Amazing Toddler Books with a Hot Mess Twist

Since SOMETIMES this hot mess mama gets it right, I thought I’d share some very cool books I’ve come across for toddlers. And in fact, several of them were gifts from my fellow hot mess mamas, Lisa and LIndsey, who despite how much of a shit-show they claim to be, have incredible, on-point taste in books, toys, and other amazing products.

I love the act of giving and receiving books for children. It’s so rare now with dominance of the Kindle and iPad, but to hold a book, turn its pages, feel the essence of the author’s vision in your hands is still by far and away priceless.

Books become YOURS. They can be a part of your family. Literally. I always think fondly of the time when Nina received a paper cut FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL from one of her books. While I was turned around getting her jammies out, her tiny paper slice sprayed like a Kill Bill movie over the pages of the book. Okay, it was more like a few small droplets and obviously she wasn’t upset since she quietly finger-painted the book, but that’s what I envisioned I’d have to explain to CPS once the paramedics arrived. Days later we tried to open up said book only to find the pages had all been super-glued together with her tiny toddler blood. What I love is that after we ripped the fused the pages apart, she always fondly touches every spot that was ruined when we read it. It’s now one of her favorites, not only for the story, but for the mysterious and fun-textured patches that vaguely remind her of a dramatic performance once upon a time.

So I wanted to share with you some insights on fabulous books that are not only those that my child loves, but that I also love. I honestly think that’s the most important factor in reading since you’re the one who will be doing the voice-overs. And if you are not an Oscar-nominated faker and your yawns or annoyance cannot be masked, your kid will intrinsically know that reading IS FLIPPIN’ BORING. Sooooo some words of advice: GET BOOKS THAT INSPIRE YOU. AND YOUR CHILD WILL BE INSPIRED AS A RESULT. That said, here are some literary, historical, and ecological based suggestions:


The BabyLit Series. I am obsessed. Do you want your kid to be exposed to literary genius without having a hard time understanding? Or maybe do YOU want to be exposed to literary genius without having a hard time understanding? (Seriously, I learn a LOT from this series.) Then this series of literary-based books by Jennifer Adams is the one for you. These simple primer board books are chock full of numbers, colors, oceans, flowers, camping, sounds, anatomy, opposites, etc., all attuned to your favorite classic fiction. It gives an adult who has actually read the book a knowing smile while still intriguing the toddler (or adult who hasn’t read the book) with its whimsical artwork.



Rosie Revere, Engineer. Fellow Hot Mess Mama Lisa gave this to my daughter and I absolutely LOVE THIS. It’s all about creativity, overcoming doubt, and the only true mistake in life is quitting. Throw in some engineering brilliance and 1945 women’s empowerment references and I’m sold.


I am Amelia Earhart. Based on her first childhood experiences and a few highlights later in life, this book captures the adventure and determination that Ms. Earhart had. Nina loves this book so much it was the inspiration for her Halloween costume.



Dream Animals. I love all of Emily Winfield Martin‘s vintage, whimsical artwork in general and have one of her prints in Nina’s room. So finding her children’s book made my heart go pitter-patter. I know this book by heart now and secretly hope Nina picks it out in the nightly lineup. This is THE massacred book. And I love that it inspires children to dream the whimsical dreams that animals lead. Because it’s so much more fun to dream you’re being carried by a red fox as it leaps and bounds, toward an Elvin hollow hidden underground…



ANY Nancy Tillman book.  With EVERY SINGLE READING OF ONE OF HER BOOKS, I silently curse that woman for making me tear up at the very end. ‘Damn you, Nancy Tillman!’ is my frustrated mantra after a night’s read. But what I really mean is thank you for your beautiful words, detailed wildlife artwork, and vivid and magical childhood imagination that make me ball like a baby. My pride just can’t handle choking up every time in front of my kid, Nancy! You need to think of that next time!!


A Country Mouse in the Town House. This book given by my fellow Hot Mess Mama Lindsey and features a country mouse who, after a wild ride in a town house, decides her country berries and peas were pretty decent after all. The propah and Eliza Doolittle accents resonate in my ears every time I flip through the pages. And with every page turn we both try to find the mice as fast as we can. This book never gets old.



Cheers and happy reading!


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