The books we love, and the books we love to hate

In honour of Literacy Week,* we decided to share the best and worst kids books that our kids personally own. Our intent was to each pick three “bests” and three “worsts,” but you’ll see how that plan turned out…
*We don’t actually know when Literacy Week was, or if that’s even a thing. But it sounds good, right?

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JULI, How Santa Really Works: I’m not sure yet what I’ve settled on in terms of talking to my kids about Santa, nor what I’ll do in that dreaded moment when they ask me, point blank, if he is actually real. Books like this one, though, make this situation WORSE, not better. This book attempts to semi-scientifically and mechanically explain all of the ins and outs of the whole “Santa” business, and frankly, in my opinion, it is approaching the whole Santa thing with a “thou dost protest too much” kind of air — because, why do we have to explain Santa? Can’t we just have fun and call it magic, and when the jig is up, laugh with our kids about how fun it was to believe in Santa for a time? I mean, honestly. In conclusion, I hate reading this book to my children so very much.
Verdict: Hate.

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JAC, Listen to my Trumpet: I love all the Elephant and Piggy books. This one is especially great because it’s funny but also begs the question, “What do you do when your friend is really bad at something and you don’t want to lie about it but you also don’t want to hurt their feelings?” Gerald handles it like a champ. My favourite part is when he tells Piggie that he holds the trumpet very well. Good save, Gerald.
Verdict: Love.

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JULI, How Do I Love You: This book makes me cry, every time. It’s got an air of “the seasons pass, and someday you’re going to grow up” to it, that forces me to contemplate the fact that this will also happen to my kids, and then comes the sputtering and the waterworks during the reading of it, which doesn’t even really make sense because it’s a lovely, affirming little book. I guess I would say I have a love-hate relationship with it, thanks to that.
Verdict: Love/Hate.

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11151015_10155602626125294_5987299263393895771_nJAC, Green Eggs and Ham: This is totally self-explanatory, right? This book is totally annoying, and WAY TOO LONG.
Verdict: HATE.

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JULI, Let’s Paint; Creative Fun for Little ArtistsThis one, and ones like it, are ridiculous, because: what are you, and where should you live in my house? Are you a craft/colouring book or are you a book-shelf book? Also, it claims to teach painting to children, by “helping” them to know that if they put a series of coloured balls in a row they will make a caterpillar. Thanks book. Good thing you have so many pages and take up so much space.
Verdict: Dumb.

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JAC, Lots of Different Kids NovelsThese are some of the books I’ve read to my kids that I’ve enjoyed enough to actually read them to my kids. (Also, James and the Giant Peach was great but I couldn’t find it this afternoon when I wanted to take the picture.) I’ve tried to read a few books that they liked but that I didn’t like (The Littles, for example) and I always found reasons to avoid read-out-loud time. Now I always pick the book myself, which is easier now that my oldest can read The Littles to herself.
VERDICT: LOVE the books, occasionally ANNOYED by the children who constantly interrupt with their questions and comments so it takes 15 minutes to read every page.

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This is one of those books that attempts to take on too many tasks, and accomplishes them all rather poorly. This book wants to teach my kids to be kind, friendly, AND thankful, all with terrible pictures, a horrible story, and terrible design. Also, it comes with a CD, featuring a smarmy voice which reads the story aloud to you and your children, and even sings a song about being kind, friendly and thankful. I feel like what would make me the most thankful is if this book were to spontaneously combust. Verdict: HAATE.

JULI, Bristley Bear & Trooper Dog; Be Kind, Be Friendly, Be ThankfulThis is one of those books that attempts to take on too many tasks, and thus accomplishes none of them. It clearly wants to teach my kids to be kind, friendly, AND thankful, all with terrible pictures, a horrible story, a horrendous overall design and two “best friend” characters (Bristley Bear and Trooper Dog) whose chemistry as friends is just not believable. Also, it comes with a “Drama CD,” featuring a smarmy voice that reads the story aloud to you and your children, and even sings a song about being kind, friendly, and thankful. I feel like what would make me the most kind, friendly, and thankful is if this book were to spontaneously combust.
Verdict: HAAATE.

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11150360_10155602625945294_9181074718456176637_nJAC, Wishes and DreamsThis book represents SO MANY books that somehow end up on my shelves. There is just so much that annoys me, including the ubiquitous Disney Princess Machine; boring, thoughtless, nothing-special writing; a pop-up book that is immediately destroyed; it plays MUSIC that quickly gets half-ruined so the same four tuneless notes play over and over; and, of course, it’s TOO LONG.
Verdict: Love/Hate. Because, of course, all my kids LOVE it.

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Princess Petal's main objective is to find the right dress and accoutrements for the ball, and to draw the attention of the prince. It's like... Princess Petal. We need to have a good, hard conversation about ambition and goals and the importance of hard work and what you are teaching young girls about what THEY should be able to aspire to, and... Princess Petal? Stop playing with your dog Sparkle and LISTEN TO ME! You are throwing your life away! Princess Petal?! Come back here! Verdict: Hate so much. So much.

JULI, Princess Petal: Princess Petal’s main objective is to find the right dress and accoutrements to wear to the ball, in order to capture the attention of the Prince. She is clearly far too young to be dancing with princes at balls, in my opinion. To her I would like to say, “Hey, Princess Petal. We need to have a good, hard conversation about ambition and goals and the importance of hard work and what you are teaching young girls about what THEY should be able to aspire to, and … Princess Petal? Stop playing with your dog Sparkle and LISTEN TO ME! You are throwing your life away! Princess Petal?! Come back here!”
Verdict: Hate so much. So much.

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JAC, Leonardo the Terrible Monster: This book is about a monster who is terrible at being a monster. Get it?
VERDICT: Just the title and concept would have won me over, but the book itself is funny and sweet. LOVE.

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JULI: Ginger Leads the Way: This book is another of those too-teachy, CD-included books. It was produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and they clearly have a thinly veiled agenda; to educate us all on the importance of guide dogs, or something. What disturbs me the most about this one, though, is how LONG it takes to teach us this, and also how realistic the drawings are. TOO realistic. I mean, look at the drawing of Ginger’s owner:

Doesn't it just make you uncomfortable to look at him?

Doesn’t it just make you uncomfortable to look at him? Meee too.
Verdict: No. Just no.

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11041443_10155602626495294_7762678486008900169_nJAC, All the Sandra Boynton Books: I know all the Boynton books are not in this book pile, but they may as well be because I love them all. They are easy to read, great for toddlers, funny, and, best of all SHORT! Short short short short short.
Verdict: Love.

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CONCLUSION: The best Juli could do when sorting through her kids’ book was a “Love/Hate” verdict. Jac, on the other hand, couldn’t resist waaay too many books she loves. What can we say? Juli couldn’t resist focusing on the funny/weird/negative, and Jac loves books too much to resist actually sharing her faves, even if she wasn’t funny at all. We are who we are, people.

Also, if you want to write a kids book we like, you should apparently keep it short, and keep the drawings unrealistic. 

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4 thoughts on “The books we love, and the books we love to hate

  1. Jenny

    Our kids all loved Eric Carle the most (esp. Brown Bear Brown Bear & The Hungry Caterpillar) which I got a bit sick of at the time but at least they were memorized so I could “read” them while simultaneously changing diapers. My own favourite was The Gruffalo. Also “You Are My I Love You” although the metaphors are over the kids heads and they told me it was boring even though it brought me to smiley sniffles every time. Seriously – “I am your calm face; you are my giggle. I am your wait; you are my wiggle”…. (sniffle).

    Reply
  2. Julie

    I was excited to see Mo Willems on here with two “love” books. I am a huge fan and just finished an author study week about him with my Kindergarteners. They love him now as well!!! His Pigeon books are awesome and I love Knuffle Bunny!!! My new favorite Elephant and Piggy book is “We are in a book”.

    Reply
    1. Jac

      I actually forgot that he wrote the “terrible monster” book until after I published the post! I probably wouldn’t have picked two by the same author on purpose, but I do love all his stuff. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog is a good one too… They’re all good, actually. You’re right. 🙂

      Reply

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