The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Five Great Books for Toddlers and Tired Parents

So today, the first day of Lent, I asked my two older kids if they understood the significance of the 40 days leading up to Easter.

My oldest said: “Yeah – that’s how long Jesus was in the desert. You know, when that naked Satan was pressed up against him from behind.”

Me: “WHAT?!!!”

Him: “The picture… in that white bible. The one where Jesus is in a robe and it looks like Satan is naked.”

Me: (OMG. WTF?)

Him: “He might not be naked though. You can’t see his wiener. He might be wearing a thong.”

Me: (Oh.  My.  God.  WTF? WTF???)

I raced for the Catholic Picture Bible Mini-Me received as a baptism present from her God Mother and sure enough:

Page 114: The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert

Just great.

Let’s create an image for our children of Satan as a nudist sodomite, shall we? Scared straight! Turn away from sin, kids, or naked Satan will bugger you! He looks like he’s totally reaching for a handful there, doesn’t he? Of course the disco era feathered headband isn’t helping. Is that Satan or one of the Village People?

And how does my 11 year old even know what a thong is?

That Catholic Picture Bible is just chalk full of goodies. My kids’ favorite (other than naked Satan) is the story about the beheading of John the Baptist. It’s a gruesome enough tale, unillustrated. But in a picture bible… oooh weee:

Page 150: The Beheading of John the Baptist

Why yes, that IS a decapitated head on a silver platter. Pass the salt and pepper, please.

I don’t know about you, but when my kids are reading books, I don’t like to see facial expressions like these:

Which brings me to this weeks Listography, brought to us by the lovely and talented Kate at Kate Takes 5.

This week’s topic: Books and Babies.  Specifically, five favorite books for toddlers, as opposed to books that frighten and disgust them like my Catholic Picture Bible.

Hmmm. I do loves me some books. How will I narrow it down to five?

Kate makes a great suggestion:

The one piece of advice I wish I had been given when I started buying my kids books was this: Not only does your child need to love the book – you do too – because you will probably be reading it to them six times a night for the next six months. ‘Again mummy, again’!

Kate, my darling, you are so right. But, I’ll take that one further and say that not only do you both have to love the book, but even better if the child can read it by themselves while you are “resting your eyes,” and trying to catch up on the sleep you missed while you were blogging into the wee hours.

So here it is, amigos… my five favorite books that toddlers can read all by themselves:

1. ) Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton.

Delightfully funny. Will help your child learn colors, clothing, and comedic timing. Your little ones will be reciting this by heart in no time, thus freeing you up to nap, check email on your iPhone, or paint your nails while they “read” to you.

2.) Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward and Tomie dePaola

Learning the days of the week has never been more fun or easy… and all while Mommy is sleeping off her hangover. Great watercolor illustrations, adorable main character, one sentence per page. Spoiler alert: Cookie falls into a toilet… a gen-u-ine knee slapper for all.

3.) Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day

My favorite kind of board book for toddlers… there are only words on the first page and the last page… the rest of the pages are illustrations with no words. Therefore, it is a different story every time you (or your children) tell it! It sounds like more work, but it’s not. Trust me. After you read it twice, the kids knock themselves out trying to make it even funnier than you did. Refill your glass and sit back while the kids do all the work.  By the way, Carl is the best dog ever. He babysits! And he even cleans up before the mom gets home. Take some notes, my bad dog Ike… you suck.


4.) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

This might be my favorite of the lot. Again, an almost completely wordless book that is absolutely captivating. The illustrations alone are worth it, but the silliness of this book really captures kids’ (and their parents’) hearts. There is one scene, I swear to God, that is even worth staying awake for. If you or your kids can do a variety of animal impressions, even better. I frickin’ love this book.


5.) No, David! by David Shannon.

Nose-picking, playing with food, and toddler streaking… what’s not to like? But in addition, your kid will be able to read this back to you on day one. Funny illustrations and a great message of unconditional love. I always enjoy this one as a peace offering when I lose my cool and strain my vocal chords. Hey, it happens. Why not have a book on hand that helps you all survive it?

How about you? What are your favorite children’s books?

Sincerely yours,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

23 comments on “Five Great Books for Toddlers and Tired Parents

  1. Kate Takes 5
    March 9, 2011

    You realise you’re going to hell for this don’t you?

  2. Sue
    March 9, 2011

    Our favorites, in no particular order, were/are: Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel, The Little House, and Katy & The Big Snow all by Virgina Lee Burton. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (he also wrote Make Way For Ducklings), Golly Gump Swallowed a Fly by Joanna Cole, Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman, and last but not least Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells… The first books were all books that my two older children loved… they could sit quietly & loved to have me read to them….. The youngest one? The Lego King?…. Ummm, not so much…. he could/can sit for 2.3 nano-seconds….. And loud?…. Good Lord!!! Noisy Nora is most definitely HIS book…. it’s a quick read about a little mouse who is very loud & bangs around alot… but when she leaves & the house gets quiet everyone misses her….

  3. Sue
    March 9, 2011

    Oh…. and the Bible pics? …. ROTFLMAO!!! It’s amazing how kids see something we don’t…..

    • Lisa
      March 9, 2011

      Really? You would pass right over that and not say something? Hmm maybe I have a messed up way of looking at things and would have been kicked out of service as soon as I saw that because I would not help but bust out laughing.

  4. Martine
    March 9, 2011

    Goodnight Gorilla was my son’s favorite book, we read until it fell apart.

  5. Jellyhead
    March 9, 2011

    You do animal sounds? Wait, I guess that really doesn’t surprise me.

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      Actually, my dear, YOU are the one who bought Nature Boy our favorite children’s book of animal sounds about 10 years ago! That book would have made the cut, but I’m pretty sure Ike ate it and pooped out a whole family of hopping origami frogs. Ribbit!

  6. Shaniquah
    March 9, 2011

    Holy Satan reach around! Was that their first date? You were right, the J-man did like to party…

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      OMG. I love you.

  7. oneshabbychick
    March 9, 2011

    Bwaaahahahahaha… that whole conversation is priceless. These books are a distant memory now {sniff sniff}… but I enjoy Ike references… every time, I see him in those Hanna Anderson jammies… which one of my kids happens to have (thrift store, brand new, $5!), and every time he wears them, who do I see? Yes, Ike in those jammies… thanks for the pre-bedtime bwahahahaha 🙂

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      Oh those jammies… poor Ike. Is it any wonder he’s so naughty? Dressing one’s pets in organic Swedish pjs is the ultimate crime against nature.

  8. Lisa
    March 9, 2011

    Love your stories, thanks for sharing them with us! We love Midas Mouse, Koala Lou, Baby Angels and can’t leave out Goodnight Moon.

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      Oh I LOVE Goodnight moon! That one is so sweet. And the other one I love is Runaway Bunny by the same author. Of course, we make up our own verses for that one like “If you were a kitten, I would become a falcon and swoop down and grab you with my razor-sharp talons. Then I would rip out your innards and devour you using very poor table manners.” Okay, really only my 11 year old and I make up verses like that. He’s witty, that one.

  9. This Mid 30s Life
    March 10, 2011


    Blue Hat Green Hat is a favourite around here too. Love it when the kid does all the “oopses” – especially with a lisp.

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      Oh yes, the lisp! We usually do our “oops” in an Erkle voice (nerdy, but with enthusiasm!). Will have to add the lisp to my repertoire! (Bucket Head already does that naturally: “oooopth!”)

  10. Megan
    March 10, 2011

    nice, hmmm.
    THe going to bed book, Sandra Boyton

    The day the babies crawled away (Elliot can’t stop laughing at the though of naked babies, when all the babies tie their diapers together to make a sling)

    Knuffle Bunny Mo Willems

    Elephant and Piggie (any of ’em) Mo Willems

    My kids like Pinkalicious. I am bored to tears from reading it so many times.

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      Anything by Sandra Boynton is A-OK with me! The Going to Bed Book is one of my faves too. Also LOVE Night-Night, Little Pookie. Cute, funny, catchy, and tender. Don’t know any of the others on your list, but I do know Mo Willems (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”… hilarious!). Thanks for the recs, will check these out!

  11. Lynn
    March 10, 2011

    Awesome! Once again you’ve made my day! And just for fun I will share our faves, and I’ll even through in my short reviews…for free.

    1. My Monster Mama Loves Me by: Laura Leuck
    ~Not just for Halloween! “She bakes me cookies filled with bugs and gives me great big hairy hugs…” Seriously? Whats not to love?!?

    2. Chewy Louie by: Howie Schneider
    ~There is a verse that needs to be sung rather than read, otherwise it loses something! I made up my own tune for it, and every now and then one of us will spontaniously break out in that song for no good reason at all….yeah, its that catchy!

    3. To Market, To Market by: Anne Miranda
    ~My 11 year old candidly pointed out that “This is the story of your life, Mom!” She’s right. I hafta’ love it now.

    4. Bark George! by: Jules Feiffer
    ~Simple. Fun. And perfect for killing some time…like when trying to get your kid to stay on the pot a few extra minutes during potty training….Cuz you can buzz through it or drag it out…

    And for our ABSOLUTE FAVORITE:
    5. Marsupial Sue by: John Lithgow & Jack E. Davis
    ~ First of all, who doesnt love John Lithgow?!? And secondly, this book comes with a clear message to “Be Yourself” AND a CD! Oh yes, You too can listen to John Lithgow sing the story the way only he can…and you’ll be singing it over and over again, too! Warning: Extremely catchy tune!

    • The Bearded Iris
      March 10, 2011

      Great great great! Love this – I will check out every one of these based on your thorough and enthusiastic reviews! Thanks! I do loves me some John Lithgow.

    • Megan
      March 10, 2011

      Oh his kids c.d.’s are so awesome. I sing “I’m g’not a g’nu every time I am at the zoo.

  12. allysgrandma
    March 10, 2011

    Thanks for warning me about the Catholic Picture Bible. My 2.5-year-old grandaughter will be here in 2 weeks, and I was planning to read to her stories out of The Children’s Bible, (approved by Catholic, Protestant AND Jewish leaders) for Lent! I just reviewed the pictures to make sure there was nothing um…. questionable…

    No David is probably Ally’s (granddaughter)favorite book. I read it multiple times to her the 8 months she and her mom lived with us. She would always kiss and hug the last picture….too cute… can’t wait for her to get here!

  13. Pingback: Day One of Lent… FAIL. | The Bearded Iris

  14. southerndysfunction
    March 10, 2011

    OK Iris, the Catholic Picture Bible is positively the biggest laugh I have had this week, in a week full of humorous moments looking after my parents and my best friend, who is my age but in the nursing home. I know that doesn’t sound funny, but trust me here, funny it has been. When I don’t want to strangle somebody, that is.

    I have so many good choices for children’s books that I don’t know where to begin. But mostly, they are books for reading aloud and that’s not really what you are looking for. But could I plug ‘Madeleine the Miracle Hen’? I don’t imagine it is still in print but does anyone else know it? I have a battered copy that I will photocopy and send if you are interested…Also, get your skates on and order the Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes!

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