For some time now I have walked around, saying every now and then:
"The people people. People!"
Gus, age 2, is similarly affected, though he doesn't know from punctuation. He says, "People people people." It's a line from one of his favorite books, And Here's to You, by David Elliott, who is hands-down my favorite current writer of rhyming books.
And Here's to You proposes a toast to a number of categories of animals--"Here's to the birds!/The Feather People!/Birds!...Here's to the dogs!/The dreaming people!/Dogs!...Here's to the cows!/The giving people!/Cows!" So when it gets to people, it is, of course, "Here's to the people!/ The people people!/ People!"
On the Farm is a collection of poems about farm animals, beautifully illustrated with wood cuts by Holly Meade). A typical Elliott rhyme:
Her tail? As coy as a ringlet.
In her eye there's a delicate sheen.
Some look at her and see a sow;
I see a beauty queen.
What the Grizzly Knows is a dreamy book about dreaming: the small boy hero watches his teddy bear turn into a bear, and then turns into a bear himself, and they spend the night doing bear things.
The books are a pleasure to read again and again (and again and you know, again). They're exceptionally smart. Elliott never mistakes simplicity for stupidity, and he's not afraid of teaching a kid a new word if it's the right word for the sentence. And for my 2-year-old, they're mostly all new words anyhow--why not learn trillium now, or sedges?
All three books are splendid, but And Here's to You is my favorite as well as Gus's. It never fails to delight me, and believe me, it's had plenty of opportunity to wear thin.
Elliott's got a couple of other picture books I need to buy. I think I've been putting it off because of the unpleasant experience I had ordering On the Farm for a gift from Curious George Goes to Wordsworth in Harvard Square. (Practically any time I've had to really interact with the staff in that store, I think, How can you work in a children's bookstore and be so joyless?)
I bought On the Farm when I very, very briefly met David Elliott at Lesley University's low-residency MFA program. I liked him so much I bought the book, and was kind of stunned when I read it--how often do you get to discover one of your favorite new writers in such a sideways way?