What we're reading (#1)

As you might imagine, our family reads A LOT of books. One of the perks of our business is that we receive tons of early releases from publishers, and we can also request review copies of new titles. While some books stay on our rotation forever, some new titles sneak in daily. We’re literally bursting at the seams with children’s books in our little house. In fact, I was recently featured in this piece for Washingtonian MOM. When the fact checker wrote, he asked me about things like my kids’ ages and names, the timing of our move back to Washington, DC...and also, “Is it true that you have lots of books throughout your house?” I guess the photographers noticed, too.

We read so many gems, and I have been talking about sharing these with all of you FOREVER. Today is finally the day. My plan is to continue to share some of my favorite new books on our shelves every few weeks, along with our new series with Born Reading. And of course, most of these titles have been rigorously Zoobean-approved by our two youngest team members. 

Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet

ISBN 978-1452137-35-3, Chronicle Books

Have you already read or played with Herve Tullet’s first book, “Press Here”? That is a fan favorite around here, and his second companion book does not disappoint. My littlest is just learning how to mix her colors, and this book came at the perfect time for her. But Tullet takes us far beyond the typical, yellow and blue make green. The book is incredibly interactive, asking kids to perform an action, and then revealing the magical result of their action on the following page. Of course, my daughter actually DOES think it’s magic, but our son is aware that it’s not. That doesn’t take away any of the fun. Especially if one of us is reading with gusto, “Go ahead, try it!” Then, they will both pretend to add black or white, or whatever the book has instructed, and then be completely tickled by what they see on the following pages.

We have also been able to extend what they see in the book by testing some of the pages. We mix colors ourselves and even created a few of our own pages that mirror those of Mix It Up. I love Herve Tullet’s books for their beauty, interactivity, and mostly for the extreme giggles they inspire in our kids every single time we read them. Oh, and check out this really sweet video of the author/illustrator himself introducing his new book.


Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti

ISBN: 978-1-935179-62-7, TOON Books

Okay, the truth is this story is way too dark to read to our own kids, even as a multi-night read aloud. But it’s NEIL GAIMAN people, so I had to read it! The other night my husband was just about to fall asleep when he looked up. “Why are you reading Hansel and Gretel,” he asked, puzzled. And I gave him the same answer. Because it’s NEIL GAIMAN! If you have an older child in your life, you just have to read this one. The haunting black and white images alone are worth it. But Gaiman’s retelling of this very old tale is powerful. I know the end to the story, we all do, and even so, I was riveted. This is one I intend to keep in our permanent home collection.


Sally in the Snow by Stephen Huneck

ISBN: 1-4197-1227-6, Abrams Appleseed

Somehow, I only recently discovered the Sally books, apparently inspired by the late author’s own dog Sally. My son is finally starting to understand the seasons and, unlike me, he is anxiously anticipating snow and winter this year. This book really worked for us because it is simple enough for our littles, has a few words that our son can recognize, and pictures many types of dogs. They are hounding me (pun intended) to get a family dog, and through this book they are able to identify the many types that would work for us!

This story details Sally’s trip to a ski lodge, where she snowboards, plays with her friends, enjoys the mountain scenery, and eats! We are always on the hunt for nice board books that appeal beyond the youngest set, and this is definitely one of them for us.


Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

ISBN: 978-1452128-91-7, Chronicle Books

This book keeps us with two themes from the post: companion works and winter. Flora and the Penguin is a companion to Molly Idle’s debut book, “Flora and the Flamingo,” which has inspired our daughter’s desire to be a flamingo for Halloween. I’m not crafty, so we’re taking suggestions for costumes, and probably heading to Etsy! I digress. Flora is very beloved in this home, so we were thrilled to receive this book. This time, Flora takes to the ice and creates a very loving friendship with a penguin who joins her in their routines. At one point, the little penguin dives below the ice, upsetting Flora. They work out this tiff, and the result is adorable.

Be prepared...this is a wordless book. That means a few things. Every time I read the story to the kids, it changes a bit. They are able to tell the story to me quite easily. And you have to be prepared to really get into it! In my experience, the most fun and effective way to read both Flora books is by acting them out. Little ones love to pretend to fall, give the cold shoulder, or ice skate across their bedroom. I usually read it earlier in the bedtime rotation so they can get some sillies out. This story also works really well as a good morning or breakfast time book.


100 Things That Make Me Happy by Amy Schwartz

ISBN: 978-1419705-18-2, Abrams Appleseed

I think a lot about inspiring gratitude in our kids and try to incorporate rituals that get our kids thinking about how lucky they are. 100 Things That Makes Me Happy is exactly what you might expect in that it lists 100 small and big things that make us, especially kids, happy. They range from an orange hat to lollipops to grandma’s lap. The book has a lovely rhyme scheme that makes it a lot of fun to read aloud, and over time, kids start anticipating what will come next. “Bucket trucks, yellow ducks, grocery carts, frosted hearts…” and so on. I’ll add a 101st item to this list, too. The illustrations in this book make me happy! Each item that makes this person happy is joined by a sweet illustration, with racially diverse characters that also span age groups. More than anything, this book is another opportunity to spark conversations about what makes us happy and the things/people/experiences for which we are grateful. Every night, we say what we’re grateful for before going to bed.

This book inspired me to (finally) purchase blank journals for our kids and start recording what they say. I don’t write it down as they say it, but do it after the fact. Then, the next morning they sometimes illustrate the words while we prep breakfast. This book has gotten the kids thinking about things even bigger and even smaller than the usual fare of “I’m grateful for my sister, for the Nationals winning (or trying their best), or for my friends.” Now we get things like, “I’m grateful for eating outside tonight...and it makes me happy.” Or, “I’m grateful for the moon in the sky, and it makes me happy.”


Telephone by Mac Barnett and Jen Corace

ISBN: 978-1452110-23-3, Chronicle Books

You remember how to play telephone, right? This book is a zany game of telephone as told through many birds sitting on a wire. It starts with a grown up bird asking another bird to call little Peter to come home for dinner. As the message moves from bird to bird, it becomes sillier and sillier. This story works particularly well for our 4 year-old who really gets what makes the story so funny. The natural extension of this book is to play your own game of telephone, which was hilarious for us, especially with our little girl who didn’t quite understand the game! In any case, they both enjoyed the gorgeous illustrations in the book and commenting on the different birds that were pictured. I’ve noticed our son keeps whispering things to people now, hoping they will carry out an impromptu game of telephone. They seek this book out from the shelves each night