Catherine Urdahl and Her Reading Team

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.

Peekabo MorningAlmost 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.

Box TurtleOne 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!)

TrumanIt 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.

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Jackie Rust
Jackie Rust
3 years ago

Cathy i love this. I think i found some new books for my storytime..

Catherine Urdahl
Reply to  Jackie Rust
3 years ago

Thanks, Jack­ie! I hope your sto­ry time kids love the books!

Doreen Robinson
Doreen Robinson
3 years ago

These are won­der­ful books and your grand­chil­dren are pre­cious! Thanks for shar­ing your family’s sto­ry time — it was very entertaining!

Catherine Urdahl
Reply to  Doreen Robinson
3 years ago

Thank you, Doreen!

Lynne Jonell
3 years ago

Sweet, Cather­ine! And I love the new books for me to look up to share with my own grandson.