Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lina's Top 9 Books (2013)

Our annual tradition on this blog...a list of Lina's favorite books from our collection at home! She certainly enjoyed many more books at storytelling events all over NYC and we have read many other fun books at public libraries.

She still enjoys picture books, of course, but she is gravitating more to longer stories in chapter books, with few illustrations. I listed only 9 new books below...because #10 would just be a tie between ALL the books listed 2012, which she still loves, and half the books from the 2011 list that she still enjoys and doesn't want me to donate or recycle.

Lina's Favorite Books (2013):

#1. It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale (by Margot Zemach)
#2. The Wind in the Willows (by Kenneth Grahame)
#3. Fairy Tales (by E. E. Cummings)
#4. The Sneetches and Other Stories (by Dr. Seuss)
#5. Aesop's Fables for Children (by Milo Winter)
#6. The Twelve Dancing Princesses (by Ruth Sanderson)
#7. Sharks (by Valerie Bodden)
#8. A Fairy Tale (by RH Disney)
#9. A Book of Fairies (by Patricia Saxton)

If you are interested in my notes about these books...

Numbers below correspond to list numbers above...

1. Generally Lina has a positive attitude (born that way and I nurture her joyfulness), so she didn't particularly need this lesson yet...she is not a big whiner...but when things aren't going quite right in my life, it feels wonderful to read this book to Lina. It helps me feel more grateful and satisfied with how good we have it and I can get through hard times without complaining a lot. The large detailed illustrations do a good job of conveying the chaos in the man's life. Kids will wonder why the rabbi is giving the advice he gives to the poor unfortunate man (even a 5 year old understands the solution seems counterintuitive to fixing the problem)...and the ending shows the wisdom of the rabbi's advice. This book would be especially good for siblings sharing a room or a family living in a tiny house/trailer/cottage, but the lesson that things could always be worse can be applied to so many circumstances in one's life (injuries, jobs, friendships, romance, financial problems etc.) and it's better learning this lesson now than waiting to learn it the hard way.

2. This is a magnificent chapter book, first published in 1908. There are some lovely color illustrations in the version we own (and she loves to look at them), but it's a ton of text that fills the 200+ pages. With characters like Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad, it's easy to understand why this is one of the most adored children's books in English literature. Even though I was worried some parts would be slow-moving for a young child, Lina is mesmerized when I read these stories and she wishes she had her own little boat and lived on the river.

3. E.E. Cummings was my favorite poet when I was in high school. When I found out he wrote these fairy tales, I wanted the book right away. Lina loves these sweet stories (there are only four tales in this collection of short stories). Her favorite story is "The Old Man Who Said Why." The writing style of the stories?...it's as if an adult is telling an original story on-the-spot to a young child (the poet wrote some stories for his own daughter). The watercolor pictures did not interest Lina  (though they were stylish, it would have been better to have clear illustrations, I think, for young children).

4. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading The Sneetches, the story about star-belly Sneetches and plain-belly Sneetches, it's a marvelous story about liking yourself just the way you are and accepting others without giving more value to the arbitrary traits that society tells us makes one person better than another. The great thing about this book is in addition to teaching tolerance with the first story, there are three lesser known stories written by Dr. Seuss that follow. The Zax,with the North-going Zax and South-going Zax, shows that compromising and cooperating would have been better for them both than stubbornly standing their ground. The silly Too Many Daves highlights the importance of being seen as individuals and the spooky What Was I Scared Of? features The Green Pants with Nobody Inside Them to show kids that learning about what we fear may help alleviate those fears. All nicely illustrated, of course.

5. This book has over one hundred very short stories (with a color drawing on every page). It comes with a Read-and-Listen CD that contains over 40 of the best tales. Sometimes she chooses to go to sleep listening to this CD now instead of classical music. She doesn't always understand the morals the way they are phrased, but she likes that there's a life lesson at the end of each story. Some of the language is not appropriate for kids to speak these days, so I try to tell her alternatives while reading the fables (like "we don't say 'ass' anymore, we say donkey", "we don't say 'cock' anymore, we say rooster." With Mother Goose, a couple of years ago, I had to tell her we say "kitty-cat" now not "pussy-cat"). She is starting to understand context anyway. For example, when talking about Pirate's Booty snack...she said "booty also means bum...but they mean treasure on the bag...at the Halloween show at the aquarium we had such a good time...he said booty and looked embarrassed because booty means bum."

6. When I was young I wished I could find a children's story written with my first name included in the story, but it was impossible in this country. So, for Lina, I was really happy last year to find the delightful book Miss Lina's Ballerinas (which is on the 2012 book list). When she was an infant, though, I found The Twelve Dancing Princesses; the youngest princess is named Lina. She is now old enough to enjoy the story. Both books have her name spelled properly, too (it's not spelled "Lena") and "Lina" means "palm tree," which has special significance for us.

7. She has a sudden fascination with sharks and this book introduces some simple facts about sharks, with large photographs to look at (Lina wants only real photographs of sharks, not illustrations).

8.  This is part of the Step Into Reading series and it's basically a simplified version (text and images) of Disney's Tinker Bell movie.

9. This book explains "facts" about Fairyland and fairies and has colorful illustrations.