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My 2-Year-Old Judges Books By Their Covers


My son will be 3 years old in June, and I love the fact that he’s into reading. A day usually doesn’t go by without him asking me or his mom to sit down and read a book with him.

During all those reading sessions, I’ve learned that he’s an imaginative little guy.

So I decided to put that imagination to use and see what he thinks about the books I read, not just the books about Elmo and Thomas The Train and Lightning McQueen.

So I grabbed a bunch of classic books, got him to sit in my lap, showed him the cover of each book, and then asked him one question: “What do you think this book is about?”

He took it from there:

This Side of Paradise


“It’s about a castle. There’s a lion inside the castle. Roar! He likes it.”

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret


“This book is about feet. They are lion feet and they stomp things.”

The Corrections


“It’s about eating lunch. They eat salad and cake. All they do is eat.”

The Great Gatsby


“This book is about singing. It’s about singing ‘Barbara Ann.’ Those are the lights, and there are lions in those lights.”

Snow Crash


“That man is dark. He is walking. I don’t know where he’s walking. He’s going to put the groceries on the shelves, and then he is going to eat the boxes.”

The Grapes of Wrath


“This is about the mountains, and there is slippery sand. The man doesn’t got a face. I have a face and the crocodile has a face, and he does not have a face, but he is going to be okay without a face.”



“It’s about babies, and they are swinging into the water. They don’t got any shirts on. They are going to go right in the hole and that is their house and they are going to play with toys. And there is a lion in the house.”

The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe


“It’s about a castle. There is a big skunk at the castle. He is not feeling better, because the lion is trying to catch him.”

To Kill A Mockingbird


“It’s about a yucky pond, and she has a button on her shirt. She lost her button in the pond.”

The Bridge of San Luis Rey


“This is about a bridge. This is about a table. What is that?”

That, my friends, is literary criticism in its highest form.

Not only did my son provide excellent reading tips when he was a one year old, now he can give you a wonderful idea of what these books are about by simply looking at their covers. I should probably just let him take over this blog–although I get the feeling it might turn into a blog about lions or Beach Boys songs.

One cool thing about this post. To make him excited about doing it, I called it “The Book Game.” Now, every night, he asks to play The Book Game. How about that? What a great way to introduce your kids to literature!

*Hat tip to Sunny Chanel at Babble, who gave me the idea for this post when she did the same thing with her six-year-old daughter.

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74 Comments Post a comment
  1. These are all great! His theory about The Grapes of Wrath is awesome: “I have a face and the crocodile has a face, and he does not have a face, but he is going to be okay without a face.”

    That right there is just about perfect … although I guess it could use more lions.

    April 26, 2013
    • That one cracked me up. And the guy on the cover really doesn’t have a face. It’s funny that he noticed that, but no idea where the crocodile came from.

      April 26, 2013
      • Katie (the wife) #

        He was just playing with a toy crocodile, and he was talking about his toy

        April 26, 2013
        • Well there you go.

          April 26, 2013
  2. Hahaha, kids are so great. Well I guess now you know what his favorite animal is. Go get him some lion fact books and he’ll probably be the happiest kid on earth :3 That is a neat game to get smaller kids started in reading though!

    April 26, 2013
    • Yep! He loves it.

      April 26, 2013
  3. I can see that lions are his thing :)

    April 26, 2013
    • Indeed. He started to watch Lion King but it was a little to scary for him. Scar and the hyenas freaked him out a little, I think. So we’re holding off on that one for a while.

      April 26, 2013
      • @Robert: Good to hold off. We ended up having a discussion with my daughter when she was 3 to explain Simba’s dad’s death. It was difficult to put it mildly.

        April 26, 2013
  4. I kind of like his version of Atonement better.

    He’s two?? He’s got a really great vocabulary. Wonder where he gets that from? I want to try this with my three year old.

    April 26, 2013
    • He’s practically three (in June), but yeah. He’s a talker. The quotes are pieced together because I had to ask questions to draw everything out. But that’s what he said.

      April 26, 2013
      • Patty #

        He gets his vocabulary from his mother, a reader and writer, of course!

        April 30, 2013
  5. Jennifer #

    I laughed out loud. He will love the Narnia series then with his fascination of lions. Hilarious. And what a cool idea to do with him. Thanks for sharing.

    April 26, 2013
  6. aww, that is one creative little kid! and may i say, he does love him some lions ;)

    April 26, 2013
  7. Love it. I think he’s right – most of these books would be better with lions in them. Come to think of it, pretty much all books would be better with lions in them.

    April 26, 2013
  8. therelentlessreader #

    Hilarious! :)

    April 26, 2013
  9. Great comments! I love his plot summaries. Kids do, indeed, say the darndest things. He seems to really enjoy lions.

    April 26, 2013
  10. write4life #

    nice and refreshing post! cover design is important to adults too! but we don’t let ourselves be so thoughtful about them. when I shop for a book at the store, I choose one with an enticing cover. of this sampling, i’m guessing your son would choose The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe – there’s a lion on the front :)

    April 26, 2013
    • Yep! I can’t wait to read that series to/with him.

      April 26, 2013
  11. Matt #

    I love the honesty of children. It reminds me of a story a professor shared with us once. If you were to walk into a first-grade classroom and ask the students to raise their hands if they could sing, every child would put his or her hand up. But if you were to walk into a class of high-schoolers and ask the same question, maybe one person would raise his or her hand. Maybe. We become so timid because we are afraid of being embarrassed or being wrong. I will be sharing this with my high school students next week.

    April 26, 2013
  12. Your son is a riot, but then you already know that. I am curious, now, to see how his interpretations change as he learns to read–will it enhance or mute them? Interesting…

    April 26, 2013
  13. Awwww good one

    April 26, 2013
  14. David H. #

    All further book reviews should come with a rating on a scale of 1 to Lion.

    April 26, 2013
    • That’s great.

      April 28, 2013
  15. Love it! Reminds me that it’s not about the picture on the front but the possibility of the story within!

    April 26, 2013
  16. Are you sure he hasn’t read Atonement? Because that’s a pretty solid description in a lot of ways, if you allow for the lion being metaphorical.

    April 26, 2013
    • It’s the truth. The Grapes of Wrath, the same way. He might be a genius with metaphors.

      April 28, 2013
  17. I absolutely adored this post, it’s amazing really how different we can interpret things at a young age. What would you suggest I read first out of The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird? (I can’t believe I haven’t read them, either) I am desperate to read both even though they are very different and wasn’t sure which one to go for first! xo

    April 26, 2013
    • Ooh. That’s tough. I’ve read Gatsby so many times, plus with the movie coming out in 2 weeks, I’d suggest that one. I’ve only read TKAM once, but it’s right behind Gatsby for me. You really can’t go wrong with either one.

      April 28, 2013
      • Thank you! Have you saying Gatsby and another commenter saying To Kill a Mockingbird haha! I think i’ll go with Gatsby.

        April 29, 2013
    • Cathy #

      To Kill a Mockingbird. You will want to have read it fifteen years ago once you read it, because it is the best. And you will finish it by tomorrow because it is the best.

      April 29, 2013
      • You’re saying To Kill a Mockingbird and Robert’s saying Gatsby! I will read both and order both and see..currently Gatsby’s swaying it for me but who knows!

        April 29, 2013
    • MichelleR #

      To Kill a Mockingbird! I’ve read Gatsby twice — once as a teen, once as an adult — and it never stuck to my ribs. TKAM is one of those books that makes me feel grateful, optimistic, spiritual, simply because it exists, and world with it in it is a world worth knowing.

      April 29, 2013
  18. Awesome post! As the mother of a two-year-old I can relate. In my case, I think everything would be about Winnie the Pooh and blue trucks.

    April 26, 2013
  19. saffronrain94 #

    Why a refreshing way to look at books!

    April 26, 2013
    • saffronrain94 #

      What*! Not why!

      April 26, 2013
  20. That is one imaginative little boy. But that was fun to read. And there are lions everywhere, which I love. Hahaha

    April 27, 2013
  21. Great choices of books….wait a minute his THREE?

    April 27, 2013
    • He’s almost three. In June.

      April 27, 2013
  22. Your son loves lions. Hahaha!

    April 27, 2013
  23. sylviemarieheroux #

    Fun stuff! When I was a child and teenager, I used to pick books at the city library mostly based on their covers… quite unlike what I do now (literary prize long lists, etc.). Can’t say the reading has gotten better though, so book covers are certainly worth a look and a little speculation!

    April 27, 2013
  24. leafstrewngirl #

    Reblogged this on leafstrewngirl and commented:
    I love children’s views. They are wonderful.

    April 27, 2013
  25. Just gorgeous:-) What a great idea! Thanks for sharing these gems of innocent insight – yes, the man without a face thing is pure genius!

    April 28, 2013
  26. Reblogged this on The Student Becomes The Teacher and commented:
    Too adorable!

    April 28, 2013
  27. He is the smartest little boy I know!

    April 28, 2013
  28. Original post. Love it! I’m going to try this with my grandchildren this weekend.

    April 28, 2013
  29. Clever and fun to read. I’m 55, and I still tend to judge new books by their covers!

    April 29, 2013
  30. I think we all tend to judge a book by its cover, but I don’t understand where he gets Barbara Ann on the Great Gatsby cover

    April 29, 2013
  31. kpoe #

    i love all the lion references! someone’s got lions on their mind.

    April 29, 2013
  32. january #

    Reblogged this on under the covers and commented:
    Maybe this 2-year-old can help me figure out who the extra head is in my last post.

    April 29, 2013
  33. This is lots of fun to read. Congratulations on building your son’s imagination and his love of books!

    April 30, 2013
  34. Hilarious! He sounds like a clever boy The To Kill a Mockingbird one is my favorite. Where did the pond come from?

    April 30, 2013
  35. This is hilarious! I always love to get my 5 year old’s thoughts on book covers and illustrations I’m designing!

    May 3, 2013
  36. Reblogged this on Mary Elizabeth Hall and commented:
    Check out this viral reblog – hilarious!

    May 3, 2013
  37. This is great! I love it!! I don’t want kids.. ever.. but this makes me want kids.. NOW!

    May 3, 2013
  38. Loved this! We’re a couple of bloggers just starting out, and we reblogged this post at our own site here:

    Please swing by and check us out, and thanks for this great post! Hope this will be an ongoing series ;)

    May 5, 2013
  39. You’re son is so funny and smart. He must really like lions.

    May 5, 2013
  40. Adorable. You sound like you have a very bright and verbal toddler. I wish I had done something fun and clever like this when my son was that age. He’s 9 now and deep in the land of video games and sports. He does love reading but I really have to play my cards right to help him sustain that love.

    May 10, 2013
  41. I had a big grin on my face as I read your son’s comments–he is a wild and intelligent child! Looks like he’s in love with lions….comes across to me as an Old Soul – been around the cosmos many a time and knows a lot…your blog is unusual — which indicates a highly original mind — thanks!

    November 5, 2013
  42. this is SO adorable!!! so glad you included this in your 2013 top posts roundup. I love that your son loves lions!

    December 29, 2013
  43. Panda Rosa #

    I would love to read your son’s versions of these books, they sound maybe better than the originals :) May he always enjoy reading.

    April 2, 2014

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