Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reading (aloud) list

One thoroughly enjoyable part of having a three-year-old is reading her bedtime stories. Most nights.

There's nothing but positives about finally getting a previously frenetic child clean, calm, and tucked in. Cuddled up and sharing the same moments I shared with my parents; reading with my father in fact was a favorite, one of the rare very clear memories I have from being quite that young. I even still have a few of the books, A.A. Milne poetry and Dr. Seuss, all too dog-eared to read but safely tucked in the main room shelf with the relics and "literature" -- but their modern twins ready-for-action among the living books in my daughters room.

I love how she jumps in completing the phrases, asks questions, and offers analogy to the continuously evovling social ties of a pre-school world.

You're right, the Grinch's dog Max probably is very much like when Aladesia didn't like having sticks on her head. I hear you Aladesia. I don't want sticks on my head either. Wait, you didn't put the sticks on Aladesia's head did you?...

Good stuff. But here's the catch. Some of these books aren't the blissful little masterpieces I remember (and brought) from my childhood. Some of them are crap. Some are just a little boring. Some were badly translated (let's hope that's the problem anyway). But we have a few, special gifts of course from family members who really must read the books first next time, that are absolutely fucking painful.

Seriously. My loving wife of 10 years, and mother of this beautiful only-child, will literally turn tail and sneak out of the room if our daughter reaches for a prize few of these literary treats. I just try negotiation or delay. And "accidentally" losing the books has been a serious pillow conversation. Haven't had the stones for that. Yet.

Book choice is important. Not surprisingly, you read the book more than once. Possibly more than 100 times or more. Aloud. So a writer that can keep a decent cadence is appreciated. Rhyming is nice but surely not a rule. Emotional range critical. And humor a plus. Isn't it always?

With that in mind, I'll relay a few of my favorites:

1. When We Were Young or Now We are Six by A.A. Milne.
Sure, Pooh bear and Piglet are tremendous also, but you already know that. These were two of the books I read with my father. Certainly something to pass down. My daughter would be subjected to them even if she didn't like them but fortunately it all works. And The Sailor is the motivational speech we all need.

2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
The classic. By far my favorite for multiple readings, and amazing to see a small child get the point over time. Fans of Dick Cheney will feel a little knot in the belly here. That's okay, as the book points out, there's still time for you to help repair. Just get to it.

3. Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer.
We have several of this Olivia series, and they're excellent, even on the 124th read through. I do feel like I'm seeing this guy's whole family though. Except they're pigs. I hope they are all cool with that.

4. 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental.
I have no clue where we got this story, but it's spectacular. Except for the preachy part at the end, which I typically skip and my daughter doesn't seem to know or mind -- she's too busy counting the penguins. A hilarous story of math and global warming.

5. Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Conner.
Undoubtedly, this book will be better loved by little girls than boys (yeah, you can get all PC on me... but you try to read it to a 3-year-old boy and tell me then). But as a dad reading to a girl, I am quite certain this has earned me some street cred on picking out the right clothes for school. Previous to regular readings of this book, Mommy was consulted as second opinion on every freakin' sock. I make this a must-read for that reason alone.

6. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.
There are days when I need this book as much as she does. It's like the soulful blues and the therapist's couch of the toddler. Some day you'll grow up to Old Yeller and Shawshank, but for now let's just listen to Alexander and his wistful dreams of Australia.

Good luck with those.

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