The Deep Dive

Books My Toddler Cannot Get Enough Of

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Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

I had my daughter in spring 2021. I have a lot of trauma around her birth because of what happened in my body, but I also have a lot of trauma around the fact that I did not get to go to any ultrasounds with my partner, did not get to celebrate a long-sought pregnancy after infertility, and got chided for trying to buy anything in-store while my plus-size body–one that already has limited offerings available to it–expanded out of its wardrobe. I have another boatload of feelings around the reality of the life I had postpartum that only those of us who’ve been there in 2020 or 2021 really could have: isolation, a lack of parental networks, and so on and so forth.

All of that is a preface to turn in the opposite direction.

During pregnancy and after, one of the biggest joys was building my child’s first library. She still has every book that lined the shelves when she arrived, but now, they are all over her floor, all over her bed, and all over the nightstands in my bedroom. That collection has expanded beyond board books into picture books and early readers. Among the books was one of my childhood favorites–one of the few things from my childhood that I had at all, Sue Camm’s Suky The Kitten. I found the remaining titles in that 1985 board book series a few months later and purchased them for my daughter’s first Christmas.

As my daughter has grown, so, too, has her ability to self-select books. What was once a task designated entirely to the adults around her, she now has strong opinions and thoughts about the books she consumes…even if she doesn’t entirely understand what she’s seeing or reading. It felt like such a big step for her to find picture books equally as enticing as board books. To me, that felt like her growing up way too fast, but to her, it was wanting to engage in more stories, with more pictures and pages, and in more formats.

Where once I took her to the library and she had two shelves to pick from, now she has an entire half of a room at her disposal. The same can be said about how much her options expanded in our incredible local indie bookstores, too.

A long-running joke in the parenting–and frankly librarian–world is that there are some books you will read again and again and again and again to your kids and no matter how much you love those books, you will grow sick of them. I have found this to be true not because I am sick of the story but because sometimes the books are a roundabout way of delaying bedtime (we had to put a limit on the number of pages that are allowed when reading Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever because that book could be a 12-hour event).

But none of the books my toddler loves and wants to continuously read are ones I am sick of for the story. If anything, they’ve reminded me how delightful books for her age group are and how exciting it is knowing she has a whole world of books to experience in her future.

These are some of the books my three-year-old is obsessed with. Use them if you’ve got young ones in your life or if you simply want to see what a dinosaur/skeleton/cat loving toddler in today’s world finds the epitome of literature.

Book cover of The Scariest Kitten in the World

The Scariest Kitten in the World by Kate Messner, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley

I took my daughter to the local indie to pick up a book for Groundhog Day. She found one, but it was not as exciting as finding this little gem that same day.* As soon as she saw it, she grabbed it, climbed into the store’s rocking chair, and shrieked “Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!” at the page that flipped open.

Messner and Haley’s picture book is a lot like the classic The Monster At The End of This Book, as it pushes through the fourth wall and speaks directly to its toddler audience. It’s a funny book about a scary thing inside a creepy haunted house. Page by page, the narrator warns the reader that they can stop at any time because once they see the monster, they will never be the same again.

I do not have a sensitive reader–again, she’s obsessed with skeletons and Halloween—but this is a humorous and not-at-all scary book about a not-haunted house and the kitten who lives inside.

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