Arts and Entertainment

Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts

We love books, and have pretty much set a monthly fund for “growing the library”. It has been growing so well that the books are now everywhere. They are spilling off the shelves, and can be found in the baskets by our beds, on the kitchen table, and in the car. It feels right: books are a big part of our everyday life. But what about holidays?

Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts: whether you are shopping for Christmas or Birthdays, these books will delight children of different ages

When it is time to celebrate, everyone in our family can be sure to find a book or two in their pile of gifts too. Of course, for a special occasion the desire to surprise and please grows! That is why we spend a while deliberating over those book gifts. We do not want them to get lost in the pile of wrapping paper and other gifts.

Over time, we have gathered a few of our favourites, and here they are.


1. Wordless Books.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. As a book lover, in most cases I prefer a thousand words. Give me a million words, a cozy couch, and call it my ultimate happiness. But when it comes to wordless books, I often take my hat off. It is a lot of work to tell a story without words, and the illustrations created in the process are truly wonderful: emotional and full of details.

Another benefit of wordless books is that children of different ages can enjoy them together. At one a toddler will ask to name different objects, at two and three he or she will listen to the story attentively, and for older children wordless books are wonderful prompts to practise storytelling. These books develop verbal, observational and logical skills, and can stay favourites for many years. With children growing quickly, I consider anything that can keep interest for longer than a year a worthwhile investment!

A few of our favourite wordless books:

Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts: whether you are shopping for Christmas or Birthdays, these books will delight children

In the Town All Year ‘Round: Whether you flip through all the seasons at once or concentrate on one, this book has hundreds of stories to unravel and characters to follow. Toddlers will delight in pointing at all of the familiar objects of town life, and older children can pick one or two favourite characters and tell stories about them. Even after looking at this book for months every day, children will still find something new! Read more about this book here.
The Circle of Seasons(now sold separately as Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter): Some books are awe-inspiring, some books are hilarious, and these books are very cozy. They will charm children with the simple – pastoral – pleasures of life that come with different seasons: from watching baby birds in the spring to splashing in puddles in the fall; from fireworks in the summer to ice-skating in the winter. Since Budster turned one, we were giving him one book for each season, and he adores them. Read more about the volume Spring here.
The Yellow Balloon: A small yellow balloon travels through time and space across the pages of the eclectic world created by Dutch illustrator, Charlotte Dematons. In that world a pirate’s frigate sails next to a cruise liner, and flying carpets race airplanes.
Journey: A lonely girl takes a red crayon and draws a door on the wall in her room. Upon opening, the door leads into a different world. It is full of magic, but there are dangers too. Breathtaking illustrations!


2. Treasury Collections

When a few previously published picture books are gathered in one volume, they are often called a treasury collection. We are very fond of them. First of all, it is an expedient and thrifty way to get some classic stories onto our book shelves. Then, of course, if I get one story in a picture book, there is always a possibility that my son will not like it very much. But if there are a few stories, he can pick his favourite. In case of several children who have different tastes in the family, a treasury collection is great as well!

I like to keep a treasury collection of one author or another in our car, so that if my son gets bored, there is a selection of stories I can read to him.

A few of our favourite treasuries:

Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts: whether you are shopping for Christmas or Birthdays, these books will delight children

Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury: This book has seven of Jan Brett’s amazingly illustrated stories, including her famous The Mitten, The Hat and Troubles with Trolls. We had a few of her stories in abridged versions for babies and loved them. It is a delight to hold this full-sized book and see all the spectacular details of her paintings. This book is going to be among my son’s Christmas gifts this year.
The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury: This book is truly outstanding in its own way! I think that if I was going to raise my son on an uninhibited island, I would pack this one for sure. On its pages, you can find more than forty classical stories for children: Madeline, Where the Wild Things Are, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Guess How Much I Love You, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Amelia Bedelia are only a few. True: in order to fit all of the stories into this treasury, the illustrations had to be compressed. It is also true that on comparing every story in this book with its stand-alone edition, the representation in this book would lose, if only by a little bit. But think: more than forty stories! It is an amazing way to introduce many famous stories to children without submitting to buying every one of them as a separate picture book.
You’re a Good Dog, Carl!: The oil and watercolour paintings of this book are lavish and gorgeous, ready to be framed and put on the living room wall. Yet, the story depicting the exploits of the best dog nanny is as full of wit and humour as any Sunday comic strip would be. Read more about the series here.
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Since being a child, I always loved the stories about the Yorkshire vet. While, on the first glance, they seem like stories about animals, in truth, they are stories about people and their love for animals. Touching and witty – those stories are a comfort blanket to me. I cannot wait to read them with Budster in a couple of years, for while most of James Herriot’s books are meant for adults, this little treasury presents seven of his stories for children with gorgeous watercolour illustrations.
Stella! (Treasury): The imaginative Stella and her quiet brother Sam play and discover the world around them, making original, unique and witty observations about it, the way only children can.

3. Pop-Up and Lift-the-Flaps Books

The mechanics of a pop-up book are fascinating to adults and children alike, and even if the plain version is already in the home library, the pop-up book will cause waves of excitement. While older children realize that no pop-up fancy can compare with the magic of a well-worn copy of The Hobbit or Wizard of Oz, it is great for children to play with books when they are small: make the pictures move, open the flaps and have a feeling of awe again and again as a three-dimensional castle grows from a flat page.

Do I think that everyone should fill their shelves with pop-up books? Nope. Do I think that a pop-up version of an excellent book will make a great gift for a little one? Absolutely!

A few of our favourite pop-up books:

Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts: whether you are shopping for Christmas or Birthdays, these books will delight children
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Pop-up: There will always be a special place in my heart for this book based on a traditional folk song, for it was Budster’s very first favourite book. If I am thinking of a baby gift, it comes to mind right away. Read about it more here.
– Birds of a Feather (also check Out of Sight and In the Ocean): While I find all pop-up books to have a playful element in them, this book comes especially close to being a game. Before opening little flaps in the shapes of eggs and silhouettes, children can guess the birds that hide behind them! Another page has a colourful puzzle. It is an amazing introduction to the world of ornithology for children. We got it for Budster when he was a little bit over a year, and he has been reading it every day for many months, with us and by himself. He loves it. Read about it more here.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Pop-Up Adaptation: I have a couple of friends who collect “Alice” books, illustrated by different authors. This one will be wonderful, whether as the first or the fifth “Alice” book on your shelf. The pop-ups do magic to the famous story: readers feel as if they had fallen into Wonderland along with Alice.
Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinousaurs: There is a mysterious force that attracts children to dinosaurs, and it must also attract them to this book. While they can find some interesting facts about dinosaurs in this book, it will be a while until they get to that part, because playing with pop-up dinosaurs is addicting.


4. Non-Fiction Books for the Youngest Scientists

While the appeal of fictional books often depends on personal taste, non-fiction books can be judged more objectively. You can get a great fictional book, yet it will not make an impression on a child, simply because he or she has a different taste. The sense of wonder that a good scientific book awakens is more universal. So you can read a few pages of the book and trust your judgment, or read the reviews that other people left – my observation is that they are more reliable in the case of non-fiction books.

Another great thing about non-fiction books is that children do not grow out of them as fast. If you have an animal encyclopedia, a baby will like looking at the pictures, and for a toddler it may even become his favourite book. For instance, our Budster loves an oversized book about the sea world with high-resolution photographs of whales and coral reefs. Soon parents will find themselves reading little facts from the encyclopedia to children, and in no time they will be writing essays, using the book as their reference.

All in all, I find good non-fiction books to be great gifts for children, because they are naturally curious, and they want to know about the world!

A few of our favourite non-fiction books:

Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts: whether you are shopping for Christmas or Birthdays, these books will delight children
– National Geographic Little Kids First Book of Animals (and other National Geographic Little Kids First Books: Bugs, Dinosaurs, or Planets) : This is a particularly great book for little scientists. It has plenty of pictures – a few for every animal – and a variety of interesting facts to entertain even an adult reader. In its 128 pages, only a few animals can be introduced, but I find it to be an advantage of this book. It is not overwhelming, and there will be longer books in the future.
– Sounds of the Wild Ocean (and other books of the series): While being packed with scientific facts, this little book will appeal to everyone, starting with babies. As they turn pages, they will hear a whale’s singing and seagulls’ cries, as realistically painted animals will pop up on the pages. Read about it more here.
The Beetle Book: This book will work both as the first identification guide for beetles and a beautifully illustrated introduction to the beetle world.
The New Way Things Work: While meant for elementary-aged children and up, this book will help you get through those years when everything requires an explanation and children yearn to know how things work. Necessary reading for every parent!

A few of these books fall into several categories: Birds of a Feather, for instance, is a pop-up book, but it is also a non-fiction book, opening the diverse world of birds to children. In the Town All Year ‘Round is a wordless book, but it is also a treasury because in Germany, where the book comes from, it is published in four volumes.

What books do you like to give as gifts? What books were you happy to receive as gifts for your children? Please, share your finds, so that we could put them onto our Christmas wishlist!

How to Help Your Kids Fall in Love with Books

As does every parent, I have certain hopes for my son, the biggest one being for his health and safety. There is also the hope that he will grow into a happy and kind man. After these two, I have a hope that he will love reading books.

Numerous studies show that reading is beneficial for both children and adults. It improves memory, vocabulary, concentration and imagination, not to mention all the knowledge one can get from books. If you need more reasons, please, take a look at this extensive list: 10 Reasons to Read to Your Child by Wildflower Ramblings. I consider books to be my biggest passion in life, and I want to share that with my son in the hopes that it will open for him a world as wonderful and shimmering as it did for me. Middle Earth? Neverland? The Yorkshire dales of the famous vet James Herriot? The balls and dinners of Jane Austen? Just grab a book, and let’s go on an adventure!

My son is only starting his journey into the world of literature, but his delight at reading books brings me joy. In this article I would like to share some tips that I follow with him and find helpful.


1. Start reading books early.

Some parents start reading to their children as soon as they can hear, which is around the 16th week gestational age. Did you? My husband read The Hobbit to my belly on occasion. I wonder if it was the reason why Budster was not very fond of board books at first… The level of The Hobbit is hard to beat!

When Budster was born, we started reading to him and were a little taken aback by his lack of interest. Here we were, shelves full of board books, and our ten-day-old son completely ignored them!

I became confident that Budster was listening to books when he was around six months old, and he chose his first favourite one when he was eight months old. It was We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which he tugged around everywhere. However, even before that I had been trying to read to him a couple of books every day, whether he seemed interested or not. Sometimes he would play, and I would sit next to him and read. As sounds started turning into recognizable words in his head, he paid more and more attention to my reading.

Are you wondering what books to choose for the first year? Check this list of first books that were popular in our house as well as lists compiled by other families.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

21 Board Books for Babies and Toddlers by No Time for Flash Cards
10 Books: 0-1 Years Olds by Bambini Travel
Favourite Books of Songs for Babies by Growing Book by Book

Would you like to have some tips on how to read to your children? Read, read, read by Makeovers and Motherhood has suggestions for different ages, starting with birth.


2. Make books visible and accessible.

Having lower shelves in your bookcases dedicated to children’s books invites children to come and read them whenever they feel like it. It is a great start.

However, most picture books are fairly thin, and if you line them on a shelf, you will have difficulty reading their titles and distinguishing one book from another. Babies and toddlers will have to really struggle to find their favourite book there. Therefore, other options for displaying those first books might be preferable. Books need to attract attention, calling for children to pick them up and look through them… for an hour or two.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

1. Mamma. Papa. Bubba. 2. Fun at Home with Kids 3. Classy Clutter 4. No Time for Flash Cards

In our house, children’s books are simply everywhere. There is a basket next to Budster’s bed, and there is a basket in his play area. You can use baskets too, or you can make these adorable book crates from No Time for Flash Cards. If your children are old enough, they can help!

The baskets and crates are great for keeping quite a few books. We usually put about twenty or twenty five books in our baskets, so there is a choice of bedtime stories, as sometimes we go through books after book, snuggling on Budster’s bed. When I want to attract my son’s attention to particular books, I like using the spice racks from Ikea, described by Mamma. Papa. Bubba. You can also make book shelf-ledges from scratch, following the tutorial by Classy Clutter.

One day, when we set up a permanent library room, I will look for inspiration in the photos of the Fun at Home with Kids‘ reading room. It looks like a great place to spend some time with a book!

If you would like more ideas on how to display books, B-Inspired Mama has a selection of inspiring photos with tutorials: DIY Wall Book Display + 12 More Kid’s Book Storage Ideas.


3. Organize a cozy reading place

Once you set up a book display, think about the place where you and your children will sit down and read. It should be comfortable, pleasant and inspiring, in other words, a place where you all will yearn to spend time every day. We often read, cuddling on a bed, before Budster goes for his naps and when he wakes up. Other times we read wherever he finds us with a book in his outstretched arms, but most often we sit down on a lamb skin in his play corner.

When I visit friends, I often stop at their book shelves, and I like having a peak inside of other families’ book nooks.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

1. Mamma. Papa. Bubba 2. The Imagination Tree 3. Childhood 101 4. Teach Mama

Mamma. Papa. Bubba turned a closet into a cozy reading corner.

The Imagination Tree set up an improvised tent to crawl into and read for a while. It looks like a lot of fun and very easy to organize!

Wildflower Ramblings can offer tips on organizing a Montessori room for babies with a book corner in it.

Childhood 101 shares photographs of their book corner with adorable decorations.

Teach Mama tells a story of turning a part of their living room into a book corner. She has a lot of useful tips on how to choose the right place and which things to place in a book corner.


4. Allow your children to explore books freely

Children’s books – colourful, sturdy, printed on nice thick paper – are without denying, expensive. So it might be disheartening to see them being torn in baby’s attempt to turn pages. However, we need to remember that at the very moment little hands grab the book, reading starts.

I do not advocate letting children ruin books. Stay next to them, wipe their hands, let them handle only board books or get a bunch of used ones for exploring while they are babies, remind them to be careful when they are older. But it is important to let them play with books when they want to. They need to feel that books are fun, and not to associate them with the word “no”.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a BoxAt seven months, my son liked very much turning pages in books. He did not look at the pictures, but the mechanism of turning pages fascinated him, and once he spent about forty minutes sitting on the floor with a book and going back and forth through its pages.

Some books are made to be played with: to touch, to push buttons, to lift flaps. Books as a Tactile Experience for Babies and Toddlers provides a list of our favourite books with sensory elements, while No Twiddle Twaddle has created a great collection of books to play with.

The article Board Books for Babies and Toddlers by Homegrown Friends will help you choose board books wisely, and if you want to know about 25 must-have books for babies, the Jenny Evolution created a list. Even sturdier than board books are the series of books called Indestructibles: you can read a review of them by The Freckled Homeschooler.

So get sturdy books and let children play with them until they are sure that books are the best toys.


5. Offer a wide variety of books

If your child does not seem interested in some books, he might be not old enough for them or cannot relate to the story. When Budster was born, we had – let’s say – a hundred books that we wanted to read with him in the years to come. Over the first year, he chose about ten that he liked. But by the time he was a year and a half, the number grew to about seventy. The majority of books that are left will probably interest him in the next year, but there were a few that he simply did not like.

So, try different books! For a variety, visit a library and check these long lists of family favourites. So many of these titles are our best friends right now.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

135 Book Recommendations for Toddlers by In the Playroom
50 Books for 2 Year Olds by No Time for Flashcards
Best Toddler Books, or Books I’ll Miss Reading by What Do We Do All Day


6. Respond to your child’s interests with books

This tip works well for children of all ages. When I see an interest to something new arising, I try to find books that will include new information relevant to this interest. Lately, Budster has suddenly got fascinated with vehicles. It was a surprise to me because I seldom point them out to him. So our two new favourite books are Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site (we also made a puzzle from the dustcover of this book!) and Freddie Fixer Builds a Car. I joined Budster in learning a few interesting things from those books: the names of all the machines at a construction site from the first one and the main assemblies of a car from the second.

Budster would certainly be impressed by this list of transportation-themed books by Ready-Set-Read. Good Long Road has a series of posts on books about things that go, starting with the trained-themed books.

More interested in animals? Here is a list of animal board books from House of Burke.

Maybe your child has just developed a fascination for theatre? Here is a unique collection of theatre books by What Do We Do All Day.


7. Invite books into your everyday life

Some people say that reading is like breathing. While reading does not normally seem to be as essential for staying alive, I appreciate this sentiment. Making reading a natural part of life is a certain way to ensure that your child will always surround himself with books.

We often take books on car rides, and when there is more than one adult in the car, someone reads to Budster. Our car is another place we keep a stack of books these days, and we also like to listen to the audiobooks we recorded ourselves. You can read more ideas on how to read on the go at Playdough to Plato‘s blog.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

1. Enchanted Homeschooling mother. 2. Learn with Play at Home 3. No Time for Flash Cards

We have a couple of especially sturdy books by the dinner table. When Budster finishes eating before we do, he will often entertain himself with a book or two. This fantastic idea of having a family book-themed dinner, offered by Enchanted Homeschooling Mother, sounds like something we all could enjoy in the future.

Then, of course, we always read books before it is time for him to go to bed. We usually read one or two when he wakes up too. He has come to anticipate this part of the day, and chooses the books he wants in packs. Here is a long list of splendid bedtime books by No Time for Flash Cards.

If you have a special occasion, it is fun to throw book-themed parties like Learn with Play at Home did, when they had the Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday party.


8. Play book-based games

Children enjoy books they can relate too. The appearance of a younger sibling might spark an interest in stories about brothers and sisters, while a trip to the zoo can encourage reading about animals. However, if the book describes a situation your child is not yet familiar with, it might be helpful to play through it together. We have recently built zoo cages out of Lego blocks and, putting animals into them, went through the story of Goodnight, Gorilla.

Here are more ideas on how to turn a book into an engaging game:

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

  1. Fairy-Tale Storytelling Basket by The Imagination Tree
  2. Goodnight Animals Matching Game by Minne Mama
  3. Dr. Seuss Books and Games that Encourage Creativity by KC Adventures
  4. Extension Activities for “The Mitten” by Jan Brett by The Preschool Toolbox
  5. Cave Craft for Forest Theme by Fantastic Fun and Learning


9. Draw and paint books

Books inspire creativity, and making art after reading a book makes it memorable. I remember making illustrations for my favourite books. It helped me emphasize with the characters and understand the story lines better. So if your child likes the book How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers, why not try this art project from Buggy and Buddy?

Among these 25 crafts, offered by Toddler Approved, you will be certain to find the perfect Very Hungry Caterpillar:

If you feel too hot this summer, you can try some of these crafts based on winter books, chosen by Reading Confetti.


10. Stage your child’s favourite books

I find theatrical experiments very entertaining both for adults and children. Having a home theatre is good way to give a new dimension to the favourite stories. You can start with puppet shows and act as a director while your child is small, involving him into the process of making puppets, decorations and plays later.

If you want to make a puppet theatre from scratch, check our tutorial! Once it is done, start having fun with it. We started with the Little Red Riding Hood story, having a shadow play one evening. Let’s Play Music made a set of adorable Little Red Riding Hood characters for a daytime puppet show – I like their multi-media look.

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

1. Adventure in a Box 2. Let’s Play Music 3. Kitchen Counter Chronicles 4. Small Potatoes

Kitchen Counter Chronicles showed how to make moving shadow puppets. They were inspired by reading Dr. Seuss’ book Shape of Me and Other Stuff! If you prefer glove puppets, check this beautiful tutorial by Small Potatoes on how to turn your socks into the cutest soft puppets for your theatre.


11. Make books

When Budster turned one, I made the layout of a photobook, filled with his photographs. I planned it as a gift for his grandmothers, both of whom live too far to visit him often and see his everyday antics. At the last minute, I ordered a copy for us as well. When Budster found this book a couple of months ago, it immediately became his favourite. He brings it to me, climbs onto my lap and seriously listens, as I tell him the same story, “Once there was Mommy and Daddy, and they wanted to have a little boy…”

Develop a Love for Reading from an Early Age || Adventure in a Box

1. Craftulate 2. Mamma. Papa. Bubba 3. And Next Comes L 4. Childhood 101

Books with photos bring a great delight to children when they recognize themselves, relatives and friends. I love this witty That’s Not My Gracen Photo Book by Mamma. Papa. Bubba. Childhood 101 shows how to make a cloth photobook. That will be a book that is certain to live a long time.

And Next Comes L has a series of posts about how to make a quiet book with interactive features. A book like this would make a very special gift!

And this colour book by Craftulate is very easy to make, yet so stylish!


12. …Read too!

That will be the last tip, but it is as important as the first one. Show children that reading is fun by your own example. What was the last book you have read and enjoyed?

Books to Read Before Going to the Zoo

Few children do not like animals. Our Budster is no exclusion, and we have been encouraging his interest whole-heartedly with a variety of colourful books (from Mommy) and many captivating animal sounds (from Daddy). Once in a while, we would also take a trip to the zoo. The first time we went, Budster was nine months old, and we headed toward Toronto. The trip there took a couple of hours, but it was worth it. The Toronto zoo was the biggest zoo I have been to. We have walked steadily for three hours, and we still did not get to see quite a few animals before it closed. On a bright side, animals had a lot of space, and the zoo left a very pleasant impression.

Later we discovered that there is a closer zoo, in Buffalo, NY. This is where we headed last week, taking our passports and crossing the border.

Books to Read before Going to the Zoo

It was a smaller zoo, but there were several big animals, like an elephant, a couple of giraffes, and a couple of rhinoceroses. I was fascinated by a family of gorillas. One of them had a baby last fall, and the baby was holding on Mommy’s back, as she moved around the pavilion. Actually, there were quite a few baby animals around. I have never visited a zoo in the spring before, and it was nice. Unfortunately, some of the animals seem to be in need of more space. Construction work was in progress, so hopefully there would be an improvement in the future. Indeed, one of the new buildings had a lot of cheerful birds and monkeys, kept together, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Books to Read before Going to the Zoo Books to Read before Going to the Zoo

Budster got scared of an elephant, called an anteater a dog, and had a lot of fun, playing in the barn. Of course, he also watched animals with fascination. Truth to tell, it was hard to say whether he was interested in animals or people more. We live in a small town, and seeing a lot of people is a treat to him.

Books to Read before Going to the Zoo Books to Read before Going to the Zoo

Going to the zoo has strengthened his interest in animals, bringing new meaning to words and pictures he enjoyed before. So we took out our animal books.


The book that has been with us longest is Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle. I have already given a brief review to this book when I wrote about Out First Favourite Books. This book is very similar to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See, but instead of appealing to visual sense, it describes the sound different animals make. We have got it when Budster was three months old, and since then this book has never been put away for long. I find some electronic toys for children confusing, but this book is one of those few we all enjoy. It has a small speaker, and when the child presses the button, it plays the animal sound, illustrating leopard snarling, peacock yelping, etc.

Books to Read before Going to the Zoo Books to Read before Going to the Zoo

My First Book of Animals is one of those books I would have never chosen as a gift for a baby before having one. There are many similar books available these days: photographs of different objects and their names written underneath. It does not look very engaging to an adult, but it seems to bring endless entertainment to children. The book was lying in the basket, and I seldom reached for it, but Budster wanted to look at it again and again, recognizing characters of his other stories or prototypes of his toys. He pointed at animals and asked to hear their names. Now that he is starting to speak, he is proud to name a couple himself, while demanding more and more words. It is a good book for long drives or waiting in line at the doctor’s office because by the time we reach the last page, we have discussed hundred of animals.

Books to Read before Going to the Zoo Books to Read before Going to the Zoo

Tails by Mathew van Fleet, as follows from the title, speaks about tails more than their owners, but that is easy to correct. You will not be able to get away without naming the animals, since there are quite a few exotic ones in this book, and even experienced animal lovers might meet a pangolin or a bush baby for the first time. However there are some old friends as well: pigs and squirrels, crocodiles and skunks. To describe such a variety of tails author plays with antonymous adjectives, comparing long and stumpy, broad and slinky tails. Like other van Fleet’s books, this one features a number of tabs to pull and bits of fur to touch, for the entertainment of all ages. On one of the pages, you will find a scratch-and-smell skunk’s tale, but I have got to confess: I have not dared yet.

Books to Read before Going to the ZooBooks to Read before Going to the Zoo

When I saw Color Surprises by Chuck Murphy for the first time, I was surprised at how small it was, being accustomed to big pop-up books with complicated mechanisms hidden between the pages. This book, however, keeps its charm by being simple and cute. Every page has a coloured square, and under it lives an animal of the corresponding colour: a pink flamingo and a brown monkey, a green snake and a blue parrot. That’s why, despite the fact that the book is meant to teach colours, I think that Budster has remembered many of the animals from its pages. He loves going through it and opening the flaps, and for a while, Color Surprises held a status of his firm favourite. The book is so engaging that I have not got another book on colours for Budster, thinking that if this book does not make an impression on him, no other will. However, the topic of zoo animals only starts here.

Books to Read before Going to the ZooBooks to Read before Going to the Zoo

These are the books that can be considered non-fiction, while a few of our favourite stories revolve around zoo animals as well.

We gave Dear Zoo to Budster after visiting Toronto zoo, and it has become a quick favourite. The story follows a straightforward plot and uses a simple language. A mysterious man is searching for a perfect pet and requesting it from the zoo. He gets a lot of exotic companions before settling for a good old puppy. The strong point of the books is lift-the-flaps in the shapes of boxes. Even a very small child can become part of the story, opening them to find what animal hides beneath.

Books to Read before Going to the Zoo Books to Read before Going to the Zoo

Monkey Puzzle (known as Where’s My Mom? in the USA) by Julia Donaldson was at one point Budster’s top pick for reading. He would spot it and bring to read again and again. The exclusivity of the book did not last for more than a couple of weeks, but we still enjoy reading it. In the book, a butterfly helps a monkey to find his Mom, based on his descriptions. “My mom is big”, or “my mom is furry and nice to cuddle”. Unfortunately, the butterfly repeatedly gets it wrong, leading the monkey to an elephant, a parrot, a spider, a bat, and a frog. After the little monkey is brought to the elephant for the second time, he exclaims.

Butterfly, butterfly, can’t you see? None of these creatures looks like me!”

You never told me she looked like you”.

Of course, I didn’t! I thought you knew.”

But butterflies and their babies do not look alike, and readers get a small lesson in biology. Meanwhile, the monkey finds his Mom, and the story gets to a happy ending.

Books to Read before Going to the ZooBooks to Read before Going to the Zoo

Finally, Good Night, Gorilla is one of Budster’s latest favourites. The book has been lying in his basket for many months, but it was over the last several weeks that Budster got attracted to it. A zookeeper goes around the zoo before heading home and wishes good night to animals. As he passes a gorilla’s cage, a mischievous primate steals a chain of keys from the zookeeper’s pocket. The gorilla frees other animals, and all of them follow the zookeeper to his house to camp around his bedroom for the night. Will he notice them or not?

The story uses very few words. It is made in a comic style with different characters wishing good night to each other and their words appearing in speech bubbles. The rest is up to the reader. So I tell the story anew every time, and it is surprisingly fun. Sometimes I give names to the zookeeper and his wife, and other times I do not. Sometimes I tell this story in English, and other times it becomes Russian. There are many possibilities, and I imagine that Budster will add to them when he tells his own story to me. He must be working on it, as he often sits down with this book and intently looks at pictures.

Books to Read before Going to the ZooBooks to Read before Going to the Zoo

Do you have a zoo around where you live? Is it big or small? What books about zoo animals do your children like? Please, share your experience with us, and if you want to stay updated on other stories from Adventure in a Box, consider visiting our Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram pages. Thank you for reading!