Format: Picture book
Author and illustrator: Britta Teckentrup
Publisher: Nosy Crow (published August 2015)
It’s Ellie’s bath time.
Can you help her make some waves?
Ellie the elephant is enjoying her bath, accompanied by her rubber ducky, when she is joined by an uninvited visitor: a bright green crocodile splashes in to join her. Then a flamingo turns up. And then…a tiger! At last, when it seems the bath cannot possibly fit another creature, a mouse joins the party. What’s a poor elephant to do?
Little fans of Press Here, Tap the Magic Tree, and other interactive picture books will enjoy this simple, sweet picture book with its bright collaged images and its invitation to the reader to tilt the book this way and that to make waves for Ellie to ride and (every kiddo’s favourite part — or at least my kids’) to shout, “Get out, Crocodile!” The book features lovely attention to detail, from the spot gloss on the water to give it some sheen to the droplets on the last page. Get Out of My Bath! is simple but definitely a winner. And best of all, it’s suitable for kids of different age groups — Little E (four) and Tiny J (just turned two) have been loving reading this one before bed for the past week. If you’re walking past our house around seven, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear a very loud “Get out, Crocodile!”
Format: Board book
Series: Little Learners Slide and See
Publisher: Parragon Books (March 2012)
Pages: 8 (plus slide-out tabs)
I have an automatic dislike for any book that doesn’t list an author. That’s usually a very bad sign. It usually means that the publisher’s emphasis was on production values rather than the words or the images, and it often makes for a book that is more glitter than anything else. Books that don’t credit authors or illustrators almost always rely on a gimmick for sales. They may be shiny, but they’re not good. This book may be the exception to my rule: it has very simple text and images, but in this case they work well with each other and with the gimmick: in this case, pull-out “slide and see” tabs. The book explains a wide variety of emotions in easy-to-understand terms with straightforward examples: “I feel happy…when I’m with my family. I feel sad…when I say goodbye to Grandma.” The young reader can pull out a tab that continues: “I feel loved…by Mommy and Daddy.” For a toddler who is just starting to put names to some of the (frequently overwhelming) emotions he or she is feeling, this book is a great read. Toddlers can learn what it means to feel shy, to feel grumpy, to feel bored, and more, while feeling safe and snug in a loved one’s lap.
Format: Board book
Author and illustrator: Leslie Patricelli
Publisher: Candlewick (September 2010)
A good variety of books to keep a toddler sitting on the toilet or potty is one important key in the process of toilet training. Even better if you can find a bunch that will remind your child what the hell they’re supposed to be doing. And if they’re entertaining for you, all the better — ‘cuz you’re probably gonna be spending a lot of time in that bathroom. This upbeat, silly board book, told from the perspective of a toddler of ambiguous gender who isn’t sure what to do when it’s time to go, is a simple and exuberant introduction to the potty. Children will delight in watching their parents make the protagonist’s sounds of discomfort as s/he debates what to do — “OOH! MMMM! HAAA! EEEE!” — and will cheer as the victor accomplishes the task at hand. The final page displays an array of underwear in cheerful designs, and my two-year-old loves to look at each one and decide what pair would suit each character in the book. A great pick for anyone engaged in the thankless task that is potty training.
Format: Picture book
Author: Annette Sheldon
Illustrator: Karen Maizel
Publisher: Magination Press (published August 2005)
Rare is the book that explains challenging topics to young readers clearly without talking down to them. Big Sister Now: A Story About Me and Our New Baby by Annette Sheldon hits the mark perfectly. Kate is not sure how she feels about her new baby brother, Daniel. (“I don’t know how to be a big sister. It feels all different.” “I feel like they forgot me.”) Daniel takes up her parents’ time and attention (the illustration of the harried mother when Daniel “cried and cried” will be very relatable for any parent who’s ever felt at a loss with a crying infant and a demanding toddler) and Kate is not impressed. With help from loving parents and Grandma, though, Kate learns to embrace her new role as big sister and learns that even though she’s not the only child anymore, she is still special and loved — and it still feels “warm and safe and lovey.” The back of the book offers some great tips for parents expecting a new addition; author Annette Sheldon is a storyteller, preschool specialist, and librarian with four children and ten grandchildren, so she should know!
Format: Picture book
Author: Hope Vestergaard
Illustrator: Valeria Petrone
Publisher: Sterling (published March 2010)
There’s a lot to learn for a young child attempting to master the toilet. Getting up there is a hard enough job, never mind remembering how to pull down all the clothes that need to be pulled down, whether the door is supposed to be open or closed, and that we must use soap to wash our hands. Potty Animals uses an engaging cast of characters — an eclectically named group of animals attending preschool together — to teach some of the finer points of toilet usage: knock before entering the bathroom, use the toilet before you go to sleep, and don’t forget to flush.
While the premise of the book is solid, and whimsical creatures like Helga the duck and Benji the lemur play their parts perfectly, the book comes off as preachy rather than reassuring to new toilet users. When a young rabbit is plagued by a common fear (“Freddie is afraid to flush. / He doesn’t like the sound. / He worries that he’ll get sucked in, and tossed and sloshed around”), the book simply exhorts “Don’t forget to flush, Freddie!” without any comfort or explanation. Similarly, Wilbur the hedgehog is told, “Wilbur, always wash with soap!” when he doesn’t want to, but no reason is given. The story might serve as a reminder for children who already know the rules, but doesn’t give much help to toddlers fresh out of diapers who don’t yet know the whys and wherefores of bathroom use.
Format: Board book
Author: Susan Meyers
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Publisher: Harcourt (published Sept. 2004)
This charming book uses simple, rhythmic rhyme and delightfully detailed illustrations to draw young readers into the world of babies all over the world: “Every day, everywhere, babies are born — fat babies, thin babies, small babies, tall babies, winter and spring babies, summer and fall babies.” The everyday lives of babies are captured and celebrated lyrically and visually: toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy pointing out familiar items and activities. I consider this book to be a blow for The Powers of Good in the Mommy Wars: a gentle, positive reminder that babies are raised in different ways in different places and we parents are all just doing the best we can. The illustrations depict families and parents of all sorts, including what I think is a same-sex couple, feeding, transporting, and enjoying their babies in all kinds of ways. The message is a lovely one: “Every day, everywhere, babies are loved — for trying so hard, for traveling so far, for being so wonderful…just as they are!”
This would be the perfect gift for a new big sister or brother, who will love combing through the intricate illustrations and will find new pleasures with every read.
If you like this, you might like Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox.