Celebrating the first year of Books for Littles!
A year ago today, we started the Books for Littles Facebook group for parents to share their kids favorite books and ask for book suggestions on specific themes.
Books for Littles – Expanded
I’ve found a lot of great authors from other parents’ suggestions, but the Facebook format is difficult to search and disorganized. To go deeper, I’m expanding Books For Littles on this blog.
What I’m looking to do with Books for Littles is, at the most basic level, the same thing I’m hoping to do with photography – connect people with perspective, acceptance and gratitude.
Typically I like to include as many books as will fit in a basket along a single theme. We include some favorites from last year, some new ones, and of course, a bit of variation where the main theme is peripheral to keep things interesting. So in honor of the 1st Birthday of Books for Littles, I’m posting our favorite birthday books – just in time for the special kids in your life who might have a birthday coming up.
Our Birthday Book Bin
Best for Ages 2-4
A Birthday for Bear (Becker & Denton)
In every book, Mouse is persistent and a little obnoxious as he slowly grows on the grouchy bear. Bear eventually realizes that his life is better with Mouse around and invites him in to stay. In this version, Mouse keeps giving Bear a present for his birthday. There are some issues with pestering and consent, but I think the story is a discussion point about these issues, the illustrations are detailed and whimsical, and I love reading mouse with a high-pitched British accent and bear with a grumbly Russian one. Ages 3+
It’s My Birthday (Oxenbury)
Calamus’s** Top Pick for Ages 2-3
I take liberty with the text of many books. Helen Oxenbury’s books (especially the Pippo series) have some sort of magic for Calamus. The main characters flaws and the little hurdles they face are realistic and validating to him, and the characters make dumb real-kid mistakes. After I added a lot of ‘please’ and ‘thank you-s’ to the text, the story is a sweet set of steps where a little boy asks animals for help finding ingredients to make his own cake – then shares it with his friends in appreciation. Ages 2 & 3
Whopper Cake (Wilson & Hillenbrand)
One of Calamus’s absolute favorites. Not much to do with birthdays, but it’s silly and imaginative to see the illustrated recipe of a cake so large it has to be baked in the bed of a pickup truck. This was a nightly request for weeks.
Little Bear (Minarik & Sendak)
Bulldozer’s Big Day (Fleming & Rohmann)
Calamus’s truck-obsession peaked right around ages 2-3, so this was a great find for us. Even for his 4th birthday, he adored reading this book and understood more of the nuance behind Bulldozer’s excitement, which makes this a great book for several years.
As with almost all truck books, unfortunately the main character (and seemingly all characters) are male, so you may have to do some quick gender-swapping if you want your kids to know that the female half of our population is relevant. We read Bulldozer as female, along with half of the characters, and Calamus loved and identified with the story.
Who Made This Cake? (Nakagawa & Koyose)
I came across this book when my youngest son, Nikolai, became obsessed with all things birthday-cake related. He likes trucks okay – but he loves birthday cake. At the age of two, he’s asked to read this every night for months and still gets excited to read though it on his own while I sort laundry. What I loved most about this book were the realistic and unusual trucks featuring functions I was not familiar with. I’ve read 500+ truck books at this point, so that’s rare. The mystery of the new truck types is solved later in the book, and it was so much fun to see all the tiny details of how the trucks work and how the construction workers (roughly half of which are female!!!) work to build a cake worth remembering.
Ages 18 months+
Pooh’s Cleanup (Cecil & Grey)
All the friends pitch in to help Pooh clean up after his party. Each character plays to his or her strength, showing that even the little, the weak, and the destructive can find a way to help.
Only the best make it into a Books for Littles themed bin
What I look for in a spectacular children’s story:
- Diversity in race, gender, and abilities
- Exemplary behavior and no physical violence*
- Consent for physical contact
- Kindness & empathy/sympathy
- Unrequited giving
- Sense of adventure & whimsy
Extra points for:
- Witty rhythms & writing style
- Gorgeous illustrations
*’NurtureShock‘ (Bronson & Merryman) examines examples of behavior and causality in stories (hint – the morals in traditional stories and cartoons don’t work the way we thought), it’s a fascinating read.
I’d super-appreciate it if you used one of the links on this page to click through so a portion of any purchase (on anything) made within 20 minutes of your click goes back to Books for Littles.
Join Books for Littles on Facebook (Facebook group link), where the group is still going strong with other contributors.
OK, your turn.
Leave a comment below if you have any favorite birthday-themed books we should know about.