1. Nest by Jorey Hurley -- I have a special place in my heart for nature-themed picture books, and ones that make the natural world especially accessible to the youngest of readers delight me. This one is no exception. With just one word on each page, the actual reading time won't be long, but don't think that's the only thing to do with this book. Each page can be discussed as long as a toddler can sustain attention. A passage of time, changes of season, and much of the life cycle of a robin is portrayed in this book, and the illustrations are simple but inviting with bold blocks of color and just enough detail to help propel the basic story. No need to wait until spring to pull this one out, though it will become particularly meaningful if you look for real-life birds and nests after reading it.
2. Cat Says Meow and Other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt -- What I love best about this book is how it can work on a couple different levels. With a young toddler, I'd approach it pretty straightforwardly reading the text and making the fun animal sounds, maybe with an older 2 or 3 year old, pointing out the letters that help form the illustrations. With my own elementary school age kids, it becomes more of an appreciation of this super cool design idea! The title will make more sense to older kids who may have heard of the literary concept of onomatopoeia, which might just be the kids of language geeks, but whatever. Either way, this book is fun to read, and even more delightful to look at!
3. Big Bug by Henry Cole -- Here's another fabulous example of a seemingly quite simplistic picture book that actually contains some complex ideas! When viewed really up close, a ladybug can look big, until you take a step back and compare it to the leaf it sits upon. Then the ladybug is small, while the leaf is big. But next to the flower towering over it, that leaf is now small, while the flower is big. Following this pattern, size is compared again and again, both from small to big, and then back down to small again with new sets of compared objects and creatures. I read this to a friend's toddler, and I could practically see the wheels turning in her head as she processed the concepts of big and little. It's quite similar in theme to another book I've recently enjoyed and reviewed over on 5 Minutes for Books- You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang. I love pairing similar books together for reading times to see what young children can notice on their own about the ways they are alike, and these two would work perfectly for that purpose.
4. You Know What I Love? by Lorena Siminovich -- Just look at that cover. How appealing is that to a young child? I know several toddlers, of both genders, who have loveys/dolls/stuffies that are the object of their adoration, and this illustration conveys that love beautifully. The sentiment of the story could be applied to any loved one in a young child's life, but I particularly like how they've illustrated the object of affection as a beloved doll. Parents may get a wee bit weepy (if you're overly emotional, like me, ahem), as they read the statements of love in this book, but with or without tears, this story provides an opportunity for caregivers and children to share the things about each other that they love.
5. Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell -- Okay, this is most definitely the wild card in the bunch. It's wacky, it's silly, and it requires a bit of imagination, something that toddlers are just in the beginning stages of developing, but... it's such a funny book, I couldn't help but include it here. Inexplicably, a young boy is cared for by an octopus who appears to be helpful, about every other page. Each declaration he makes seems, at first, to be productive in assisting the boy in getting ready for bedtime. Yet, each is followed up by a second part that totally messes up the process. A warm bath... full of egg salad? Drying him off... with a tuba?? Seriously, I'm a big fan of the silly in this, and I look forward to reading it soon to a particular toddler who I know LOVES when people say ridiculous, out-of-context things. Developing a sense of humor is right up there with the other important milestones in my book, and a story like this helps to introduce a particular type of joking around.
If you happen to come across this and find a book that is a hit with a young'un in your life, I'd love to hear about it!
Happy reading, as always,