Thursday, April 12, 2007

Top 15 Favorite Books of Christine's Children

It’s been a while since my children were little (the youngest is now 12!), but I remember the stories we used to read to them. We had tons of books in the house because my husband and I both love to read and we wanted to pass on that desire to our children. However, we weren’t reading Christian children’s picture books in our home at that time, so this list doesn’t include any Christian literature. But, many of the books, like the Berenstain Bears and Little Critter series, taught family and social values.

My children were great fans of the Berenstain Bear books, written and illustrated by Jan and Stan Berenstain. My youngest still reads them. I think we owned a copy of every book that was written while they were little (we still have every copy, too!) In The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings, the Bear children, Brother and Sister, complain every time their friends and cousins get something new and they don’t. They can’t see how blessed they already have. You know how that goes! During a scary thunderstorm, Brother and Sister Bear learn that their home, and the love of their parents, is worth more than anything in this world.

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation, tells the story of the Berenstain Bears on a disasterous vacation. Their cabin roof leaks, their boat won’t float, and the mosquitoes are big enough to carry them away. But, they take photos of everything that goes wrong, anyway. After the photos are developed, they laugh themselves silly enjoying the worst vacation they ever had! My kids loved this book as the vacation scenes are hilarious. Jan and Stan Berenstain made the camera a very prominent and very funny part of this story. We read this delightful book many, many times!

In The Berenstain Bears and too Much TV, Mama Bear decides her family spends way too much time in front of the TV. She declares the TV off limits for one week. At first, Brother, Sister and Papa Bear gripe and complain because there’s nothing else to do. But, Brother rediscovers his love for soccer, Sister gets great pleasure from riding her bike, and Papa rediscovers fishing. They have so much fun without the TV, when Mama says they can watch it again, they don’t even want to! This is a great book for teaching children there is more to life than watching TV. Even though my children were great fans of TV (and still are), they enjoyed reading this book and having it read to them.

Mama Bears becomes frustrated with her family’s manners, or lack of them, in The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners. She comes up with a Politeness Plan – a chart listing a chore for each act of rudeness. The whole Bear family learns how to treat each other politely (and some extra chores get done in the process). Basic etiquette is presented in an easy-to-teach manner.

My children were also great fans of the Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer. One of them was Just Me & My Dad. Little Critter goes on a camping trip with his dad. Little Critter tries to help, but he keeps making mistakes. Somehow, father and son manage to put up a tent and catch enough fish to eat for dinner. This is a great book for illustrating the special relationship that exists between fathers and sons and was one of my son’s favorite books.

I Just Forgot, also by Mercer Mayer, was another favorite Little Critter book. Little Critter, like most youngsters, has a hard time remembering what he has to do. He remembers to take his raincoat when it rains, but he forgets to wear his boots. He remembers to take a bath, but he forgets to use soap! He manages to get to school on time but forgets to take his lunch with him. He tries so hard, but he finds it difficult to remember everything. My children, like every child, could relate to a character like Little Critter.

Dr. Seuss was (and still is) another one of our favorite writers. We still own lots of his books. We (my husband and I) used to dread it when the kids asked us to read Fox in Socks, though. If you’ve ever tried reading it out loud, you’ll know why. It is filled with some murderous, but hilarious, tongue twisters. If you can get through this book, I guarantee your children will love it, like mine did!

Another Dr. Seuss favorite, The Cat in the Hat, was read many times over at our house. The famous Cat in the Hat causes troubles for Dick and Sally, as they are stuck inside on a rainy day. Dr. Seuss makes the story memorable with his outrageous characters and rhyming text. This is another one of those books that was read over and over again!

The Butter Battle Book (another by Dr. Seuss) tells the story of the battle between the Yooks, who eat their bread with the butter side up, and the Yooks, who dare to eat their bread with the butter side down. A border dispute between the two groups turns into a one-up-man-ship contest over which side can come up with the craziest and most expensive weapon. Dr. Seuss delights with his usual assortment of zany characters and contraptions, while emphasizing how silly it is to fight over such trivial things.

The classic tale, Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, became another favorite. The main character, Max, puts on a wolf suit and causes trouble in his house. He is sent to bed, angry, without any supper. In his imagination, his room is transformed into a forest, where Max can act out his anger and frustrations without getting into more trouble. Although he goes on a wild adventure, he learns that home isn’t such a bad place to be.

In One Kitten for Kim, written by Adelaide Holl and illustrated by Don Madden, Kim’s cat has seven kittens. He is allowed to keep one kitten but must give the rest of them away. He loads them into a wagon and goes around the neighborhood giving the kittens to friends and neighbors. Only trouble is, instead of just giving the kittens away, he trades them for other animals. He ends up with two goldfish, a parrot, a puppy, a rooster, and a lizard! My daughter loved this book as she always wanted to keep every small animal she ever saw!

So Sick, written by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Carol Nicklaus, is an easy-to-read book with three short chapters. In the first chapter, Lewis is “so sick” he goes to bed to take a nap. In Chapter Two he feels better and plays doctor with his friend, Angel. In the last chapter, during snack time, Angel eats too many cookies and then feels “so sick.” This was one of my daughter’s favorite books to read “by herself.” I think she had it memorized in a very short time!

If you’ve ever read the book, Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman, you’ll know why my children loved this story. Corduroy is a stuffed bear in a big department store. He stands on a shelf all day, watching shoppers go by. One day, a little girl finds him and tells her mother, “That’s the very bear I’ve always wanted.” Her mother doesn’t let her buy it. Corduroy “wakes up” that night after the store is closed, climbs down from his display shelf, and wanders around the store, thinking it’s a big palace. The security guard finds him and puts him back on the shelf. The next day, the little girl comes back to the store, pays for him and takes him home. Corduroy finally gets the home he "knew he always wanted."

Stellaluna, written and illustrated by Janell Cannon, was another one of my daughter’s favorite books. Stellaluna is a beautiful story of a baby fruit bat who gets knocked out her mother’s embrace by an attacking owl. She lands in a bird’s nest, where she is adopted by the mother bird. Although she is well-cared for, her world is turned around as now she must sleep at night with her head up (instead of up-side down during the day), and she is fed insects (instead of fruit), which she strongly dislikes. When she finally learns to fly, she is reunited with her mother. Janell Cannon offers just the right blend of fact (about how bats and birds behave) and fiction.

How could I leave out Curious George? Curious George was a favorite of mine when I was little. I was so glad to be able to share the adventures of this funny little monkey with my children. Curious George Goes to the Circus, by Margaret and H. A. Rey, was just one of his many adventures. Of course, Curious George gets in trouble at the circus, going behind the curtains, climbing ropes, etc. But, The Man in the Yellow Hat always comes to his rescue.

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