Kids' Books You Can Read without Wanting to Shoot Yourself in the Head

If you are a parent, you KNOW that you understand exactly what I mean, right?  Your kid fixates on some favorite book–which you HATE–and he wants to hear it multiple times a day, sometimes chanting “Again, again!” right after you finish it, like a Teletubby.
After five kids, you had better believe I have done my share of reading to children.  And I know how to condense a story and rush my way through a hated book. I honestly don’t get how some of this stuff makes it into print.
But books that parents love to read and kids hate to listen to are no better, are they?  I’m thinking about all the beautifully illustrated hardback poetic bedtime story books I’ve bought over the years that, frankly, bored my kids to death.  I’d look at them longingly, sitting ignored on the shelf, but Emily was the only one of my children who would put up with listening to baby literature.

Emily is a book addict like me, and she was born that way.  Before she could walk, we could sit her in front of her shelf in the bookcase, and she would pull out every book, one at a time, and actually look at each picture (not throw them behind her for fun, like the rest of my kids).  You could occupy her for an hour that way.  And because she was the first child, and the only one for three years, we read to her all the time.  I can recite the entire Dr. Seuss ABC book from memory (you probably can too, so I know you aren’t impressed) and large parts of other children’s books as well, thanks to Emily.
There wasn’t as much time to read to Jake and Teddy.  Most of our reading happened at bedtime.  They were actually really cooperative about listening to what I would consider “improving” books, like treasures from my beloved Eloise Wilkin collection like Prayers for Children and My Little Golden Book about God.  They had a book about the Parables of Jesus that they loved.  They asked over and over again to hear the one about “the man in the ditch.”
I am embarrassed to admit how little I have read to Lorelei and William by comparison.  I don’t mean I never read to them, but it wasn’t daily, not even at bedtime.  Maybe it makes up for it some that Emily likes to read to them.  Since we moved here, I read bedtime stories to Lorelei most nights, usually the books she herself has picked out from her school library.  She especially loves the Pee Wee Scout chapter books.
What children’s books do I like?  I could write post after post on this topic (Ah!  There’s an idea!).  I’m not a fan of sappy tearjerkers like I’ll Love You Forever.  Make of that what you will.  I also loathe gimmicky retreads like If You Give a Moose a Muffin.  There was an awesomely hysterical article posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about horrible children’s books, which I did not repost because of the Bad Word in the title.  But I agreed with almost all of it.  Except I do think the Amelia Bedelia series is amusing.  My new favorite children’s book isn’t exactly for children.  But I digress.
Let me share just a few that my kids like and that I don’t mind reading over and over:
I first heard Owl Babies on Reading Rainbow.  We bought the board book and Jake and Teddy loved it.  We changed the three owls’ names to Emily, Jake, and Teddy.  I never tired of reading it and they never tired of hearing it.  The underlying message–that Mommy ALWAYS comes back–is organic, not tiresome and preachy.

More More More Said the Baby is a feast of bright colors and baby love.  It’s multicultural without screaming “Hey, look at how diverse these characters are!”  It only has a few words on every page!  What more could you ask for?

I think Red Red Red came to us via Imagination Library.  As if it weren’t enough that someone surnamed Gorbachev would write a book with that title, it’s a lovely book.  I had to read it to Lorelei every night for months so I know.  I just love the moment at the end where everyone finds out what is red.  What a great reminder to enjoy the little things in life.

Doesn’t EVERYONE love Frog and Toad?  I didn’t appreciate them nearly as much as a child as I have come to as a grownup.  These books teach friendship by showing it, not preaching about it.  Can you tell I hate preachy children’s books?  And they are funny, too.

Will you share your favorite picture books with me in the comments?

17 thoughts on “Kids' Books You Can Read without Wanting to Shoot Yourself in the Head

  1. Karen

    We adore Owl Babies, and I did the same thing with the names–changed them to my son’s names (back when we had three).
    I hate that book “Love You Forever.” I know that the authors apparently wrote it after they lost a child, but it is so darn creepy the way the mother BREAKS INTO her adult son’s house and rocks him while he’s sleeping. No wonder he isn’t married. Har. Somebody gave me a copy of that book when I had my first son and my first instinct was to light it on fire.
    Valeri Gorbachev also wrote “Turtle’s Penguin Day” which has the same turtle, who wants to be a penguin. It’s adorable.
    I kind of disagree with the article’s author regarding celebrities and childrens’ books. True, many of them are horrible (I’m looking at you, Whoopi Goldberg and Katie Couric), but John Lithgow’s books are hilarious. We love “Micawber” and “The Remarkable Farkle McBride” and “I’m a Manatee.”

    1. I’ll have to check out some of those you mentioned. I am sure you can’t tar every celeb book with the same brush. LOVE your comments on Love You Forever. Sure, I can appreciate the sentiment, but that part creeped me out as well. And I don’t think it’s that well written in general, nor are the illustrations anything to write home about. It’s a cheap play on our emotions and I prefer something more subtle. I like a good cry over a book as much as anyone but I don’t like feeling manipulated.

      1. Karen

        Yes, the illustrations are horrid. I am a bit of a snob when it comes to book illustrations. The John Lithgow books are, for the most part, illustrated wonderfully, in a realistic yet adorable manner. Especially Micawber.
        I think the reason “Love You Forever” hits such a wrong note is…we should love our children, of course we should. And we will love them forever, but there are appropriate expressions of love as they get older, and become adults, and make their way in the world. There’s a way to show love to your adult children, and the one in that book ain’t it. It actually shows a desire for the adult child to become a baby again. *shudder*

  2. Clisby

    I must have read Goodnight Moon a million times. I think I read the Dr. Seuss book “What Was I Scared Of?” even more. My daughter LOVED The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter; she liked most of the Beatrix Potter stories, but the Tailor won by a mile.

    1. I love Goodnight Moon. I never get tired of it, and I almost included The Runaway Bunny in this post. I don’t think I know the Seuss book you are talking about. I like Fox in Socks–I enjoyed the challenge of reading it as fast as possible. We had a little set of every Beatrix Potter book–they were my husband’s as a child. Not one of my kids would listen to them.

  3. Clisby

    What Was I Scared Of? is one of the stories in a Seuss collection that includes the one about the Sneetches. The weird little Seussian character keeps encountering a pair of ghostly pale green pants (with nobody inside ’em).
    I said I do not fear those pants
    With nobody inside them.
    I said, and said, and said those words.
    I said them, but I lied them.

  4. I love this post! I tend to agree with you about most of the popular children’s books. Ones I never get tired of are Pat the Bunny and Frog and Toad. In all honesty, we don’t read many picture books, particularly if they have a lot of words! I’d rather read a real book to my kids- like A Series of Unfortunate Events. Thanks for linking up to Quote Me Thursday!

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  7. mamacarmody

    Other than “Frog and Toad”, I haven’t read any of your suggested books so now I have something to get to read to my grandson. I didn’t care much for “I’ll Love You Forever” although my daughter loved it. I thought it was kind of creepy that the mother would crawl through her adult son’s window and hold him like a baby….but I digress. I loved the “Little Bear” Books and a recent one I have fallen in love with is “Little Blue Truck”.

  8. We were huge fans of Frog and Toad! What a great list! I never tire of reading the Tawny, Scrawny Lion and although it’s not a classic just yet, SkippyJon Jones never ceases to crack me up.

  9. We liked “Won’t You Be My Kissaroo”, “Ten Little Fingers/Ten Little Toes”, “The Runaway Hug” (and many more!)… Thankfully my daughter falls in love with a new book fairly frequently. Now I just need to figure out how to not have the words from her books on constant replay in my head, haha

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