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    The toddler book tolerability index.

    Emily Temple

    January 25, 2024, 10:11am

    There are hundreds of thousands of kids’ books out there. Some are classics that wind up in everyone’s homes, no matter what. Others are random—given as gifts, found on the playground, purchased in bulk from the resale shop. But which books are worth your child’s time—and (arguably) more importantly, your time?

    Overwhelmed by the number of both brilliant and mediocre books I have read since becoming a parent, I asked other Lit Hub staff members with toddlers to rank a few of their most memorable reading experiences on two metrics: their child’s enthusiasm for it and their own enthusiasm for it—or let’s be real and say, their tolerance for reading it over and over and over again. The result is the graph below.

    Obviously, these rankings are highly subjective, and reliant on a number of shifting factors, including exact age and mood of toddler, interests of parent, and the number of times the book in question has been read in any given week/day/hour. This is also not an exhaustive list of all the books we read to our children, or that they like, or that we like, etc. To be quite honest, the graph could have been 20 times as large, but bedtime is coming.

    Click on the graph to enlarge it; you will also find a list of the books on the graph, organized by descending total score, along with comments from various Lit Hub staff members, given on the condition of anonymity (to protect the feelings of gift-givers and other interested parties).

    And of course, if you are someone who loves books and also a toddler-aged child or three, feel free to rank some books of your own in the comments.

    The Results:

    Abby Hanlon, Dory Fantasmagory  – 25 tolerability x 25 toddler enthusiasm = 50 points

    All the Dory Fantasmagory books are beloved by parents and child alike in our house. Bonus points for the audiobooks being free on Spotify now.

    Jon Klassen, The Skull  – 25 x 25 = 50

    We all love it.

    Tomie dePaola, Strega Nona – 24 x 24 = 48

    Everyone can recite it by memory at this point, which helps with eye strain.

    Don Freeman, Corduroy – 21 x 22 = 43

    The Lisa obsession is real.

    Julia Donaldson, The Gruffalo – 20 x 22 = 42

    Julia Donaldson in general is great; The Gruffalo is the best and the kids love it.

    Jon Klassen, I Want My Hat Back – 24 x 17 = 41

    Murder bear.

    Karma Wilson, Jane Chapman, Bear Snores On  – 20 x 20 = 40

    A classic.

    Liz Garton Scanlon, Marla Frazee, All the World – 23 x 17 = 40

    Makes Mom all teary.

    Derick Wilder, K-Fai Steele, Does a Bulldozer Have a Butt? – 21 x 15 = 36

    Who is more immature, me or my child?

    Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon – 17 x 17 = 34

    Always a solid pick.

    Lorinda Bryan Cauley, Clap Your Hands14 x 20 = 34

    There’s something slightly deranged about this book, but I don’t hate it.

    Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates, The Big Umbrella – 15 x 15 = 30

    This book is nice and we all like it.

    Roger Priddy, First 100 Words – 4 x 22 = 26

    For…some reason…my child thinks this is called “Boring Book.” She loves Boring Book.

    Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg – 20 x 6 = 26

    Great but the kids hated it.

    Laura Joffe, Numeroff, Felicia Bond, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie – 8 x 18 = 26

    I hated it.

    Judith Viorst, Ray Cruz, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – 22 x 3 = 25

    Couldn’t get my kids to care about it, unfortunately.

    Cori Doerrfeld, The Rabbit Listened – 22 x 3 = 25

    A beautiful book. Kids hated it but it’ll make you cry.

    Tarō Gomi, Everyone Poops – 18 x 6 = 24

    Will it really help with potty training? Who knows, but I laugh at the camel poop every time.

    Michael Rosen, Helen Oxenbury, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – 12 x 12 = 24

    It’s fine.

    Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are – 21 x 2 = 23

    I love Sendak, but my 2-year-old won’t tolerate this for more than a few pages. Maybe she’ll grow into it.

    Margaret and H.A. Rey, Curious George Goes to the Hospital – 3 x 20 = 23

    Our lack of enthusiasm due to it not having been updated since the 50s, so all the nurses are women and all the doctors are men.

    Rod Campbell, Dear Zoo – 5 x 18 = 23

    Kids love it, but it makes no sense. That’s not how zoos work.

    Anna Dewdney, Llama Llama Red Pajama – 15 x 5 = 20

    Another one we wanted her to like more than she did. There’s still time!

    Mo Willems, the Elephant and Piggie books – 2 x 17 = 19

    Two unpleasantly-drawn creatures on a white page, bellowing at each other about nothing.

    Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree – 2 x 15 = 17

    Maybe it was meant as an allegory for humankind’s relationship with the planet, but it reads queasily like the American expectation for parenthood, and I am not a fan. (Luckily, someone has fixed it.)

    Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, Lois Ehlert, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – 5 x 10 = 15

    Parenthood is trying enough, and now you want me to convincingly declare “skit skat skoodle doot, flip flop flee”?

    Marcus Pfister, The Rainbow Fish – 4 x 10 = 14

    Teaching children that the way to make friends is to give away all the things about you that are unique.

    Deborah Diesen, Dan Hanna, The Pout-Pout Fish – 5 x 6 = 11

    Teaching children that all their problems/shitty personalities will be solved if they can only attract sexual attention from a stranger.

    Jimmy Fallon, Everything is Mama – -2 x 10 = 8

    Nakedly capitalist.

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