Giggle Book Advice: Building a Family Library

For the month of January, the Giggle Book Award is focusing on the art of creating a family library.

Adulting Is Hard

Choosing books for kids can be a frustrating endeavor. As the adult, the first questions are about quality and content. Does this teach useful skills or proper values? Is this something a child can quote or discuss with friends and family, without insulting people or raising eyebrows? How does it handle race, gender, family and other relationships?

Personally, I have found children’s books at used books sales and on library shelves that leave me wondering HOW this thing got published in the first place! I have no doubt that there are books quoted, reviewed and discussed on this blog that leave other parents scratching their heads and wondering the same.

To further complicate matters, walking into a bookstore, browsing stacks of hundreds (thousands?) of books and flipping through pages only provides the adult half of the matter. Even if you manage to randomly select a book that meets all of your own criteria, there’s no guarantee the child(ren) will like it.

What to do?

The Library Is Your Best Resource

Personally, I have found the library to be the best possible resource for encouraging kids to read while identifying really good books for the family library. Here’s the process that works for us:

  1. Take the kids to the library and let them play. These days libraries have a lot more than books and kids are not expected to be ultra-quiet all of the time. It’s a wonderful way to spend a super-cold winter day or a super-hot summer afternoon. As a bonus, children learn early on that the one place in every geographical location that is really and truly devoted to the care and use of books is a fun and welcoming spot to spend a few hours.
  2. While the kids play, select 15 books that seem like a good fit. Don’t spent a lot of time flipping through pages or reading the text; just browse through the stacks and grab books with covers that jump out at you. Here are a few of my own go-to topics: dinosaurs, pirates, superheros, ninjas, adventure stories, rescue pets (e.g.: lost cats and dogs finding a home) anti-bully stories, friendship stories and stories about building families or communities. While some of these topics may seem either difficult or overly common, I’ve passed over many books that don’t fall into any of these categories. It’s amazing just how wide and varied children’s books really are.
  3. Visit the library a couple times each month. Make library-time a regular part of the family schedule. Books are checked out for 2 weeks, so we usually make a library visit once every two weeks.
  4. Read every day at the same time. Most people read books right before bed. Some people like to set up a daily story-time earlier in the day. It doesn’t matter when it happens, as long as it happens in a consistent and predictable manner.
  5. Let the child(ren) know that you have NOT pre-read this book. Most adults don’t think about this (I didn’t!) but part of reading to children is introducing them to the basics about BOOKS. Specifically:
    1. Some books are disappointing because the story isn’t about what you thought it would be about. If a book turns out to be a dud SAY THAT – and let the children provide their own opinions on the matter.
    2. Sometimes I like a book and you don’t. Sometimes you like a book and I don’t. That’s OK. Encourage kids to respond to a story and express an opinion.
    3. Books contain lots of information, sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong. I once found a children’s illustrated book at used book sales that was blatantly (mouth-droppingly) racist, which put me in the unexpected and uncomfortable position of having to (semi-publicly) explain the negative side of race relations to a child who had simply asked me to take a break from shopping and read a book. In the end I realized the book was a problem but the conversation about race was not – it was just one of those uncomfortable things that the big-people in the family have to do. Also, the child witnessed a book-sale staff-member remove the book from the stacks after hearing me read-and-explain the book – that was a positive. Remember: When a book presents information that is inaccurate or offensive, reading-time is an excellent opportunity to discuss and explain why the information is wrong or bad. Don’t worry about protecting children from every bad thing, teach them how to discern the good from the bad, right from wrong, polite from offensive, etc.
    4. Books can be informative without being entertaining. Not everything has to be a super-fun, wild and exciting adventure! Sometimes books can be collections of facts that are interesting to the reader. An example? Dictionaries of dinosaurs complete with drawings, long Latin names, and current scientific evidence pertaining to potential habitats and behaviors. For a child interested in dinosaurs, this stuff is FASCINATING!
    5. Some stories are happy and some are sad. Most children’s books have happy endings, but some tell stories that are really sad or hard to hear, particularly for children. Again, this is an opportunity for discussion and not (necessarily) something a child should be protected from ever experiencing. Personally, I’ve found the most heart-wrenching stories in the biography and history sections of the children’s library, so I tend to preview those more than others – that way reading time focuses primarily on books that are fun with happy endings, with a few sad stories thrown into the mix here and there.
  6. Let the child choose the books during story-time. Personally, I lay out all of the library books and let the child(ren) pick out three based on the title and cover. Sometimes the child will look over the library books and decide to pick something from the family library instead. Usually, one or two books from the library will be requested over and over again. Sometimes a few library books will never get read. All of this is OK.
  7. When a book is a hit with both the children AND the adults, add it to the list. We keep a shopping list of children’s books that worked really well for the members of this household. A couple of times a month we buy one or two books from the list and add them to the family library – which is why I caution all adults to take a moment to evaluate whether or not they want to read a particular book over-and-over-and-over again BEFORE placing it on the list. Sometimes a book is a huge hit with the kids, contains information or a story that is perfectly fine, and gets on the nerves of the big-person reading it. If you can’t imagine yourself happily reading a book many times over, then don’t add it to the library.
  8. When a book is a hit with just the adults, add it to the list. Every once in a while I will find a children’s book that I REALLY like. It gets added to the list and the family library because I like it. Sometimes I will pull these books out and read them on my own. Honestly, I never thought I would enjoy a children’s illustrated story that much, but there have been a few that have proven me wrong. It’s good for children to see adults reading books, including kids books, so adding the big-people favorites to the library is both natural and positive. It’s important to note that I don’t force the children to listen to (read) these books, I just read them to myself. Of course, when they see me reading, this usually results in the child(ren) asking me to read it out loud, but that’s a bonus. When it comes to story-time, the child(ren) choose the books.
  9. When it’s time to buy a book, let the children choose something off of the list.  We order books online and have them delivered to our home via standard mail. Looking over the list of books and picking out a copy that will be in the family library and, therefore, always available for story-time is an important job. Kids LOVE it!
  10. Put the child’s name on the shipping address. To a child, receiving a packing in the mail, with their name on it, is like getting a birthday or holiday present, even if the book inside if one of the big-people favorites.
  11. Give the child the honor of shelving the book. Putting the new book on the shelf, along with all of the others, is also a fun and important-feeling thing to do. Sometimes simple things like this are a big part of our lives.

Making the joy of receiving/acquiring a new book part of a child’s life is a positive influence on their lives as readers, curious fact-seekers and future problem solvers. Have fun with it!

I hope these tips help other families build their own family library. I would love to see reactions and ideas from others!



Giggle Book Award: Ladybugs and Bumblebees

The Ladybug Girl books are wonderful. I highly recommend reading Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow to children of any gender because the story is about setting a goal, facing a challenge and not giving up – and climbing giant piles of snow with your dog. When I read Ladybug Girl to the children in my life, the boys were completely entranced by the story because they could relate to the adventure Ladybug Girl was having. Yes, it’s a girl in a snow suit modified to look like a bumblebee costume, but she’s climbing giant piles of snow with her dog.

As far as the children are concerned, Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow is about a kid facing kid-challenges; not about a girl doing girl-things – just something for the adults to think about.

When I found out about the Bumblebee books, I decided to take a look at both the origin of Bumblebee Boy in Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy; and his solo adventure in The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy.

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy

Of the two Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy was more popular with the children because it describes the resolution to a playground conflict that the kids understood personally.

Lulu (Ladybug Girl) and Sam (Bumblebee Boy) meet at a local park and want to play together but they can’t agree on a game, toy or section of the playground. Sam doesn’t want to do what Lulu wants to do and Lulu doesn’t want to do what Sam wants to do. This leaves both children frustrated and angry with each other. That’s when Lulu asks Sam to play Ladybug Girl and explains that ‘Ladybug Girl’ has superpowers.

Superpowers? Now Sam is interested. Sam happens to be wearing a yellow and black striped shirt, so they decide he shall be Bumblebee Boy and proceed to proceed to save the world from monsters. Quote:

Feeling rather proud for saving the playground and probably the whole town, Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy decide to have a parade on the bouncy dinosaurs. It is a very important celebration. A crowd gathers to watch the parade. people cheer and throw flowers at them.

That’s when Kiki and Marley want to join in but another conflict starts up as the girls start to argue over who gets to be Butterfly Girl vs Dragonfly Girl. At this point, as the reader, I’m beginning to think the book is getting a bit long – but the children were entirely engrossed in the story. In the end the conflicts are resolved and all four children develop a new game called BUG SQUAD!

Through comments made during the story and conversation afterword, I got the sense that the kids saw a very accurate portrayal of the conflicts they face in their day-to-day lives. In other words – this story is real.

Was also very popular with the children in my life, but it was less popular than Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy because the story describes a very familiar conflict between children, but the resolution is a little less comfortable.

In this story, Sam (Bumblebee Boy) wants to play Bumblebee Boy by himself but his little brother, Owen, wants to join in. Sam keeps telling Owen no and moves to another part of the house to play alone – until Owen finds him and tries again. Both sides of this conflict are very familiar to children and the resolution in the story consists of Sam deciding he’s done playing alone and goes in search of Owen.

I suspect the reason why this story was slightly less popular with the children in my life is because there was nothing Owen could do to make Same want to play with him – and nothing Sam could do to make Owen want to play alone. it ends well, but it doesn’t have the same magic conflict resolution suggestion as Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy. Quote:

“Do you want to play Bumblebee Boy with me? asks Sam. “I’m fighting aliens!”

“No, I don’t want to fight aliens,” says Owen. “Am playing bank robber monsters.”

“Bank robber monsters,” says Sam. “What game is that?”

“Is this!” says Owen.

“Oh,” says Sam. He thinks for a minute. “You know, Owen,” says Sam, “there are bank robber monsters in fighting aliens too.”

“Really?” says Owen.

“Yes,” says Sam. “So will you come fight with aliens with me?”

David Soman and Jacky Davis books covered in this post:

  • Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow
  • Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy
  • The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy

Giggle Book Award: Science of Bodily Functions

This month the award goes to a book that makes science fun: Belches, Burps and Farts, Oh My! written by Artie Bennett and illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis.

True to its title, the book delves into the word of gas, covering the expulsions of many animals (humans included) and providing a litany of fascinating facts in the form of lyrical poetry:

Snakes “cut one” to drive away
A predator in search of prey.

Fish fart to communicate.
The bubbles help them congregate.

Lonely beetles need a mate.
Tooting draws a candidate!
A chemical within each fart
Helps to win a beetle’s heart!

Combine these catchy science rhymes with fun illustrations and it’s one fun book!

Giggle Book Award: Forest Play

This month the Giggle Book Award goes to Let’s Play In The Forest While The Wolf Is Not Around by Claudia Rueda, a fun illustration of a traditional French and Spanish children’s play song. The book turns the song into a very cute story about a young wolf who is getting ready for school while his friends play in the forest outside his house.

After the second reading, the children in my life had the words mostly memorized, so each person selects a part and we ‘read’ (perform?) it together. For example:

Me: Let’s play int he forest while the wolf is not around.
Child: Wolf are you there?
Both: I’m putting on my underpants!

As you can imagine, the mere mention of underpants inspires laughter. Yet, this book’s real appeal is the ability to participate in the reading. While the kids are speaking their lines from memory, they are also pointing out the text being read, (i.e., this is my part and that is your part) so it’s also an excellent learning tool.

Another quote:

“Wolf, are you there?”
“Yes, and I am very hungry! And I am going to eat…Pancakes! My favorite!”

Giggle Book Award: Nooooooo!

This month’s Giggle Book Award goes to a story about a little boy who wants to be a dragon and a couple of dragons who want to be able to do things only little boys can do.

The entire book consists of a dialog between boy and dragons. Here’s an example:

Boy: Look at me, look at me! I’m a scary dragon. ROAR!
Dragon: No, you’re not.
Boy: Hmph. I am toothy and I am fierce. See?
Dragon: Actually, you are cute. Really cute.

Finally, the boy gives up and begins to cry. His cry consists of a loud and long wail:


This whiny wail, when played up by the reader, inspires all sorts of giggling.

A little later, in the book the dragons also give up and utter and long wailing cry:


Yep, lots of giggling.

In the end, boy and dragons all realize they are just perfect the way they are…and playing Frankenstein is much more fun.

It’s a very cute book. Perfect for anyone who likes to use story time as an opportunity to indulge in a little readers-theater style acting.

ROAR!, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Liz Starin.

Giggle Book Award: Family To The Rescue!

This month the giggle book award goes to a story about James, a little boy who wants to be a superhero. He is blessed with an active imagination and an impressive array of highly resourceful talents. The combination gets him into quite a bit of trouble. Therefore, the first half of the book illustrated him doing things that are both destructive and potentially dangerous.

Normally, this fact would result in posting a quote with a gentle warning. However, the second half of the story provides an important twist: Action Movie Kid (AKA: James) gets himself into real trouble. He doesn’t just incur the wrath of his parents, he has to scream for help.

Mom and dad come running and get him out of trouble – by transforming into Action Movie Mom and Action Movie Dad! Together, as a family, they rescue James from a dangerous situation, defeat the (imaginary) monster and clean up the (very real) mess.

The best part about this ending is the combination of text and images provide an implied solution that does not involve complete forgiveness. It’s more akin to parents taking the opportunity to use the situation as a learning experience.

The children in my life really love the moment when mom and dad come to the rescue. Honestly, I think that one cliffhanger is the reason why this book has been requested many times over.

Also, I should point out that Action Movie Kid entered my home as a book. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I discovered the Action Movie Kid you tube channel. I started viewing the videos and immediately had a child sitting in my lap saying “watch that one next!”

The book and the videos are both a lot of fun. I encourage anyone or any age to check them out!


“With teamwork, they put that bad guy right where he belonged, along with everything else. With the enemy defeated, the world could now rest easy – and so could our hero.”

Action Movie Kid, written by Daniel Hashimoto and Mandy Richardville, and illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

Giggle Book Award: Bug Mobile!

The Giggle Book Award for this month is Bug Patrol!

This is a fun story about a bug police officer who keeps the peace in the bug world. Every new problem begins with police car noises (“Wee-o! Wee-o!”) and the phrase “Bug mobile coming through!” The children in my life love to speak those parts along with the reader.


“3:15. Sidewalk Swell.
Picket line at Roach Hotel.
Families want a safer home.
Where they’re free to eat and roam!”

Bug Patrol, written by Denise Dowling Mortensen and illustrated by Cece Bell

Giggle Book Award: Conflict Is Fun

The Giggle Book Award goes to Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident!

Most children’s books focus on conflict from the perspective of reducing (or eliminating) the competition or personality war that is being waged between two people. When peace is established, relationships flourish. Sometimes this an accurate scenario, and sometimes it is not.

Question Boy meets Little Miss Know-It-All by Peter Catalanotto explores the opposite perspective by illustrating the way verbal combat can start a friendship. Baron Von Baddie takes it a step further, by examining a friendship and a lifestyle built entirely around conflict.

The story is told from the perspective of Baron Von Baddie, who is a classic evil-scientist bad guy. His nemesis is Captain Kapow, who is a standard-issue flying superhero with super-strength and a cape. The Baron accidentally captures Captain Kapow and spends about three weeks living life free from conflict and interruption. At first he loves it….and then he gets bored. Really. Bored. And stops building the robots he loves so much. So, the Baron releases Captain Kapow, which reignites his ability to design and build new robots, and gets life back to normal. In the end, both the Baron and the Captain are clearly happy with their lives.

Around my house, this book is frequently requested because of the exciting capture, the impressive number of donuts the Baron eats (until he gets sick of them), the fact that he gets board and the equally impressive way that he escapes jail (every time). So, in many ways it’s a standard super hero story.

However, it also inspires the occasional discussion about boredom and the reasons why the Baron and the Captain keep doing what they do.


“The Baron had a stunning revelation. He missed Captain Kapow! What was the point of creating chaos if no one was trying to stop you?”

Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident by George McClements

Giggle Book Award: Spy Games

This book was a hit with the kids in my life because Spy Guy is a kid who plays ‘spy games’ with his dad. It’s basically an elaborate game of hide and seek and his dad gives him both feedback pointers at every step. In the end, Spy Guy manages to sneak up on his dad, causing the adult to jump in fright, which is very funny to a child. Then Spy Guy’s dad proudly compliments him on his hiding place.

The only draw back to this book is the technique Spy Guy uses to sneak up on his dad. it involves climbing a tree and lowering himself down with a rope. If you have a child who is inclined toward actually trying such things, then be prepared to remind him or her that it’s a story, not an instruction book.

“The secret to spying…is never stop trying!”

Spy Guy, the Not So Secret Agent, written by Jessica Young and illustrated by Charles Santoso


Giggle Book Award: Contrasts Are Funny

As an adult, I can honestly say this is one of those books that are perplexingly popular. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute. The story is nice (simple) and the illustrations are well done. It also sends the children in my life into complete giggling FITS! A fact which inspires me to generate an amused and confused why-are-you-laughing? face….which often results in even more laughter.

OK. The above statement probably says more about me and my household than it does about the book, so allow me to explain the story in a bit more detail.

You Are (Not) Small is a study in contrasts. Literally. One group of bears is smaller/bigger than another group. Therefore, a bear in the small group is not small when placed within his own group. A shouting match occurs between the two groups as they argue the definitions of the terms ‘big’ and ‘small.’

The argument is interrupted by an enormous pair of feet. Literally. Feet, attached to the legs of a creature so large it does not fit on the page, just BOOM into the middle of the argument. These feet are immediately followed by tiny little bears on parachutes floating down around the feet. Why? Where do they come from? What brought them here? No one knows. No one cares. They are there and they are proof that the big bears are not really big and the small bears are not really small because…see!…there is someone bigger, and someone smaller.

From an adult’s perspective, this is cute, yet rather incomplete. There’s a lot of unanswered questions (after all).

From a child’s perspective this is AWESOME! The feet are the first highlight. The first giggle. The little bears floating down are the next giggle. The following quotes generate exclamations of agreement:

“See? I am not small?”
“See? I am not big.”

The original bears leave. A tiny bear looks up at the giant feet and says “You are hairy.” At which point hilarity ensues and the giggles don’t stop for many minutes.

I love this book. I think it’s cute as can be and have neither complaints nor concerns about the story or the images. I also think it is a story that can only be fully understood by a child. Which is a high compliment for a children’s book (IMO).

You Are (Not) Small, written by Anna Kang and illustrates by Christopher Weyent