1. Quality of illustration. You can't judge a book by its cover . . . but if you can't stand the cover it might be hard to get through the book. I'm no artist, but it seems to be a growing trend in illustration to have really awful, scribbly pictures that look like a 4-year old drew them. No thanks. If we want those, we'll have our 4-year old draw them.
2. Quality of writing. How hard is it to think a little bit about the way you put your words together? Especially in a children's book where there aren't even very many words to worry about. Think about the words, make them sound good. That's all.
3. Quality of message. We have read soooo many children's books that are crude or where the kids are brats or afraid of everything or where all the animals on the farm are just going about their daily business but there is nothing special about the story except that we learn that the cow goes "moo" (what 1-year old doesn't know that already?) . . . Come up with something that has a fun twist or an important message! How hard could that be?
Here are a few books that we have enjoyed lately. I'll tell you a little about them . . .
but before I do that I just want to say, yes, it doesn't matter so much if the parent enjoys the books. But my kids will pretty much enjoy anything I read to them, so is it too much to ask for me to enjoy it too? Plus, I really do want them to get good messages from the books they read. I want them to get used to reading to be inspired, not just entertained.
It's funny-- lately when we finish a library book little josh will turn to me and say something like, "That was a pretty good book, right Mom?" I guess he is used to me passing judgment each time we finish a book. Maybe I am teaching him to be too critical instead of just having fun, but I think it's good to discuss books and talk about what we did or didn't like about them. It prepares him to think about everything he takes in, instead of just soaking it all up like a couch potato.
Have you heard of this one? I didn't know it existed until last year. It's really fun to read aloud. We liked it so much we bought it.
This is a cute book that uses the farm theme in a fun twist. And who doesn't love a book with robbers in it?
I'm including this one for bennett's sake. We read it like a year ago and he still quotes from it. Sure, it's a common theme in children's books, but it's cute.
You might be thinking, "But I don't speak Spanish!" when you see this title. Well then, this book is for you. It's the story of Goldilocks in English, and it rhymes, and then every once in a while it will substitute a Spanish word for an English word in a fun way. Your kid can probably even guess what the word means from the context. Love it.
Here are two books without words:
Oh no! The fox stole the chicken! Who will rescue her? You can have your kid describe what's happening as you go along.
This one is a hoot. The cake disappears and you have to figure out why and when. There are so many side stories going on at the same time and it's fun to trace them through as you read the book. (This is a sequel of sorts to Where Is the Cake? but I like this one better I think.) Josh Sr. is especially good at making this kind of book fun.
Really quick, while I'm on the topic of books, we found these books by Yukiko Kido that are really good for teaching a beginner how to recognize words and read through rhymes. I've seen a lot of early reading books that didn't help my kid at all, but these (we've found maybe eight different ones at our library) are really simple and effective and joshy loves them. I think they helped him have a real breakthrough in reading.
Okay, these final three are my absolute faves that we've read lately:
This one might be my all-time fave. This kid doesn't want to eat his peas and he finds someone to eat them for him . . . for a price. It is so clever and the moral is awesome. This is the kind of book I would really love to find more of. Maybe it just rang true to me because I don't like vegetables.
Smelly Bill doesn't want to take a bath . . . but he meets his nemesis in this book. So funny, and the rhymes are delightful.
This book has two great things about it: It teaches a little bit of math AND it teaches your kids to toughen up and not cry about it when something goes wrong. No offense, but my kids really need this lesson. Oh, PLUS, there is a link to a website that reads the book and the little song in it is so much fun! My kids love it.
Try some of these books out with your kids and let me know what you think! Do you have any awesome ones we should look up? Do you think I am being too critical? Should I let my boys bring home all the made-from-tv-or-movies-and-are-absolutely-painful-to-read-and-make-me-want-to-rip-them-into-little-tiny-pieces books like Spiderman and Cars and Scooby Doo?
And now I'd better hurry and post this before I remember yet another book that we loved.