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When I was pregnant with Max, one of the things I was most looking forward to about parenthood was reading with him.
Once he was actually here, though, I quickly realised two things:
That if I was just looking for an excuse to re-read Harry Potter – and I think we all know I WAS – then I was going to have to wait until he was a whole lot older.* (And honestly, I’m not sure he’s going to want to read Mallory Towers, or the ‘Jill’ books at all, really. Looks like I’ll just have to re-read those myself, then…)
(*I’m joking: no one needs an excuse to re-read Harry Potter, obviously. The Magic Faraway Tree, on the other hand…)
Books for babies and toddlers are really, REALLY boring. Like, “this-has-totally-ruined-reading-for-me,” boring. And also quite annoying, tbh. I mean, like any parent does, as soon as we got out of hospital, I dutifully ordered a copy of Guess How Much I Love You, and seriously, is it just me, or is Big Nutbrown Hare kind of of a dick in that story, really? Like, he couldn’t just let Little Nutbrown Hare have ONE thing, could he? He just HAD to have the last word. GOD.
Luckily for me, though, Max did not show even the slightest interest in Guess How Much I Love You. In fact, for the first few months of his life, he didn’t show the slightest interest in ANY of the books I diligently kept thrusting under his nose. Just as I was starting to worry that there was something wrong with him, though, he developed a sudden obsession with the ‘That’s Not My…” series, and the next thing I knew, I was sending my mum a list of all of the ones he already had, so we didn’t end up with doublers. Since then, his love of books has only increased: we read two or three every night before bed, and he’s recently developed a very cute little habit of coming up to me carrying one of his favourite books, and then plopping himself down on my lap so I can read it to him. And then read it to him again. And then maybe another two, three, or twenty seven times, for luck.
Here, in no particular order, are some of his current favourites…
The ‘That’s Not My…’ series from Usborne Books
As mentioned above… These are “touchy-feely” books, which use different textures to encourage your child to touch the pages, and there are at least 50 to collect. Max was given a few of these as newborn gifts, and my parents and I have since added to his collection, so he has quite a few now. He likes them all, but I’d say That’s Not My Snowman is probably his favourite, mostly because, every time we reach the final snowman in the book, he’ll always lean forward and kiss it: that one definitely IS his snowman then, I guess. (Unlike, say, That’s Not My Puppy, in which it’s the third puppy from the end which gets the kiss, and is designated HIS puppy. The authors got that one wrong, obviously…)
Honestly, I find Goodnight Moon kind of creepy, really. I think it’s because of this:
Seriously, WTF? So, if I’ve got this right, this is basically a case of, “OK, baby, so, there’s this room, right, and inside it are kittens and mittens and, oh yeah, a mysterious presence who we’re going to refer to as ‘Nobody’. Say goodnight to ‘Nobody’ now, because I know you can’t see him, but he totally lives in your room! Sweet dreams now!”
I mean, might just be me, but I know if my parents had read that to me as a child, I’d have lain awake for the rest of my childhood, and would still be in therapy now. Here’s actual footage of me reading ‘Goodnight Moon’ and getting to the ‘Goodnight nobody’ line:
Also, while I’m on the subject: why’s there a bowl of mush in the room? The old lady couldn’t have taken that with her when she mysteriously vanishes at the end? (Anyone else almost wet themselves with fear when they realise the old lady disappeared? Just me?) And why does the little bunny need a telephone in his room? Who’s he calling? So many questions.
So, yeah: Goodnight Moon is creepy AF, basically. Here’s the thing, though: Max loves it. He must have brought it to me at least 8 times this afternoon alone, and I had to read it to him twice before bed. Now he’s sleeping like – well, like a baby, I guess – and I’ll probably spend most of the night lying awake all, “Nobody? Are you there Nobody?!”
Moving on to more wholesome fare…
It’s a Little Baby
In addition to touchy-feely books, Max also enjoys lift-the-flap books. This one posits the question, “Someone’s hiding: I wonder who?” and then you lift the flap to solve the mystery. I say ‘mystery’: to be totally honest, the title of this one’s kind of a giant spoiler, really, and I hope I’m not ruining it for anyone by telling you that IT’S A LITTLE BABY. Every single time. Still, this book is beautifully illustrated, and Max never fails to be surprised by the little babies he finds beneath the flaps, so it’s almost like it’s not actually aimed at adults, isn’t it?
(I’m still thinking about Nobody. Are you?)
You’re My Little Star
I picked this up in TK Maxx one day, more or less at random. It turned out to have exactly the right words-to-pictures ratio to hold Max’s interest, though, so it quickly became a favourite. It’s a sweet little rhyme to read before bed, and there are no creepy old ladies or mysterious presences in it, so it gets my vote, too.
In Scotland, we’re fortunate to be given a number of books free from The Scottish Book Trust. Maisy’s Bus is one of our most recent gifts from them, and it’s about a mouse called Maisy who drives an entire menagerie’s worth of animals to the beach in her bus. Again, this has just the right words-to-pictures ratio for Max’s current stage of development, and he loves looking at the illustrations. He likes it so much, in fact, that last week “Maisy” became one of his first words: I’m just glad it wasn’t “Nobody”…
If I Were a Puppy
I’m not gonna lie: I bought this book purely because the puppy on the cover looks exactly like Max’s favourite Jellycat, Patch (Deliberately so: the book is produced by Jellycat…): the fact that they both match the rug in Max’s room was just a happy coincidence. This is another touchy-feely book, in the same vein as the, ‘That’s Not My…’ series. I like it because it matches the decor in the room: Max likes it because it’s a book with a tail, and who wouldn’t like THAT? He does also enjoy reading it, though, and if your child is a Jellycat fan, there are several others available to match the various stuffed animals they sell: all super-cute, and perfect for younger babies. (You obviously don’t HAVE to buy a rug to match, but you’d be mad not to, wouldn’t you?)
Touch and Feel Farm Animals
OK, it’s yet another texture-based book: I feel like I’ve included too many of these here, but, then again, I’m not the one demanding to be read them every night, so this is all on Max. This book has a bit more text than the others I’ve featured here, though, and, rather than simply exploring the different textures, it also encourages the child to compare his/her features to those on the various animals. I’m pretty sure this book is the main reason Max was able to point out his nose, feet, hair etc, without us explicitly trying to teach him about them – I’ll touch his nose when I read the ”Is your nose rough or smooth?” line, and so on, so it’s a bit more educational than some. In other news, Dotty Duckling was the first love of Max’s young life, so there’s that, too.
Finally, my personal favourite…
How to Bath Your Little Dinosaur
This was another Scottish Book Trust gift, and it’s about a dirty little dinosaur who doesn’t want to wash. I suspect it’s mostly aimed at helping reluctant toddlers get into the bath: Max needs no encouragement there, thankfully, but I normally read this to him right after his bath, and before he goes to bed, and I think he likes the fact that it’s describing something very familiar to him – bubbles, rubber ducks, er, dinosaurs – as he really seems to enjoy it. As for me, meanwhile, I think the little dinosaur is the cutest thing ever, so I’m just glad this isn’t a Jellycat production with a stuffed toy to accompany it, or I’d probably have to buy one. For myself, I mean.
This is, of course, just a small selection of Max’s extensive library: there are lots of others he enjoys, but these are the ones we’ve been reading most often at the moment. I like to try my best to rotate our choices as much as possible, though (Seriously, I love you, little dinosaur, but there’s only so many times I can read about you…), so if you have (or have had) a child of Max’s age (15 months today!), I’d love to hear what they’re reading. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed to lie awake worrying about Nobody again…