Picture Book House, the blog, will turn one in February.
In the beginning, I blogged about whatever book (and my kids’ interactions with it) had inspired me most that day. As the months passed and the list of books I had written about got longer, patterns began to emerge.
There were clear categories of books. Some obvious: bedtime books, good books for the car, books to read while snuggled under a blanket on the couch. There were thematic patterns too: books for storms, books for gardening, and books about bears.
The category that I don’t think I would have discovered had it not been for this blog, is the Breakfast Book, a phrase I have coined to describe the books we love to read at breakfast.
It took writing about these books to make me aware that 1) it was pretty awesome to read books at breakfast and 2) there was a certain type of book that best fit the breakfast bill.
My very first post on this blog was about a book we often enjoy at breakfast. When I wrote about reading Railroad Hank to my then one and two-year olds, who were at that age hanging in hook chairs on one side of the counter while I served up pancakes and eggs from the other, was, I realize now, not just the start of the blog, but also the start of the Breakfast Book.
What makes a book a Breakfast Book?
Breakfast Books are somewhat short
If the reader is to get a bite in edgewise, breakfast is not the time to read Library Lion or Fancy Nancy. The best breakfast books have a minimal amount of text on each page, allowing me to read a page, take a bite, read a page, sip my coffee, finish a book, get somebody more yogurt, start up another book, read a page, take a bite, and so on.
Breakfast Books are energizing for two reasons:
1) they have a really good repetitive line and/or short memorable sentences
Reading a book at breakfast turns the meal into a mini story hour, and if the book we are reading is a good Breakfast Book, it only takes a few mornings before I am no longer reading the book alone.
During Railroad Hank there is a chorus of “Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Woo Woo Woo[s]!” from around the table. “I want my T-R-U-C-K!” everyone yells when we read one of our favorites by Karen Beaumont. And when we get to our most beloved Breakfast Book: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, the kids don’t wait for a repetitive phrase. Rather, they recite the entire book right along with me as I read. “How does a dinosaur say goodnight when Papa comes in to turn off the light?” my daughter delivers each word, a few seconds before I even read them, and my son chimes in to fill the rhyming words at the end of each sentence.
2) they are interactive
Picture books that literally invite us into their stories make the best Breakfast Books.
For example, Grover begs us not to the turn page in A Monster at the End of this Book. We are encouraged to scold (and then kiss) the monsters in Monster Be Good, and to Count the Monkeys in the book by the same name. And even if there isn’t a second person invitation to actively participate, breakfast books make it easy for me to encourage my kids to interact anyways.
For example, it is impossible to read Duck on a Bike without asking the kids to Moo and Meow, or The Happy Man and The Dump Truck without asking them to “weeee!” At breakfast, I have great success with counting books, like Baby Bear Counts One or Counting in the Garden, as little fingers air point and we say out loud together “1, 2, 3…” in between bites of bacon.
“I’m having some trouble waking up,” my daughter sometimes says. “I think I didn’t get a good sleep.” Or my son, who got up at 5:30, is fussy and whining. What to do?
Read a book at breakfast that will wake us right on up. For my kids, a book with repetitive lines, memorable phrases and the opportunity to interact is more stimulating than a cup of coffee. After a breakfast with books, rarely are we still not ready to start the day.
Breakfast Books are Funny
Be it dramatic irony (Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale), or just hilarious writing and illustrating (A Big Guy Took My Ball), the best Breakfast Books also make us laugh. I’m like my Dad in that rarely do I laugh, laugh—out loud. I’m more the type to hear a joke and then say, “that was funny!” than to join in the group guffaw.
And so at breakfast last Thursday, after our trip to the library last Wednesday, when I started to laugh, laugh—out loud while reading Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman (Harper Collins, 2013), the kids of course, followed suit. Both the book, and the fact that their mom was laughing it, was hysterical.
Chu’s Day meets all the breakfast book criteria listed so far. It is really short. The first page reads: “When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.”
Second page: “In the morning, Chu went with his mother to the library.”
Third and fourth pages: “There was old-book dust in the air. ‘Are you going to sneeze?’ said his mother?” Chu and his parents are pandas, and yet the look in Chu’s Mother’s eyes when she asks him this question is the universal parental terror concerning what catastrophe their child might cause next.
I hesitate the write about the next two spreads, because if there is ever a book you don’t wait spoiled this is it…but…
“aah– aaah– Aaaah—“ we read and see Chu’s sneeze building up. I deliver these words the best I can, using a grand crescendo as I work my way through each “aah,” and wrinkling and crinkly up my nose—I’m going to give this sneeze my all—BUT THEN, I turn the page, and instead of reading “chooo!”
I read, “No…”
On one page: “aah—aaah—Aaaah—”
On the next: “No, said Chu.”
And so I laugh and laugh out loud. And so do my kids.
Now when we read it, my kids say, “he tricked us!”
He (my kids referring to Chu I’m sure) sure did, and it’s hilarious.
Chu almost sneezes again at the diner, with its peppery air. When Chu’s father asks, with wide, terrified eyes, “Are you going to sneeze?” I am reminded of the time we took our kids out to dinner, at a place far fancier than a diner, and my son managed to whip the yogurt squeezer out of my hand sending strawberry slime up the back of the chair, and shirt, of a guest sitting at the table next to us.
Universal parental terror concerning what catastrophe our kid might cause next…
Of course, eventually, Chu does sneezes, but you will have to read this book to find out how it ends.
Chu’s Day=One of the BEST Breakfast Books
Benefits and Bonuses of Reading Books at Breakfast
With the TV off, and the three of us (or four on the weekends) at the table, we get to share a good story. We get to laugh, question, make connections, learn (count or point out colors) together at breakfast. Conversing with two and three year olds goes only so far, but having books as company at our table gives us so much more to talk about.
There are mornings when my son, the early riser, and I are up hours before my daughter even stirs. I make the coffee and toast his waffles while he “gets books,” carefully selecting them off the shelf which is strategically placed in the living room just outside the kitchen and past the breakfast table, and then he heaves them up on the table.
“Read it!” he yells. And I do. One book, two books, three books, four books. Often as many as ten or eleven books at one meal.
My Dad says we’ve created breakfast book monsters. Perhaps it is because so many of our favorite breakfast books are about monsters, but it’s true. They are little demanding book monsters. Reading a book a breakfast, and now lunch, is not optional. It is required, although we do draw the line at dinner.
An added bonus: my kids are learning (although I suppose Breakfast Books are in some ways bribery) to sit for long stretches of time at the table. And if that battle (getting them to sit) is won, the chances that are they are going to actually eat are greatly improved. I can remember one morning when I did read eleven books to my son while he ate an adult-size serving of oatmeal, a cup of yogurt, and about five strawberries.
In celebration of Picture Book Month, or just because it really is awesome, I encourage you to read books at breakfast, if you aren’t already. If you already are, or if you are going to start, please share your favorite breakfast books and stories about how you read them here.
Remember, if you post a comment on any of my posts in November you will be entered to win a free book!
Finally, here is a list of some of our favorite Breakfast Books. The ones I have written about on this blog have links to the review.
Railroad Hank, Lisa Moser illustrated by Benji Davies (Random House, 2012) LINK
Two Little Monkeys, Mem Fox, illustrated by Jill Barton (Beach Lane Books, 2012)
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, Jane Yolen illustrated by Mark Teague (The Blue Sky Press, 2000) LINK
Monster, Be Good! Natalie Marshall (Blue Apple Books, 2013) LINK
A Big Guy Took My Ball, Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, 2013)
Duck on a Bike, David Shannon (The Blue Sky Press, 2002) LINK
Counting in the Garden, Kim Parker (Orchard Books, 2005)
I Am Bunny, Richard Scarry (Golden Press, Western Publishing Company, 1963) LINK
Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, 2009) LINK
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, 2004) LINK
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot, Scott Magoon (Simon and Schuster, 2013) LINK
A Good Day, Kevin Henkes, (Greenwillow Books, 2007) LINK
Red Truck, Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (Viking, 2008) LINK
Baby Bear Sees Blue, Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books, 2012) LINK
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (Philomel Books, 1969)
Where’s My T-R-U-C-K, Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow
Count the Monkeys, Mac Barnett (Disney, Hyperion Books, 2013)
Now I am Big, Stephen Krensky illustrated by Sara Gillingham (Abrams Appleseed, 2012)
The Happy Man and the Dump Truck, by Miryam, illustrated by Tibor Gergely(Golden Books, Random House, 1950) LINK