In the interest of #keepingitreal I'm going to come right out and say that I am frequently too exhausted to play with my children. Mr. Zingarella, fortunately, more than makes up for this, but I
sometimes usually feel a bit guilty about it. I have found that reading aloud to the little Zingarellas--even and perhaps especially to the older ones--is an activity that I can do in lieu of physical play. All I have to do is sit on the couch and read the words off of a page and--like magic--we're all sharing something and having a moment. This is not to say that story-time at my house is a picture perfect Norman Rockwell painting. Far from it; there are lots of interruptions and sometimes there is bickering over what to read, and sometimes the two-year-old starts sitting on my head, etc. But, even with all of its imperfections, reading aloud is an activity that gives so much return for the little effort that it takes.
So, today I wanted to write about one of my favorite children's books. For some sad reason, so many children's books are insulting to children. They are written as though children are stupid, or their illustrations are ugly and/or perfunctory, or both. Many are simply marketing ploys to get your child to ask for the next toy, or movie, or video game, or other product. And this is a shame, because a beautiful picture book is a work of art and--in my experience at least--children are drawn to beautiful things.
One book that consistently makes it onto every list of books worth your time is Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman.
Margaret Hodges's retelling of this adventure from Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queene is excellently done. The story is clear, without being "dumbed down" and interesting enough that it will not drive you insane if your children go on a kick and only want to hear it over and over again. Trina Schart Hyman is one of those rare artist who excels both in figure drawing and ornament and pretty much any book she has illustrated is an owner in my opinion.