Motherhood Monday: Bringing Your Child’s Favorite Book to Life

Every night, Alex and I read Toby bedtime stories. His absolute favorite is One Sunday Morning, which tells the story of a boy named Minho, who spends the day at Central Park with his dad. Whenever we read the book, Toby’s eyes light up. We realized that he was imagining that he was the little boy in the book. Seeing how excited Toby was, Alex decided to actually make the day come true. Here are Alex‘s photos…

Alex writes: From the second we got to the subway station, Toby knew where we were going. You could barely wipe the smile off his face.

Even though it was only 11am, Toby clearly had food on his mind. No sooner did we see a guy with a hot-dog stand than Toby steered us over: “That way, that way.” He achieved a state of bliss as we sat on a park bench and he was allowed dig into both a pretzel and a hot dog. And, of course, I gave him “purple juice” just like Minho (it was actually watered down cranberry juice I had brought from home).

Then Toby was happy to wander around the rocks and watch the bicyclists, just like Minho did in the book. He also picked out a special leaf to give to me.

Next, it was time to ride the carousel. As we wandered over, the music got louder and louder, and when it came time to climb aboard, he took one look at the horses and got scared. So he and I just sat together in the carriage on the carousel. He was happier, definitely, in that seat, but still a little freaked out by the blaring circus music.

Afterward, Toby and I hung out and watched a big band at Naumberg Bandshell. Toby especially loved the wild trombone solo.

Finally, it was time for the main attraction: Sailboat Pond. It was a special moment for me, since it reminded me of that great scene in the movie Manhattan, where Woody Allen takes his son to sail boats on the pond. It was hard to believe that I was finally that New York dad. At first, Toby seemed more interested in finishing his pretzel, so I tried to figure out how to actually sail the boat. I was just starting to get the hang of it, when two-year-old Toby amused a whole family of bystanders by bossily announcing “Different Captain!” After 20 minutes or so of watching our sailboat do pathetic donuts in the middle of the pond, Toby was getting sleepy. We took off toward the subway, so I could get him home for an extra-long nap. It was a day we’ll never forget.

Thanks so much, Alex! Toby has not stopped talking about this day. Would you guys do this with your kiddos? A few more books that could be brought to life: Catch That Baby!, Green Eggs and Ham and Subway. Any others you can think of? xoxo

P.S. Alex’s 8 confessions of a new dad, and Cup of Jo’s Guide to NYC.

  1. This is AWESOME! I can hardly wait to do this when I have kids!thank you for the tip. my girl’s most loved book right now is followed by Matthew van armada, so I don’t know how we will re-institute that, but rather I adore the thought. your family is so lovable.

  2. After reading this post I picked up this book at the library. We read it as part of our nightly reading (4 and 8 year old) and my son (8) said when he saw it that he was reserving the right to pick another book if he didn’t like it, but even he enjoyed it and thinking about what fun a day in the park like that would be.

  3. omg this is the cutest thing ever!

  4. This really is a little boy’s dream come true! You did a wonderful job! Made me smile.
    Roxana []

  5. N says...

    That is the most adorable, thoughtful thing! I love it. What memories your family will have! I wonder if Toby will remember it when he’s older. Natalie T.

  6. This is the cutest post I’ve ever read everywhere! I love this idea so much and I’m so glad you shared this.

  7. Amazeballs!!! Such a wonderful idea and just so cute .

  8. THIS IS AMAZING! So stinkin’ CUTE of you to do this. Really wonderful!! This really warms my heart. Thanks for sharing this. :)

  9. Very cute idea…..I feel like I’ve told you this already but my husband played Woody Allen’s son in Manhattan… always makes me smile when people reference that movie.

    I loved Toby’s day, I might have to think of something like this for my girls….although not sure how to make Dork’s Diary book come to life at this point! Maybe I’ve missed my window of opportunity.

  10. Your Alex is just such a keeper :) but of course you know it and its way too late to decide otherwise :D
    he’s just the coolest dad ever :)

  11. We did an Olivia the Pig tour of the Met! Was very fun. Love these sorts of adventures. Thanks.

  12. What an awesome idea. Lucky kid!

  13. This is such a cute idea. My son would love to do something like this.

  14. HQ says...

    I got so emotional reading this one. How lovely!

  15. oh. my. god. this was so sweet.

    thank you for the tip. my daughters favourite book at the moment is tails by matthew van fleet, so i’m not sure how we will re-enact that, but i love the idea. your family is so adorable.

  16. This is AWESOME! I can’t wait to do this when I have kids!

  17. You guys are lovely…

  18. This made me cry, so sweet! I just love making my little guy’s dreams become a reality. It really is what parenting I all about.

  19. I love this! We do this on rainy days with books like Pete’s a Pizza. Very magical for the kiddos and extremely fun for the grown ups – it gets your creative side moving!

  20. Such a wonderful idea. My kids are grown and they would still love this. Have you read “The Tiger who came to tea?”


  21. Such a cute idea! This is way off topic but where did you get that rug in the book photos?? I’ve had rugs on the mind recently and I love that pattern.


  22. This is the best thing ever, I nearly got teary-eyed. You guys are such amazing parents.

  23. This is so beautiful!!!

  24. awwwww! this is heart melting :) thanks for sharing! Toby is sooooo cute :)

  25. this is just amazing- such a fantastic idea

  26. i got so teary reading this post – what a sweet gift to give your son – and from his dad! :)

  27. This is so lovely – it reminded me of the special “expeditions” that my dad would take me on when I was little – he would take each of his three children on different days out over the summer, personalised. One year when I was about 6 he took my little sister and me on a special hunt for the North Pole (just like in our favourite books, Winnie the Pooh), all around our hometown of London. On the way we met Father Christmas in his grotto, and visited children-friendly museums and exciting toy shops and the park. It was the best day ever and I remember it even now.

  28. I really love this! What a great experience and memory to give your child. Would love to see some more posts like this.

  29. Great idea! I’m a teacher and my 11 and 12 year old kids would love doing this!

  30. What a fantastic idea! My mom made my brother and I green eggs when I was a kid, for the book Green Eggs and Ham, and it ended up being something we did a few times because we loved it so much! Sometimes the simplest things make the best memories. (Often times, actually!)

  31. Very sweet..i personally don’t have kids ryt now..but i liked your idea..ill enhance it in future..:)
    Loved your kid’s smile…he’s very cute..:)
    pet meds

  32. I could not stop smiling at this! This is the sweetest thing I have read and seen all day!! I bet this day was one of Toby’s best days! You guys are such great parents!

  33. This is the sweetest thing. Brought tears to my eyes. What a sweet family you have!

  34. This is the sweetest thing. Brought tears to my eyes. What a sweet family you have!

  35. Hello, I’m a longtime reader but don’t know that I’ve ever commented. This post moved me to comment. :) Those pics of Toby are just beyond adorable. What a special day. Have you seen Kiki & Coco in Paris? It’s definitely girl-centric but the photos are just to die for. Same concept – the author/photographer follows her daughter and beloved doll around Paris for the day. If your little bean is a girl, this one is a must-have for the bookshelf.

  36. Oh and Yum Yum Dim Sum. We’ve done that one…it’s so fun!

  37. Eloise would be a great one (even though the Plaza’s not really a hotel anymore) — I would love to recreate that one for myself. :) Another fun book could be “This is New York” (plus the other cities too, “This is Paris/London,” etc. Make it a world tour!)

  38. Awww what a sweet idea. I love it! “state of bliss” Thanks for sharing!

  39. As a preschool teacher, you have no clue how this post makes my heart sing. I wish all parents would foster reading and making imaginations come alive and to reality, thanks to you. Thank you for being an example to others.

  40. This has got to be one of my favorite posts – EVER, Joanna! What a fun idea, and it looks like Toby and Alex had a really fun day. And I’m not even a parent! I might have to try this with the twin three year old boys I babysit for, they’d love this. It might involve going to a construction site, though!

  41. This is the most adorable thing ever. I can’t decide which is more dear- the day itself and all those simple joys or the fact that it was modelled after a book! And I love that the days joys will be heightened because both you and he will have that happiness whenever you read the book!

  42. I LOVE that it took him all day to eat that pretzel. This is the best idea. Lovely folks. x

  43. My heart has officially melted. What a sweet story to distract me from Latin homework!

  44. We’ve done this with good night Chicago. & zoo by Gail gibbons. So fun!

  45. H says...

    Joanna you have an absolutely beautiful family!!

  46. Yumi is a friend of mine. I’m going to send her this blog post. She’s going to be so excited!
    She has always been one of my favorite illustrators, even before I was lucky enough to get to know her.

  47. can’t wait to one day take my kid through boston to the duck pond like in make way for ducklings. there is a statue and everything…LOVE!

  48. Toby looks so adorable in all of these pics…and I’m loving the green! This is such a great idea, and what makes it even greater is the fact that anyone could do their own version of this for next to nothing. Absolutely love it!

  49. My son loved the book “A Perfect Day” by Remy Charlip, because it was very much like his idea of a perfect day, and because he really thought that the book was about him!

  50. For Seattle there is a book called, “A Day at the Market” by Sara Anderson.

  51. Aww! That’s such a sweet idea. Reminds me a bit of the movie Baby’s Day Out – where the baby is lost in the city and basically reenacts his favorite book. So sweet!

  52. what a special treat for toby and alex :)!

    this post also reminded me of a project a good friend of mine is involved in called literary lots — the program, hopefully starting this summer, will transform vacant lots in cleveland into programming spots for children by bringing their favorite books to life. they’ve been getting a lot of good buzz off their kickstarter page…i’m really hoping the idea will catch on because i know my daughter would love something like that around our neck of the woods!

  53. Gah! So Cute! We’re getting a lot of love out of the Gruffalo these days, but what a good idea to bring it to life!

    Sweet family you’ve got there!

  54. Haha awwwwww. So sweet!

  55. Ah what a beautiful beautiful idea. Sweet memories for them both. I must have a think about what books we could do that with. At the moment the favourite is ‘We’re going on a bear hunt”… don’t think we will recreate that one!!

  56. What a wonderful idea!! <3 Thank you for sharing!

  57. Aw, I love this! I gave my niece the original Madeline book in hopes of inspiring her to one day travel to Paris herself (she’s pint-size full of moxie like M), with an inscription I wrote on the title page pretty much saying so. My brother says she still insists that he and my sister-in-law read that inscription along with the rest of the story whenever she chooses it for bedtime. You just never know what seeds you’re going to plant with the books you give kids to read. :)

    • P.S. I wonder how well the Sasek books (This is New York, This is San Francisco, etc.) would lend themselves to this kind of thing… It’d be a lot to fit in one day, for sure!

  58. the very hungry caterpillar (kiddo could help source all the different foods), we’re going on a bear hunt (could plant a photo of a fave teddy bear in the cave at the end? instead of the slightly scary bear from the book)…

  59. This is such an AWESOME idea!

    My favorite pic has to be that last one, with the captain’s hat and the giant pretzel. He looks like he’s having the best day ever!

  60. I LOVE this! My 13-month old just connected so deeply with the book Llama Llama, Nighty Night, and I realized it’s because it perfectly mirrors his tiny reality. He can’t get enough of it, and couldn’t really care less about most other books. Makes me want to find more books that talk about things in his life. So amazing to watch these little brains unfold and blossom.

  61. This is such a sweet idea!! this is something he’ll remember forever! xoxo

  62. This is such an amazing idea! Thank you for sharing!

  63. I am so inspired to do this with my daughter. I know that at any age this is such a wonderful, special memory that will be cherished for a lifetime. Thank you! xo

  64. Awww… LOVE this!

  65. This is possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen. Alex, what a gem you are.

    Also, Joanna – loved seeing you referenced in today’s nymag article! Writing a post on the topic, this week.

    Sasha @

  66. Love this story about Toby’s day – I’ll have to find that book for my niece. How lucky that Toby gets to grow up in NYC and have that experience!

  67. What a great idea!! When do kids start listening to bedtime stories? (I dont think my 6-week old is ready! Even if I think she’s a genius!!! Haha) Do you have any other suggestions for bedtime storybooks that can be brought to life

  68. My son and I did this! “You Can Do it, Sam!” by Anita Jeram & Amy Hest was the book, about delivering red bags of warm treats to friends on a snowy winter morning. Great for a toddler to do. He loved it. :)

  69. Definitely Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.

  70. Oh he is so cute! What a great memory you’ve just given him.

  71. You guys are officially the best parents ever. THANK YOU for such a terrific idea!!

  72. That is the most precious story. You have a wonderful family, Jo!

  73. This is just wonderful! We do this all the time with our children- I love connecting books with real life. Our favorite two have probably been Charlottes Web (we visited the fair that was the inspiration for the fair in the book and where E.B. White lived) and The Little Red LIghthouse (in New York!). I’ve been known to schedule vacations around books!

  74. what a fun day, and probably good timing with the baby on the way.

  75. So sweet! My son loves the Mercer Mayer books (Little Critter). There are lots of them, but I think “Just Me and My Mom” would be a lot of fun to bring to life. What a great idea!

  76. AMAZING idea! :)

  77. Love Love Love! That is the sweetest idea. Brilliant! I’ll have to find the San Francisco equivalent. Thank you for this great post! Very inspiring!

    • San Francisco, Baby! (illustrated by Ward Jenkins)

      Was just going to comment in reply to Joanna’s question when I saw your comment. It’s a fun book about a girl’s day in SF with her dad.

      Joanna, thank you for sharing this! So sweet ~ great idea.

  78. Awwww! Loved this SO much. (And my goodness but do I want a pretzel now.)

  79. thanks for sharing this. I have not yet read this book. cant wait to start reading it with my little one and one day make it come to life as well :)

  80. this was a very sweet post.

  81. Beautiful — we love this book too, but how wonderful to make it come to life. Your son is so adorable!

  82. What an sweet and amazing day! Great memories for Alex and Toby. Thanks for sharing his photos.

  83. So sweet! I love this… if only my favorite book (Corduroy) could have been re-created in real life!

  84. That is such a special story, thanks for sharing! I loved when Alex said he couldn’t believe he was THAT New York dad. How precious!

  85. That pic of Toby sitting happily with his hotdog and pretzel brought a smile to my face. That little wrinkled nose! So adorable.

  86. What a wonderful thing to do for your son! I only hope I can do something like this for my potential children one day!

  87. Most fabulous idea ever! Great job Alex!

  88. love this idea and love the book. i hope i find it in the library. our little one will love it.

  89. This is SO sweet. It is so vital that kids learn to love reading and books from a young age, so it is wonderful that you read to Toby at night.

    Love the pictures of him eating the pretzel and hot dog! He is such a sweetie pie!

  90. i love this idea, so, so sweet!

  91. Toby is such a lucky little boy to have such a special experience with his daddy.

  92. I loved this post!! and this idea. So sweet and heartwarming. And Toby’s smile is just the cutest. I’ll have to remember to do this when I have kids soon

  93. We LOOOOVE Yumi!!! xoxo,

  94. We LOOOOVE Yumi!!! xoxo,

  95. This is SO cute. Seriously. Best dad ever award for Alex! I want to do this with my kids.

  96. you guys are such cool parents. everytime i start second guessing having children, you give me the hope that it’d be a lovely and fun ride :)
    thank you for that!

  97. Every Friday, by Dan Yaccarino, would be perfect for this and it’s one of my son’s favorites! Great idea!

  98. So, so sweet. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing, Joanna!

  99. I can assure you Toby will remember that day forever. I’m the proof! My dad traveled Mon-Fri for work when I was growing up and on weekends we spent time as a family unit (my mom, my dad and me). One weekend when I was around 7 or 8, my mom had plans all day Saturday– which meant my Dad was in charge of entertaining me for perhaps the first time in my life (crazy, right?) He took me to Central Park. We got hot dogs at a stand (something my healthy nut mom would never have allowed), wandered around all the little pathways, and sat on a rock watching little league baseball. It was the best day! I’m 25 years old now, and I still think fondly back to our father-daughter bonding day in Central Park. In fact, when my dad was undergoing heart surgery last summer, that happy memory was foremost in my mind while we waited and waited for news from the surgeon. I will never forget that day, so I just know Toby won’t forget his special day either!

    • That’s so sweet!

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

  100. This is the most adorable, sweetest post ever. How lovely!

  101. a says...

    This is wonderful!!! What a great idea!

  102. oh what a great idea and we really needed some new book recommendations so thanks!

  103. This is a fantastic idea! I would love to do something like that!

  104. This is so great! We just returned that book to the library, we both loved it. I love the idea of re-creating a book, brilliant.

  105. Love this! Growing up in rural Texas, I remember always having a hard time relating to children’s books when I was little. We didn’t have a “neighborhood” of kids running around. Glad Toby’s getting to live it!

  106. That’s the best idea ever! Now I only have to get a lion, an elephant and a rhino and start following the sun!

  107. this absolutely brought me to tears. so sweet!

  108. Wow! If I was a kid I sure would go crazy for something like that!!

  109. I think this is the best post I have ever read. That is so incredibly sweet.

  110. What a special day for Toby!! :)

  111. Absolutely adorable!! :) We love doing this, too!! We brought to life an old Little Golden Book about visiting the Children’s Zoo in Central Park for our oldest as a birthday adventure/treat. And for many years we did “Green Eggs and Ham” for St. Patrick’s Day. (In fact, our old two children mentioned that to us yesterday as we ate our “taco-the-morning” meal of corned beef and cabbage tacos.) You’ve inspired us to do more of these. What awesome memories for Toby and Dad!!

  112. This has got to be the coolest thing ever!!! Love it!

  113. I almost cried! Thank you for sharing!

  114. what a special day and what fun memories to have forever! i love, love , love that!
    also being a nyc mom, i love hearing what other parents come up with, so great!!

  115. Toby eating the hotdog looks exactly like that picture of you as a baby eating a baguette, how cute!!

  116. That is so sweet! I love Toby’s face eating the hot dog in the park.