I became accustomed to reading the same books over and over again with child number one. But then along came child number two and those books that I grew bored with the first time around became just plain painful when reading them for the 80th time. So it comes as quite a treat when, every now and then, a childrens’ book comes along that just begs to be read over and over. And when my children and I find delight in that very same book, it serves as a magical break from those annoying books adapted from TV shows, or WAY too much Dr. Seuss (as much as I love him, his books are LONG and very repetitive).
To honor those special books that I wish my children would choose more often, I present my top 5 – although I could have easily expanded the list to 10 or 20, I’ll save that for future posts. Here’s my personal criteria for a good childrens’ book:
- Good story – one that is original and clever and will not get old the 3rd (or 5th or 20th) time around.
- Great illustrations that look like pieces of art – critical because I am Taurus and apparently we are attracted to pretty things.
- A lesson or moral of some sort – Not absolutely critical, but it nice when the story carries the conversation with my children beyond just the book.
- Not too long – this criteria alone cancels out Dr. Seuss.
The Top 5
1. The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers.
I bought this book in Australia a few years ago and it quickly moved Oliver Jeffers to number 1 on my all time list of favorite children’s authors. While all of his books are wonderful and quirky, this one about a boy and a martian who help each other out when they become stranded on the moon is just wonderful. Bonus points for the Aussie/English version that we own because it uses words like Petrol and spanner which are translated in the American version.
2. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
I am so thankful that Mo Williams decided to release a couple of follow ups to this book because our copy of the original is literally falling apart at the seams. The story of a lost toy appeals to parents as well as toddlers and I love how he mixes illustration with black and white photos of New York. Favorite line of the book: Trixie was so upset “she went boneless.”
3. Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth
Almost every family we know has a copy of Zen Shorts, the first in this beautiful series of three books about a giant Panda called Stillwater. Zen Ties, the second in the series, is my favorite thanks to the appearance of Stillwater’s cousin who speaks only in Haiku. I love the use of Buddhist parables to teach a lesson and the slow, calm pace of the book. Perfect just before bedtime.
4. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, Lauren Child
Charlie and Lola has been a favorite in our house for a long time but this book is a new addition. Charlie is the older brother who is always dealing with his “small and very funny” sister, Lola in wonderfully inventive ways. In this book, Lola is a very picky eater so Charlie tries to trick her into eating things by pretending they are something else (mashed potato is really cloud fluff). Fun books to read (especially when I put on my English accent) and this one earns bonus points for convincing Samuel to eat edamame (green drops anyone?). It’s also worth checking out the adorable TV series that’s available on Netflix, but make sure you buy the books that Lauren Child wrote herself, not the ones adapted from the series.
5. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
I bought this book as a present from the Easter Bunny because of it’s Spring theme. The story is lovely but it’s the illustrations that really drew me in. Each time we read it together it seems we discover something new in the highly detailed and beautifully colored pictures. I think we’re definitely going to add a few more of Peter Brown’s books to our wishlist.
So there you have it – a few of my favorites. Please share your own in the comments and help me build our library. I’m on a quest to phase out the Thomas the Tank Engine book that plays music and every new addition gets me closer to my goal.