I know this won’t be my first blog on this topic. I love Children’s Books. Especially picture books. One of my favorite rituals with my sons when they were young was our weekly trip to the library, and the daily reading of those books curled up together on the sofa. I asked them both recently what their favorites were. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Harper & Row, 1963) was the book that first popped into both of their memories. It has a universal appeal for children (and adults!) that has made it a classic.
Pat the Bunny by Edith Kunhardt, has stood the test of time, being first published in 1940. It was a ‘touch and feel book’ that was another favorite, although neither of my sons remembered it now when I asked. They were too young; it is definitely a “first book” kind of book. I had to get a new copy for my younger son after my eldest son’s love of his volume left it in tatters. I was thrilled when his now wife was gifted a copy at her baby shower!
My younger son also talked about the Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House.) Following the antics of Brother and Sister as they learned and grew and tried new things, afraid at times, confident at others, doing the right thing and getting into trouble, was instructive for child readers. Everything was grist for the mill and helped normalize the stuff of life!
Another beloved series were Frank Asch’s Bear books (Simon and Schuster) which chronicled the experiences of a little brown bear in fun and fanciful ways. My two personal favorites are Bear Shadow and Happy Birthday Moon. We read them often when my sons were young.
While I don’t remember any adult reading to me as a child, I did have a great aunt, my grandmother’s identical twin, who gave me books every year. I still have several of those books, my favorite being The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1931 by Platt & Munk.) It is a timeless classic about being yourself – and being careful what you wish for!
Another timeless classic, and definitely at the top of my all-time favorite children’s books is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. It was published in 1947. I never knew of this book until I had children and then I read it nightly for several years. “Goodnight room, Goodnight moon, Goodnight cow jumping over the moon… Goodnight stars, Goodnight air, Goodnight noises everywhere.” It became our nightly ritual, but I never grew tired of it. There aren’t many books I could say that about!
Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood (Child’s Play) was another sing song rhyming book that was well worn in our household. “I’m as quick as a cricket, I’m as slow as a snail, I’m as small as an ant, I’m as large as a whale…” It illustrated the many different traits that co-exist within all of use, giving permission to be fully ourselves.
Another gem about being loveable just as we are is Ruby by Maggie Glen (Hutchinson’s Children’s Books) about a stuffed bear that gets stamped with an “S” and thrown into the “seconds bin.” She spearheads an escape for all the “seconds” with very happy results. I think I loved this book more than my sons. It spoke to the child in me who had never felt quite good enough.
In keeping with the theme of being valuable just as you are, Pobody’s Nerfect, by Nancy Parker Brummet, features “Farley the Technicowler Calf” who feels different because he is born with colored spots instead of simply being black and white like all the other calves. (Spoiler alert: there is a happy ending!)
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (1930 by Platt & Munk) has also stood the test of time. This may be the book with the most staying power for me as a shy less than confident kid. To be able to call in the empowering “I think can, I think I can…” bolstered me then and still resonates for me today when new things feel overwhelming.
This may well be why I love picture books so much. The fact that a simple phrase or message can become such a positive part of one’s self for life is an amazing thing. It has been over two decades since I read children’s books on a regular basis. As a new grandmother, I can’t wait to get back out there, so to speak, to see what wonderful new offerings are out there.
What are your favorites? Let me know what I might be missing!