Pretty much the day Peeper turned two, she rediscovered the word “no”—and all its power (to refuse, to state her opinion, to frustrate her parents…). Nowadays, one of her most used responses is the “no-yes,” an expression unique to toddlers who simultaneously refuse and demand things like popsicles and bunny crackers.
It makes sense, then, that Peeper delights in books that give voice to this milestone. Here, then, are some titles your little one can say “no” to again and again.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems. In this modern favorite, which also won a Caldecott honor, a little pigeon uses every tactic it can—all of which you’re all too familiar with, being a parent of a persistent little person—to persuade you to let it drive a bus. Peeper gets a kick out of the repetition, and I love the simple but expressive illustrations that perfectly capture begging, bribing and of course tantrums. (Tip: A whole slew of Mo Willems books are fantastic to say no to. If you want more, simply browse his titles at the library!)
Are You a Cow? by Sandra Boynton. Kids will giggle—and, of course, say no—when asked if they’re a whole lineup of animals. This simple book from the queen of silliness herself is sure to earn a place on your read-aloud shelf. It’s also great practice for little children to learn animal names (and sounds, if you want to ad lib!). Even better, they’ll learn that the best person to be is just themselves.
No, David! by David Shannon. David is a spirited little boy who—much like your kids, probably—is always making mischief. He plays with his food, tracks mud across the carpet, hits baseballs in the house and runs around the neighborhood naked. Kids will identify with troublesome (and fun!) antics; parents will find the mother’s refrain of “No, David!” all too familiar. But the yes at the end of the book is sweet enough to make anyone melt.
Max the Brave, by Ed Vere. Max is a fierce, bold and brave kitty—if only he could prove it by chasing a mouse! But, alas, he doesn’t know what mice look like. Peeper thinks it’s hilarious to call out “No!” whenever Max asks the animals if they, in fact, are mice. But when an actual mouse sends Max astray, will he survive long enough to correct his mistake? (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes!)
What’s for Lunch? by Eric Carle. This counting book offers a monkey all sorts of fruit, but the little guy isn’t nearly as fond of cherries, grapes and raspberries as he is of bananas, naturally. Peeper loves refusing all the other lunch options and threading a paper monkey through the slots on each page (a fine motor skill-building activity to boot!). Extra points to Eric Carle for representing in literary form what it’s like to offer my toddler lunch every single day.
Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss. Sam I Am’s persistence provides plenty of opportunities for young readers to use the “n” word. Dr. Seuss’s stubborn character refuses to eat the unfamiliar meal offered in the most unlikely of spots—on a train, with a mouse and in a tree. I hoped the message of trying something new would rub off on Peeper’s reluctance at meal times, but so far she runs closer to the “I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere!” narrative.
I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen. When a big brown bear loses his hat, he roams the forest looking for it. All the animals he meets say they haven’t seen it—including one suspicious-looking rabbit who just happens to be wearing a pointy red hat. This Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book is gorgeously and lovingly illustrated, and the twist ending is sure to make you laugh.
Where’s Spot?, by Eric Hill. I remember Spot from my own childhood, and Peeper is equally fond of the puppy. In this book, his mom hunts for him throughout the house, asking if he’s under the stairs or in the clock. Lifting flaps to uncover other animals tucked in the nooks and crannies of the home is part of the fun, as is saying “no!” to all but the last hiding place. (Careful, though: Your kid may or may not be traumatized by the toothy crocodile hiding beneath the bed. Why, Eric Hill, why?)
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, by James Dean. I admit, I have a somewhat fraught relationship with Pete the Cat. I just can’t get behind the illustrations. But Peeper digs the cool kitty, so we have a handful of books about the groovy, surf-loving feline. In this one, Pete walks his white shoes through all sorts of stuff that turn them colors, but when asked if they’re ruined, your kiddo can shout, “No!” And for music-loving kids, you can download a bunch of Pete the Cat songs here.
Please, Mr. Panda, by Steve Antony. Mr. Panda offers a whole box brightly colored, delicious-looking, hard-to-resist donuts to his animal friends. But when the critters forget their manners, Mr. Panda changes his mind. Kids will love telling the impolite animals “No!”—until one remembers to say “please” and “thank you.” Please, Mr. Panda is a fun way to reinforce the power of those magic words.
Goodnight Already! by Jory John. What do you get when you mix an over-caffeinated insomniac duck with a grumpy bear on the verge of hibernating? This hilarious book, that’s what. All the duck wants is to hang out with his neighbor, but the bear has one word for his pestering pal: “No.” It’s no wonder that Goodnight Already! won the E.B. White Read Aloud Honor—it’s super-fun to speak in a high, nasal, super-fast voice for the duck and a cranky, low, plodding voice for the bear. When Peeper asks me to read this one, I always respond, “Yes!”
How about you—do you have any favorite books your kids love to say “no” to? Please say yes! (And share in the comments!)