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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kids at Your Wedding? Read to 'em

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about marriage and mentioned a book I read (to my son) during the wedding. Readers have asked me more about the book, so this week I’m naming names and giving you the scoop:

First – in case you’re having a wedding this month and need to read a story (to your kid or anyone else’s) – my choice was (and still would be) The Queen Who Couldn’t Bake Gingerbread by Dorothy Van Woerkom. I found it at the library a few weeks before getting married and fell instantly in love.

I think the story resonated with me because I was coming out of at least a year’s time as a single mom and afraid I’d lose my independence. Reading it, I realized that even though picture books are structured simply, that doesn't mean they have to be simple minded. 

The Queen who Couldn't Bake Gingerbread focuses on King Pilaf, who is trying to find a wise, beautiful wife—who can, of course, bake a mean gingerbread. He turns down two stereotypical princess choices and ends up with a more down-to-earth wife called Princess Calliope. She is looking for a husband who is wise, handsome and plays the slide trombone.

As Calliope can’t bake gingerbread and Pilaf can’t play trombone; they agree never to mention these words again. Things go pretty well until one day they erupt at each other. But after their quarrel, the king decides to bake his own gingerbread—and the queen starts to play slide trombone.

Ultimately, they discover they can have a very happy marriage while giving themselves what they want. As soon as I read the story, I realized it was exactly what I wanted—as a writer, mother and wife. Husband, son and guests agreed (and if they didn’t, I didn’t know it.)

Other favorite picture books my son and I loved – pre and post wedding:

Sam worries about possible earthquakes, volcanoes and witches. He confides his worries to his teddy bear, who comes up with a great solution: Sam can go to sleep and the bear will stay up all night worrying. Then Sam can worry all day (which of course he forgets to do, because he’s busy at school). This is a perfect book for an inveterate worrier (and her children) – even if you don’t have a teddy bear. In fact, a cat will do very well (and I bet a dog will, too).

Amadi’s Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot

Full disclosure: I met Amadi’s author at a book conference once and heard bits and pieces of this story before it was published. What I didn’t anticipate was how intriguing the book would be. Amadi and his family live in Nigeria and though he doesn’t see the sense in reading, he runs into an older boy reading in secret (which is, of course, the best way to discover anything). The book piques his curiosity about a snowman and opens up a world that changes his life.  What I love most about this book is the author’s voice, which is beguiling but never preachy. Illustrations are gorgeous, too.

“But the moon’s promises, what are they worth?”

That may be one of my all-time favorite lines, and this book about the moon becoming obsessed with a flannel nightgown is one of the most enchanting stories I’ve ever read. So much so, I wish I’d written it.

I’d also highly recommend Mama, Do you Love Me? by Barbara Joosse about a child testing limits and her mother’s unconditional love and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch about the undying connection between a mother and son. My son and I read that at least a bazillion times, and teared up every time.

We’ll get to the tween favorites later, but if you want to share any of your favorite picture books, well… you know. DO.