It’s been a month since I’ve seen my grandchildren, who live five hours away — a month since we’ve snuggled up with our favorite books. For me, a month is a long time. That’s because I spent much of the past year with my three-year-old granddaughter, Juniper, and eight-month-old grandson, Colby, helping care for them during the pandemic.
Some of the sweetest days were back in August after Colby was born. Sometimes I’d wake about five a.m. and hear my daughter reading to him — such a beautiful sound. This was their “special time,” and I didn’t interrupt. I knew I’d get my turn later.
Almost from the start, Colby made it known he wanted to see both the book and our faces as we read. We’ve found creative positions, so he can look from book to face and back again. It’s no surprise many of his favorite books feature faces of babies. At eight months, he grins and babbles whenever he sees Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora. It’s a simple text: “Peekaboo! I see … my mommy; Peekaboo! I see … my daddy; Peekaboo! I see … my grandma.” The book ends with a beautiful illustration of a toddler gazing straight at the child reader. “Peekaboo! I see … you.” Colby gazes back and smiles his best drooly smile.
Colby also loves the books Chu’s Day and Chu’s Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex. Both are about a little panda who’s volcanic sneezing upends everything around him. Colby anticipates the AAAAACHOOO! He looks from the book to our faces to the book — as if he’s waiting.
I especially appreciate Go, Grandma, Go! and Go, Grandpa, Go! by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Sophie Beer. In these books, active, youthful grandparents push go-carts, sled down hills, scuba-dive, and give piggyback rides. Both Colby and Juniper love the action of this book — and I love this depiction of grandparents!
One of the sweetest things I’ve seen is Juniper “reading” to Colby, sometimes holding the book like a teacher at story time. “You sit on the group rug, Colby!” She’s passing on her love of reading to her baby brother. He’s fascinated by everything she does, so she’s probably the most effective reading ambassador in the house.
One of Juniper’s recent favorites is The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder. We all love Terrance, the little turtle born without a shell. Terrance’s parents give him an actual cardboard box for a shell, but when other turtles tell him it’s weird, he starts hunting for a new shell. Juniper finds the attempts hilarious — especially when he tries a kitty litter box and “this whole situation stunk … a lot.” Terrance finally returns to his old shell — now in rough shape — and his friends come together to fix it up. The book ends perfectly: “It wasn’t sleek or sassy. It was far from perfect and definitely weird. But Terrance wasn’t dismayed, because this little box turtle was so much more than just his shell.” I can imagine myself reading this with an older Juniper dealing with bigger-kid problems and insecurities (because she’ll always come to me with her problems!)
It wasn’t too big a leap to go from a turtle to a tortoise. Another recent favorite is Truman by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. This book pulled us in right from the start: “Truman was small, the size of a donut — a small donut — and every bit as sweet.” The book describes Truman as “peaceful and pensive, just like his Sarah.” For Juniper, who’s often cautious in new situations, this is perfect! One day Sarah — looking “particularly pensive” — tells Truman, “Be brave.” Then she leaves. Truman waits “a thousand hours — tortoise hours, that is,” and then decides to go after Sarah. Juniper loves tracing the dotted line path from Truman’s tank, over various pieces of furniture, and across the ENDLESS rug. He encounters toys that appear giant and terrifying to a tiny tortoise. Here we stop and talk about how things would look if we were as tiny as tortoises (a great lesson in scale and perspective!) But our favorite page is a triumphant Truman who’s made it all the way to the door and is feeling “peaceful, pensive … and BRAVE!” Sarah arrives at just this moment and scoops up Truman, who now feels “PROUD!” This was the perfect book at the perfect time — just when Juniper was about to start at a new daycare.
I could go on and on, but I’m off to pack my bags. As I said, a month is TOO long.
Bookology is always looking for new Reading Teams to help us celebrate the joys of reading aloud together. Contact Lisa Bullard for further information if you’re interested in participating.