In a few days, my five-year-old will turn six. While we have never been the type of family to rent out a room in a rec center and host a big bash, the pandemic has still forced us to reconsider how we will celebrate this momentous occasion. How will we make the day feel special when we can’t invite any of his friends over?
Luckily, I have a few paper friends to turn to for advice who are funny, fanciful, and serene. I’ve decided to share these wonderful books with you, just in case you find yourself looking for ways to make a certain day seem special. And, just in case it’s the actual birth day that you are looking forward too, these books have some ideas for that as well.
Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019) is a comedic how-to book that will have you in stitches as you learn exactly how to make the all-important birthday wish. It covers all of the essential steps from when to celebrate no matter how long your life cycle is, how to choose an appropriate light source—for example, whales might like to use fluorescent jellyfish—and the proper technique to use to blow out all of the candles. It even has some helpful exceptions for camels and pufferfish. For ages 3 to 7.
Another book that can help you celebrate is Happy Birthday from The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The World of Eric Carle, 2019). This book honours the reader, and reminds the birthday child how special they are to you on their birthday and every other day as well. It is illustrated in Eric Carle’s bold and bright signature style. For ages 3 to 7.
Perhaps you are not ready to celebrate a birthday yet, because the guest of honour has not actually arrived, and you are instead waiting to celebrate his or her birth day. If this is the case, you might enjoy Babymoon by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Juana Marinez-Neal (Candlewick Press, 2019). The beautiful illustrations in this book will draw you into the warm, serene home of a family celebrating the birth of their first child, and the accompanying poem about adjusting to life as new parents will melt your heart.
However, while this book is beautifully written and wonderfully illustrated, and you will probably feel all warm and mushy as you read it to your first born, the book is written more for parents to enjoy than it is for children to cherish.
If I had this book in the months after the birth of my first child, I would have read it to him over and over, just like I read Little You by Richard Van Camp because it is so lovely. But unlike Little You, Babymoon is not a board book, so I couldn’t let my kid touch it once he became interested in the pages. While the book is marketed for 2 to 5-year-olds, I would suggest 0 to 2 as long as you’re aware that the pages might tear.
Another book about a new arrival that everyone can enjoy is A Piglet Named Mercy by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press, 2019). If you have older children, you may have heard about Mercy Watson, because there is a chapter book series about her and her adventures. However, this picture book shares the story of how Mercy came to live with Mr. and Mrs. Watson on Deckawoo Drive. For ages 3 to 7.
Finally, if you are looking for some activities to do during the birthday party, I’ve learned that my children love to hide while I walk around and call out pitifully “Where’s Theo?” or whichever child I’m pretending to look for at that moment. Where’s Baby? by Anne Hunter (Tundra, 2020) captures this game perfectly. The story follows Papa fox as he walks all around looking for Baby and finding everyone else. Younger kids will have lots of fun looking for Baby on every page, and you might find you spend a lot of time playing the game post story time, so be warned. For ages 2 to 5.
I know that books won’t lessen the sting for your child if they cannot see their friends for their birthday, but I hope these books will help you find humour and warmth wherever you are as you struggle to make a special day feel special.