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Occasionally I get emails from people wanting book recommendations. I know I have made these lists before and I have emailed many of them. They change a bit from time to time, but here’s a current one, starting with the little people. I believe staunchly that the best start to education is reading stories to our babies, instilling a love of words by looking at books with illustrations that capture their attention while you read the story.
I have a friend who said one of her children didn’t care if she read him gardening articles; he simply wanted to sit beside her and be read to. I am guessing that kind of child is rare. Ours look for the pictures, and sometimes there is so much crowding, “Move over! I can’t seeee, your hair is in the way,” etc, that I close the book and rearrange the crowd to more manageable positions.
When they are past the stage where they chew all their books, that’s when the fun really starts because the parent can enjoy this too. The best children’s books do not bore the reader any more than the listener. If you are reading Little Golden Books that make you want to pull your hair with their inanity, you should probably look further. Not knocking Little Goldens… I absolutely loved The Saggy Baggy Elephant as a child. And my own children loved Doctor Dan, the Bandage Man. They have their place, but some are distinctly sub-par and you shouldn’t be fooled just because of the gold wrapper on the spine.
What you want to look for in a picture book is content that engages the mind with ideas while the story is being told. Unfortunately, some children’s books simply tell. It’s not complicated. If you enjoy the plot, your children probably will. And then they will pick that book again and again until maybe you don’t enjoy it anymore, but by then they can “read” it to themselves from memory.
Here’s our list of books that I expect our children to collect for their own children some day.
- One Morning in Maine
- Make Way for Ducklings
- Blueberries for Sal
All of those are by Robert McCloskey, and all are worth getting in hardcover, or in multiple paperback copies when they wear out. In fact, I have never met a McCloskey book I didn’t like. The stories are simple, charming, full of nature and caring for others. Most of the illustrations are beautiful pencil or pen sketches. (We used to make copies for the children to color.) All the stories contain clever little twists and masterful word play that I enjoy.
- Town Mouse, Country Mouse
There are a lot of these books out there, all with variations on a theme of being happy with the life you have. The one we like the best is by Jan Brett. Her paintings can only be described as exquisite. When we go on walks in the woods, we speculate about holes in tree roots and which ones would make good country homes.
- Abe Lincoln, the boy who loved books
This is a pint-sized biography with lyrical text by Kay Winters and really fun paintings by Nancy Carpenter. The story follows Abe’s love-affair with books throughout his early years and how this love changed our world forever. The concluding page has Lincoln sitting beside the fireplace at the White House, nose deep in a hefty tome, and these words:
“Abraham Lincoln- born in a log cabin,
child of the frontier, head in a book-
elected our sixteenth president!
From the wilderness to the White House.
He learned the power of words
and used them well.”
- Little Bear
- No Fighting, No Biting
These are two of Else Holmelund Minarik’s books, with illustrations by the famous Maurice Sendak. They are gentle stories, with bits of humor that tickle children and adults alike. No Fighting, No Biting has the exact scenario describing above, with children jockeying for the best seat at storytime.
- The Biggest Bear
In my opinion, this is a book every child should have. Recently I discovered it in the attic with some other paperback books that I read hundreds of times to the boys and Addy was just as delighted as they were. There isn’t a lot of text, but it is such fun to read aloud.
- Floss, Just Like Floss
The reason Kim Lewis can paint such amazing scenes with a sheepdog’s perspective is because she lives on a sheep farm in England. All of her books are works of art.
- Moses the Kitten
Of all the Herriot stories for children, this is my personal favorite. We have the collection, but something about little coal black Moses suckling at the piglets’ milk bar is just wonderful.
- Five O’Clock Charlie
This is such a compelling story about an old work horse who is still not done with adventure, even though he is put to pasture. Marguerite Henry is a master of horse tales, and as far as I know, this is the only one that is published for a younger audience than her line of chapter books.
- Charlie, the Ranch Dog
I was delighted to find this book by the Pioneer Woman recently. She writes a rollicking good story and we look forward to more from her.
- A Tale of Two Beasts
What? You didn’t think I would write a book list without including at least one Uzzie? 😀 Let me explain why we think this is such a great book. The story is told from the perspective of a little girl walking in the woods, when she sees a little beast and rescues it. Eventually it escapes back to its tree home and tells its side of the story, how it was kidnapped and made to endure all this horrid petting, etc. When the children are fighting and have many sides to a story, I ask, “So which beast are you?” No Amazon link for this one, but if you are interested, you can contact me. 🙂
As you may have noticed, I am experimenting with links for Amazon’s affiliate program. I have never made anything on my product recommendations before, but if it helps make ends meet, I shall try it. I don’t like a lot of flashy ads, so we shall see. If you hate it, or I hate it, the links will disappear. 🙂