16 sweet kids’ books


The Plot, by Greta: It’s about crayons that quit. It’s funny!

The Backstory, by Mom: A super cute Christmas present from my sister to Greta, and the impetus for this list. The crayons each write a letter to Duncan, their owner, sharing their frustrations or requests. We’ve read it many times over the past few days. I just love when a kid’s book is beautiful and has a cute story. A great present.


The Plot, by Greta: It’s about mistakes that you can make things out of.

The Backstory, by Mom: Cute for artsy kids like Greta. The lesson is, when paint drips and paper rips, you can turn your creation into something even better.


The Plot, by Greta: There’s animals and neat colors. And people with friends.

The Backstory, by Mom: It has that great, distinctive artwork by Eric Carle and it’s a pleasure to read. A must-have for any toddler’s library.


The Plot, by Greta: The little girl is mad — very mad. She’s really funny. She throws a fit. I have days like this.

The Backstory, by Mom: On the good behavior scale, Greta ranks above average in my opinion. But she was having quite a few “no, no, no” days a few years back. Patsy, who was treated to many of those disagreeable moods, got this book for Greta. I think recognizing herself in the little girl sort of took the wind out of Greta’s sails, in a good way. It’s a funny book — ripped from the headlines of real life with a preschooler! — with a sweet ending where she apologizes to her mom for being such a stinkpot.


The Plot, by Greta: The little blue truck helps others. My brother really likes this book. And me!

The Backstory, by Mom: Mag was way into this book at one time. It was the theme of his 1-year birthday cake. The little blue truck says hi to every duck and horse on his way through a drive in the country. Then an unfriendly, speeding dump truck blows through and gets stuck in the mud. None of the animals will help because the truck was a jerk. Little Blue has a conscience so he tries to help the dump. Then because Little Blue needs help, the other animals pitch in. It has pretty, autumnal illustrations and cute animal and truck sounds.


The Plot, by Greta: Patsy got me this book for Christmas one year. The brother pulls down his pants, which is funny.

The Backstory, by Mom: You don’t have to be a working mom to love this book. It’s about a little girl exploring her many career options. Smart and funny.


The Plot, by Greta: This is a Christmas book and a pop-up book. It’s really cool.

The Backstory, by Mom: We have 2 or 3 of these. When Greta was an infant and we lived in Clintonville, Barrak — excited new dad that he was — came home with it a few nights before Christmas. Then we got a few more as gifts. It’s the classic “Twas the night before Christmas” story told in pop-up fashion, all crisp black and white with dots of red here and there. It’s almost too delicate for little hands.


The Plot, by Greta: The little boy comes back to this tree every year because it’s his bestest friend. Ever.

The Backstory, by Mom: I can’t read this book without crying. The tree is a mother, right? She selflessly gives everything to make the boy happy.


The Plot, by Greta: A little tractor helps a little calf. And every sunset, they go to the apple tree as friends.

The Backstory, by Mom: Even though Greta provided the plot, this is one of Mag’s favorites. Otis the tractor makes a sound that goes something like ‘putt puff puttedy chuff.’ The sound helps the scared little calf fall asleep, and Otis becomes like a surrogate mom. Sometimes I hear Magnus muttering that sound.


The Plot, by Greta: A little boy meets the moon in the nighttime. And the little boy plays with the moon in the park.

The Backstory, by Mom: A bedtime favorite that came along when Magnus was a baby. The words are so soothing, the pictures (and the book itself) became unnecessary. “I took the moon for a walk last night / it followed me home like a still summer kite / though there wasn’t a string or a tail in sight / when I took the moon for a walk.” He’s 3 1/2 now and we just moved the glider out of his room. This is a story I’ll miss.


The Plot, by Greta: It’s a Halloween book. There’s a witch and there’s a broom that she rides, and a cat. She loses her hat and she loses her wand. And she loses her bow. And all her stuff.

The Backstory, by Mom: A really cute Halloween story about a witch who keeps dropping her stuff. Each time she lands to pick up whatever she dropped, she lets more and more animals onto her broom until it finally snaps in half. The cadence and repetition of the story makes it enjoyable for kids. Or at least it does for me.


The Plot, by Greta: It’s about a pumpkin that thinks he’s a pumpkin but really is a squash.

The Backstory, by Mom: Well, she kind of gave away the big twist there. The oddly shaped pumpkin doesn’t fit in with his round neighbors in the patch. October 31 comes and goes and he’s still sitting in the patch waiting for someone to pick him. Heartbreaking. Then he finally realizes he’s gay. I mean, a squash. A family favorite.


The Plot, by Greta: I have no idea what this book is.

The Backstory, by Mom: Okay. The kids don’t really give two shits about this book. For starters, I can’t make it past page 6 or 7 without bursting into tears so we hardly ever read it. I bought this book from the Barnes & Noble in Mason, Ohio when I was around 7 months pregnant with Greta. Barrak and I had gone to the Cincinnati tennis tournament in Mason. While Barrak was filling up the gas tank afterward, I sat in the passenger seat flipping through my new purchase. The story is all about the hopes a mom has for her daughter as she grows up, has adventures, and leaves home. Jesus Christ. I rolled out of our Subaru and waddled around to my unsuspecting husband, my face wet and crumpled. ‘What?!? WHAT HAPPENED?!?!” he asked. This book just does a number on me. Maybe someday Greta can read it to herself.


The Plot, by Greta: The girl lost her bunny in the laundromat. She went looking everywhere for her bunny. It was surprising for the girl when her dad found the bunny. It makes me feel happy.

The Backstory, by Mom: Greta loves this book. It’s by Mo Willems, who also writes the “Pigeon” series. Which Magnus is partial to.


The Plot, by Greta: The donkey turned into a rock. Everyone in his family went looking for him. This book is sad and happy!

The Backstory, by Mom: This was a favorite of mine as a kid. Now that I’m a parent, it’s a fricking nightmare. It’s so hopelessly sad: a little boy accidentally turns himself into a rock. His poor parents! Can you imagine their despair? They can’t find Sylvester anywhere. At one point, one of them even unknowingly sits on him. But it has a happy ending.


The Plot, by Greta: It’s about a little bunny and his grandma, which reminds me of when I go to my grandma’s house.

The Backstory, by Mom: This is one of the first gifts we got after Greta was born, from neighbors in Clintonville, and it has a Pavlovian effect on both my kids. The story makes no sense at all but the rhyme is soothing. That’s why it’s a classic I guess. If you ever get a chance to hear Susan Sarandon read it, which she does on an HBO special, get your blankie ready.


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