When was the last time you read a picture book?
That seems like a silly question, I know. Unless you have small children or are a regular babysitter, it’s probably been a long time. That’s a shame, really.
The library recently hosted an event called Nostalgia Night. We had hot cocoa and cookies and dozens upon dozens of children’s books. Our target audience? College students.
If there was one takeaway from that night, it was that children’s books and picture books are so much fun. They’re silly and funny and cute and surprisingly political. And just amazing, especially when read out loud with dramatic voices.
Just in case your memory needs a little prompting, here are some of my favorites!
Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type
According to my mom, this was the first book I ever read by myself. Having reread it at 20, I’m pretty sure 5 year old me had just memorized it, because there are some pretty big words in here.
To me, this book epitomizes everything a great children’s book can be. It’s about animals doing things animals shouldn’t be able to do (they use a typewriter and it’s adorable). The reader has to make some silly noises or voices (“Click clack moo, Click clack moo, Clickity clack moo”). And it has a surprisingly political message. I mean, it’s basically about cows and chickens unionizing, demanding higher compensation (electric blankets) for their services (milk and eggs). How can it get much better than that?!
Hop on Pop
I knew I needed to include Dr. Seuss on this list. You can’t talk about picture books without talking about the master that is Dr. Seuss. So many great ones to choose from—The Grinch, Horton Hears a Who, Yertle the Turtle, Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham… the list is infinite.
But let’s talk about Hop on Pop for a second. What the heck even is this book? If we’re being honest, it’s rhyming words made into semi-sensical sentences that in no way form a plot or story. Apparently, it was my brother’s favorite when he was little, so I’m just picturing my mom reading “UP PUP Pup is up. CUP PUP Pup in cup. PUP CUP Cup on pup” day in and day out. That means nothing!
But once you’ve heard a college student read this book in the rhythm of a freestyle rap? You don’t really care that it’s nonsense. It will forever be remembered as amazing. (Unless you’re one of the many mothers who long ago stopped trying to find meaning or joy in this particular Dr. Seuss creation.)
The Book With No Pictures
Sounds boring, right? A picture book with no pictures? Well, that’s actually part of the genius of this book. Written by B. J. Novak (yes, the guy who plays Ryan on The Office), this book is basically designed to embarrass whoever is reading it out loud. They’re forced to call themselves a robot monkey, sing a song, and make so so so many funny noises. It’s meta and inventive and absolutely hilarious no matter how old you are.
We Are In A Book!
This is a fairly new book, so my first experience with it was at the ripe old age of 20. One of my friends read it out loud to me. And we were both dying from laughter by about halfway through. It’s about two friends, Elephant and Piggie—who apparently have lots of other books too —who find out they’re in a book. And they find out that they can make the reader say anything they want. I swear the word “banana” has never been so funny.
There’s just an element of pure, innocent joy that comes with pretending to be a little kid again. The worries and stresses of everyday life just disappear, and you’re having fun for fun’s sake. For me, that came from reading picture books out loud with some friends. Maybe for you, it’s playing a very intense game of Simpson’s themed Sorry, or finding out that Bop It has a maximum score of 100.
So here’s my advice for you: go do makes you have fun, no matter how silly or ridiculous it seems. I promise you won’t regret it.
Image credits: Wikipedia, Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes, Paige Ballard