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Books That Keep Kids Busy

Books for Kids of Work-at-Home Moms


"Mommy, can you read me a story?"

It breaks a mom's heart to say no, but often work-at-home moms can't put aside work to read. So every WAHM can use a stash of books that kids, even those still learning, can "read."

There's no substitute for parent-child reading time, but, like audio books, these wordless or almost wordless books keep kids--ranging from those just learning to the flashlight-in-bed types--engrossed. Using vivid illustrations, they cleverly tell stories or engage the mind, while building a child's repertoire of independent play activities. And when mom is not working, she'll enjoy them too!


Home by Jeannie Baker

By Jeannie Baker

One of my absolute favorite children's books, Home conveys the story of girl's childhood and the renewal of her urban neighborhood. The story unfolds in wordless two-page spreads of multimedia collages depicting the girl's bedroom window at two year intervals.

The first spread shows a new baby congratulations card on the sill and a desolate urban scene of concrete and graffiti outside. The last depicts the now grown girl with her own baby in the family's lush yard and a green cityscape as a backdrop.

Preschool and kindergarten-age children will enjoy noticing each detail that changes from one page to the next, while kids up to middle school will appreciate the meaning of those changes and the elaborate collages.

I Spy

I Spy Fantasy
By Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Walter Wick

While there are many highly entertaining visual puzzle books, the I Spy books set the standard. For our family, the only ones that come close are the very similar Can You See What I See? books (Compare Prices) written by I Spy illustrator Walter Wick.

A parent may need to read the riddle, which lays out which hidden-in-plain sight objects to find. But there are so many items in the intricate photo illustrations that children can make up new riddles or enjoy a little freelance sleuthing.

Children of all ages love these books. Both series have books geared specifically to preschoolers, though children in that age range may also enjoy the regular series.

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
by Brian Selznick

This Caldecott-winning novel is not wordless or even nearly wordless. In fact, it has 26,159 words. (If you're wondering how I know, you'll have to read the book to find out!) But that's not a big word count for a book with more than 500 pages.

The intricate black-and-white illustrations tell an orphan boy's tale in 1930s Paris. Like a film's storyboard, they focus on one element then pan to another. Every so often, a few pages of text supplement with details of the boy's quest to rebuild a mechanical man. For kids who aren't experienced readers (under age 9), the audiobook (Shop Now) that comes with a DVD featuring a visual tour of book illustrations hosted by the author is a good choice.

More Audio Books for Kids

10 Minutes till Bedtime

10 Minutes till Bedtime

By Peggy Rathman

Little does the dad, whose nose is buried in a book, realize that his pronouncement that it's "10 minutes till bedtime" would bring on a hamster parade. As the countdown to bedtime commences and the boy goes through his routine of snack time, toothbrushing and all the other nighttime preparations, he is accompanied by a horde of hamsters determined to have a last-minute party.

This is one kids will read again and again. Each page is filled with so many funny details that it takes several readings to take it all in.

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How to Draw…

How to Draw Dinosaurs
By Rob Court

How to Draw Watercraft, How to Draw Flowers and Trees, How to Draw Christmas Things, etc. Fill in the blank with just about anything in this prolific series of books that teaches kids to draw simple pictures.

The step-by-step approach is easy for kids as young as kindergarten to follow. And though the figures are somewhat cartoon-like, the results are satisfying for kids up to middle or high-school age. And the wide range of subjects means ambitious kids can put together the simple drawings into a masterpiece.

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You Can't Take a Balloon in the Metropolitan Museum

You Can't Take a Balloon in the Metropolitan Museum
by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman

A girl must leave her balloon outside New York City's Metropolitan Museum. As she enjoys the museum's treasures with her grandmother, her balloon has adventures of its own in New York. In fact, the balloon's mishaps strangely mirror the art inside the museum.

As in the best wordless books, this lovely, sparsely colored picture book works on many levels for many ages. Young children will simply enjoy the balloons adventures while adults and older children can match the misadventures to the artwork.
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The Silver Pony

The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward
by Lynd Ward

Readers and non-readers can appreciate this wordless story of a boy on a Depression-era farm who escapes reality on a winged pony. Each of his many adventures, illustrated in soft gray tones, invites readers to embellish with their own imaginations.

With 175 pages the book seems more like a novel than a picture book. But with each left-hand page left blank, it is not too long for young children.
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By David Weisner

A magical camera washes up on the beach to be found by a scientific-minded boy. This Caldecott-winning book develops character and plot, sets a pace and tells an extraordinary tale, all with just illustrations. Using small insets interspersed with full-page illustrations, Weisner raises questions in children's minds then answers without a single word.

Similarly, Weisner's Tuesday (Compare Prices) uses a few words to tell a bizarre tale of flying frogs on a nighttime excursion.

Kids who cannot yet read are often more observant of the stories pictures tell than the rest of us. They will "read" these books all on their own, but established readers will not be bored with the original plots and illustrations.

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