.  Upon first readings, just read the story, maybe predicting what might happen next.  But on subsequent readings, feel free to indulge in counting, having your child describe what they see in the picture, having your child tell the story themselves, etc.  Just remember reading requires the reader to be active and thinking.   These are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.  This is just a starting point, check out other books by these authors as well.

  • Brown, Margaret Wise/Hurd, Clement “Goodnight Moon”
  • Cronin, Doreen/Lewin, Betsy “Click, Clack Moo Cows that Type”
  • Garcia, Emma “Tip Tip Dig Dig”
  • Johnson, Crocket “Harold and the Purple Crayon”
  • Martin Jr, Bill/Archembault, John/Ehlert, Lois “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”
  • Masurel, Claire “Two Homes” (About divorce)
  • McMullen, Kate and Jim “I Stink!”
  • Rosenthal, Amy Krouse/Corace, Jen “Little Pea”
  • Shannon, David “No, David!”
  • Shea, Bob “Race You to Bed”
  • Simmons, Jane “Come Along, Daisy”
  • Urbanovic, Jackie “Duck Soup”
  • Vere, Ed “The Getaway”
  • Willems, Mo “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”
  • Wilson, Karma/Chapman, Jane “Bear Wants More”
  • Wolf, Sallie/Davies, Andy Robert “Truck Stuck”
  • Wood, Audrey and Don “The Napping House”
  • Yolen, Jane/Teague, Mark “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?”
  • Zion, Gene/Graham, Margaret Bloy “Harry the Dirty Dog”

Little Pea feels like the quintessential children’s story – a perfectly simple story structure.  It turns around the age-old dilemma of children hating their vegetables.  The Little Pea is forced to eat candy for dinner. Yuck!  So if he hates his candy dinner, what do you suppose he gets for dessert?  This is light and fun; perfect for a sleepy child that wants a quick, easy story.  I love the sparse illustrations, not at all busy or distracting.  In my video below I forgot to mention you could do a little math activity of subtraction as he eats the pieces of candy.  If you like this one, look for Little Hoot and Little Oink.

I LOVE Halloween!  But I have found that it can be difficult to find Halloween books, or any holiday book for that matter, that I really like at my local library.  This one I did a search of all branches and put on hold to be sent to my library.  If you’re picky like me you’ll need to do those searches early to get holiday books on time.

This book is based on the familiar tune of “Wheels on the Bus.”  We count up to ten as new things come onto the spooky bus.  This is a great example of a book you can stretch.  The first time just read, er, sing it through.  But after that, feel free to stop and really look at each page, count, etc.   This is a really important aspect of reading – being actively engaged in the activity.  Reading shouldn’t be something that’s rushed through.  Of course we all have times when you just need to get your child to bed.  But anytime you can stop and talk about the illustration and things happening on the page you are building their reading comprehension!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is totally hilarious!  This is also an interactive book- the Pigeon acts like an obstinate child, a perfect character to interact with your own never-ever -obstinate child.  You and your child are left in charge of the bus and it’s up to you to tell the Pigeon, “No!”

On the video I am reading it to my son.  He gets distracted only because the camera is rolling and he wants to show off, but you get the idea.  Also, if you like to get online with your child, www.mowillems.com is a good one.

Truck Stuck is written in a short and upbeat type of rhyme called terse verse.  It’s a  great style of poetry, particularly with toddler boys.  It is about a truck that gets stuck under the overpass, or viaduct.  I used to live in Chicago, as does the author, and this is actually something that happens there every so often.  There is a secondary plot happening with the children.  As I read it in the video, I point them out at the beginning and end, but you may want to take more time to look at them on each page. 

You will notice when I read I frequently point to the words while I’m reading.  The purpose of this is twofold: so the child can follow which picture goes with what I’m reading, and also to help ingrain the early reading behavior of reading from left to right.

I will continue to add to this post so check back for more!

Easy readers are actually intended for children who are learning to read.  They are easy to follow and have simple word choice.  While I don’t recommend this being the only type of story you read to your child, it can be a nice change of pace.   This is a great opportunity to look for nonfiction (which boys especially like) to learn about things that interest them.

For nonfiction do subject searches on motorcycles, boats, planes, plants, bugs, birds, seasons, football, dance, dinosaurs, dogs, cats, planets, whatever they take an interest in!

For fun fiction, here’s some books to get you started:

  • The Three Little Pigs retold by Harriet Ziefert/Laura Rader
  • The Little Red Hen retold by Harriet Ziefert/Emily Bolam
  • One Smart Fish by Laura Manivong/Suzanne Beaky
  • My Robot by Eve Bunting/ Dagmar Fehlau
  • The Picnic by David K Williams/ Laura Ovresat

I will continue to add to this post so check back for more!

While most picture books were intended for children 3-8, it can be nice to introduce babies to more worlds than just board books.  For your baby, find ones with rich, amazing pictures that reach out and grab you.  Don’t feel the need to read the whole story, maybe say one sentence about what’s happening on each page and let them really take the picture in.  Watch your baby’s gaze move all around the spread; don’t turn the page until it looks like they’re done.  And don’t feel like you need to read the whole story.

  • 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  • Cock-a-doodle-doo! Barnyard Hullabaloo by Giles Andreae/David Wojtowycz
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Harry and Horsie by Katie Van Camp/Lincoln Agnew
  • Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia

I will continue to add to this post so check back for more!

Board books have thick, sturdy pages that can be chewed on and don’t rip.   Some of these were originally picture books that were formatted for board books later, such as those by Margaret Wise Brown.  These are also highly recommended as baby shower gifts!

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Little Scholastic Peek-a-Zoo
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr/Eric Carle (and others is this series)
  • Gallop! by Rufus Butler Seder
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Tickle, Tickle by Helen Oxenbury
  • Say Goodnight by Helen Oxenbury
  • Clap Hands by Helen Oxenbury
  • All Fall Down by Helen Oxenbury
  • Binky by Leslie Patricelli
  • Look Look! by Peter Linenthal
  • White on Black by Tana Hoban
  • Baby Fix My Car by Lisa Brown
  • Baby Make Me Breakfast by Lisa Brown
  • First Book of Sushi by Amy Wilson Sanger
  • The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood