Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Reading Books to Kids

Raising kids has its moments. Some moments make me contemplate a dive off the Staten Island Ferry. Getting Jonah to stop calling people, "Mr. Stinky". Getting Ian to make it home for his nap, rather than taking a power nap in the stroller on the walk home from Jonah's pre-school. The power nap just makes him ornery later in the day. Sustained whining from 4:00 to 5:00 from a cranky Large Baby sapped all energy today.

Other moments with kids do not suck. Reading bedtime stories is always great. My kids never get tired of them. It might be the one time during the day that my two over active boys sit quietly and relax. They lean against me and listen. And for twenty minutes, sometimes more, there are no demands for juice, no car crashes, no leaps off the sofa, no "Mr. Stinky."

And there are some great kids' books. Here are some of my favorites:

Mike Mulligan and More: A Virginia Lee Burton Treasury Mike Mulligan is a kid's classic. The story of an old steam shovel, Mary Anne, whose glory days are over. Though Mary Anne and her owner, Mike, built the cellars for big skyscrapers, she has been replaced by the newer gasoline, electric, and Diesel motor shovels. But Mike can't bear to send Mary Anne to the old gravel pit. Instead they take a job building a cellar for the new town hall in Popperville. "They left the canals and the railroads and the highways and the airports and the big cities where no one wanted them any more and went out in the country."

The treasury has three other stories. The main characters are a house in the city, a tractor, and a cable car. They are stories of urban progress, kindness, and hard work. The artwork is WPA 30's style. And the writing has a nice syncopation; it's fun to read.

Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library is another favorite. Four little stories in a box: Pierre, One Was Johnny, Chicken Soup With Rice, and Alligators All Around. The children and characters in these stories are saucy, naughty, and spirited. And again, the words are so fun to say that Carol King turned them into songs.

In September
for a while
I will ride
a crocodile
down the
chicken soupy Nile.
Paddle once
paddle twice
paddle chicken soup
with rice.

My third favorite of the week is Olivia. Olivia is all about the artwork. Black, white, and red ink drawings of a high maintenance little pig who lives on the Upper Westside. "She's very good at wearing people out". The writing is not poetic like Sendak or Burton, but the story is more modern. The daily routines of a kid (okay, a city kid) from morning to night. Olivia goes to the museum and tries to paint like Jackson Pollock on her bedroom wall and then gets time out. My kids always like it when Olivia gets time out, so I make sure that I say it very loudly for them.

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