Some of what we’ve been reading and re-reading the last couple of weeks.
Kipper’s Book of Opposites by Mick Inkpen, 1994. Red Wagon Books (Harcourt Brace & Company).
This book has one word per page, paired with an illustration of a cute brown-and-white puppy doing something related to that word. Some of the words are fun to read out loud. I always read the Slow/Fast pages as “SlooooooooooooooowFast!”, which usually gets a chuckle.
This book has also taken unexpected center stage on the Offspring’s bookshelf over and over again. Since I’ll be talking more here about how much my Offspring loves this thing than describing the book, here’s what Kirkus had to say: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mick-inkpen/kippers-book-of-opposites/
Months ago, when we first started bringing the Offspring to baby storytime, Kipper’s Book of Weather was one of the first library books we checked out. We kept renewing it for a long time because it was such a hit. When we brought home Kipper’s Book of Opposites the next week, the Offspring displayed the first signs of being series-conscious and would consistently request them in sequence. Which we thought was really cool. Because we’re proud mothers. And because hey, it’s the first step to fandom, isn’t it? Learning that two separate books can be related to each other, and appreciating them both more because of that relationship?
Anyway, eventually Kipper seemed to fade into the background and we let the library have their books back. But the other day after storytime, the Offspring stumbled on Kipper’s Book of Opposites again and immediately lit up. We had to read it three times then and there, and it has been in top rotation ever since we brought it home. Unfortunately, someone else seems to have checked out Weather just at the moment.
Also unfortunately, the Kipper board books appear to be out of print, though reasonably priced used copies can still be found online. Not that I’ve been shopping for used copies or anything recently. (OK, yes, I’ve totally been looking at buying some used copies, particularly of the ones that our library doesn’t have, because: Baby’s First Fandom!) Turns out Kipper the Dog is a better-known character than I had realized, who has made the jump to TV and stuff.
I Love You As Much, by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrations Henri Sorensen, 1998, HarperCollins.
This book is a little poem where various animal mothers tell their babies that they love them as much as something relevant to their lives, like the whale who loves “as much as the ocean is deep”. (Apparently the human loves as much as a mother can love, which seems a little boring, not to mention anthrocentric, but whatever.) Not quite anyone here’s favorite, but definitely not an unfavorite, either. Could make a cute present for a baby shower or someone’s first Mother’s Day or something like that.
I like the illustrations. Fairly realistic, in a static, nostalgic, golden-hued sort of way. I have always been a sucker for golden sunbeams. I wasn’t sure they would be dynamic enough for the Offspring to really enjoy, but they seem to go over OK. The Offspring’s favorite page is definitely the human baby and mother at the end. The baby is always pointed out to me and we discuss how it is, in fact, a baby. (The Offspring can kind of say “baby”, though I don’t know that a stranger would be able to interpret that.)
The poem was a little clunky to read out loud at first. “Said the mother [insert animal-of-the-page-here] to her child” is the format of the beginning of each couplet, and the rhythm never quite worked for me. I was trying out “The mother goat said to her child”, when my brilliant wife said that she’d just been dropping the “mother”. Yes! “Said the goat to her child/I love you as much as the mountain is steep” flows off our tongues better and lets us actually finish the couplet before the Offspring is off onto the next page.
I usually am one of those people who can only handle so much sentiment in a book. Aaaaand get pretty creeped out by some of the popular children’s books that are supposed to be about the bond between parent and child, but actually look like a case for the child to get a restraining order. So I was really pleased to find this “I love you” themed book that doesn’t involve any stalker parents or anything like that. We say “I love you” a lot around here anyway, but it’s nice to have a (non-creepy) excuse to say it a few more times while we read.
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes… illustrated by Annie Kubler. 2002, Child’s Play (International) Ltd.
This is an illustrated nursery rhyme without editorializing or frills, yay! (I am someone who believes that classic nursery rhymes are rarely improved by random additions. Possibly because I have an inadequate sense of humor, but there you have it.)
In the illustrations, assorted young toddlers are illustrated happily performing the rhyme. I thought the eyes/ears/mouth/nose part was cleverly done. Eyes has some books nearby, Ears is sitting by musical instruments, Mouth is eating from a bowl of mushy food (pureed prunes, maybe?), and Nose is holding a flower.
Headcount shows that out of ten individual kids illustrated inside the book, six are POC and four are white. Two of these kids are illustrated four times each, doing head-shoulders-knees-toes in succession – one of these kids is one of the multiple fairskinned redheads of unclear gender, and the other is a Black girl. (Including the front and back covers would add two more white kids and a dark-haired child of unclear race.)
A bunch of these toddlers are drawn young enough to be pretty gender-neutral, so I didn’t even try to do a count on gender representation. Though I have a vague impression that the kids on left pages were intended to be boys and kids on right pages were intended to be girls, so suspect that if I had to make a guess it would be 50/50.
I hadn’t been able to get the Offspring interested in this rhyme when I’d tried it sans book a while ago, but either the time has now come or else this book brought the magic. Either way, now the Offspring puts their little hands on their head and looks hopefully at me for a command performance on the regular. Particularly when we’re trying to get ready for bed or somesuch. Though if I spontaneously start singing the song to pass an idle moment, the Offspring will toddle urgently off to get this book so that we can do it The Right Way.
Over the last couple weeks, the Offspring has been concentrating hard, and is starting to graduate from just doing the head-grab at approximately the right point during the song, and advancing to touching their own toes and mouth. Which does leave it a little unclear which of us is supposed to turn the pages. We usually manage to work that out one way or another.