For the Moms

On Friday, I posted some books that I love that feature strong mothers. But today, on Mother’s Day, I wanted to talk about books I can read with my kids.

I have two small girls, ages 3 and 6, and a huge portion of our time is spent reading books. Lots of books aimed at small girls are kind of eye-rollingly bad (i.e. most books featuring Disney princesses or Saturday morning cartoon characters), and I have gritted my teeth through more readings than I can count of Belle and the Castle Puppy and Dora Saves the Enchanted Forest. But there’s also a huge selection of children’s books out there that we all enjoy, and whenever possible, these are the ones I try to nudge my kids toward.

Here’s just a few of our favorites.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

Why kids love it: They get to be in charge! At the beginning of the book, the Bus Driver assigns kids a single task: Don’t let the Pigeon drive the bus! The Pigeon then tries to convince the kids to let him drive the bus anyway, but the kids have to stick to their guns, and mine get a huge kick out of getting to yell “NO!” at the petulant Pigeon.

Why I love it: Contrary to what I feared when we first got this book, encouraging them to yell “No” at the pigeon didn’t increase the amount of “Nos” they dished out to me and my husband after reading it. Phew. The Pigeon attempts to argue why he should be allowed to drive the bus, starting with cajoling and negotiation, then breaking down into an all-out temper tantrum. The kids take great joy in not caving to pressure, then I can use it as an object lesson about how not to get what you want.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Why kids love it: They can relate to Alexander and his endless complaining, but they also realize that he’s being super-whiny. They can feel a little superior in that they never whine as much as Alexander.

Why I love it: Alexander is really over-the-top. He decides everything in his life is bad, even when it’s not, and I always make sure to call my kids’ attention to the fact that he’s making a big deal about things that aren’t actually so bad, then ask them what kind of reaction they should have in those same situations. In their eagerness to be the anti-Alexander, they actually come up with reasonable reactions to most of the situations in the book. Then later, when we find ourselves in those scenarios, I can remind them what they said they would do instead of complaining. Sometimes they even remember.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems.

Why kids love it: The story of little Trixie’s attachment to her beloved Knuffle Bunny is one they can completely relate to.

Why I love it: The story of Trixie’s Daddy’s harried quest to find a lost toy at the laundromat is one I can completely relate to. Plus the way the cartoon images are incorporated into the black-and-white photographs of Brooklyn, along with Trixie’s parents’ exhausted but determined facial expressions, are really amusing from a parental perspective.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Why kids love it: They love hearing the baby bunny and the daddy bunny “compete” to see whose love is bigger. They giggle each time the daddy is able to top the biggest thing the baby can think of, and enjoy trying to come up with their own metaphors for how much they love me.

Why I love it: It’s a cute illustration of the depth of love between a parent and child, and about how it can be nearly unfathomable to a child how much their parents love them. Plus, I adore that it inspires my kids to try to put their own love into words: “Mommy, I love you all the way up to that big tree outside!”

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Why kids love it: They love the security this book gives them, knowing that even when they are grown up, we will still love them just as much as we do right now. They ask me all the time, “Mommy, will I still be your baby, even when I’m married with my own kids?” And this book is a perfect answer.

Why I love it: I can’t read this book without tearing up. Or even say that one heartwarming line: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always; As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” Because it’s so, so true.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, be your kids young or old, near or far. I hope they’re taking today to make you feel loved and appreciated.