Picture Books That Entertain ME (…oh, and my toddler too…)

By , September 11, 2009 10:35 am

Have you ever fallen asleep while talking out loud?

I have and it happens most often when I am putting my three year-old to bed, reading her a bedtime story.

My voice gets softer, my words become garbled and trail off, my mouth gapes, my eyes roll up into my head, my neck flops, and just as I begin to drool on my daughter’s head (I know I am painting quite an attractive picture) – I am rudely brought to attention by an indignant cry of “WAKE UP MOMMY!!”

Maintaining my eyes focused and the words flowing freely is absolute torture! An exhausted mommy at the end of her day + warm toddler on lap + boring book = SLEEEEPPPP…….zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Let’s face it.  Some young children’s books are downright BORING.  What my three year-old loves, is often mind-numbing for me.  Even things that seem sweet and charming and lovely when I am awake, are hideously horrible to read when all I want is to have my head on a soft, downy pillow.

I spend a lot of time reviewing books that my children like, but in this post I want to focus on me.  ME ME ME ME – it’s all about ME!!!!!!

Here are a few books that I recommend for those extra-tired bedtime reads:


  • Anything by the wonderfully talented and funny Sandra Boynton.  Cute pictures, quick-paced rhyming text, a sense of humor (and mercifully short).  One of my favorites is Hippos Go Berserk which always makes me laugh out loud (kind of reminds me of my college days, or is that TMI?). In fact we read it last night, which is what inspired this post.


Once Upon a Time, the End retells popular fairy tales EXTREMELY (and very amusingly) briefly. Each tale ends with a not-so-subtle message to the listening child to “GO TO SLEEP!” My older children adore this book too. They laugh out loud, but they know when I reach for it as a bedtime reading choice, that I mean business about getting out of there and into my own bed as quickly as possible.


  • Pigsty (written and illustrated by Mark Teague), a fast and amusing read about a typical messy boy who won’t clean his room. Mom finally gives up nagging and lets him live with his mess – and the pigs who happily move into his room. The plot and illustrations amuse me, plus I am always hopeful that this story might inspire my children to clean their own personal pigsties.


  • Antarctic Antics by Judy Sierra, a collection of funny, informative poems about penguins.  These clever verses make me laugh and alleviate any Mommy Guilt at rushing the bedtime process, since they are actually quite educational.


  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert) and  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle) are examples of very lively, almost musical books.  While not really inherently interesting for adults, I find the strong, sing-song rhythm of the text of these stories helpful in keeping me interested long enough to make it through without falling asleep.  Tap your foot, slap your knee, play a maraca to the upbeat tempo of the words.

  • Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (Dr. Seuss) is another book with a strong beat to its text, plus it lets you exercise your performing arts skills when you demonstrate to your children all the strange noises you (and Mr. Brown) can make. It’s hard to fall asleep while imitating a hippopotamus chewing gum.


  • Any short book that is mostly pictures (preferably interesting ones) is also good when I am tired.  They allow me to say as much or as little as I have the energy for.  Two of my favorites are: Global Babies by the Global Fund For Children (interesting pictures of babies from around the world), and Baby Animals of the Southwest by Rising Moon Editors (not your usual baby cows and chickens here).

    • If you think can make it through the entire alphabet or the numbers 1 through 21, try Alphabet City (a multiple award-winner, including Caldecott) or City by Numbers both by artist Stephen T. Johnson.  These books have wonderful photographic-quality illustrations of typical city scenes in which a letter (or number) can be found in the natural shape of a detail. It is a fascinating new way of looking at the world that captures my attention, even when sleepy.  The cover art explains it best, what do you see here?

    • Look-Alikes: The More You Look, the More You See! by Joan Steiner is another amazing visual choice. Be careful though, there is so much to see in this book that it could go on all night.  When you are exhausted, use this book wisely. Tell your child to find one particular item in each photo, then you’ll be much better off.  I guarantee that you will find new objects in each photograph every time you look at this book (keeps it interesting for parents).


      And of course when all else fails, don’t feel bad about resorting to the old tricks of paraphrasing text and turning more than one page at a time!  WARNING:  Won’t work with older kids.  Good Luck!   ;)

    PS. What tricks do you have for staying awake at story time? What picture books entertain you?


    10 Responses to “Picture Books That Entertain ME (…oh, and my toddler too…)”

    1. Meg says:

      Here are a few of our favorites from the library…

      Turnagain Ptarmigan – You will find this book a happy read, and your little one will get a little biology lesson too.
      Llama, Llama Mad at Mamma – You will relate to the Mamma.
      The Juggling Pug – I guarantee that you will laugh at least once, maybe twice.

    2. Lymm says:

      Thank you for reminding me about those Stephen Johnson books. I was trying to remember who wrote them in the library this week. And also Look-Alikes looks great. My son loves “hidden pictures” lately, so I think all of those books will appeal to him. I’m always tired but I don’t have too much trouble staying awake while reading to him, but his books are still short at his age (less than 2), so the variety helps. If I get really tired, I quiz him. He’s at an age where, “can you find something yellow?” etc. can keep him entertained for awhile. Great post.
      .-= Lymm´s last blog ..Blog Hopping =-.

    3. Mom Unplugged says:

      I am not familiar with any of these. I’ll have to head to the library to see if I can find them. They sound like books I (oops…I mean WE) would like. Thanks for the suggestions Meg!

    4. Mom Unplugged says:

      Your son (and you) will absolutely love, love, LOVE the Look-Alikes books! “Look-Alikes Junior” is perhaps the best one to start with for a really young child since the photos are not quite as detailed. I use these books a lot for travel too. They are perfect for quizzing and can keep everyone entertained for the better part of a car or plane ride. Thanks for your comment!

    5. Emily says:

      I love any book that tells an engrossing or hilarious story. And I generally read slightly above my children’s level to be honest.

      _Owl Moon_ is awesome. It doesn’t hurt that we were camping one night when my oldest were preschoolers and heard an owl shortly before buying this book.

      Marc Brown “Arthur” and esp. “D.W.” books are favorites of my toddlers and preschoolers. The “D.W.” books tend to be more age-appropriate.

      And instead of reading picture books EVERYNIGHT, we mix it up at our house. Some nights, we let the kids play quietly while we read-aloud from A.A. Milne’s Pooh stories and other imaginative stories that require one to use his own imagination instead of relying on just illustrations.

      I think it is fun too to have your child help write a story (narrate to you) and then draw pictures together to go with the story. If bound or stapled in folders, it makes for great, inexpensive storytime.

    6. Tragically, I sometimes find that I have just finished a book and then have no idea what I just read. Bad Mom! I find that good art is essential to keeping me tuned in.
      We love David Weisner.. and no words so I have to be on my game to work with Kiddo to come up with the story.
      .-= Mom and Kiddo´s last blog ..The Domino Effect =-.

    7. maryanne says:

      For funny stories, I enjoy “When Dinosaurs Came With Everything” and “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type”. For sweet stories I like Martin Waddell, especially “Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear” and “Owl Babies”
      .-= maryanne´s last blog ..Notes to Self =-.

    8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by M Kuehner. M Kuehner said: RT @ImaginationSoup Great list from Unplug Your Kids. Picture Books That Entertain ME (…oh, and my toddler too…) – http://shar.es/13yct […]

    9. Betty says:

      This is a great list of toddler books. I just came across another great one that is going to be a classic. It’s called Dear Baby, What I love about you! by Carol Casey. It’s a children’s picture book with tropical colors and retro style illustrations with endearing baby faces and poses. It will engage both the reader and the child.

    10. Mom Unplugged says:

      I’ll have to check it out. Thanks so much for your recommendation!

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