An "I Love You" Book

Only You by Robin Cruise, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

No child's library would be complete without a warm and fuzzy "I Love You" book or two, and this is a very good one. It is not a board book
(I wish it were), but still, I think it's good for a baby. We read it almost every night.

The text is a simple poem in three parts. The first part is set in the morning with a mom and her baby. The second part is in the afternoon with a dad and his toddler boy. The third part is in the evening with a mom and her preschool-age daughter.

Essentially, it's a love song from a parent to a child.

An excerpt:

When the sky glows peachy-rose at dawn,
I love the way you stretch and yawn.
I love your mouth,
your ears,
your eyes.
I love your happy wake-up cries.

As you can see, it is dripping with sweetness-- "love" is in every sentence. And the art, by a Caldecott honoree, is good -- simple and sweet like the text:

I should say that even though the title is "Only You," the idea is not that the parent loves "only you," or that the book is for only children (which is what I thought when I picked it up). The title comes from the last line of the book, which is: "I love my one, my only, you."

Anyway, I give this one a thumbs up, even though I was highly allergic to sentimental stuff in my pre-baby life. I have to say, after having been away at work all day, I like sitting with my baby and reading words like these to her.

Eliza seems to like it, too. I often play a game with her where I hold up two books and say "Which one shall we read?", and when I offer this one, she almost always picks it!

Echo Calling... Whooooo! Whooooo!

Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk

This is a brilliant book. If Shakespeare were alive today and wanted to read a contemporary book to a baby, I would hand him this one. No kidding.

I say this because there is unusually clever and clean use of poetic meter in this book-- Kevin Lewis has taken the meter of "chugga chugga choo choo" and made a poem out of it.

"Chugga chugga choo choo" has a falling meter, made of two trochees and a spondee. The English major in me was dying to scan the text, so here it is:

As you can see, the final part of each line is not always a spondee-- in fact, Lewis usually has an unstressed syllable between the two stressed syllables. But you know, when you say "Choooo Choooo" with an extended "ooooo" sound, there is a tiny pause after the first oooo, (almost chew-uh-chew), so it works great that way.

Anyway, I love reading this book. Love love love it. My husband and I will often say lines in call-and-response fashion when we're playing with our daughter... He'll say "whistle blowing," and I'll say "whooo-whooo." Or I'll say "echo calling," and he'll say "whooo-whooo."

The art is vibrant and beautiful, too. The idea is that we're in a little boy's room with his toy train set. The toy train goes under the boy's bed when the text talks about going "into tunnels, underground," and the train goes across his fish tank when the text says "across the river, swift and wide, a bridge goes to the other side." So, there's visual cleverness, too.

And, finally, as you can see from the last spread (above), the book has a bedtime theme, so it fits in that "bedtime story" slot, if you are in need of another.

So, bravo, author and illustrator-- you both get high marks from this editor!

Things You Might Not Have Known About Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

I have read this book at least once per night since Eliza was three months old. And I have not gotten sick of it-- that is the magic of Goodnight Moon for you!

During my four-month study, I have managed to notice a few things about this dear old classic. Here is my current list:
  • You can hunt for the mouse in every scene.
  • The moon rises higher each time it’s in the window.
  • A copy of Goodnight Moon is on the nightstand, all green though.
  • A copy of Runaway Bunny (by the same author and illustrator) is on the bookshelf, also all green.
  • The socks on the rack disappear when we say goodnight to the mittens on the rack. This was surely to avoid the oddness of looking at socks *and* mittens while bidding goodnight only to the mittens. (The socks get their turn with the clocks.)
  • The red balloon is sometimes visible in the corner of the room, sometimes not. I imagine it floating around the room, phantom-like.
  • The teats appear to have been edited out of the cow jumping over the moon—they seem to be painted over, sometimes not so well. Since I work in publishing, I imagine some executive-level person being uncomfortable with the teats, and the art having to be corrected. Who knows!
  • The cow jumping over the moon appears in the Three Little Bears painting, too.
Now if I put on my "children's book editor" hat, I can tell you a few other things I notice... If you can bear with me...
  • The word "goodnight" actually does not (yet) exist as one word in English. It is two words according to Websters (and therefore to the proofreaders of the world). You would think the sheer force of Goodnight Moon would have forced Websters to concede. But alas. (There are lots of similar situations, where common usage has married two words and Websters insists that the union is not legal. Rain forest and shoe box are examples. Or, sometimes Websters allows two words that are commonly married to be joined with a hyphen, kind of like a domestic partnership. "Good-bye" is in this camp. Issues like these force copy editors and proofreaders to wear down a lot of pencils.)
  • There is no punctuation in Goodnight Moon. No periods to end sentences. Nothing. I suppose a copy editor could look the other way because it's poetry.
And about the art. . .
  • You know how there is a limited palette of colors? Goodnight Moon was published so long ago (1947), it was before our normal four-color printing process came along. So, each of those colors was its own color plate. It looks to me like they had a red plate, a blue plate, a yellow plate, and a black plate. I bet the green was made by printing the yellow on top of the blue. So, imagine the page being composed of several layers of tracing paper, one layer for each color. Everything that was red on the page would have been rendered by the artist in black on the "red layer." Then the red printing plate would have been made out of that layer. So, you would have only seen the scene in color once it was printed... Not an easy way to illustrate a book! (Now, fyi, Goodnight Moon is printed on a normal four-color press. It's much more expensive to print it the old way now.)
  • A longtime veteran in the children's book world, Christopher Franceschelli (who founded Handprint Books), told me that the reason the book has alternating color spreads and black-and-white spreads is because that was a common money-saving technique back when GM was published. So, instead of printing the whole book in color, they printed only half of it in color. Impressive how they made it seem completely intentional (as if it was done for visual variety and pacing), alternating between quiet vignettes and full-room scenes!
Eliza is calling me now... Better go! Goodbye for now! (Or Good-bye!)

A Book We Love as Much as Goodnight Moon

Like so many of her fellow babies, my daughter was given more than one copy of Goodnight Moon. Both copies were baby shower gifts, and we kept both, thinking one could stay at grandma’s house. I knew it would be an essential book.

And it is. We read Goodnight Moon every night—there is something very special about it, no doubt. It has the perfect rhythm and vibe for bedtime.

I heard recently that Goodnight Moon has had the honor of “most-returned book” at Barnes and Noble, clearly because of its status as a go-to baby gift. That’s why I’m happy to recommend ANOTHER good baby bedtime book for those who want something different.

It’s a Chronicle book (I'm an editor there, but this is not one of my books). I happened to bring it home one night, and now we read it every night, right after Goodnight Moon. It is…

I’ll See You in the Morning
by Mike Jolley, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi

It has lovely rhythm and rhyme, and it also has a sweet, reassuring message. Here is an excerpt:

So close your eyes
And go to sleep
By the light of the moon above.
I’ll see you in the morning,
In the light of the sun,
My love.

Here is a video of me and my daughter reading it:

So, if you get tired of saying good night to nobody and good night to mush…or if you’re just looking for another sweet bedtime book, try this one! It gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me and my family. (My husband even says he likes it *better* than Goodnight Moon… sacrilege!)