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baby book review, volume two

Much to our delight, Munchkin continues to be an avid young reader. After many months of mostly incoherent baby babble, he is also finally beginning to show signs of grasping the basics of language, and his board books deserve a lot of the credit for this development.

2015.03.28 Munchkin and his books

Until recently, “mama” was the only real word in his lexicon, but he uses it in such a variety of contexts that S still doubts whether he attaches any meaning to these simple syllables. Infrequently, D can coax Munchkin into saying “papa,” but again it is far from clear that he understands the meaning of what he says. That magical moment of which D has long dreamt — of coming home from work to be greeted with an excited exclamation of “papa!” — remains elusive.

Last week we started noticing that when we say particular words, Munchkin tries to emulate our speech. For the time being, he only manages to repeat the first syllable, and he does so indistinctly, as if not quite sure of himself. However, when we read his books, he does not hold back. For example, he has figured out that doggies say “bow-wow-wow” so any time a canine figures in one of his stories, he quickly chimes in with an exuberant “bow-wow-wow.” Similarly, he’s got the middle refrain of Moo Baa La La La down pat, and baas happily whenever he is confronted with a cartoon sheep.

To encourage Munchkin, and also to help maintain our own sanity, we have added to his book collection since our first baby book review post a couple of months ago. Thanks to the recommendation of a Russian-speaking friend in New York, D ordered several Russian books online, and for the most part we’ve been happy with the results. However, hands down, the best Russian addition to Munchkin’s bookshelf was a “Delicious Alphabet” book we found in a local store. It features a wide assortment of animals devouring all manner of delectable delicacies, and has become a staple during story time.

The English-language books have been more hit-or-miss. Here are our top recommendations from our recent additions:

The Pout Pout Fish (Deborah Diesen): This has been our favorite recent find. A gloomy fish mopes along the ocean floor, impervious to the attempts of his friends to cheer him up, until a new fish appears unexpectedly and gives him a kiss, instantaneously transforming him from a dour wet blanket into a smooching aficionado. Not only does it have great illustrations and cute rhymes, but we also credit this book with getting Munchkin into giving us kisses. A+

Little Blue Truck (Alice Schertle): Another cute story about friendship and helping others, and it features a ton of barnyard beasts making animal noises. Perfect fodder for a little animal lover. A

Sandra Boynton Library: It is highly likely that we’ll end up with a complete Sandra Boynton collection by the time we are done buying baby books. Already, we have about ten and Munchkin likes pretty much every one. Amazingly, Moo Baa La La La has remained his all-time favorite throughout. Of the ones we recently acquired, Hippos Go Berserk, But Not The Hippopotamus, and Doggies are the ones we like best. A+

We’ve also encountered a few duds:

Tumble Bumble (Felicia Bond): The concept is ok, but the wording in this book is rather awkward, and the ending seems abrupt and out of place. Neither Munchkin nor S has taken to this book. C

Jamberry (Bruce Degen): Like Tumble Bumble, this book is also rather contrived. Most of the words are nonsensical and there is no story line. The illustrations are vibrant, which may be this book’s saving grace, but it’s hard to imagine it keeping a toddler’s attention for very long. B-

Who Is That, Cat The Cat? (Mo Willems): This is quite possibly the worst book in our collection. Simply put, it is moronic. A cat named “cat” meets several friends: a mouse named “mouse,” a fish named “fish,” etc. That is it. Then the cat meets an alien. There is no dialogue other than, “Who is that, Cat the cat?” with each new poorly drawn animal. Munchkin enjoys flipping through the pictures, which makes S think this book has a redeeming quality. Given how much it feels like the baby equivalent of a trashy pulp magazine, however, D would prefer if he ignored it altogether. F+

Munchkin is still very much a hands-on reader, but of late he’s also been sitting still longer and enjoying longer narratives. Hopefully, this means we can look forward to graduating from rhyming board books to more substantive children’s literature soon.

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