Miss Nelson is Missing (Harry G Allard, Jr)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a cute teacher-appreciation story where a classroom of miscreants is used to taking advantage of their too-nice teacher Miss Nelson. They ignore her instructions, they make paper airplanes, don’t focus during story time, and so on. They’re finally forced to behave when Miss Nelson goes missing and is replaced by a horrible, mean, dictatorial substitute teacher. They’re thrilled when she comes back… and it’s cute. The art is the kind of ugly-on-purpose drawings that are actually quite well done, and it’ll keep your toddler’s attention, even if it will get old for you upon repetition.

The Song and Dance Man (Karen Ackerman)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

This is a sweet, remember the yester-years (Vaudeville singing and dancing), bonding with your grandparents type of story. I wanted to like it: it’s got the cute family message, the value the music type of messages that I care about… but at the end of the day, I just didn’t. I wasn’t sure what the story arc was (yes, I know, it’s a children’s book, but still), the pictures were well drawn, but not really imagination-inspiring or necessarily attention-grabbing, or even memorable. Ultimately, the story didn’t hold my toddler’s attention, and it wasn’t really good enough for me to want to try again either. It’s clear that it has a sweet meaning and message… it just wasn’t fun or interesting.

Germs (Ross Collins)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a super-clever picture book about a germ (Pox, 12087-2) that is appropriate probably for advanced 4+ year olds/students who enjoy sciences. Parents will get a kick out of the idea of the germ as a hero, though the language is a bit adult in the puns department (the bubonic bus for example). The tough part is that the drawings make it seem appropriate for the toddler age group, but your toddler isn’t going to get much out of this book (other than cute pictures). I still would recommend it, because it’s clever and worth the read… it’s just hard to know (between the language and the storyline) what age it’s really meant for.

Creepy Crawly Calypso (Tony Langham and Debbie Harter)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a fun, brightly-colored, toddler-appropriate book (with a CD if you want the song portion) that is appropriate for a kid who’s learning to count. You’ll be counting cockroaches, spiders, and centipedes, but the pictures are clear and attention-getting, and it’s definitely age appropriate. It’s not really about the story (there isn’t one) or the informational section at the end (which won’t hold your toddler’s attention), it’s more about counting army ants with flutes…

Oh, Say Can You Say? (Dr. Seuss)

Not Recommended, Repeatable

This is definitely not my favorite Dr. Seuss… but it’s something your toddler will enjoy. If your child can already read, this is probably a great book for them to test out a series of nonsensical (but whimsically so, since it’s Dr. Seuss) words. If, however, you’re still reading to your toddler — be forewarned, these are terribly different tongue twisters! Each rhyme is its own little story, which makes it harder to get into the normal rhythm of a full-fledged story, but, the stories all sound fun when read aloud, and your toddler will laugh at your mistakes and your successes alike!

In Elmo’s Easter Parade (Naomi Kleinberg)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

Even relative to the Elmo universe, this is a meh story with meh-level writing. It’s wordy (for the age group), and the story is just not interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention. Your toddler might get a kick out of the fact that there’s felt-like material on several pages, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly high quality, meaning the felt comes off, and gets all over your kid… and everything else…

Zip! Pop! Hop! and Other Fun Words to Say (Michela Muntean)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

To be perfectly honest, this is slightly more fun to read than your average Sesame Street offering (I think we own around 15 of this type of book now). It has a certain rhythm and toddler-age-appropriate words and pictures… but it’s not drawn to nearly the same degree as other Sesame Street books (what? they spent the whole budget on writing?). My toddler, who’s obsessed with Elmo, doesn’t seem completely convinced that this is actually a legitimate Elmo book, and since I can get better rhymes and writing (and drawing) with Seuss…

The Flying Hockey Stick (Jolly Roger Bradfield)

Recommended, Repeatable

Though this isn’t my favorite childhood-fantasy story, it is definitely decent and repeatable. The main idea is a young boy who dreams of flying and eventually, through trial and error, makes a contraption with an umbrella, a fan, a hockey stick, and lots and lots of extension cords. He flies off on his great adventure, rescues some people, and lives to tell the tale. It’s kind of in a curious no-man’s-land in that it’s really best for slightly older children (maybe 4-5), but not quite as developed as I think it should be to properly hold their attention. Still, kids seem to like it and the drawings and that should be the ultimate test, right?

Elmo’s World First Flap-Book Library

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

This is a set of four books, all of which ostensibly will build your toddler’s vocabulary and/or interest in reading. The books are simple — one focuses on balls, the others on food, puppies and babies. The flaps are poorly constructed/cheaply made, and will break easily. And really? Do we need a whole flap book on balls (which mostly highlights sports, like Elmo playing football?) I purchased it because my toddler is obsessed with Elmo, but I wish I hadn’t because it just isn’t durable or interesting.

Elmo & Friends (My First Look and Find)

Recommended, Repeatable

Truthfully, this is as good (or I should say functional) as any “look and find” book. The objects you’re looking for are just right for your 2-3 year old toddler, everything is colorful and bright, and there are “secondary” things to find on your second, third… fiftieth… time through the book. It’s really the same, quality-wise, as other books in its class (the Baby Einstein Series, etc), but this is the one we’re currently repeating as our particular toddler hearts Elmo… If you have a toddler who isn’t particularly Elmo-obsessed, really I would say almost all the look-and-finds we’ve bought or have been given are similar quality.