Books bright and beautiful By Judy Belanger

Many years ago, when my family was a lot younger, one of our favorite books was Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. What fun it was to touch and feel each page—which included the softness of the bunny and the scratchy beard for daddy.

The book was published in 1940. At that time, it was one of just a few interactive books. I may have had it as a child. Now a third generation of children is reading the book, which still is available and can be bought individually or in a boxed set that includes a bunny. Kunhardt also wrote Pat the Dog and Pat the Cat, both of which are still available as well. In addition, her daughter, Edith Kunhardt, is adding more titles to the series.

Today there is a wide variety of books for the very young. Among them you will find hard and soft books, more touch-and-feel, lift-the-flap and pop-up books, as well as stories on wheels and books with puzzle pages, along with traditional picture books. What fun when Eric Carle added the touch of the spider’s web, the lights for the firefly and the sound of a cricket.

Enjoy these wonderful books with your little ones. Those first few years go by much too quickly.

MARCOS COLORS: RED YELLOW BLUE and MARCOS COUNTS: ONE TWO THREE, by Tomie dePaola, Putnam’ Publishing, $5.99; ages 1-3.

Many children today are learning to count and identify colors in both Spanish and English. These two board books by dePaola feature his immediately recognizable illustrations and simple text presented in both languages.

Both books are part of the Barker twins series. Meet the Barkers: Morgan and Moffat Go to School was the first. Another, to be titled Trouble in Barkers’ Class, is due out later this year. The Barker books are written for younger children, but since many schools are now introducing Spanish instruction to kindergartners, both the color and count books would make terrific at-home reading to reinforce those lessons.

Author dePaola has appeared on the “Barney” show as a visiting artist, which means many children already are familiar with his work. His stories about Strega Nona are among my favorites, along with his books of nursery rhymes and Mother Goose.


SPLISH, SPLASH DAISY and BOUNCY, BOUNCY DAISY, by Jane Simmons, Little Brown, $15.99; ages 3-6.

Daisy was introduced in Daisy and the Egg and Come Along, Daisy. Now she is back in these Daisy First Jigsaw books. Like a typical small child, Daisy wants to explore everything and doesn’t always want to come when called or settle down for bedtime. The brightly colored pictures are very pleasing. Each page contains a puzzle in four large pieces that is easy for beginners to put together with its matching picture underneath. The majority of the 5-going-on-6-year-old group will be able to read these books by themselves, but the puzzle won’t challenge them. They would prefer the other Daisy books.

CORDUROY GOES TO THE FIRE STATION, by B. G. Hennessy, Viking Children’s Books, $11.99; ages 2-6.

Corduroy has been and will always be a favorite children’s book. Hennessy has based this story on the original character created by the late Don Freeman. Corduroy’s class visits the fire station. Hennessy knows just how these class visits go. He describes the tour through the fire house—just as I remember them from my visits there. Eager readers can lift the flaps to peer inside the truck just as they would if they were actually touring the firehouse, and the fire fighters open the doors of a fire engine for a look inside. But this book is more than a fun tour of the firehouse. Corduroy also reinforces very important fire safety information.

SNAPPY LITTLE ZOO, by Dugald Steer, Silver Dolphin Books, $12.95; ages 3-5.

I know pop-up books are not very practical, and I didn’t buy them for my learning center at the elementary school, but they sure are fun to look at.

In Snappy Little Zoo, the simple story on each two-page spread is done in rhyme with an animal. The pictures are colorful, with 10 different pop-up animals to complete the story. Now that the weather is nice, follow up this story with a trip to the zoo. It’s always one of our favorite ways to spend a spring or summer day. There are 12 books in this Snappy Pop-up Fun series and three more in the Snappy Magnetic Fun series.

ON THE GO! A SQUISHY SHAPES BOOK, by Peggy Tagel, Silver Dolphin Books, $12.95; ages 3-5.

There are three squishy shapes books. Besides the travel theme, one features animals and another dinosaurs. Each has simple text with five pages of brightly colored soft plastic puffy shapes that are fun to touch, along with pictures done like colorforms. In On the Go!, travel tots ride in a car, train, plane, boat and space ship. The pictures also provide practice for naming colors, shapes and vehicles—all good pre-kindergarten concepts to learn.

BABY DAZZLERS, by Helen Stephens, Little, Brown and Co., $5.99; ages birth-3.

This is a series of four board books: Glittery Garden, Shiny Seaside, Sparkly Day and Twinkly Night. The simple text is all in rhyme. The shapes that go with each story (stars, moon, rain and flowers) are cut out on each page with a sparkly paper filling the spaces. The small books are just the right size for little ones to carry around.

THE BEST PLACE TO READ, by Debbie Bertram, Random House, $14.95; ages 3-6.

The little boy in this story has a new book to read. He tries to find a good place to read but keeps running into obstacles. When he tries the comfy chair, it is already occupied by the dog. His younger sister has a sticky mess at the table, and his older sister makes too much noise with her music and phone. The backyard seems a likely place, except the sprinkler is going and he gets wet. (Several pages focus on taking good care of books, which always makes us librarians happy.) Finally, our little boy discovers his mom and the best place of all to read: on her lap. Isn’t that a great place to end this month’s column?



Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.



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