Ages 1 through 3 are a blast. Finally! Your little one can sit up, drool, and tear pages out! (only kidding.) Here are some of our favorite books, as well as collections I've made of favorite books for kids aged 1 to 3.
Favorite books - age 3
I just read a recommendation for a book called The Paper Bag Princess, by Munsch. The princess is attacked by a dragon who burns up all of her clothes and steals away the handsome prince that she's wild over. She chases the dragon down and saves the prince, who chides her for her clothing, at which point she notes that he's good looking and well-dressed but ... kind of a drag. I also just saw a recommendation for Heckedy Peg, by Audrey Wood. Frankly, Audrey Wood just sounds wonderful. I think I'll keep an eye out for her stuff.
Books that my son likes at 3
My son is three. Here are the coolest books that he owns. I have put in Amazon links because it's easiest.
A little boy gets an old bed at an antique store. It takes him on wonderful flights every night. Great dream training.
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts, by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Presiss Glasser. They have a lot of different towns and museums in this series. I used to live in Boston, so this was fun for us. Amusing copies of the museum artwork, coupled with a lovely romp through the sights of each city. Lots of action. How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Shows lots of different dinos expressing angst at going to sleep, although the book lets you know that ACTUALLY, a dino goes to sleep very nicely. Nora's Stars, by Satomi Ichikawa. An utterly beautiful book, about a little girl visiting her grandmother in her beautiful hillside house, and how, for a few brief hours, all of the stars came down to belong to her -- before she gave them back and went to sleep. Some of these books seem boy-like, but a girl would love this one as well. It's Funny Where Ben's Train Takes Him, by Robert Burleigh. This book is about a little boy fantasizing about a big train journey and adventure while he's in his bed. Again, encourages imagination, but has many good train pictures and action, for the train buffs out there. At the end of the book, Ben is asleep and you can find all of the toys that populated his journey among the bedclothes. All Aboard ABC is a nice book that turns the alphabet into an interesting show-and-tell of train stuff. Very interesting stuff, actually. Pictures of air brakes, springs, and so forth. Alphabet books put me to sleep, but this one is pretty good. Even Firefighters Hug their Moms, by Christine Kole Maclean. This book features lovely, imagination-stirring pictures of a little boy pretending to me a fireman, an EMT, an astronaut, and more with the sofa pillows, his little sister, a laundry basket, and so on. The one thing that I don't like about the book is the repeating situation of mommy asking for a kiss and being turned down. So I just read it differently. Instead of asking for a kiss, Mommy asks if he's going to take a break, have a cup of tea, take a rest, and so forth. Finally, at the end, she suggests a hug and gets one. I saw no need to encourage my kid to shirk hugs for play. Poor boy training, in my humble opinion. Cloudy, with a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett. Grandpa bases his evening story upon dinnertime happenings and tells a very imaginative story about people who live in a world where food falls from the sky --who are forced to flee when it gets odd. A slight frisson of fear, but very gentle. Adventurous, and certainly a new look at a familiar topic.
Neat books that Mommy likes more than her son (at 3)
Very amusing. The first books are from the local "Waldorf store." He likes them. Kind of. Like I said, mommy thinks these are cooler than the 3 year old.
Two dinosaurs are playing with their pails. One collects rocks, feathers, and normal stuff. The other one collects puddles. Very open-ended, encourages kids to dream, think out of the box, be creative.
3 Magic Balls, by Richard Egielski. A boy tangles with three magic balls who come to life and bounce around and cause trouble. Imaginative. My Friend Gorilla, by Atsuko Morozumi. A beautiful story about a boy who becomes friends with his family's unusual houseguest -- a gorilla. Unfortunately, the gorilla eventually goes home, but the boy will remember him always. It's just pretty. Very nice. Lovely pictures. If your kid is an animal-lover, very nice. My kid prefers real animals to books about them, as it turns out.
Favorite Books - age 2
A friend of mine referred me to a book called I Love You Stinky Face. I've never heard of it but her son started reading it at around 2 or so, I think, and still loves it a year later. Good staying power.
Books that my child liked at 2
Where does it go?, by Margaret Miller. I love this book. You can get it for a 1 year old if you want. It's also hilarious because the kids are all named things like "Kenya," and "Tavo" and dressed in these strange-looking kid's clothes. I looked at the publishing date, and it was 1992. Yikes! Fashions were that bad back then? But this is a wonderful book. Here's the premise (both simple and fun). Where do Kenya's crayons go? In her hair? In the goldfish bowl? In the refrigerator?... (turn page) They go in her CRAYON BOX! My son still loves this book. It's great fun because the alternative locations are funny. Toothbrush. Does it go in the spaghetti? Noooooo! Any and all Richard Scarrey books. I have liked Richard Scarrey since about 1968, when I would read his books to my two little brothers. We all liked them. They are wonderful picture books. Especially if you have a boy, get them. There are two in the Border's bookstores, but we really like some of the older ones. These are definitely books that you can buy on ebay and not go wrong with. They have tons of detail and they are hilarious. Total baby slapstick humor. My son's favorite was Mr. Fixit whose favorite "tool of choice" was an extremely large hammer. The detail on these books is great also. My son loves detail. Carl's Birthday and Carl's Afternoon in the Park, both by Alexandra Day. Absolutely lovely books about a baby romping with a big black dog. Inexplicably, mommy insists on leaving the baby alone with Carl, the dog, who is supposed to babysit but instead takes the baby on adventures.
Spanish dictionaries. Yes, believe it or not, my son was wild for spanish dictionaries! Osborne has a wonderful one, and we have a few other good ones too.
Favorite books - age 1
My son's favorite book lays in front of me as I type. Unfortunately, he wasn't all that great at not tearing pages, and, since he liked to sit and read this book for at least a half hour at a time, the book sustained some damage.
Richard Scarrey's Best First Book Ever. They're not kidding. It's an awesome book, especially for a little boy (beats me why).
Favorite board books
As you can no doubt tell, we adore books at our house. Starting from my son's birth, I had board books coming out of my ears. And they are all in wonderful shape, because my son only liked a few! He liked books that had pictures of babies in them. Now this might just be because he's an only child and this fact has warped his subconscious to crave company, but the reason I mention this is that every kid is different. You might want to get one of each TYPE of book and see what your child likes before going nuts.
Storybook Recommendations for Kids
These are kind of waldorf-y, fantasy-type books (or at least "The Paper Princess" is.) Beautiful. From my email archives.
"We enjoyed all of the books in the Dorrie series by Patricia Coombs -- they are story books about a little girl and her mom, who both happen to be(good) witches, and their cook and cat. The little girl always wears socksthat don't match, and the introduction to each book very lyrically describes
this fact, and others.
Other favorites that remain on our shelf, and which we have enjoyed for years: How to Make Apple Pie and See the World The Paper Princess, by Elisa Kleven (*wonderful* Albany artist!!)
"A little girl sat in the sunshine, drawing a princess. The princess's dress was like a forest. Her socks were like starry skies. Her shoes were watermelons. Her face was so friendly and brave that the little girl loved her."
The Dream Pillow The Artist Who Loved Chickens (he loved to *paint* them, an odd, lovely story) and then, segue into anything by Sid Fleishman (I especially liked "By the Great Horn Spoon" which is a fanciful tale about the gold rush). The Sid Fleishman books are chapter books, but are great read-aloud books for kids who would prefer their chapter stories that way...and are fun for kids to read themselves once they acquire that level of skill.