Reading

Picture Books by Audrey and Don Wood

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If you haven’t had the delightful experience of reading a book by Audrey and Don Wood, you simply must remedy that STAT.

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Photo courtsey Scholastic.com

This husband-wife team has turned out a heap of adored books—they’ve collaborated on over 50! While Audrey has written several books with other illustrators, her best ones are all illustrated by Don.

So try one of these favorites out. You shant be disappointed!

 

Piggies
piggiesMy sister and her kids first shared this with me long before I was a mom (the copy we have still has a note in the front addressed to “Aunt Jackie”). My kids now love it for the easy story-telling and the terrifically charming illustrations.

The Napping House
nappingThis delightful picture book is a winner thanks to repetitive storytelling style and darling illustrations. It’s a great read when you’re waking up!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
little-mouseThe title is a giveaway to the plot (a little mouse is trying to hide his red, ripe strawberry from a big hungry bear), but it’s hilarious. And just plain cute.

Quick as a Cricket
cricketAs a parent, you’ll love how this book teaches opposing emotions and our complex characteristics as human beings. Your kids will just think it’s cool. Try it out.

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
kingThis tale is funny, quirky, and beautifully illustrated. Plus, it earned a Caldecott Honor!

Elbert’s Bad WordelbertThis book helps teach kids how to talk appropriately in a fun way. Don and Audrey teamed up for the illustrations, so together they take a different style for this book.

Heckedy Peg
heckedyFolks, this story is a bit twisted and dark. It reminds me of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. But I can’t help but like it! The artwork helps add some innocent magic. Read it with an older child.
Which are your favorites??ave

Audiobooks for Families Read by Jim Dale

Audiobooks Jim Dale A Good Gray

My husband and I first heard of Jim Dale when we moved from Utah to Virginia as newlyweds. We’d borrowed the first few Harry Potter books on CD, and we listened to these beloved stories hour after hour as we treked cross-country. We already knew we loved J.K. Rowling’s book series, but hearing Dale read them with so many different voices and styles was a whole new experience. By the time we reached that last time zone, we were total Jim Dale groupies.

In the years since, we’ve gotten to know the work of the award-winning Dale better and better. We mostly listen to audiobooks on long roadtrips, but really they’re great whether you’re just driving around town or spending the day at home. Dale’s audiobook collection is pretty vast, but here are some favorites that are appropriate for children and entertaining for the whole fam.

Note: Not all of the following are best for young children. Do your homework.

“Harry Potter” Series by J.K. Rowling
Introduce a new generation to the wonder of Harry Potter and his magical world as they fight the rise of evil. Dale manages a different voice and inflection for each character, and it is absolutely phenomenal. Phe-nom-e-nal.

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
Listening to Dale’s reading of this story has become a yearly tradition at our house. The story can be a bit mature, but it’s a great way to celebrate the Christmas season.

“Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie
After the success of a short story and play about Peter Pan, Barrie developed a novel called “Peter and Wendy.” This novel, here known as “Peter Pan,” is sweet, full of wit, and a bit darker than the Disney story.

“Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev
This enchanting fairy-tale is told with Dale’s characteristic energy, and paired with some of the best-known songs (performed by the Seattle Symphony). Be warned, however, that the ending is changed from the original.

“Return to the Hundred Acre Wood” by David Benedictus
Written in 2009, this story brings back Pooh and his friends with the permission of A.A. Milne’s estate. It’s not exactly the same feel (some of the magic of the original is gone), but with Dale it’s still a good listen.

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
Enter the world of fantasy and nonsense with Carroll’s one-of-a-kind tale. This classic is, again, darker than Disney but an enlightening ride all the same.

“Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne
I still have yet to read this classic (PLEASE DON’T TAKE AWAY MY ENGLISH DEGREE), but it has quite the following and I trust Dale. Implicitly.

What are some of your favorite family-friendly audiobooks?? I’d love to try them out.

Marvelous List of Seuss Books You Missed

Did you know March 2 is the birthday of beloved author Theodor Geisel, a/k/a Dr. Seuss? (And Read Across America Day!) To celebrate this year, we’ve already started curling up with a bunch of our favorite Seuss books—just what the doctor ordered.

The good doctor wrote so many witty and charming books (over 40 just for children) that you may not have read them all. Besides the classics like “Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” our favorites also come from a lesser-known crowd.
A Good Gray: Marvelous List of Dr. Seuss Books You Missed

So without further adieu, here is a marvelous list of Seuss books you may have missed:

“The Sneetches and Other Stories”
The_Sneetches_and_Other_StoriesThis book is a foundation of my husband’s childhood. Besides those fickle Sneetches, we oft quote the other stories—”Mrs. McCave who had 23 sons and named them all Dave” and those dear “pale green pants with nobody inside them.”

“Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!”
MarvinKMooneyWillYouPleaseGoNowBookCoverThis was the first “big” book I ever read by myself as a wee first grader, so it has a special place in my heart. I can vouch for it being good for early readers, and it has that dependable Seuss sense of humor.

“Oh the Thinks You Can Think”
Oh,_the_Thinks_You_Can_Think_coverThis is Dr. Seuss quirkiness and creativity set to max. I really wish I could say, “Dear Ted, oh the thinks YOU can think!!!” (Where did he dream up this stuff??)

“Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?”
A Good Gray: Marvelous List of Dr. Seuss Books You MissedLike many of his other books, this one teaches a lesson: appreciation and gratitude. And of course his hilarious rhymes and illustrations make you love the ride.

“If I Ran the Circus”
IfIRantheCircusThis book about the Circus McGurkus is another favorite from my husband’s family. And we love it so much we accidentally ended up with two copies. (Want one?)

“The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories”
10678780I love this one more for the history: these are stories Ted printed in various magazines from 1948 to 1959, and they were pretty much forgotten until a Seuss scholar tracked them down. Lucky us, we get to easily read them now!

“My Book About Me”
Book About MeMy sister was given this book when we were little, and I always coveted it. You get to fill in each page with information about yourself. Dr. Seuss wrote but didn’t illustrate it, and it’s quite fun.

“Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!”
Hooray

This one is unique: author Jack Prelutsky and illustrator Lane Smith built off verses and sketches that Ted wrote before his death in 1991 to create this story. It’s the tale of some eccentric teachers and their students.

So what Dr. Seuss books are your top-of-the-list books?

8 Picture Books for Christmas

Ready to start celebrating the season? Looking for a new book to put under the tree? Share these Christmas stories with your little loved ones.

A Good Gray: 8 Picture Books for Christmas

1. “Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale” by Martin Waddell
With gorgeous illustrations and the help of the stable animals, Waddell tells the story of Christ’s birth.cvr9781416961772_9781416961772_lg

2. “Snowmen at Christmas” by Caralyn Buehner
Learn how snowmen celebrate Christmas is this charming holiday book. The illustrations are half the fun!
Snowmen at Christmas

3. “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg
This Caldecott winner was one of my childhood favorites. The illustrations and the creative story make you a believer.
1986_Polar_Express

4. “The Jolly Christmas Postman” by Allan and Janet Ahlberg
My girls don’t get tired of this one! Open each character’s Christmas mail as you follow this charming little holiday tale.JOLLY POSTMAN

5. “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Susan Wojciechowski
This is a longy, but it’s a very sweet story. It’s uplifting, focuses on the goodness of Christmas, and makes you feel all the feels.96-The-Christmas-Miracle-of-Jonathan-Toomey

6. “Little Critter’s The Night Before Christmas” by Mercer Mayer
My girls love reading this one at Grandma’s. Mayer gives Little Critter’s take on this Christmas Eve tradition.

Little-Critter-s-the-Night-Before-Christmas-9780679873525

7. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss
A classic, right? Remind your family of just what’s important this holiday season with this Dr. Seuss masterpiece.how-the-grinch-stole-christmas

8. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
This is also a long story, but so worth it. O. Henry’s poignant tale is beautifully matched with Lisbeth’s Zwerger’s illustrations.

Magi

What are some of your favorites? Comment below with your suggestions!

12 Children’s Books That Will Make Your Child Laugh

A Good Gray: 12 Children's books that will make your child laughWe love to laugh at our house, so a picture book that gives us all a good giggle is always popular. Here are a dozen of our family’s favorite funny books:

1. The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
This was a chance library find that kills me—read it with a New England accent and you’ll all be laughing.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books
2. The Monster at the End of this Book
by Jon Stone
This old Sesame Street book is a classic my girls request again and again. They giggle anxiously to the end!
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books
3. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
It was hard to pick just one Mo Willems book to list, but this take on the classic tale had me LOL-ing on the first page. For. Real. You really should check out all of his books—”Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” “I Broke My Trunk,” and more.
Goldilocks

4. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
Crayons talking? Going on strike?? You’ll love the premise and the wit.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books

5. The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett
People pretending a pig is a princess is always funny.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books
6. Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton
This short but sweet book has a comical twist.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books

7. Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
I think I love this book even more than my girls, but the silliness of cows typing and making demands is just fun.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books

8. I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
With simple yet colorful illustrations, we smile through this fun story and bust out laughing at the end.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books

9. Silly Tilly by Eileen Spinelli
The pure silliness of this goose is what keeps my girls asking to read it again and again.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books
10. Tuesday by David Wiesner
With very few words Wiesner shares the story of a hilarious Tuesday. It earned a Caldecott so you know it’s quality!
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books

11. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
This childhood favorite of mine is delightfully absurd. (Way better than the recent movie, amiright??)
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books12. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
It’s a bit dark I suppose, but you’ll giggle at this foolishly confident fish. Plus, it’s another Caldecott winner.
A Good Gray: Funny Children's Books
So which books get you and your family laughing?

Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

I am a BIG believer in reading to children. I’ve said it before, but “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease pretttty much rocks my world. One thing Trelease supports is reading chapter books to even young children (you can see some of his thoughts on that here), so for the past year I’ve done that very thing with my 4- now 5-year-old daughter.

Here are some of the chapter books she and I recommend for preschoolers:

1. “Stuart Little” by E.B. White
I started with this one almost on accident, and I was shocked by how much she loved it. It’s a charming story of a mouse that gets adopted by people, and everybody just goes with it. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, and my daughter still brings it up.

A Good Gray: Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

2. The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
We’re about 16 books into this series, and my daughter insists we keep on going. They tell the adventures of a brother and sister, and each story is simple with illustrations every few pages.
A Good Gray: Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

3. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
I adored Roald Dahl when I was growing up, so I was thrilled to share this one with her. She got a bit bored with some longer passages, so I had to skip paragraphs here and there. In the end she enjoyed the magic of it all.

A Good Gray: Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

4. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
A classic for sure, but again some of the passages got long for her. This story of the fate of a piglet and a nurturing spider did lead to a serious question about death by my daughter. It totally caught me off guard, and soon both of us were sobbing together. Consider yourselves warned, people.

A Good Gray: Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

5. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This was another childhood favorite of mine, and I couldn’t wait to read it to her. She related to the sisters in it and she was fascinated by the pioneer lifestyle. Someday I’ll show her the TV show and we’ll both run down a hill together.

A Good Gray: Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

6. “The BFG” by Roald Dahl
This a hilariously weird story about a Big Friendly Giant and a little girl, and my daughter was quite smitten by it. But it’s a weird story, people. That Roald Dahl has quite the sense of humor.

A Good Gray: Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers

5 Favorite Picture Books Illustrated by David Catrow

High fives to my sister-in-law for introducing us to the talented illustrator David Catrow. He’s published over 60 books with several different authors of children’s books, and he has impeccable taste—we seem to always love the stories he illustrates.

A Good Gray: 5 Favorite Picture Books Illustrated by David Catrow

Want to love him too? Start with our 5 favorite picture books illustrated by David Catrow.

1. “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon” by Patty Lovell
You’ll want your kids to hang out with Molly Lou Melon every day. Her positive attitude and self-confidence are admirable, and the illustrations are darling to boot.

A Good Gray: "Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon" by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow

2. “Our Tree Named Steve” by Alan Zweibel
This book is a well-written homage to a family’s favorite tree. And it miiiight make you a bit emotional by the end.

A Good Gray: "Our Tree Named Steve" by Alan Zweibel, illustrated by David Catrow

3. “I Wanna Iguana” by Karen Kaufman Orloff
You follow the letters between a boy and his mom as he tries to convince her he’s responsible enough to have an iguana. The words and the illustrations make it the sort of story that makes a grown up laugh.

A Good Gray: "I Wanna Iguana" by Karen Kaufman Orloff, illustrated by David Catrow

4. “I Like Myself!” by Karen Beaumont
This book oozes self-esteem without being annoying.

A Good Gray: "I Like Myself!" by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

5. “My School’s a Zoo!” by Stu Smith
This little boy’s imagination is running hilariously wild, and your kids will love it (who doesn’t love animals in clothes anyway?).

A Good Gray: "My School's a Zoo!" by Stu Smith, illustrated by David Catrow

 

Picture Book Play: “The Jolly Postman” by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

One surprisingly fun thing to do on a rainy day is to turn a favorite book into an activity. Allow me to explain.

First, consider Exhibit A:
A Good Gray: Picture Book Play "The Jolly Postman"

“The Jolly Postman: or Other People’s Letters” by Janet and Allan Ahlberg has been a favorite of mine since I was little. This darling British book follows a (jolly) postman as he delivers letters to the Three Bears, Cinderella, and other fairytale stars.

And they’re not just silly letters–they are clever and witty (the Big Bad Wolf gets a letter from Little Red Riding Hood’s lawyer… but he was asking for it, right?). The greatest part is that each letter is physically included in its own envelope throughout the story.

A Good Gray: Picture Book Play "The Jolly Postman"

Just thinking about the cuteness of the book right now is making me want to scream a little bit. Find this book and see for yourself. NOW.

Now consider Exhibit B:
A Good Gray: Picture Book Play "The Jolly Postman"

Since my 4-year-old is obsessed with all things postal right now, it was pretty natural to turn the book into our own play time. We talked about how addresses and envelopes work, and then we went to work writing letters, addressing envelopes, and putting on pretend postage. We also made a super classy mailbox out of a box.

We then took turns playing the fairy tale characters and the Jolly Postman. The characters mailed the letters in the mailbox, and the postman emptied the letters into her bag and then made the deliveries to stuffed animals. The postman sometimes stayed for tea (if invited, of course).

A Good Gray: Picture Book Play "The Jolly Postman"

This play lasted for days, which I was thrilled to see. Any reference to this sweet book pretty much makes my day.

But it’s easy to turn other beloved books into art activities, puppet shows, dioramas, and more. I’m sure you’ll think of something great!

Why we love it: It leads to more creative play, and a greater love for reading.

Board Books for Toddlers

We love reading around here, rain or shine. My husband and I are pretty picky when it comes to children’s books. We don’t demand fine literature, but at LEAST make the stories funny, charming, or clever (preferably all three).  If they meet all of the above, I’m even okay with them not making perfect sense.

We also appreciate board books, especially since we still have a page-ripping toddler in our midst. That being said, allow me to share the “Top 5 Board Books I Don’t Mind Reading Again and Again (and Again)”:

1. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
"Good Night, Gorilla" by Peggy RathmannThis is a book of few words, but the illustrations give you plenty of material. Look for the hidden story of the balloon, banana, and the neighbors in the window.

2. Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton
"Barnyard Dance" by Sandra Boynton

I love most of Sandra’s books, but the rhymes and the rhythm of the writing make Barnyard Dance! a winner. I DARE YOU to read this without dancing.

3. Gossie by Olivier Dunrea
"Gossie" by Olivier DunreaOh darling little Gossie… how we love thee. The repetition helps our daughter follow along, and the sweet story teaches the importance of sharing. Check out the whole Gossie and friends series!

4. Jamberry by Bruce Degen
"Jamberry" by Bruce DegenWe love the fun rhyming and the detailed illustrations. You’ll want to go outside and play! (But not with a bear.)

5. Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling? by Tad Hills
"Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling?" by Tad HillsDuck and Goose have a whole series, but this one teaches emotions. I don’t know if it’s the illustrations or the dorky way we read it, but our girls love this one. And hearing your tiny kid say “frustrated!” is prettty cute.

Mother Lit: “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease

An important part of our indoor life is reading. Want to know why? Read on, baby:

I asked my wise, eldest sister for advice on getting my 4-year-old ready to read. She told me I had to (had to!) read, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease.

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May I be just a teensy bit dramatic and say that reading this book has totally and completely changed my life?!

Because it has. In this seventh edition, Trelease gathers 30 years of experience and extensive research to teach the importance of reading aloud to children. Want your kids to love reading? Read to them. Want to strengthen your relationship with your child? Read to them. Want your kids to do their best in school? Read to them. Want your kids to not be a serial killer? Read to them!

He recommends starting to read to babies on Day 1, and to keep reading aloud through the teenage years. He suggests ways to get them reading on their own, and he even discusses how technology affects the modern reader.

It’s simple, but we try to read to our girls as much as we can each day (rain or shine). Trelease says at least 30 minutes, but we’re not there yet.

We read mostly picture books and board books. But we started reading our 4-year-old her first chapter book (“Stuart Little” by E.B. White, if you must know), and I’ve been amazed at how much she’s enjoyed it.

So here’s to reading, one of our favorite indoor activities!