Toddler Bear’s Top 20 Children’s Books

It’s been more than a year since I last posted about my kid’s favorite children’s books. In that time, we’ve read countless stories, many of which were read countless times over (sometimes to my chagrin). As of now, I can confidently say that my two-and-a-half-year-old loves to read. Either that, or he’s spent two years building an elaborate book-loving persona with the sole objective of stalling bedtime with just one more book “for two seconds” (his favorite stalling phrase). It’s entirely possible and, to some extent, likely.

Regardless of his motivation, my bibliophilic heart just about bursts each time he tells me he wants to read together.

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My kid loves to read? Squee! Using it to distract me? Who cares?!  [Source]

Reading with him as a baby was fun, of course, but I must admit that reading with him as a toddler is next-level amazing. As a rule, toddlers are entertaining at every turn, especially once they start talking. He’s so chatty and so inquisitive that each book becomes quite the interactive adventure.

If he’s not asking questions about what he sees and hears, he’s requesting  more information about the illustrations. (I have to say, I’ve been known to use artistic license when developing the background stories for secondary or even non-existent characters.) If he’s not asking me about the books, he’s reciting pages in their entirety. His ability to memorize is incredible, as is his ability to pick up new vocabulary, test out different pronouns and verb conjugations, and analyze a story and its characters.

Reading is such a wonderful vehicle for blossoming creativity, language, and exploration, and as a parent I love how it allows me to watch him process new information. It’s like discovering the entire world all over again through my toddler’s eyes.

This level of interaction and engagement happily means we can read longer and more complex books now, too. Because reading is such a wonderfully enlightening experience for us nowadays, I decided it was high time to share some of our current favorites.

This list is fairly long–and I already made cuts, if you can believe it–but these books are all worth reading. Maybe you’re already familiar with them, but, if not, you might just come across one of your future favorites below.

Books Your Toddler Will Love

Bustle in the Bushes

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Bustle in the Bushes by Giles Andreae and illustrated by David Wojtowycz [Source]

Bustle in the Bushes is a great non-fiction option for young readers because it presents factual information with fun rhymes and bright illustrations. Like many little kids, my toddler seems pretty intrigued by insects, and this is a non-creepy way for him to learn about them. (We have another book about bugs that includes real photographs. Knowing that some spiders burrow their babies in holes in the ground before they burst out is enough to make my skin crawl; seeing it almost sends me over the ledge, and I’m not even afraid of spiders. As you can imagine, this is my preferred insect book.)

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

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Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin [Source]

In Click, Clack, Moo, Farmer Brown faces a big problem: his literate cows decide to go on strike until he improves their working conditions. Needless to say, this story provides cheeky fun for the whole family. My husband and I love the silliness of the story and our toddler loves chiming in with the repetitive sound effects. It’s the perfect mix of interaction and goofiness for everyone (plus it’s pretty short, which means we can add it on at bedtime without taking up too much more time).

Colección de oro: Jorge el curioso / A Treasury of Curious George

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Colección de oro Jorge el curioso / A Treasury of Curious George by Margret and H.A. Rey [Source]

I love bilingual books, and this is one of my favorites for two reasons: it has several books in one, and they’re all about a character to whom my mischievous toddler can finally relate. As such, he now frequently requests the “George” book.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

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Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems [Source]

Here’s another book that’s just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. The simplistic illustrations and minimalist bold text make it eye-catching and easy for kids to memorize and recite. Mine especially loves piping in when the pigeon rants, “LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!!!” (If there’s anything he can get behind, it’s a tantrum.)

Dragons Love Tacos

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Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri [Source]

First of all, who doesn’t love tacos? Secondly, dragons?! Yes, please. Now, combine the two, throw in a party and a jocular tone, and you’ve got this book. As far as our family is concerned, it’s a solid home run.

Giraffes Can’t Dance

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Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees [Source]

I adore reading this book aloud, so much so that it’s one of maybe ten that I have completely memorized. The story about embracing one’s individuality is important, of course, but I really love it because of the smooth rhyming structure (minus the part where they rhyme “thing” and “violin,” but I digress). My toddler loves it on his own, but I often try to suggest this book because I like it so much.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

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Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld [Source]

What little kid doesn’t love construction equipment? Add that to its adorable and cozy rhymes and this book is perfect for bedtime. It often makes me feel ready to snuggle in bed as well (or maybe that’s just due to chasing after two kids all day, who knows?).

Green Eggs and Ham

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess [Source]

My kid asks us to read this classic to him all the time, and I’m not sure if it’s because he’s really drawn to the nonsensical story or if it’s actually because it takes a while to read and therefore stalls bedtime even more (this is a theme, as you can tell). It must be because he genuinely likes it, though, because he’ll randomly choose this for a midday read as well.

How to Bathe Your Little Dinosaur

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How to Bathe Your Little Dinosaur by Jane Clarke and Georgie Birkett [Source]

This is one of the simpler books on the list. It’s short and sweet, and would probably help kids who dislike bath time feel a little more excited about it (this is luckily not our problem). When the dirty little dinosaur finishes his bath, he gets a big hug. During this stanza, my toddler always leans in and gives me a big hug too, and it never fails to warm my heart.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

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If You Give a Mouse a Cookie written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond [Source]

I distinctly remember reading this book as a kid. My elementary school’s computer lab was decorated with a cutout of this precocious little mouse (perfect background decor for playing Oregon Trail, as far as I recall). It turns out, the book holds up well with the current generation, too, since my toddler regularly requests the “cookie book.”

The Little Engine That Could

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The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper [Source]

I must admit, this isn’t really my favorite on the list (I often feel like it drags on too long), but my kid absolutely loves it. Granted, he’s obsessed with trains, but still. He loves reading along, starting with its very first line, “Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong.” I’ve heard this more times than I care to count.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

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The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood [Source]

Here’s another short option, and I think it’s one of the most charming books on the list. I enjoy the imagery and beautiful illustrations, and I always end up wanting a fresh, juicy strawberry for myself after we finish reading. My toddler, meanwhile, loves to pretend to be the bear tromping through the forest.

Llama Llama Red Pajama

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Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney [Source]

This is one of the newest books in our collection, and it’s already a hit. As our kid is starting to develop an active imagination, especially after the lights go out, it’s also timely. I find myself paraphrasing “Mama Llama’s always near even if she’s not right here” almost daily. That and “please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama.” Two good lessons in one fell swoop!

The Magical Toy Box

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The Magical Toy Box by Melanie Joyce and illustrated by James Newman Gray [Source]

The Magical Toy Box is a fanciful story with uniquely vibrant illustrations. I like it because of its bright pictures and sing-songy verses, and I suspect our toddler likes it because it proposes what toys are really up to each night, à la Toy Story.

The Mixed-Up Truck

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The Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage [Source]

Here’s yet another simple but eye-catching book that really engages our toddler. It’s an amusing story of a cement mixer who’s confused about his task at hand and ends up making a few mistakes. It’s another where the repetition really encourages toddler participation, making it a fun (and short) option for everyone involved.

Newtonian Physics for Babies

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Newtonian Physics for Babies by Chris Ferrie [Source]

If you and your toddler want to learn about Newtonian physics, look no further. Sure, it’s a little overly simplified, but that’s precisely why it’s so engaging for a toddler. In only a few short pages, you’ll both learn about mass, force, acceleration, and gravity. That ain’t bad (plus there’s a page towards the end where an apple falls on Newton’s head and our toddler thinks it’s just hilarious).

Pinkalicious

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Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann [Source]

A stubborn little kid who loves cupcakes and lacks listening skills? That sounds awfully familiar. We all really enjoy this book, likely for entirely different reasons, but I like to think our toddler enjoys reading about how the little girl learns the valuable lesson that mom is always right (and that demonstrating self-control around pastries is a critical life skill). In reality, I’m pretty sure he just likes yelling “pink-a-boo” at the end.

Too Many Carrots

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Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson [Source]

Our toddler was addicted to this book for months when we first received it. As in, read-it-every-night kind of thing. It’s an adorable, and gorgeously illustrated, tale of a hoarder whose condition nearly costs him his closest friends. It’s a creative story that includes just the right mix of plot and sound effects, meaning that our toddler uses critical thinking to ask about the characters and has the opportunity to say “crash” as loudly as he can. To him, that’s a win-win.

Trains

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Trains by Thea Feldman [Source]

We have read this book so many times, it’s almost worn out. If he could only read one book for the rest of his life, I’m certain our kid would choose this one. Another non-fiction, it’s an early reader book all about…you guessed it…trains. It talks about where trains go, what they carry, and how they work. Now our toddler likes to tell us how we too can ride on–and even sleep!–on a moving train. Well, that is except last week when he said, “No, actually Mommy, you can’t sleep on a moving train. You’re too big.” Gee whiz.

Why Do Tractors Have Such Big Tires?

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Why Do Tractors Have Such Big Tires? written by Jennifer Shand and illustrated by Danele Fabbri [Source]

Surprise, surprise, another non-fiction (our toddler is really interested in learning how the world works right now), this is our favorite book to read at Grandma’s house. It’s a silly book about how various things function, like why airplanes leave white trails behind them and why trains have conductors. It presents the information in a really entertaining way, so much so that even a two-year-old is eager for more.

Reminder: When Possible, Shop Local

As always, I recommend you shop locally where you can. You’ve likely noticed that most of the books link to one of my favorite local bookstores, Women & Children First. I’m as much a fan of Prime’s quick delivery as the next person, but supporting a local business is such a gratifying feeling that I think you’ll find the extra couple of days (and maybe bucks) are worth it if it means you’re doing your part to enrich your community.

Happy Reading & Your Recommendations

Part of the reason I like sharing these lists on the blog is so I have a journal of the kinds of things our kid liked at different points in his life. The other part is to share our favorites in hopes that you find at least one new book to look for on your next library trip.

Reading with my toddler is eye-opening, incredible, and easily one of the most enjoyable parts of parenting thus far. Every day, he surprises me with the things he knows, many of which come from the books we’ve read together. Not only is reading with him entertaining, but I also love knowing that it’s making a huge impact on his cognitive and language abilities. I hope your experience is the same, and I’d love to hear what books your toddlers love too.

 

 

 

[Featured image source]

Volumes Bookcafe: A Chicago Spotlight

There are several things to love about Wicker Park’s five-month-old Volumes Bookcafe, but chief among them is its goal to bring the community together around a shared passion for books. Also high on the list? This place combines coffee, pastries, wine, and books. In other words, there’s really no reason to ever leave.

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Upon entering, visitors note the sleek, modern decor with just the right number of quirky embellishments to draw them in: a reading nook covered in colorful hardbacks, a high-contrast Don Quixote poster, quote-ridden chalkboard walls, and a decent-sized shelf of board games (squee!).

While it’s not the biggest bookstore in the city, it is apparent that a lot of thought has gone into what’s on the shelves. In fact, Volumes prides itself on having a well-curated collection, and from what I could see, it’s one that would satisfy any reader’s palette.

Like any bookstore worth its salt, personal recommendations are peppered throughout each section, many of which I wholeheartedly second (lookin’ at you, Geek Love). But what’s different is that in most cases, there are only one to three available copies of any book. This place isn’t aiming to pump out the latest best-sellers; they’re looking to spark conversation and engage their customers on a quest to find their next favorite novel.

And, importantly, the staff with whom I’ve spoken are readily available, knowledgeable, and able to provide thoughtful next-read suggestions.  They are also more than willing to special order anything not found in the store.

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The Paper Bag Princess is by far one of my favorite children’s books, too.

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If I didn’t feel like I’d be defiling books, I’d create something like this at my apartment. There’s probably a second-hand market for book covers, right?

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A reading bench in the children’s section helps even the youngest readers relax a while.

Then there’s the cafe, which, on a weekday around noon, was pleasantly populated but not overcrowded. Serving Metropolis coffee, (local) Dollop pastries, wine, and beer, it seems there’s something for everyone to enjoy while they walk the store, read, chat, or work away on their computer.

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Just in case you want to flaunt your nerd status via bracelet.

Overall, the ambiance of the store and cafe is inviting, relaxed, and enjoyable. It’s very fitting that Volumes is owned by two sisters with backgrounds in education because it feels welcoming to children and adults alike. Even though I had a baby and a stroller with me, I didn’t feel receive any side-eyes or feel the pressure to GFTO as I do in so many other places that are traditionally quieter and/or less kid-friendly.

With a ton of events, book clubs, and even an incredibly attractive sounding NaNoWriMo project, it truly is a place that encourages community interaction, which just makes me appreciate it all the more.

Plan Your Visit

Location and hours

Volumes is located at 1474 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Those are pretty generous hours, if you ask me.

Parking and transportation

In my experience, parking in Wicker Park is kind of a nightmare because space is so limited and several areas require permits. However, metered parking is available.

I personally recommend public transportation, though, especially because the store is only a four-minute walk from the Damen Blue ‘L’ stop.

Stroller or carrier

With only my jogging stroller at my dispense on the day of my first visit, I can attest that there is plenty of room for a stroller–especially a normal-sized one–at Volumes Bookcafe. Plus, a stroller makes it substantially easier to sit down and enjoy a cup of joe.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a bookstore with spunk and substance, check out Volumes Bookcafe. If it were possible to be friends with a bookstore, I’d sign right up with this one.

And, after all, you know here at Baby Brown Bear, I am a fan of keeping it local.

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Baby Bear’s Favorite Children’s Books Part II

We just completed Rahm’s Little Readers, the Chicago Public Library’s summer reading program that challenges kids to read at least 500 minutes between June and September. In addition to reading, participants must complete two activities from each of the following categories: talking, singing, writing, and playing. Technically speaking, Baby Bear doesn’t write yet–or talk or sing much, for that matter–but luckily for him, his Mama Bear had some crayons and a strong grip to force his hand.

Nonetheless, when you read for at least 500 minutes, you end up repeating a lot of the same books. It’s necessary, then, to find books you, the reader, genuinely enjoy as much as your babe.

The following books are among our favorite right now, be it for their illustrations, text, and/or interactivity. Take a look and maybe you’ll find your next favorite, too! (See part one for more ideas.)

Another Short List

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
[Source]

It’s only fitting that the first book on this list is a nod to one of the very things this blog’s name references. Eric Carle is undeniably one of the most beloved children’s book authors and illustrators of all time (he’s 87 now!). Fun fact of the day: Brown Bear was a collaboration. It was this book that actually kicked off his career in 1967, followed by the arguably more famous The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969.

Baby Bear and I started reading Brown Bear mostly because liked it so much, but before long, I noticed that he’d reach for it on his own. He seems captivated by Carle’s signature bright and blocky illustrations (much to my chagrin, he wiggles in excitement every time we land on the damned purple cat) and eagerly turns the pages to see which animal is next. What’s especially fun is when he points along on the last spread as we recap all of the animals.

Curious George Pat-A-Cake!

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Curious George Pat-A-Cake! by H.A. Rey
[Source]

Who wouldn’t love Curious George in finger puppet form? Baby Bear sure does, and has been grabbing George’s little monkey hands for as long as he’s known how to move his own.

With five brightly colored pages of pat-a-cake rhymes, from the classic “baker’s man” verse to an appropriately themed “yellow hat man” one, babies can’t help but to smile and clap along. This is a great diversion book, too, having stopped at least a few crying fits in this household.

My First Slide-Out Book of Colors

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My First Slide-Out Book of Colors written by Early Start Editors and illustrated by Abdi Moshiri
[Source]

No, the text in this one isn’t exactly Newbery material, but it’s straight-forward and easy for even the youngest listeners to understand. Each page shows a color followed by two objects of that color. A third object is shown in black and white until the reader pulls out its corresponding tab and its color is revealed. For example, “This is the color yellow. The chick is yellow. The taxi is yellow. What color is the banana?” When you pull out the tab, you learn that the banana is yellow! Good job; you’re getting the hang of it!

Just recently, Baby Bear has become a little obsessed with pulling out and pushing in each tab. Every time we read it, he is engrossed to the point where he actually wants to flip it back and start over. At this pace, this kid is going to know his colors early!

What I also like about the book is that it contains ideas for the reader to encourage more interaction so the book won’t grow stale. The orange page suggests pointing to and discussing each image in addition to talking about the color (e.g., “What do you do with a carrot?”). It’s always helpful to have new ideas like this.

Where Is the Green Sheep? / ¿Dónde está  la oveja verde? 

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Where Is the Green Sheep? / ¿Dónde está la oveja verde? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, translated by Carlos E. Calvo
[Source]

We have quite a few bilingual books, but this one is my favorite. Depending on how long I need to or can occupy Baby Bear, I typically read it all the way through in one language, then start over in the other. The illustrations are simple yet whimsical. The sheep in the story aren’t just any old boring sheep, either. There’s a sheep in the bath, a Singin’ in the Rain sheep, a surfing sheep, and even an astronaut sheep! “Here is the wind sheep. And here is the wave sheep. Here is the scared sheep, and here is the brave sheep. But where is the green sheep?” or “Esta oveja juega con el viento. Y esta oveja juega con las olas. Esta oveja está asustada y esta oveja es valiente. ¿Pero, dónde está la oveja verde?”

My only complaint about the book is that the English version rhymes but the Spanish one does not. While I appreciate a straight translation, I would prefer the content to be changed slightly enough to make both versions equally fun to read aloud. Either way, this one is in our diaper bag at all times.

Peekaboo Kisses

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Peekaboo Kisses by Barney Saltzberg
[Source]

As you can tell, Baby Bear is really starting to enjoy interacting with his books. This one is a particular favorite because it has the baby trifecta: flaps to lift, textures to touch, and a mirror at the end.

Each page begins with, “Peekaboo! I see…” along with a picture of an animal hiding behind its hands. The reader must lift the flap to reveal what animal is hiding and what kind of kisses it offers. For example, “Peekaboo! I see…furry puppy kisses.” As a bonus, said furry puppy has a nice, soft patch of purple fur for baby to feel.

Babies pick up on rituals, and, as such, Baby Bear has started to preemptively cover his eyes/forehead before each new page. It’s adorable.

Quick as a Cricket

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Quick as a Cricket written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood
[Source]

Baby Bear received this book for his first birthday, and it’s quickly become one of my personal favorites to read to him. Self-described as a “joyful celebration of self-awareness,” Quick as a Cricket uses contradictory animal similes and beautiful illustrations to capture the many dimensions and colorful imaginations of children. My favorite stanza (and corresponding imagery) is, “I’m as brave as a tiger, I’m as shy as a shrimp, I’m as tame as a poodle, I’m as wild as a chimp.” Plus, Baby Bear’s version came with a cool personalized touch: his aunt wrote the Spanish translation on each page. Thanks, Aunt B!

Little Blue Truck

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Little Blue Truck written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry
[Source]

I mean it when I say that Little Blue Truck is a great read for children and adults alike. It’s short enough for Baby Bear to stay engaged but long enough to develop a thoughtful arc about the old golden rule and contains language that’s extremely fun to read aloud.

“Little Blue Truck came down the road. ‘Beep!’ said Blue to a big green toad. Toad said, ‘Croak!’ and winked an eye when Little Blue Truck went rolling by.” You’ve no choice but to enhance your animal noise skills if you read this enough.

I also enjoy this book for its illustrations, which evoke in me a Norman Rockwell-esque nostalgia for the countryside I didn’t know I had.

LMNO Peas

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LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
[Source]

I’m passionate about this book because it is exceptionally playful and creative, an alphabet book like no other. Perhaps the most talented and diverse group of peas in existence scatter across these pages to teach kids the ABCs.

“We are peas–alphabet peas! We work and play in the ABCs. We’re acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space. We’re builders, bathers, and bikers in a race.”

Not only are these fun rhymes to say aloud, but the illustrations are surprisingly detailed and clever, too. Who would have thought two peas roasting marshmallows could be so cute? In what is an outwardly simplistic book, I find something new and equally entertaining each time we read it. This book earns a Baby Brown Bear Golden Star.

More Books, Please!

At some point in the near future, I may need to admit to a slight children’s book hoarding problem, but I’m not there yet! What are your favorite children’s books?

 

Egg & Banana Pancakes

As already established, we value speed and convenience at the Bear/Wear residence, especially when it comes to breakfast (because who wants to make something complicated at the crack of dawn?! I need at least two cups of coffee for that).

But–and this is important–we are not willing to sacrifice taste to save time. So when we find easy and incredibly delicious recipes like this one, we keep them around. (Major thanks to my good friend K for sharing it with me!)

Lazy Man’s Quick & Healthy Pancakes

These babies take about seven minutes to prepare (really). Even better, they are healthy and baby approved. Yes, I know. I hate to even describe pancakes as healthy, and you may assume they need added sugar, but you’re forgetting two words: caramelized banana. Yum.

Ingredients

For the sake of this post and because I only had one egg left in the fridge, I’m showing this as one half banana to one egg, which yields two pancakes. As long as you keep that ratio, you can make as big of a batch as you want!

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 egg
  • A dash of ground cinnamon
  • Mood music

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Instructions

Put all ingredients in a bowl. Mash the banana and whisk together with a fork until thoroughly mixed.

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Spray a nonstick griddle over medium heat. When the surface is hot, spoon the egg mixture into pancake shapes on the griddle.

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Using a spatula, flip the pancakes after about three minutes. The bottom should be a golden brown.

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Wait another three minutes or so, until the other side is also golden brown, and remove from heat.

Baby Bear and I prefer them plain or with a side of fruit, but if you need a little something extra, a touch of syrup and/or butter ain’t bad.

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Farm fresh eggs from our local farmers’ market make for a nice, rich yellow pancake.

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I’m not kidding when I say baby approved; he shoves these in his mouth as fast as he can.

Chances are you already have the ingredients, so why are you still sitting here? You could be eating these pancakes in ten minutes. Go enjoy!

Swedish Bakery: A Chicago Spotlight

As I’ve established before, I’m a big fan of dessert. As I’m also a fan of supporting local businesses, it just makes sense that I would love to visit local bakeries. I award completely arbitrary bonus points for family-owned bakeries.

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my all-time favorites that fits this bill, Andersonville’s Swedish Bakery.

Though it’s traded hands a few times in its 80-plus-year history, this family-owned bakery is a Chicago staple, regularly topping best-of lists. Its primary focus is on European-style pastries and cakes, but it really runs the gamut in terms of sweet tooth satisfaction.

I’d like to invite you now to join me on a visual journey through the bakery. Treasure awaits us!

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The storefront is fairly unassuming. As with people, what matters is on the inside.

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Fika the Swedish equivalent of English tea time. When Papa Bear and I visited Sweden a few years ago, we made sure to partake in daily fika celebrations. You know, to really soak up the culture. Nevertheless, it makes me happy to see some Swedish cultural references in my hometown.

They have cakes.

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I was so impressed with their cake displays that I decided to order Baby Bear’s first birthday cake from Swedish Bakery. I’ll add a picture of it when it’s complete.

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They have cookies. They have a lot of cookies.

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Don’t get me wrong; I love summertime fruits. But cookies shaped as summertime fruits win each time.

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Happy Pride Month!

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Since I can barely draw a stick figure, I’m always impressed by their decorations, including the ones on this Illinois-shaped cookie.

They have tortes, tarts, doughnuts, bread, and all sorts of other pastries.

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I’ll give them points for Father’s Day creativity, but even I’m not sure I’d want to eat a steak cake.

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This is apparently one of their best sellers. If I could eat nuts, I’m sure I’d agree.

Okay, I promised you bread and doughnuts, but each time I go, I get too hungry to actually remember to take any more pictures. I suppose you’ll just have to visit on your own to see the rest of their displays.

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If you go, you must get the raspberry Napoleon and the black and white cookie. They are more than scrumptious. The Easter Bunny carrot cake butt ball was pretty good too, but it’s hard to top perfection.
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I promised myself I would learn how to better stage food photos, but I always lose patience because I want to eat whatever it is in front of me. Thus, here’s a crappy picture of a DELICIOUS Swedish flop cake (accompanied, of course, by some Oberweis vanilla ice cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top).

I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve tried here, and believe me when I say I’ve tried a lot.

Plan Your Visit

Location and hours

The Swedish Bakery is located at 5348 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640. It is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Parking and transportation

Visitors can use the Calo Ristorante parking lot on the north side of the bakery until 5:00 p.m. every day. After 5:00 p.m., visitors can use the U.S. Bank parking lot to the south of the bakery. Otherwise, metered and street parking are available.

For public transit users, the bakery is about a 12-minute walk from the Berwyn Red Line ‘L’ stop. I’m certain there are buses, too, but you can do some of the work.

Stroller or carrier

There’s a surprising amount of space in the bakery, so a stroller is typically no problem.

Final Word

I know it’s bathing suit season and everything, but you work hard. You deserve this. Treat yourself to Swedish Bakery soon.

Baby Bear’s Favorite Children’s Books

Years ago, I was a member of the Mad Hatters, the Junior League of Chicago’s volunteer performance troupe. We would read, sing, dance, and act out children’s books and poems at various libraries and locations across the city.

Being part of a children’s literacy program is something else; seeing kids smile and engage with books during the great screen age of our time is quite incredible, really. As a member of that group, I reconnected with several children’s books that I had either long forgotten or never paid much notice. It also made me look forward to the day when I could read, sing, dance, and act out children’s books with my own kid. I correctly anticipated that it would be one of my favorite parts of parenting.

Within days of bringing Baby Bear home, Papa Bear and I made reading to the babe a nightly routine. When he was that young, it was much more for our own benefit since he couldn’t be bothered to stay awake during story time. Now, at nearly nine months, he is much more interested in what we are reading. Well, he’s at least interested in trying to grab and chew the books we are reading. But it’s a start.

The Short List

Here are our favorite children’s books so far.

C is for Chicago 

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C is for Chicago written by Maria Kernahan and illustrated by Michael Schafbuch
[Source]

I have major hometown pride, and this book just fuels that fire. In fact, I love it so much that I will only read it to Baby Bear while he’s in his high chair because I don’t want him to tear the pages. (Note: I did see a board version available, but a smaller size would do this book an injustice.)

The illustrations are gorgeous. They are bold, bright, and really hold baby’s attention (which is no small feat). The rhymes for each letter are clever and do a wonderful job of showcasing some of my favorite things about this city. My favorite spread is, “H is for hot dogs on steamed poppy seed buns. With a garden full of toppings it’s hard to eat just one.” Imagine the artwork on that one or do one better and buy the book for yourself. I’m sure many of Chicago’s bookstores sell it, but I grabbed a copy (and a few for friends) at Enjoy, An Urban General Store.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
[Source]

A classic, this was one of my favorites when I was in Mad Hatters. When kids are older, you can invite them to act it out with you. It’s especially fun when you come to the ending and have to open the door, rush up the stairs, go back downstairs, etc., because kids are great at capturing that hurried excitement.

When they’re little, kids are drawn to repetition and changes in tone and volume during the ‘noise’ pages (e.g., “Splash splosh!”). Plus, the variation between black and white and colorful illustrations provides a visually appealing contrast for all readers.

Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos

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Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos written Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Dan Santat
[Source]

As someone who was at one time fluent in Spanish but now needs to practice a lot more than I do, I’d highly recommend this book. It creatively mixes English and Spanish to tell the story of four brave firefighters (bomberos) as they are called to extinguish a fire.

This is one of my favorite books to read aloud because each line just rolls right off the tongue. For example, “Firemen raise the ladder high. ‘I’ll go. I’ll go.’ ‘Let me try!’ ‘Hey, compadres, momentito! Let me save that poor gatito.'”

The art really complements the treatment of the text; each Spanish word is bolded and there are several callouts. As a bonus, there’s a glossary of Spanish terms at the back of the book. For non-Spanish speakers, the glossary reviews pronunciation too.

INDESTRUCTIBLES™ nursery rhyme book set

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Indestructibles™ illustrated by Jonas Sickler
[Source]

These are perhaps the best books a baby can have. According to their description, “INDESTRUCTIBLES are built for the way babies ‘read’: with their hands and mouths. INDESTRUCTIBLES wont’ rip or tear and are 100% washable. They’re made for baby to hold, grab, chew, pull, and bend.” From my experience, this all true. They are made from a nontoxic, paper-like material and they can seriously take a beating. In fact, I’ve often wondered as Baby Bear is playing with these if I’m teaching him that it’s okay to treat books like chew toys, but I’ve learned that he’ll chew a book regardless. At least these are meant to be chewed.

If you’re like me and you couldn’t remember the words to these nursery rhymes (I wish I were kidding), you’re in luck because all of the words are printed on the back. Each line corresponds to a different page with its own dazzling illustration. The colors are vibrant and the images almost seem textured as the illustrator made use of many different patterns. As if all of these things weren’t great enough, each book is extremely lightweight and makes for a perfect diaper bag toy.

The Butt Book

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The Butt Book written by Artie Bennett and illustrated by Mike Lester
[Source]

Baby Bear’s cousin has given us several great books so far, including the INDESTRUCTIBLE set above, but this is my personal favorite. Very cheeky (no pun intended), this book talks all about butts, a topic that I’m sure will be endlessly entertaining to Baby Bear as he grows older.

The book starts off, “Eyes and ears are much respected, but the butt has been neglected. We hope to change that here and now. Would the butt please take a bow?” How could that not make you giggle at least a little bit? That’s what’s so great about this book: it’s delightfully funny for adults and kids alike. It’s hard to choose, but perhaps my favorite line is, “Some names for butts have foreign flair: tuchas, keister, derriere!”

Appropriately, all of the illustrations show different kinds of butts, from a mummy butt to a rhino butt to a teddy bear’s butt. I never thought I’d so thoroughly enjoy a book about butts, but I do!

God Bless You & Good Night

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God Bless You & Good Night written by Hannah C. Hall and illustrated by Steve Whitlow
[Source]

This is the last book we read before bed every night. As I’m sure is the case with many parents and Goodnight Moon, both Papa Bear and I know each of the adorable ten stanzas by heart. The book is beautifully illustrated and shows a parent (hey, it could be a mommy or daddy) animal with its baby as they go through different parts of a bedtime routine. My favorite line to read to Baby Bear is, “You’re ready now to cuddle down. There’s one last thing to do. I’ll hold you near so you can hear me whisper, ‘I love you.'” I look forward to that little snuggle every single time.

As you may expect based on the title, there are a few God references in this book. For example, “Let’s settle down and settle in and close our eyes to pray. You’ve wrestled, raced, and run and chased. ‘God, thank You for this day.'” While I’m not a big fan of overtly religious text, these don’t faze me as it’s such a sweet book overall.

Goodnight Little One

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Goodnight Little One written Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Rebecca Elliott
[Source]

Another charming bedtime book, this one from the author of Goodnight Moon also follows different kinds of animals as they close their eyes to go to sleep. For example, “Little pig that squeals about, make no noises with your snout. No more squealing to the skies, little pig now close your eyes.”

The text is cute and the use of repetition is great for little readers, but the illustrations are by far my favorite part of this book. Each little animal looks so sleepy and cuddly, I can’t help but lull myself to sleep along with my babe.

Shop Local

You’ll notice that, with the exception of C is for Chicago, which sends you to a different local shop, each link sends you to the Book Cellar, my local bookstore. As I mentioned in my recent board game post, I am a firm believer in “shopping local” and supporting my community’s small businesses. If you don’t want to go into the store, the Book Cellar will ship directly to you. If you’d prefer to support your favorite local bookstore, I’m sure they can order these books for you if they’re not already in stock. Help the little guys out!

Your Favorites

I can’t recommend these seven books enough, but what are we missing? Comment and share your and/or your kid’s favorite books. We are always looking to grow our library.