Bookshelf: Spring!

The air is getting hotter here, the days longer, and before I pack away our spring books, I thought I would share these three–all singles in four-season sets–that have been loved by our family for years.

(I am also excited to try out my new scanner! I realize I am behind the times in getting excited about this “new” device–it’s new to me!–and it’s going to take me a little while to figure out how to use it properly, but {yes, I am a dork} it’s so, so much fun!)

I want to preface this blog by stating that I generally don’t like board books.  Most board books are just abridged versions of books meant for older children (who are old enough to know not to eat them and can follow a story line), and others are just smaller versions of said books.  Why can’t we wait until our children are old enough to read the full length book?  Or if the book is age-appropriate, why can’t we get the larger version and let our kids enjoy the full-sized pictures while simultaneously teaching them books are for reading, not ripping? Is it a question of too much, too fast?  Or are we unwilling to spend the time sharing books together?  I understand the draw of sturdy books, but as is the case with many modern parenting conveniences, quality (both book quality and quality time together) gets lost somewhere along the way.

All in all, I agree with the notion that toddlers (those under age two) could be doing much more interesting things than reading–like emptying drawers, climbing into laundry baskets, or eating flowers–but there are some good board books out there too.  And the good thing about toddlers is they don’t need a hundred books (or even ten), because if you are a good story-teller (and even if you aren’t), they’ll enjoy hearing the same two or three over and over (and over and over and over and over…) again…

…like this spring book by Kit Allen:

Like I said before, this is one book in a set of four (one for each season).  I appreciate these books because they were designed with toddlers in mind.  The art is simple and sweet, and the story line is one that is recognizable to toddlers—each story has a child getting dressed,

(you get the idea…), then going outside and doing seasonally appropriate activities,

then having some sort of seasonally appropriate snack,

then having a nap somewhere…

These books are perfect.  They are simple–both in art and idea– and consistent (another thing toddlers love).  Each book has six pages of getting dressed, four activities, one page for the meal, and one page for the nap.  All the words that accompany the activities, snack, and sleep (in all four books) begin with the letter “S”.  And most important, they were designed to be board books.  You won’t find any larger or more complex versions out there (in fact, two of these books are out of print, so you won’t find them at all).  They are what they are.  And they’re great.  (Also, although both of my kids have “outgrown” these books, they still enjoy looking at them once in a while.)

The next two spring books are very similar, one set illustrated by Gerda Muller from Holland, and the other by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann of Germany.  They both titled “Spring”  (“Fruhling” in the German book, and if I were a little more tech-savvy I could add the two dots above the “u”…)

Like Allen’s books, these were also designed only as board books, but they speak to a broader age range than Allen’s toddler books.  These books have no words, so the stories are left to the tellers.  In my experience, my children have marginally enjoyed looking a the pictures by themselves but become completely entranced when a story is added.  When my girls were very young, we would sometimes just sit together and point out things we could see in the pictures, but as they grow older the stories grew more and more complex.  The tricky thing for adults is remembering it all the second time around…

For whatever reason, my girls always preferred Muller’s books over Ott-Heidmann’s.  I’m not sure if it was because Muller’s books speak more to their experience (Ott-Heidmann’s deal with German traditions, some of which are foreign to us), or because each book deals with the same characters throughout (Ott-Heidmann’s are a bit more random).  Muller also alternates between full-page pictures and smaller scenes, whereas all of Ott-Heidmann’s books have only full-page drawings.  Regardless, they are both beautiful books full of seasonal nature and pictures begging to have stories made up about them.  Ophelia is loving these books now (at age three) and Emerson still listens from the side-lines.  I wonder if there will be a day when Emerson becomes the story-teller?  We’ll see…


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