There’s nothing like a healthy dose of tryptophan and pumpkin pie to trigger some hardcore reminiscing! And it should come as no surprise to anyone that memories of my childhood would be utterly incomplete without a few awesome books thrown into the mix. When I was no more than a wee half-pint, my mom read aloud to me for hours. Then, when I finally mastered the magic of reading on my own, I forced my younger siblings to listen to me stutter out our favorites over and over and over again.
So, in the spirit of gathering together for the holidays, here are some of the read-aloud favorites from the Graves family:
Corduroy, by Don Freeman, Viking Children’s Books (an imprint of Penguin Books), first published 1968, Ages 3-7
Corduroy’s sweet journey is wonderfully understated, both in its opening melancholy and its closing joy. Poor Corduroy has waited forever on the department store shelf, but the children who come by head straight for the newer, brighter toys. No one seems to want a plain little bear with green overalls–especially since he’s missing a button. When a little girl named Lisa spies Corduroy, though, it’s love at first sight. Lisa is blind to the shiny new toys on the shelf–she knows that Corduroy is special. Finally, Corduroy has what he’s always wanted: a home. “‘You must be a friend,’ said Corduroy. ‘I know I’ve always wanted a friend.’ ‘Me too!’ said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.” I defy any parent or child to resist the gentle emotional tug of this delightful tale–it’s a warm, friendly, cuddly sort of story, the kind that you’ll remember for years to come.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, illus. by Ray Cruz, Atheneum Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), first published 1972, Ages 3-7
There was a time when I could quote this entire book by heart. I’ll still give it the old college try when challenged, but no promises that I’ll make it through the opening lines: “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” We’ve all been in poor Alexander’s shoes. Some days, absolutely nothing goes right. Some days, the only viable option seems to be to escape to Australia. This book is fast-paced, spirited, with a universally recognizable theme for both adults and children.
Dogger, by Shirley Hughes, HarperCollins, first published 1993, Ages 3-7
When I was very small, my giant stuffed rabbit, Bun Bun, was by constant bedtime buddy. I know from firsthand experience that there is nothing more panic-inducing to a four-year-old than discovering that her beloved bunny is missing (if only for a trip through the laundry). So the crisis presented to our young hero, Dave, will be familiar to little ones. Dogger, Dave’s constant floppy companion, has suddenly and mysteriously vanished. Dave is distraught. But when Dogger turns up in a rummage sale, Dave’s older sister Bella comes to the rescue. She trades one of her stuffed animals in order to save Dogger from being carried off by another little girl. Hooray for courageous big sisters! Hooray for Dogger’s safe return! Hooray for peace returned at home!
The Day the Goose Got Loose, by Reeve Lindbergh, illus. by Steven Kellogg, Puffin Books (an imprint of Penguin), first published 1990, Ages 3-7
Chaos erupts in the barnyard when the goose gets loose! I clearly remember my mother reading (chanting, really) this book aloud during a family roadtrip. If her plan was to keep us from bickering in the back seat, this rollicking tale did the trick. The goose leads the farmer and the other animals on a wild, raucous romp that keeps wiggly wee ones glued to the page. Told in rhyme, this is a fantastic one to share with itty bitties who like to get up and go–the rhythm of the text will keep them engaged, and Kellogg’s colorful, movement-infused illustrations will give them plenty to investigate. As kids get older, there’s more and more to see here–it’s a great book that will grow with your family!
Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illus. by Garth Williams, HarperCollins, first published 1933, Ages 7-12
Although this is the third book in the acclaimed Little House series, it stands alone. My siblings and I returned over and over to this story of Almanzo Wilder and his growing up years on a farm in New York State. Our favorite parts? The specific descriptions of the Wilder family’s giant, farm fresh meals. Apple pie for breakfast? Sign me up! Cheerios suddenly just weren’t good enough. My mother pointed out that Almanzo followed his pastry-filled morning meal by working all afternoon in the fields, and would I like to follow suit on that, too? Touche, Mom. Touche.
Miss Megan G.