I recently found a used copy of the book Annie and the Wild Animals. The story is beautifully written and illustrated by Jan Brett. Although we have only had it a few weeks, I have already read through it at least thirty times. Goen requests it over and over and I often read it several times in a row. What I love most about this book is that it actually gets more interesting as you read it more (as opposed to some books that just get tiresome). The artwork is what keeps the book fresh. The first few times through, my eyes followed along with the text. Once I became familiar with the story and the words, I didn't need to focus on it as much, and my eyes began to wander across the page. I amazed to find that there was as much story in the drawings as in the text itself! The main page art goes along with the text, but with the addition of showing the passing of time and the changing of the seasons. The borders are just as detailed. Some expand on the written part of the story. Some are a prelude to the text on the following page. Others tell a parallel story about what is happening with Annie's cat. Between the writing and imagery, this story is much more detailed than a typical toddler book. The up-side is that we both enjoy it each time.
Although there is a lot I love about Annie and the Wild Animals, one thing I don't like is the transition from the first page to the second. The first two sentences read "It had been snowing for days. Winter was lasting too long." The page following says "Something was wrong with Annie's cat..." Perhaps I'm just used to stories that introduce the characters right away, but I think the abrupt change of scene from outside to inside has something to do with it as well. Whatever the reason, I have taken the liberty of adding my own line to the end of the first page: "Annie and her cat were stuck inside." Problem solved!
I am starting to realize that story time does not have to be torture for the reader. There are many children's books that appeal to parents as well. I have found a few so far that I love. When I find more I'll be sure to write about them here. In the meantime, I would gladly accept recommendations for books that you enjoy reading to your little one as much as they love hearing them.