Barnyard Dance! (Sandra Boynton)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

Sandra Boynton has a distinctive style in terms of artwork and the way she tells a story — usually I’m a fan (for example, But Not the Hippopotamus). Here though, I almost think you would have to be a fan of square dancing for you to enjoy this book (and then, I think it’s a home run, or whatever the square dancing equivalent of a home run). The animals are dancing, and there’s her usual cow (who now plays a fiddle) and pigs (who twirl), but the text just doesn’t seem as engaging or even as lively as I usually expect… so this was a real miss for us.

Goodnight, I Love You (Caroline Jayne Church)

Not Recommended, Repeatable 

Similar to I Love You Through and Through, this book has great, simplistic illustrations that really hold your toddler’s attention (there’s just something about them that speaks to them!) This book, however, though it’s a simple bedtime routine, just isn’t as fun/engaging as other books where Church has been the illustrator and not the writer (odd thing to say, I know, considering some of these books have fewer than 100 words, but still). It’s not bad, but there are better versions of the going-to-bed-story.

Turkey Bowl (Phil Bildner)

Recommended, Not Repeatable 

It’s a cute Thanksgiving/family tradition story, where a young boy and his friends watch, year after year, as his family plays touch football (which gets clever name changes every year depending on the conditions: Mud Bowl, Ice Bowl, etc). They cheer everyone on, but really, they dream of the day when they’ll finally be big enough to play. The year finally arrives, he dresses and prepares… and then finds out that the roads have been snowed in, and it looks like he might miss his opportunity. It was a cute story, well-drawn in a way that looks almost portrait/picture like, but it’s not really something I think I’d want to read over and over again.

Halloween Jack (Roger Priddy)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is fun, interactive book for any toddler. The eyes move, there are some lights and sounds, and though there are witches and monsters, these are (mostly) toddler-appropriate witches and monsters. It’s not really that enjoyable from the parental point of view (it’s simplistic in both its rhymes and its illustrations), but it’s bright, the googly eyes move, it’s sturdy as far as board books go, and it’s something your toddler will enjoy.

I Love You Through and Through (Bernadette Rossetti Shustak)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is one of those simple, classic board books, and I’ll admit, it’s a total sucker punch of cuteness, but my toddler loves it, and so I love it. This review will probably be longer than the book (the entire book is basically going through simple body parts and emotions, reiterating that we, as parents, love them completely). But the illustrations (by Caroline Jayne Church) are cute and simple (and totally engaging for my toddler), and it’s one of those reads that have become staples in our family because it’s just so easy — toes, where are your toes! — or — sad, see sad face? — it keeps my toddler’s attention, and it’s a pretty universally mushy message.

Brave Martha (Margot Apple)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

This isn’t a bad book, and the premise is cute. A young girl (Martha) must learn to go to sleep without her cat as a companion. She’s afraid that her father hasn’t checked all the nooks and crannies where monsters might be hiding, and it’s… cute. But, from the story-telling style to the drawing style, there’s nothing that particularly stands out. It’s clearly a story that’s meant to be part of the go-to-sleep routine, and I think it’s just not the best example of this particular trope, thus the not recommended, not repeatable rating, despite being a genuinely okay story.

Lemons are Not Red (Laura Vaccaro Seeger)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is an incredibly clever children’s book. It goes through a series of things made up in pairs: the first page shows a cut-out of a lemon, against a red backdrop, and tells you “Lemons are not red” you turn the page, and you the cut-out is now against a yellow background, you’re told “Lemons are yellow” and you see the next page “Apples are red” (which provided the backdrop for the lemon). It’s clever and cute and has all the objects and pictures that are right in the wheelhouse of a 2-3 year old toddler. The only problem is, if you have a energetic toddler, who might want to interact with the book, some of the cut-outs are a little fragile, so I’m not positive how careful you’d have to be if you really wanted to rotate this into your regular routine. An older kid would probably get bored, and a younger one might not have been trained well enough to be that careful…

Sleep Book (Dr. Seuss)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

Though the story premise is cute (we’ve got a little bug who starts yawning, and soon it’s catching!), the story ends up dragging. It’s got the lyrical rhymes you expect, the made-up words and names that are wonderfully alliterative (Van Vleck and his cousins, etc)… but it just goes on for a little too long, and doesn’t have quite the charm that other Seuss books have. Definitely one of my least favorite Seuss offerings, which is a shame, because topic-wise, what a perfect book to help put your toddler to bed!

Sorry! (Norbert Landa)

Recommended, Repeatable 

This is such a cute book: well drawn pictures, and a simple, well told story about a rabbit and a bear who are best friends and do everything together. They cook breakfast together, sleep in bunk beds, hang out in tree houses, and are just cute, cute, cute. Until one day, they find something shiny and new (what looks like a broken mylar balloon). They argue over whether it’s a picture of rabbit, or a picture of bear (since they only see their own reflections) and fight, fight, fight. It’s a super cute book, and I particularly appreciated the level of detail: some words are bigger than others (making it easier for your toddler to see and learn certain words), and the mylar is actually shiny (which is again, a wonderful way to capture and keep your toddler’s attention).

Bye Bye, Big Bad Bullybug (Ed Emberley)

Not Recommended, Repeatable

The illustrations are fun and colorful — you have fireflies talking back to a big, bad, bullybug who gets revealed in stages (his three fearsome eyes, his teeth, his claws, etc… all via clever cutouts that are really engaging for your young kids). The story is a bit violent (the big, bad, bullybug keeps threatening to do ALL sorts of harm to the little bugs, and at the end (spoiler alert) gets smooshed by a shoe). If you’re okay with the violence, and the bullying, this is a very bright, visually engaged story that young kids seem to like (though as the adult, I’m not sure how I felt, thus the “not recommended” yet “repeatable” rating).