what we’re reading – chapter two!

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happy monday!  below is our current list of books that seem to be on a more regular rotation with the kiddos.  you can see our other current favorites, here.

1. i’m a duck!, by teri slot. this is a great book for dads! a friend of josh’s, and a father five, gave the book to him when eleanor was born.  it’s the sweetest story about a fun and lively duck, who thinks life can’t get any better with his awesome webbed feet and his ability to soar through the sky…. but life does get better! because then he finds himself a cute little wife and has little ducklings and it’s so sweet how he feels nothing can beat being a dad!  even though it’s a book all about a dad duck, i have it memorized and it’s one of my favorite ones to read to the kids! there are also a lot of random “quacks!” from eleanor and samson going on whenever we read this! so it’s always a fun read.

2. madeline, by ludwig bemelmans.  so, madeline was actually a top running girl name for us when we didn’t know if conrad was a boy or girl.  so we bought this madeline book last fall to get more acquainted with the series since we were considering the name (it’s such a good one!) the kiddos really enjoy the book as well, especially since they can identify specific places and things in the book from our trip to paris last year.

3. wilfrid gordon mcdonald partridge, by mem fox. our friends gave this book to us a few months ago and both josh and i read it to the kids separately the first time.  about a week after we got it, josh mentioned to me that he cried when he read it to the kids a few days before and i was like, i cried too! it is such a sweet story of friendship, and of a little boy with four names who sets off to find the memory of his friend, an old lady also with four names who lives at a nearby nursing home, and who has recently lost her memory.

4. it’s time to sleep, my love, by nancy tillman. we’ve been reading this one since eleanor was a baby.  it’s a great bedtime book and the rhymes are beautiful.  we also adore the dreamy pictures, and since eleanor has had a thing for pandas over the years, it’s been a constant favorite. :)

5. meet the orchestra, by ann hayes. this is another big favorite of ours right now, because our kids are really into music and all the different instruments.  this book is all about what makes up an orchestra, through descriptive text and the prettiest watercolor images.  we have fun trying to make the sounds the instruments make when we read it.

also, a bit of a side note, but does anyone have tips for making up great “make believe” stories on the spot?  lately, after we read lots of books at bedtime, the kiddos want me to tell them a make believe story after we turn the lights out while they are falling asleep.  usually, i just sing them songs as they fall asleep, but this new  request of  “pretend stories!!!”  is quite firm.  i’ll start with a frog in a pond at central park and end up with some weird dinosaur who is trying to tie his shoes?! is it impossibly hard for anyone else? tell me your secrets if you know how to do this on demand because usually when i say, “the end!” at the close of my really bad story, they are like, “and then what? …that’s it?” haha.

  1. Anita

    Madeline was my absolute favorite growing up! I just remember that she had the cutest little outfit. :)

    Always, Anita

  2. hanna

    These books are too cute –Hanna Lei

  3. Love this! I am bookmarking “I am a duck” and I adored Madeline as a girl – I still have my doll and some Christmas ornaments I adore. About the story telling… I know a 3 year old that really enjoys me telling her stories about a princess that lives on a snowflake! You can take her snowflake to a new city with every story :)

    Have fun!

    Warm Regards,

  4. Madeline is the best! And a must in any child’s library collection!

  5. melissa

    My husband is really good at stories–I sort of stink. His are all about Calvin Racoon, or Calvin Dinosaur, or Calvin Hero (obvs our kid is named Calvin:) doing really silly things that real Calvin wouldn’t be able to do. He LOVES them. When it’s my turn I just copy one I’ve heard my husband tell and it does the trick. Good luck!

  6. Tammy

    Madeline was my absolute childhood favorite – the pc games, the movies, books, and dolls – you name it, I had it! Fond memories. It’s such a great story…could be the reason why I love France so much ;D

  7. drea

    We do a lot of storytelling at our house too.

    What works for us:
    A hero or main character (there once was a smart girl named…who lived…)
    A plot twist or main action (later that day, at Conrad’s birthday party, she lost her lovey! Oh no! She looked high and low. She was so sad.)
    A happy ending (Later that night, her friends’ mother called and said she found the lovey wrapped up in paper! All was well)

    Hope that helps :)

  8. Sara O.

    I think your story line sounds perfect! It’s great that it starts out in the park and ends up somewhere completely different.

    I tell stories from my real life (like a time my dad and I went on a hike in the woods), but I make up whimsical character names and some fantastic details.

  9. Silvia Oliveira Reis

    At our house the kids looove stories and book so much that they always carry one around. When we go out on vacation abroad we bring our ‘Story Cubes’ with us so we can imagine stories with what’s around us with the motto from the dice: https://www.storycubes.com/, They really love it, it’s so much fun to hear stories that come from their little heads and it’s also really travel-friendly

  10. Chelsea

    Make believe stories are super easy with one trick! Pick a movie or story you know they don’t know, and change the names- they will have no idea where you come up with these things! When I was a counselor at summer camp, some of the frequent hits came from The Parent Trap, The Princess Bride, Hercules, Robin Hood, A Little Princess, and many more. It’s even better if you pretend that YOURE the protagonist and that after all these adventures you’re just a regular old person, sitting there telling stories of your past.

  11. Stacia

    The best way to make up stories for littles is to use their names and something that they would do…So, once upon a time, there was a brave little girl named Eleanor. Eleanor liked to wear sparkly dresses and sing and dance and play. One day, she decided she wanted to go running all through New York City spreading glitter everywhere…and then just talk through all of the different sites that you would see in NY. WAY easier than making stuff up out of nowhere. Also really good to take stories from your childhood and turn them into princesses/dinosaurs/penguins. Tell a story about ballet classes or learning to ride a bike but sub in their favorite critter or stuffed animal at the moment! You already have the story, you just need to alter it to make it more of a bedtime story :)

    • TAZA

      this is perfect. thank you!

  12. Thank you so much for including Madeline! Such a classic! Also, I really need to check out “I’m a Duck” and “It’s Time to Sleep, My Love.” They look like such sweet reads. I’m hoping to bulk up my children’s library and am so grateful for these suggestions!
    Also, just letting you know, I eat up every single post or suggestion having to do with daddy-children relationships. Josh seems like the best dad ever. Wonderful dads are a rarity in this world, so any tips he can give to current or future daddies is so appreciated! :)

    Circus & Bloom

  13. b thomas

    when i was little it was so hard to get me to sleep, so my mom started a dream folder. inside she would have magazine pictures, photographs, and drawings. i would pick one and daydream about what story the picture told (often falling asleep before it got very far). it helped having an inspiring image instead of a blank page.

    • TAZA

      that’s a very cool idea! i might steal that!

  14. emily

    awe, i used to love madeline so much! have you seen the little kids costume for her? eleanor has the perfect look for it. haha!

    • TAZA

      no but i don’t doubt it’d be adorable!

  15. Teresa

    We makeup stories all the time. What helps me is having a moral in mind like sharing or listening and obeying then i move on to building the character. Whats important for us is emphasizing the lesson and having her repeat it back to us. Whats great is that whenever they don’t listen or disobey we go back to the story and let them tell us why it’s important to obey mom and dad.

    • TAZA

      haha yes that’s what i’ve been trying to do too! i’m always like, how can i spin this into something that we aren’t doing well with, like running into the street or listening better to mama while we’re out or what not! morals in mind definitely helps!

  16. Shira

    Have you guys ever read the pigeon needs a bath? It is an INCREDIBLE kids book that most children love. Lots of sound effects and kids think it is hilarious. Definitely recommend it!

  17. Stacy H

    Always love reading your book recommendations as it gives me gift ideas for my 2-year-old nephew. One thing I’d like to suggest when making up stories is to ask the little ones things like “what do you think happens next?” Or something if the like.. That way you can engage their creativity and who knows? They may be making up this own stories to tell to you at bedtime!

  18. Becky

    My son loves a “story from your head” we usually stick to a familiar character named Darcy rabbit (our sons name is Darcy) and latly his side kick and new best friend is his little brother (who is still growing inside) but story’s usually have a Darcy becomes a hero by doing something kind, sharing, controlling his temper, eating lots of vegetables.

  19. Catherine

    You should read Storytelling With Children. It is thoughtful and practical advice and has helped me a lot as a teacher who is always making up “on the spot” stories.

  20. Erin K.

    Wordless picture books can be great for telling “make believe stories”. The base of a story is already there, you and the kids can just add your own narration! Journey by Aaron Becker is a great one. Others are Chalk by Bill Thomson, Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle, and The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett.

  21. rebecca

    I’m a duck and Madeline are classics!
    Rebecca // rebeccamariee.blogspot.com xx

  22. Noelle

    So this is the cutest make believe (partially true) story I heard my mom tell my nieces over the course of one weekend.

    She calls them the ‘Bieber kids’ and over the course of three nights, she explains how the Bieber kids grew up very poor and with absentee parents, often having to fend for themselves at dinner time. Some days even coming home from school and having to drink sugar water to fill their bellies because they were so hungry. Later on, escaping from their home in search of a loving family they travel by boxcar into new towns and cities. My mom will make up little experiences as she goes and will end the night on a cliff hanger, letting the story extend for however long she wants. She eventually ends with the Bieber kids finding a home through adoption and how grateful they were to have a 1) House 2) Food 3) Love. And that those three things are what every child needs. I’ve never heard my nieces talk more about that story and every day they were so excited to go to bed to hear more about the Bieber kids. I’m sure if I was told that as a little kid it would have made me more grateful for my house and family.

    Just a cute suggestion! :)

  23. Samantha

    What caught me was the title of this post – so clever! Madeline is one of my FAVORITE stories (series) but mostly because I love Paris and everything French <3
    I used to tell stories to the kids I babysit and one of the best parts was letting them help make it up. They would say a bizarre plot and I would weave it into a semi-believable story, then they would add to it and make it crazy again, and I'd pull it back to reality. It was kind of neat to make stories together like this and they'd actually continue from night to night!!!
    ~ Samantha

  24. Inge

    Aww, those books look great! I wish I had children already to read them to.
    As for the make-up stories, my mother used to tell me a story about a gypsy girl living on her own with her pony when I was younger. On holidays she told me a new adventure every evening, because there was no light for reading. I loved it. Now I regularly tell my baby-sit-kids about that same girl. :)

  25. Tina

    I love this! I’m expecting a little one in the summer and am looking forward to storytime above anything else.

    My mum actually always asked me to make up stories for her when she was sick and I was still living at home. Usually I would take part of a story from real life – or steal one of our friends as a character – and then embellish it. It should, as a lot of people have said, have an interesting twist, and a happy ending for little ones! My favourite ones to make up take place in a forest (or even a magical forest!) or under the sea, because they’re both places that are open to lots of things happening, but that have natural limitations to guide your story (for example, there probably aren’t going to be cars under the sea…unless you want there to be, of course!)

    Hooray for stories!

  26. Kat

    The duck story looks great – adding that to my Amazon order. For stories, my four year old always likes being the protagonist. They always start with her as the princess getting kidnapped by a wicked witch and locked in a tower by a dragon. She always outsmarts the witch by convincing the dragon to help her escape when she bests the dragon by telling him a riddle he cannot solve. The riddle I always use is: what has three feet but no arms? (answer is a yard). Solenne doesn’t really understand what a yard is yet but she loves being able to answer the riddle and that the princess saves herself in the end. I don’t usually change my story too much, except when she is really not going to bed I add at the end that when the princess finally made it back to the kingdom she was so tired from her adventures that she went to her warm, cozy bed and fell asleep quickly. :) That usually does the trick, or at least gets her to lie down.

  27. I love this little series. I don’t have children yet, but I look forward to reading to them! Madeline was a favorite of mine growing up. So sweet. I work in a library and I’m always finding sweet books to read to kiddos.

  28. Courtney

    When we were little, my mom would tell a story about a house that had 1000 rooms and my sister and I would get to say what kind of rooms there would be. She generally said Nintendo room and I would say a princess room/dog room/present room. It’s fun and interactive!

  29. Carly

    Sounds like some cute books! Me and the little one have been obsessed with Dr. Seuss lately
    Dresses & Denim

  30. Emma

    My middle name is Madeline, after my Italian great-grandmother Madalena, so I’ve always had a love for the Madeline books!

    As far as make believe stories, my mom and dad always told ones about my sister and I. Each time, they began the story with “Once upon a time, there was a girl named [my full name], she was 4 years old, and lived on 124 Main St, Small Town, USA.” By the time my sister and I were 4 or 5 we could list off our address, phone number, birthday, full name, and other information like that. That helped us in preschool and kindergarten when we were taught the basics of 911 calls or emergencies.

  31. Shauntel

    We’re big fairy tale fans at our house. But you can only tell the classics so many times before they get boring – so we use the fairy tales, but tell them silly. I often incorporate what’s going on in our lives into the fairy tales as well. When my oldest started kindergarten (and was soooo nervous), you would not believe how much fun that gingerbread boy had in kindergarten:) Sometimes my girls supply the characters (a big bad duck! or Little Red Bison Hood!) – the sillier the better for them! And now they often tell them on their own, which are some of my very favorite silly stories. :)

  32. My favorite way to build a story on the spot is by taking turns asking answering questions. I’d ask: “What would you say if you met the frog in central park?” and then turn it around to say: “Why, that’s exactly what I said to him when I was little,” and then I’d make up a response (and so on, and so forth). I actually still do this as an adult, I have to admit. It’s fun!

    There are also a lot of great short pieces on LibriVox (a site for free audiobooks recorded by volunteers) that are perfect for just playing for your kids, or for listening to on your own to train your storytelling skills and give you ideas. I recommend Edith Nesbit’s Book of Dragons for a great learning model (that will also be really fun to listen to with your kids someday).: https://librivox.org/the-book-of-dragons-by-e-nesbit/

  33. Anna

    This is such a lovely post! As so many people have also said for themselves, I loved the Madeline book series when I was a little girl. They are also especially poignant for me because I had two major surgeries (they were related to one another) when I was 6 months old and 4 years old respectively, and my mom read me the Madeline books in the hopes that I wouldn’t feel self-conscious about the giant scar on my head, just like Madeline was proud of her scar from her appendectomy. I’m happy to say that I followed in Madeline’s footsteps when it came to perceiving my own scar. :-)

    I’d recommend Ogden Nash’s “The Adventures of Isabel” (I like the version illustrated by James Marshall). I think Miss Eleanor would really enjoy that one! Also, anything by William Steig and Robert Munsch are automatic winners in my book.

  34. Anonymous

    My dad used to tell my stories when I was little about kids who went on adventures and found objects with letters on them, and then at the end the letters always spelled out a word. He would give them themes like Halloween or Christmas. It was really helpful for me when I was learning to read and spell.

    • TAZA

      that’s very cool, especially around this age of learning to read and spell like you said! thanks!

  35. Emily

    When I was growing up, my siblings and I would always beg my dad to tell stories of when he was a little boy growing up on the farm. My sister’s kids now ask for stories about her as a little girl. You could use stories from when you were growing up and change the characters to be animals. It’s easier to tell made up stories when there is some truth to them. Good luck!

  36. ooh, what a great list! Madeline was always one of my favorites!

  37. Trisha

    Hi =) At our house we play the “And then…” story game. Someone in the family starts and when they are at a loss or want to pass the story they say “and then…” This way of story telling gets the whole family involved in telling the make believe story. Our daughters love it and so do we. I hope you give it a try, I can assure you it will not disappoint!

  38. Heather

    Growing up, my babysitter would make up stories with me and my sister as the characters, and now as a nanny myself, I’ve adopted the same method. The kids love to relate to the stories and putting their names in, as princesses or animals etc, really makes things easier for me.

  39. Hayley

    Oh Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is the best!! Happy to see it here :D From when I was a little girl, to now reading it to my son – I cry. Every. Time. !! So beautiful x Mem Fox is an Aussie Classic :)

  40. Marguerite

    Mem Fox is the absolute best, you should read all of her work!

  41. Randi

    Haha, I’m so terrible at make believe stories. I sometimes tell stories about the boy who cried wolf or at Halloween, monsters that are really just misunderstood and actually really kind when one noble child cares. Other than that, my husband takes the cake on story telling. He’s so good at it.

  42. My daughter’s name is Madeleine (in French we are from Belgium) and I love her name so much (and her of course!!!!) !!!

    By the way: thanks for being such an inspirational mother Taza. I’ve been reading your for a year or so, and I really admire the energy, the effort but also the joy that you put in motherhood. Since I’m reading you, I think I became a better mum!! You are really an example for me. Thanks you so much and please go on!!!!! :-)

  43. Bruna

    Those books are beautiful. I love children’s literature!
    If you are interested, take a look to this article on Time magazine.
    I hope you like it!





    Thanks Naomi! I’m always looking for some interesting books in English for my 2-year old son. I always have to buy them through amazon Spain, luckily I have no problem to find what I want, I find these books, good suggestions for my kid.


  45. Amy

    Lovely to see you reading a book by Mem Fox. I have a soft spot for her books as they are so very Australian. I remember bringing home “Wilfred” from school. Have you read “Ten little fingers and ten little toes” also by Mem Fox. It was my 4 year old sons favourite when he was a baby. It’s so sweet, I still get a little teary reading it.

  46. Zanna

    Hi! I’ve been reading your a blog for a while but today I just had to weigh in to the pretend-stoy-telling conundrum. I had lots of trouble with my cousins and god-children and their insatiable thirst for make believe stories. Then one day I putting them to bed right after we’d seen a wonderful performance of the Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, so I just changed the setting to a zoo and the characters to giraffes and elephants ect. and just reiterated the plot (grazing over the inappropriate parts and changing romantic relationships to close friendships ;D). This worked wonders! The story was much complexer than what I usually come up with and I wasn’t left grappling for plot twists once I had painted myself into some narrative corner. Since then, I’ve done “Roland and Julia at the Playground” (they attend rival preschools) and “Prospero and Miranda and the swimming pool storm” (importance of paying attention during swim class was emphasized). As none of our toddlers are Shakespeare aficionados, I have been getting away with it wonderfully!

    WARNING: While The Magic Flute makes for a great bedtime story with minimal modification (tip: add fairies), The Marriage of Figaro DOES NOT WORK. I tried and it ended in awkward aborted attempt. It’s just too hard to circumvent an explanation of the wedding night with that one!

    Anyway, anytime you see a play, opera or movie, keep the plot in the back of your head for reuse! Works like a charm….good luck!

  47. kelly andrews

    Practice, I used to stink at coming up with stories and after I started doing it over and over they would actually start to turn out. Good luck! You’all should write a children’s book!

  48. JH

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but try the “Tell Me a Story” cards (you get get them on amazon). My daughter LOVED them at 3, b/c I could both use them to tell a story and also she could use them to pick the traditional plot line with the devices/characters are given to her (very roughly). It’s just a pack of related pictures of things around a theme (a princess, a frog, a sword, a treasure chest). Also great for taking out and about.

  49. Des

    My father-in-law was genius at this. He just started telling stories with the same duck “Quack Quack” and all of the troubles he would get into. If the grandkids were fighting that day you can be sure that there was a story brewing about Quack Quack and how to learn to be nice to each other.

  50. Emily

    You should take the kids to see the Madeline paintings at the Carlyle on 76th & Madison.

  51. Kara

    My daughter loves to hear about how Daddy and I met and got married and then she was in my tummy and now she’s here and then sister was in my tummy and now they are best friends etc.

  52. I might live children’s books more than my kiddos. :) great list! Currently we love pigeon books and creepy carrots.

  53. Emily F

    Oh my goodness, for years my boys wanted Transformer stories. I’d be like “Once upon a time Isaac and Noah were playing outside and a car drove up and it was BUMBLEBEE! And he took them for a ride!” And then I was out. I’m not the best at making up stories.

    I bought Madeline at the Louvre gift shop for my daughter and we LOVE to read it. She thinks it’s so funny that she gets toys from papa but doesn’t live with him. Ha!

  54. rach

    So glad you asked about “make believe” stories. Brought back a really prexious memory of my childhood! This might help you in your stories! My Dad is very imaginative and told us an “on-going” story of a tiny clown who lived across the street from the Royal Queen of England. He would juggle in front of the Palace and yearn to catch a glimpse of the Queen herself. Eventually He was invited into the palace to perform for the queen because of his mad juggeling skills

  55. rach


  56. Both my eldest and middle sons went through a make-believe story phase. The youngest has yet to get there but I can’t wait! Tips? Make them the central characters. They’re a cowboy or Luke Skywalker or a knight. Make their main friends, siblings and favourite soft toys characters too. My middle child and his Snowy Bear often rode horses in cowboy gear! Last and best tip: don’t finish the story. Set the scene. Give them an adventure to go on. And then say that your child has to use their imagination to think what happens next while they settle to sleep. You’ll make great story-tellers out of them.

  57. Jena

    I don’t have any little ones {yet!} but making up stories is one of my favorite things to do when I babysit or am around kids in general. The only tip I would offer would be to work backwards. Instead of immediately thinking of the beginning, decide where you want it to end and then hit them with the “Once upon a time…” I think it helps keep the story streamlined while allowing for the tangents that are bound to occur to keep it interesting :)

  58. Adrianna

    If I am remembering my lit classes correctly, Mark twain had a few objects on the mantle piece (can’t remember what they were) and every night before bed his daughters would arrange the objects and twain would use them in a story in the order they were arranged. Maybe place a few trinkets on your mantle and go from there? If the objects stay the same but not the order then you have an idea of what to say when you go to make up your story.

  59. Kristen

    We have Meet the Orchestra and I have to admit I find it rather boring but maybe just because it’s so long. We also have Zin Zin Zin a Violin and it’s so wonderful. It also introduces the instruments in an orchestra and the pictures are beautiful. Y’all should check it out :)

    As for stories, I find that using the same character and using a different adventure every night usually works. Or instead of a made-up story I’ll tell him all about our plans for the week and how much we’ll have!

  60. KJDL

    With you dance background I bed you’d love this book. It has some of the most beautiful illistrations I’ve ever seen. Its called Flora and the Flamingo. The URL I posted is the link to Barnes and Noble. There are fabulous story telling ideas in these comments!

  61. Kathryn

    I just had a baby on Monday and saw this post today. That duck book is just so cute–I ordered it online right away and can’t wait to give it to my husband as his “new dad” present :) Thanks for the gift idea!!

  62. Holly Brain

    If your daughter loves Madeline look for the newly re-released madeline doll. It is the size of a Barbie. So cute! Such a classic. It comes with her little dog Genevieve.

  63. Holly Brain

    Just a heads up…. “I’ma duck is no longer printed in hardback. If your kids adore it Amazon has a few copies left from third party sellers. Have a great weekend.

  64. Diane

    Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Kiki and Coco in Paris. It’s a photo book of a young girl and her rag doll visiting Paris. My daughter Everleigh is in love with it and the idea of visiting Paris one day. We even looked into getting her a Coco doll but she may have to wait for a very special treat.

  65. emilie

    when i was young, i used to ADORE my ”Raconte moi une histoire” ( tell me a story.) It was little card with an image on top. it could be an emotion, a place, a family member,,, anything really! you would flip them one by one and make up a story from the little pictures. It was always funny! I’m sure you could find something like that or just make it yourself!

  66. jaana

    thank you for more recommendations! your last list was a hit at our house, which is basically a miracle. my special needs son is VERY particular about what he reads, and hasn’t liked a new book in about 2 years. But Marcel the Shell and Dragons Love Tacos? He wants to read them every day. It’s exciting! And a nice break from Little Blue Truck, which I love, but every night for 2 years? Memorized? Ready for a change :) thanks again!