Books for Your Child’s Coffee (or Milk) Table….

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You probably have books on your coffee table – maybe gardening or art books that you leave out to be enjoyed when you have a few minutes between things. At my house, the books rotate. Right now I’m stealing minutes from my day to enjoy the catalog from the Matisse exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  I’m going to miss the actual exhibit, but the reproductions of Matisse’s bright and vivid cut-outs have brightened the dark evenings.

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In the school library we have an area called the “browsing shelf,” our version of a coffee table. This is where students find books that are beautiful, engaging, or thought provoking. Kids enjoy dipping into books the same way we do – as a rest from the screen and the schedule. If you want to dedicate a part of your coffee table to the kids in your family, here are ten that are guaranteed to inspire wonder and conversation….


Before After by Matthias Aregui

A wordless book about change with simple and clean illustrations – that is both humorous and serious. Through 176 pictures of “before” and “after,” this is a book about the passage of time. A whole cake on one side becomes a slice on the facing page. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly….and the chicken and egg debate continues.


Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott

An oversized book that is designed to be like visiting a museum – this one is a survey of the animal world. It looks like a vintage book. In fact, you may be tempted to frame the pictures for your wall.


The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud

While Papa Bear is hibernating, Little Bear takes off after a honeybee in the hopes it will lead him to honey. When Papa Bear wakes up, the search through the streets of Paris. On each page, the fun is to find the characters, but there is so much to look at that it could take hours. This is perfect for children who enjoy immersing themselves in a busy detailed scene.


Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go by Cruschiform

A child left alone with this book will be full of facts to share over dinner. For example, I was surprised to learn that the earth rotates at the same rate of speed as a traveling bullet. This is a French book that uses both kilometers and miles per hour. The brightly colored retro graphics add to the book’s appeal.


Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill

This book is a true gem. So many details to pore over. An intelligent and thorough overview of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition. A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2014.


Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes collected by Elizabeth Hammill

Our “table” should include a book of poetry with something for every taste – and this is the one. Verse and rhyme from around the world and art by over 70 illustrators, including Jerry Pinkney, Emily Gravett and Nina Crews.


Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

A fun and imaginative look at the alphabet. Each letter gets its own quirky and unique story – beginning with Edmund, a young astronaut with big dreams, but a fear of heights. Edmund’s predicament is resolved by the letter Z – and there is so much fun along the way!


The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins

Another book for animal lovers by the master of cut paper artwork – and animal books. In this compendium, Jenkins organizes his chapters by themes: family, predators, senses, defenses and a fascinating timeline that explains how “we’re all related.” Lots of facts to prompt questions and curiosity. For example, did you know that a termite queen can produce 1,200 eggs in an hour “laying them around the clock for 30 years or more.”


Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag: 31 Objects from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum by Maira Kalman

Another ABC book – but this one includes items from the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York City. Maira Kalman is a curator of objects that caught her attention – but this may inspire kids to ask what objects they would include in a museum about their lives.


The Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman

When I was a child, this is the book that would have captured me in its net for hours. Schaapman has created a dollhouse-like world for two mice friends – Julia and Sam – and their families. Each section focuses on one of their adventures. This is the beginning of Pancakes: “But what’s that? Hmm. There’s a delicious smell in the Mouse Mansion, and Sam and Julia know exactly what it is. Sam’s grandma is making pancakes?”  The picture of the cloth mice in the kitchen is warm and cozy – and there’s so much to look at! One of the many awesome touches by this Dutch artist – a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank is on Sophie’s bedside table.

A final note…..

While shelving last week, I began putting books together to make book spine poetry. It made the shelving more fun…..

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