My three favorite kids book authors

These days it feels like all I read are kids books. And I can now say with a bit of authority that the vast majority of children’s books can get tedious—especially after you’ve read them about 15 times (in one night).

When you know a book is likely to be read and reread, you look for any light in the dark. I like books that are funny and are fun to read aloud. That means, they have varying sentence structure, surprising stories, and maybe a little bit of poetry.

This is not a comprehensive list. There are great books that come out every year, and I can’t claim to read them all…but I do have a few authors I look for and make sure I pick up when new titles come out. Here are some of my favorites.

Sandra Boynton

When it comes to board books, stories that make you laugh are pretty rare. Sandra Boynton books have actually made me laugh out loud.

The first one I picked up was “The Going to Bed Book,” but each one we’ve borrowed or bought has been equally charming. The animal characters are gentle and fun. Illustrations are simple and sweet. She deftly maneuvers through stories with gorgeous prose and a great absurdist sense of humor. Further, the subjects of the stories contain terrific lessons, from emotional management to counting, and ABCs.

Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas is a masterclass in minimal story-telling. The images are one dimensional, the backgrounds are nonexistent, and the text is usually limited to one sentence word bubbles.

And yet, the stories are a delight.

“I don’t want to give anything away, but in “A Birthday for Cow,” only one character really knows what Cow really wants for their birthday. But there is so much fun in the mistakes made along the way.

Jan Thomas books are great for beginning readers and for family evening story time.

Mo Willems

Mo Willems is a new one for us. We discovered him just this year as we were looking for great early reader books.

The Elephant & Piggie series features my favorite friends since the Frog and Toad books I loved as a child.

Each book is a gem, with interesting dialogue and fun asides. The stories solve humorous dilemmas through kindness and friendship, without ever turning didactic.

The “We Are In a Book” story breaks the fourth wall in such a heartwarming way, I want to read the story again and again.

There are so many other books we love, but these are the ones I continue to want to pore over. What are your favorites for your children? I would so love to know what delightful authors you’ve found.

Young kids and finding the music in the maelstrom.

I got lucky today. My kids invaded the bathroom.

Photo by Ignacio Sanz, via Flickr.

I was in the shower this morning and I left the kids just one room away, in the playroom. This is a common set up. I don’t use the master bath when I’m alone with the kids because I can’t control the environment as well. So I shower upstairs, steps away from the kiddos.

In any case, I was in the shower. Alone. For 3 minutes. I mean, I got three entire minutes to myself before my son opened the bathroom door and both kids burst in.

My son stood on the toilet and began to ask, “Mommy, can you see this?” while holding various toys over the shower stall door. The little one complained loudly when the big one took her toys to show to me as well and started to unwrap the toilet paper roll.

He started singing a wordless, repetitive tune, and she took it upon herself to add “call and response” wordless phrases to the song. It was “Shave and a Haircut,” on steroids. It had its own kind of glorious hyperbolic harmony.

There are many days in which this intrusion would have irritated me and possibly ruined my morning. Days when I’d gotten less sleep the night before, or was worried about something, trying to work through a problem, or compose an article in my head.

I’m glad this wasn’t one of those days.

If it was, I would not have been able to appreciate my children cooperating and enjoying each other’s company (as well as mine). I know those days are fleeting.

I’m not trying to make this that “enjoy the time you have,” story I see on A LOT of mommy blogs. I kinda hate those, because they diminish an adult’s right to feel upset at children. We are completely justified in feeling like overtaxed caterers to our children’s needs and wants, and equally validated in asking for help from spouses, family, and friends to ease that burden.

Parents deserve privacy in the bathroom, whether they get it or not. But once in a while, it’s nice to not feel that righteous irritation.

Those days when you can lean your head back under the water and trust that the chaos you hear is the music…those are pretty great days.

And Lo! The childe did sleepeth through the night.

Photo on Flickr. Courtesy of

She DID it! For 5 nights my wake-up-4-times-nightly-screaming sleeper has made it to the next level. I have one thing to thank for this life-changing miracle. The box fan!

But first a small poem.

To my daughter, who will not sleep

Your eyes should be steady and silent
but instead,
you angel of primal pierced ears—
You pierce ears

Not my best. I’ll admit.

I’ve done it all. Shush noises, swaddling, suckling…all the other “s”s. I’ve rocked her til my back was numb, then rocked her some more. Taken her into bed with me, gotten back up. Reswaddled by the hundreds. Set her down. Picked her back up. Begged and pleaded. Lost my temper a time or two (maybe more). Cried more than a handful of times.

Her nightly routine cost me jobs. Who can write a coherent sentence after five months of waking up every two hours? Who has the mental capacity for careful reading and revision on that kind of schedule?

There have been a few nights here and there when she surprised me. We did a whole CIO routine during winter break that worked for a while. But in each case, we’d see her creep back to 3-5 wake up every night. It’s been a rough year. However finally, last week something changed.

As the spring has warmed up, my husband set up the box fan at the window to vent house in the evening, and on the first warm night, we left it on.

She slept til 3 am. I nursed her and put her back in her crib (easily) and she slept until 4:30 am. then the next night, she woke at 2:30 am and again at 4:30 am. It’s gone more or less like this for a few days. Last night, she woke at 2 am and then at 6 am.

You guys. This is a manageable schedule. This is a brain functioning schedule. I feel like a champ.

I love box fans. I’m a box fan fan.

Update: I jinxed it.