Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, June 2016 (with Spring Picture Book Reviews!)

This post is a bit lengthy, but since I posted only board book reviews last month, I wanted to talk a little bit about what the girls are reading before launching into the spring picture book reviews so I don't fall too far behind.

Reading Mommy's Old Favorites

This past month, Miss Muffet has started to take an interest in five particular books, three of which were my favorites as a preschooler/early elementary reader, and two of which were special favorites of my sister, Miss Muffet's aunt and godmother. It started with We Help Mommy, which is included in a collection of books illustrated by Eloise Wilkin that my sister gave to us in order to ensure that her favorite book would be shared with her nieces. Miss Muffet knows just where to find that story in the book, and she asks for it frequently by name. Her favorite part, it seems, is when Martha, the little girl who is the narrator, makes a small pie for her father, and says, "Roll, pat. Roll, pat. I'm making a treat for Daddy." As it was just Father's Day, we have all been repeating these lines a lot, sometimes substituting the names of other people (and objects, like "lettuce") for Daddy's name.

With We Help Mommy on my mind, I was reminded of The Tub People, which my sister also loved as a kid, so I dug out the used copy we bought a few months ago. It's pretty wordy for a two-year-old, but Miss Muffet has listened to me read it, as well as an audiobook recording, and she has just fallen in love with it. A few times now, I have heard her yelling "Help!" from her bedroom only to check in and find that she is just "reading" the dialogue for this story.

The other three books Miss Muffet now loves, which were among my favorites at her age and a little older, are Mrs. Wobble the Waitress, Sarah's Unicorn, and The Pea Patch Jig. She refers to The Pea Patch Jig as "rig-a-jig-jig," which is very cute, and she has become very interested in learning the names of all of the vegetables shown on the endpapers. She has also become fond of saying "ptooie" which is the sound Baby Mouse's pea shooter makes in the story. She hasn't had too much to say about Mrs. Wobble yet, but she requests it a lot so I'm sure as she gets to know it better, she will have favorite moments in that story as well. Sarah's Unicorn is an easy reader, and I borrowed it from the library for nostalgia's sake, and not necessarily to share with Miss Muffet, but she asked for it once, and after that she was hooked. She can now name all the characters and even give an accurate summary of the plot. She seems a little bit concerned about the meanness of Sarah's aunt, Mag, early in the story, but she is not scared enough to avoid the book, so I think she is probably handling it okay.

The Indestructible Book

Little Bo Peep is now crawling and almost pulling up to stand, and since she can get around and reach for things a bit better now, we now have to watch her more carefully around books. Thankfully, a friend had the idea to give us an Indestructible, so whenever she feels like biting, pulling, bending, or otherwise abusing a book, we just hand her Baby Peekaboo and let her give it her best. The book is fairly crumpled at this point, but the binding is still intact, and no corners have been chewed off, so I would say it lives up to its name quite well. Bo Peep is also very fond of the book, since it has a baby's face on the cover, and she does occasionally take a break from trying to tear it apart to have it read to her.

Spring Picture Book Reviews

Finally, we received several picture books for review during April, May, and June. Here are our reviews:

I requested The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits (9781499801040) for review mostly because of the author, Douglas Florian, but I didn't find it quite as clever as his well-known poetry books. The rhyming works fine - there are no awkward lines or gratuitous word choices - but there was something boring about the text overall. The book doesn't really teach a lot about rabbits. Rather, it gives a vague list of "habits," many of which could apply to nearly any species. Miss Muffet did ask for me to read it aloud to her a few times when it first arrived, but though it is still among her books in the living room, she doesn't look at it much now that the novelty has worn off. I did consider using it for my recent spring-themed story time, but ultimately went with the reliable favorite, Home for a Bunny.

I requested Cuddles for Mommy (9781499802030) also, this time because of the owl characters. The story is told almost entirely in dialogue between a mother owl and her child as they try to determine precisely which kind of cuddle the little girl should give her mommy. The illustrations are very sweet, and of course our owl lover, Miss Muffet, is drawn to those, but the plot seems to go on too long, and the owls are clearly awake in the daytime, which is jarring and strange. There is no real reason for the characters to be owls over anything else, so if they're not going to be nocturnal, I see no point in using them to illustrate the book. Still, though, the story would work for a Mother's Day story time, or one on an owl theme, and Miss Muffet regularly "reads" it to herself alongside Hoot and Peep and Owl Moon.

We received two copies of Blue Boat - the full-length picture book (9780451471413) and the abridged-by-one-page board book (9781101998533). This ended up being a perfect arrangement, as Bo Peep could hold the board book while Miss Muffet and I read the picture book uninterrupted. I liked the book initially for the artwork, and because it reminded me somewhat of Sail Away by Donald Crews. I've read the book aloud a few times now, too, and though some of the lines drag a bit, for the most part, the rhythm and rhyme of the text works well. I shared the book at a recent story time, and the kids were a bit young for it, but I think with the right group of three- and four-year-old boys who are really into transportation and rescue heroes, it would become an instant favorite. Miss Muffet is not that in to transportation right now, but I am keeping the book around for a while to see if she becomes more interested as she gets a bit older. And Bo Peep naturally thinks the spine of the board book is delicious!

The Perfect Dog (9781101934418) was a surprise hit with Little Miss Muffet. Though the book came to me unbound, which usually means I can't easily share it with her, we read it together multiple times, and every time I went to put it away, she would ask for it to come out again. I think what she liked most was learning the names of the different dogs shown on the endpapers. She also really responded to the predictable structure of the text, in which a little girl tries to find the dog of the perfect size, shape, and style, but determines that each one is too loud, too big, too fancy, etc. We are not a pet family, so there is never any chance we will go through the experience of the girl in this book, but Miss Muffet seemed to enjoy living vicariously through the book well enough. For me, this is a book I would use at story time because of how it is written, but it's not something I would choose to add to my personal collection.

Last, but decidedly not least, A Dark, Dark Cave is probably my favorite of the picture books we received this Spring. It follows two children into a dark, dark cave where they encounter creepy creatures crawling the walls, and yellow eyes lurking in darkness, all of which turns out to be the product of their imaginations. The illustrations are richly colorful, and once you realize what the cave actually is, there are details in the illustrations and on the endpapers that support that realization. The depiction of siblings who play nicely together is also a nice addition to the book, as many stories focus on rivalries instead of cooperation. Miss Muffet is not quite old enough to fully understand the book, but she has asked to hear it many times, and her little eyes grow wide each time something just a little bit more scary appears on the page. For story time, I might pair it with something like A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom or Not a Box by Antoinette Portis for a celebration of imagination.

I received finished copies of The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits and Cuddles for Mommy from little bee books, finished copies of The Blue Boat and A Dark, Dark Cave from Viking Books for Young Readers, and an unbound galley of The Perfect Dog from Crown Books for Young Readers. 


  1. My (now 17 year old) son LOVED The Tub People! Thank you so much for the reminder; I need to pull this one out for a storytime with my preschoolers.

  2. I loved We Help Mommy AND We Help Daddy, but I did point out the gender role stereotyping. The pie was the best part, certainly! Another big favorite was Little Mommy. Sigh.


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