A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Five Great Books for Toddlers and Tired Parents

So today, the first day of Lent, I asked my two older kids if they understood the significance of the 40 days leading up to Easter.

My oldest said: “Yeah – that’s how long Jesus was in the desert. You know, when that naked Satan was pressed up against him from behind.”

Me: “WHAT?!!!”

Him: “The picture… in that white bible. The one where Jesus is in a robe and it looks like Satan is naked.”

Me: (OMG. WTF?)

Him: “He might not be naked though. You can’t see his wiener. He might be wearing a thong.”

Me: (Oh.  My.  God.  WTF? WTF???)

I raced for the Catholic Picture Bible Mini-Me received as a baptism present from her God Mother and sure enough:

Page 114: The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert

Just great.

Let’s create an image for our children of Satan as a nudist sodomite, shall we? Scared straight! Turn away from sin, kids, or naked Satan will bugger you! He looks like he’s totally reaching for a handful there, doesn’t he? Of course the disco era feathered headband isn’t helping. Is that Satan or one of the Village People?

And how does my 11 year old even know what a thong is?

That Catholic Picture Bible is just chalk full of goodies. My kids’ favorite (other than naked Satan) is the story about the beheading of John the Baptist. It’s a gruesome enough tale, unillustrated. But in a picture bible… oooh weee:

Page 150: The Beheading of John the Baptist

Why yes, that IS a decapitated head on a silver platter. Pass the salt and pepper, please.

I don’t know about you, but when my kids are reading books, I don’t like to see facial expressions like these:

Which brings me to this weeks Listography, brought to us by the lovely and talented Kate at Kate Takes 5.

This week’s topic: Books and Babies.  Specifically, five favorite books for toddlers, as opposed to books that frighten and disgust them like my Catholic Picture Bible.

Hmmm. I do loves me some books. How will I narrow it down to five?

Kate makes a great suggestion:

The one piece of advice I wish I had been given when I started buying my kids books was this: Not only does your child need to love the book – you do too – because you will probably be reading it to them six times a night for the next six months. ‘Again mummy, again’!

Kate, my darling, you are so right. But, I’ll take that one further and say that not only do you both have to love the book, but even better if the child can read it by themselves while you are “resting your eyes,” and trying to catch up on the sleep you missed while you were blogging into the wee hours.

So here it is, amigos… my five favorite books that toddlers can read all by themselves:

1. ) Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton.

Delightfully funny. Will help your child learn colors, clothing, and comedic timing. Your little ones will be reciting this by heart in no time, thus freeing you up to nap, check email on your iPhone, or paint your nails while they “read” to you.

2.) Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward and Tomie dePaola

Learning the days of the week has never been more fun or easy… and all while Mommy is sleeping off her hangover. Great watercolor illustrations, adorable main character, one sentence per page. Spoiler alert: Cookie falls into a toilet… a gen-u-ine knee slapper for all.

3.) Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day

My favorite kind of board book for toddlers… there are only words on the first page and the last page… the rest of the pages are illustrations with no words. Therefore, it is a different story every time you (or your children) tell it! It sounds like more work, but it’s not. Trust me. After you read it twice, the kids knock themselves out trying to make it even funnier than you did. Refill your glass and sit back while the kids do all the work.  By the way, Carl is the best dog ever. He babysits! And he even cleans up before the mom gets home. Take some notes, my bad dog Ike… you suck.


4.) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

This might be my favorite of the lot. Again, an almost completely wordless book that is absolutely captivating. The illustrations alone are worth it, but the silliness of this book really captures kids’ (and their parents’) hearts. There is one scene, I swear to God, that is even worth staying awake for. If you or your kids can do a variety of animal impressions, even better. I frickin’ love this book.


5.) No, David! by David Shannon.

Nose-picking, playing with food, and toddler streaking… what’s not to like? But in addition, your kid will be able to read this back to you on day one. Funny illustrations and a great message of unconditional love. I always enjoy this one as a peace offering when I lose my cool and strain my vocal chords. Hey, it happens. Why not have a book on hand that helps you all survive it?

How about you? What are your favorite children’s books?

Sincerely yours,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


  1. Kate Takes 5

    You realise you’re going to hell for this don’t you?

  2. Sue

    Our favorites, in no particular order, were/are: Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel, The Little House, and Katy & The Big Snow all by Virgina Lee Burton. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (he also wrote Make Way For Ducklings), Golly Gump Swallowed a Fly by Joanna Cole, Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman, and last but not least Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells… The first books were all books that my two older children loved… they could sit quietly & loved to have me read to them….. The youngest one? The Lego King?…. Ummm, not so much…. he could/can sit for 2.3 nano-seconds….. And loud?…. Good Lord!!! Noisy Nora is most definitely HIS book…. it’s a quick read about a little mouse who is very loud & bangs around alot… but when she leaves & the house gets quiet everyone misses her….

  3. Sue

    Oh…. and the Bible pics? …. ROTFLMAO!!! It’s amazing how kids see something we don’t…..

    • Lisa

      Really? You would pass right over that and not say something? Hmm maybe I have a messed up way of looking at things and would have been kicked out of service as soon as I saw that because I would not help but bust out laughing.

  4. Martine

    Goodnight Gorilla was my son’s favorite book, we read until it fell apart.

  5. Jellyhead

    You do animal sounds? Wait, I guess that really doesn’t surprise me.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Actually, my dear, YOU are the one who bought Nature Boy our favorite children’s book of animal sounds about 10 years ago! That book would have made the cut, but I’m pretty sure Ike ate it and pooped out a whole family of hopping origami frogs. Ribbit!

  6. Shaniquah

    Holy Satan reach around! Was that their first date? You were right, the J-man did like to party…

    • The Bearded Iris

      OMG. I love you.

  7. oneshabbychick

    Bwaaahahahahaha… that whole conversation is priceless. These books are a distant memory now {sniff sniff}… but I enjoy Ike references… every time, I see him in those Hanna Anderson jammies… which one of my kids happens to have (thrift store, brand new, $5!), and every time he wears them, who do I see? Yes, Ike in those jammies… thanks for the pre-bedtime bwahahahaha 🙂

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh those jammies… poor Ike. Is it any wonder he’s so naughty? Dressing one’s pets in organic Swedish pjs is the ultimate crime against nature.

  8. Lisa

    Love your stories, thanks for sharing them with us! We love Midas Mouse, Koala Lou, Baby Angels and can’t leave out Goodnight Moon.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh I LOVE Goodnight moon! That one is so sweet. And the other one I love is Runaway Bunny by the same author. Of course, we make up our own verses for that one like “If you were a kitten, I would become a falcon and swoop down and grab you with my razor-sharp talons. Then I would rip out your innards and devour you using very poor table manners.” Okay, really only my 11 year old and I make up verses like that. He’s witty, that one.

  9. This Mid 30s Life


    Blue Hat Green Hat is a favourite around here too. Love it when the kid does all the “oopses” – especially with a lisp.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh yes, the lisp! We usually do our “oops” in an Erkle voice (nerdy, but with enthusiasm!). Will have to add the lisp to my repertoire! (Bucket Head already does that naturally: “oooopth!”)

  10. Megan

    nice, hmmm.
    THe going to bed book, Sandra Boyton

    The day the babies crawled away (Elliot can’t stop laughing at the though of naked babies, when all the babies tie their diapers together to make a sling)

    Knuffle Bunny Mo Willems

    Elephant and Piggie (any of ’em) Mo Willems

    My kids like Pinkalicious. I am bored to tears from reading it so many times.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Anything by Sandra Boynton is A-OK with me! The Going to Bed Book is one of my faves too. Also LOVE Night-Night, Little Pookie. Cute, funny, catchy, and tender. Don’t know any of the others on your list, but I do know Mo Willems (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”… hilarious!). Thanks for the recs, will check these out!

  11. Lynn

    Awesome! Once again you’ve made my day! And just for fun I will share our faves, and I’ll even through in my short reviews…for free.

    1. My Monster Mama Loves Me by: Laura Leuck
    ~Not just for Halloween! “She bakes me cookies filled with bugs and gives me great big hairy hugs…” Seriously? Whats not to love?!?

    2. Chewy Louie by: Howie Schneider
    ~There is a verse that needs to be sung rather than read, otherwise it loses something! I made up my own tune for it, and every now and then one of us will spontaniously break out in that song for no good reason at all….yeah, its that catchy!

    3. To Market, To Market by: Anne Miranda
    ~My 11 year old candidly pointed out that “This is the story of your life, Mom!” She’s right. I hafta’ love it now.

    4. Bark George! by: Jules Feiffer
    ~Simple. Fun. And perfect for killing some time…like when trying to get your kid to stay on the pot a few extra minutes during potty training….Cuz you can buzz through it or drag it out…

    And for our ABSOLUTE FAVORITE:
    5. Marsupial Sue by: John Lithgow & Jack E. Davis
    ~ First of all, who doesnt love John Lithgow?!? And secondly, this book comes with a clear message to “Be Yourself” AND a CD! Oh yes, You too can listen to John Lithgow sing the story the way only he can…and you’ll be singing it over and over again, too! Warning: Extremely catchy tune!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Great great great! Love this – I will check out every one of these based on your thorough and enthusiastic reviews! Thanks! I do loves me some John Lithgow.

    • Megan

      Oh his kids c.d.’s are so awesome. I sing “I’m g’not a g’nu every time I am at the zoo.

  12. allysgrandma

    Thanks for warning me about the Catholic Picture Bible. My 2.5-year-old grandaughter will be here in 2 weeks, and I was planning to read to her stories out of The Children’s Bible, (approved by Catholic, Protestant AND Jewish leaders) for Lent! I just reviewed the pictures to make sure there was nothing um…. questionable…

    No David is probably Ally’s (granddaughter)favorite book. I read it multiple times to her the 8 months she and her mom lived with us. She would always kiss and hug the last picture….too cute… can’t wait for her to get here!

  13. southerndysfunction

    OK Iris, the Catholic Picture Bible is positively the biggest laugh I have had this week, in a week full of humorous moments looking after my parents and my best friend, who is my age but in the nursing home. I know that doesn’t sound funny, but trust me here, funny it has been. When I don’t want to strangle somebody, that is.

    I have so many good choices for children’s books that I don’t know where to begin. But mostly, they are books for reading aloud and that’s not really what you are looking for. But could I plug ‘Madeleine the Miracle Hen’? I don’t imagine it is still in print but does anyone else know it? I have a battered copy that I will photocopy and send if you are interested…Also, get your skates on and order the Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes!

  14. Allison @ Motherhood, WTF?

    OMG, I missed this one the first time around. Naked Satan pressed up behind Jesus. It’s too much! The illustrator surely knew what this looked like, right? “Turn away from sin, kids, or naked Satan will bugger you!” might be my favorite sentence. Can I actually say this to my kids? “Don’t play with plugs, S or Satan will bugger you!” “Listen to me the first time or Satan will bugger you!” Oh, this is tempting indeed.

    • The Bearded Iris

      It’s so messed up, isn’t it?! No wonder there are so many “recovering Catholics.” Hahaha!

  15. TravelingMom

    I just bumped into your blog, and found the Llama, Llama post, and cried I was laughing so hard. Then this with the Bible and reach-around nekked Satan with the feather fascinator. Oh, Lordy…I have to pee!

    There are a lot of faves here, and most are so sappy…but I have to say, with your sense of humor, you HAVE to unearth a copy of “Animals Defintely should Not Wear Clothing” http://www.amazon.com/Animals-Should-Definitely-Wear-Clothing/dp/0689708076#_

    The best page is the one about the chicken…”Because it might make life hard for a hen.” http://cluckydotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/animals-should-definitely-not.jpg?w=225&h=300 I can’t eat an egg anymore without wondering if it was stuck in some hen’s flowered jeans.

  16. melyssa

    Oh heck, you’re a funny lady!

    Red Hat, Green Hat (or whatever the color order goes) was the first book my son actually “got” the humor out of. He was about 2 and a half and he would ROLL with laughter. Too much adorableness – we read it to him over and over just to hear his breathless, hysterical giggle fits. He may have developed asthma over this, don’t know.

    Incidently, I just recently learned Tomie dePaola is a MAN. This knowledge rocked me to my core. I had pictured him for 34 years of my 34 year old life, as a Tasha Tudor woman, complete with corgis and rubber boots and an apron. I cannot get over this.

    • Stephanie

      When I found out that Tomie dePaola was a man it freaked me out too! I pictured a round figured woman with long gray hair always worn in pigtail braids. Don’t know why. On the subject of his books…. The Legend of the Bluebonnet was always one of my favorites as a little girl. So I bought it to read to my then 2 year old daughter. I hadn’t read it in years….. We read it together as soon as it arrived. She became hysterical when the little girl threw her doll into the fire. It was a little too traumatic for her as she could not grasp the beautiful meaning of the sacrifice. Huge Mama fail! I felt awful and we put that one in a hidden spot to read again when she is older.

  17. Stephanie

    We love to read books together and I usually very selective with the books in regard to their content. Every now and then one slips through the cracks though and somehow becomes the one my daughter is attached to. Pinkalicious for example. I can’t stand that bratty girl!
    Our favorites are
    1. Zippity Zebra and the Windy Day by Claire Henley
    2. Jamberry by Bruce Degen
    3. Anything by Sandra Boynton but especially The Belly Button Book, The Going to Bed Book and Snuggle Puppy
    4. Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson (All of the books in the Bear series are wonderful my daughter also loves Bears Loose Tooth and Bear Stays Up for Christmas is perhaps my favorite Christmas book 🙂 )
    5. Don’t Be Afraid Little Pip also by Karma Wilson (We love her. After the tsunami here in Japan she sent my daughter a box full of books because we lost our house. She has started sending book to Hurricane Sandy victims too.)

  18. Becky

    I found this post when I searched something like “toddler books Catholic” and I laughed so hard at your Satan tempting Jesus commentary, but even more at the John the Baptist picture/comment…b/c (and it makes me so happy that someone else out there has had this reaction and knows what I am talking about) when my husband and I were looking at dates for our wedding nine years ago, one option was June 24, the feast of the birth of John the Baptist. And even though it was the feast of his BIRTH, and not his DEATH, when I thought of John the Baptist the first image in my mind was always this awful picture! I could not get it out of my head from when I was a child…and I kept telling my then-fiance that I could not share my wedding date with a memory of good ol’ John’s head on a silver platter w/creepy belly-dancing girl holding it smugly! What a flash back to read this – thanks for a good laugh! 🙂 (and for the book recommendations!)

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