I don’t yet have my own kids. However, I’ve worked in childcare for the past ten or so years. Translation: I’ve read a lot of books to children. I routinely read to fourteen toddlers who’ve just eaten chocolate pudding, so it goes with saying that I’ve formed some opinions about which books–and authors–are worthwhile.
One of my favorite authors is Leo Lionni. His most famous books are Inch by Inch, Swimmy, and A Color of His Own. I adore them all, but particularly this one:
In Frederick, a little mouse community rallies together to survive a difficult year. As the seasons change, all the mice offer their own skills to help the colony, but they wonder what Frederick–who, to be perfectly honest, seems a little lazy–is doing to help. Finally, just as the bleak winter approaches and the mice must huddle together in the darkness to fend off the cold, Frederick uses his imagination to tell wonderful stories. The mice listen intently, carried away by the magical world Frederick creates with his words. They forget about the bleak winter, and soon realize that Frederick’s beautiful poetry is his gift to the community, perhaps the best gift of all.
Lionni’s watercolor illustrations are simple and striking, but the best thing about Frederick is that it celebrates art and poetry as a real contribution to the world. All the budding writers in your life will appreciate the message.
I also love the Max and Ruby books, by Rosemary Wells. There are many of them, but this one is particularly sweet:
Max and Ruby are brother and sister; Max is the younger of the two. Somehow, Wells captures the sibling dynamic perfectly, even between rabbits. Ruby is often exasperated with Max, but she looks after him, despite the fact that he often gets lost, and loses things, and generally causes trouble for them both. The illustrations are charming, and the words are genuinely funny, whether you’re reading them for the first or hundredth time.
Another favorite is Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch.
If you have a little girl, you should read this to her. It features a very feisty young lady, an antithesis to those other famous princesses you might see every now and then on the bookshelves, who kicks the butt of a dragon, and kicks her prince to the curb when he doesn’t show her the respect she deserves. It celebrates actions above appearances, and teaches young ladies they don’t have to look perfect to be princesses at heart.
Those are some of my favorites. Which children’s books do you love?