I have a 14-month-old son, and every night, I read three books to him before bed.
Most of these books are terrible.
They have no story. They have no characters.
“Good Night, Moon,” is a perfect example.
It starts with a room. Then it lists off all the things in the room. Then it says good night to them.
What are we doing here?
At least “Good Night, Moon” rhymes. Many children’s books these days do not. They are a series of pictures with no narrative thread between them, and a series bland descriptions beneath.
This is insane, especially since Dr. Seuss made it perfectly acceptable to make up words to fit a rhyme scheme.
At least “Good Night, Moon” contains full sentences. Many books these days features just one word and one adequate illustration per page. Real creative.
The good news is that there are at least three good children’s books out there still.
“Little Blue Truck”
This one, written by Alice Shertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry, is downright cinematic. It’s about a little blue truck that says beep to all the animals as it goes about its day.
Then WHAM, out of nowhere comes a big dump truck.
The dump truck is a big jerk who says he “hasn’t got time to pass the day with every duck along the way.”
Then, look out, the dump gets stuck in some mud. He honks and honks for help, but, writes Schertle, “nobody heard (or, nobody cared).”
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just say the dump ends up realising how nice it is to have friends who can get you out of trouble.
The book rhymes, it has a story, and it has a nice message. So that puts it miles ahead of the competition. But what makes it REALLY great is that it’s got voice. You can’t help but read it with a slight country twang. I like to picture Danny McBride reading it.
Shertle wrote a sequel to “Little Blue Truck.” It’s about the truck going to the city. It’s not quite as good, but it’s still elite compared to the field. Reading this one, you get to do city voices.
This book, by Sandra Boyton, is about a mummy dog who loves her baby dog so much that she’s decided to sing a song about it.
When you read it, you get to sing the song.
The best part is that Boyton gives you cues for when to sing loud and when to sing softly.
Every Boyton book we own is good. The illustrations are fun and the rhymes are snappy. The first book our son loved was her book “Opposites.” His most recent favourite is one about hippos who are obsessed with belly buttons (and sing a song about it).
Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed
This is an old nursery song transformed into book form. Whatever, it works. There’s a story, it rhymes, and you get to do multiple voices.
Here’s the premise: A monkey mum wants to put her kids to sleep. But instead of sleeping, they jump on the bed. One falls off, and bumps his head. She calls the doctor. The doctor says: quit it with the monkeys jumping on the bed. Problem is, the other four monkeys don’t listen.
The book’s only weakness is that its ambitious, twisty ending somehow falls flat.
But otherwise it’s great. You get to voice the mum, the doctor, and the narrator. So there’s a lot of variety. Meanwhile, there is a good amount of rhyming and comedic repetition. So your kid will laugh. That makes it a huge winner.
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