More Children's Reading: Picture Books

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In my efforts to whittle this post down to a manageable size, it occurred to me that I could happily devote an entire blog to the subject of children's literature.  

It also occurred to me, as I listed the merits of each selection, that my summaries contain a conspicuous number of references to food.

Well, at least I am consistent.

Resisting the temptation to be exhaustive, I offer this (tiny) sampling of favorites.  

I'd love to hear yours.

One More Sheep by Mij Kelly & Russell Ayto

Quite possibly the best counting book ever.  The language and pictures are equally clever.  
Our copy is covered with sticky tape after countless repairs. Despite the fact that DB won't allow it in his bedroom (for fear that the wolf might come out of the book), it gets pulled out from its hiding place again and again.  A perennial favorite.

Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty

An absolute must for budding builders, precocious kids, non-conformists, and anyone with a passion.  Brilliant rhyming and stylish illustrations.  I want Iggy's mother's wardrobe.

We must have read this ten times at least in the week we brought it home.  About a boy who develops a taste for books and begins gobbling whole volumes in his quest to become the smartest person in the world.  An instant favorite and healthy reminder that there are no short-cuts on the path to knowledge. Perfect for bridging the divide between younger and older siblings.  

Dragons And Other Beasts,  by Kenneth Graeme, E. Nesbit and illustrated by Inga Moore 

This gorgeous volume includes two tales: The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Graeme, and The Book of Beasts, by E. Nesbit.  It is the latter, about a young boy named Lionel, who suddenly becomes king, that we read over, and over, and over again.  The illustrations are sumptuous and the story (and its description of the grown-ups involved) is droll, imaginative, and perfectly pitched.  A gem.

Do not pick up the pigeon if you've been neglecting your pelvic floor exercises.  He is charming, wry, indignant, and irrepressible.  We are reduced to raucous laughter each and every time.  Long live the pigeon!

Chimps And Zee And The Big Storm by Catherine & Laurence Anholt

Two naughty twin chimps, who sometimes get along, sometimes don't, and always land in mischief.  The detail in the illustrations is fantastic.  I want to live in their tree house and dine on fried bananas, sitting by the stove.

A small boy joins a band of pirates and enjoys life without any rules... until bedtime, when he learns that pirates don't read bedtime stories and they don't tuck-in.  They also have green teeth - a fact that comes in handy when arguing the merits of brushing!

The Tale Of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Surprisingly, this is a story that always prompts discussion.  We find ourselves cheering for Peter, while wrestling with the fact that our flawed hero is a thief!  Moral ambiguity aside, it remains a favorite.  We never close this one without musing about how delightful a supper of bread, milk and blackberries would be.

Another story that inspires food fantasies.  Sophie and her mother have just sat down to a bountiful tea, when they are joined by a tiger of prodigious appetite (for cakes, not people).  The pictures are priceless.

Whenever things go terribly, horribly wrong, we invoke the words of Alexander's wise mum: "Some days are like that, even in Timbuktu." A permanent fixture, on our shelf and in the family vernacular.  Timeless. 

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

I confess, I don't entirely understand it, but my boys adore this book about Mickey, who,while dreaming, falls out of his bed, and clothes, to find himself in cake batter, in the night kitchen.  Completely surreal and always a favorite.

Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall

Miss Nelson's kids are the worst behaved in the entire school, until the arrival of substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp.  But where is Miss Nelson?  This is a mystery you will never grow tired of solving.  

Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola

People in her village are wary of Strega Nona (Grandmother Witch)'s powers, but always come to her for help.  When silly Big Anthony tampers with her magic pasta pot, she comes to everyone's rescue, again.  A good lesson in the importance of not touching things that don't belong to you!  (Not that we need it.)

I Wish I Had A Pirate Suit by Pamella Allen

Peter has a pirate suit, and his younger brother covets it.   By the time he is big enough to wear it,  it's not quite new, there's no one left to be the crew, and Peter has moved on to other pursuits.  But that's not the end of the story....  For younger siblings everywhere. 

Bread And Jam For Frances by Russell & Lillian Hoban

Frances is one of our all-time favorite literary heroines.  Precocious and imaginative, with an original song for every situation.  The descriptions of the lunches that Frances and her friend, Albert, take to school are positively tormenting.  I always close this book craving a lobster salad sandwich, served on a doily, with celery sticks, olives and a small, cardboard shaker of salt.   

George And Martha by James Marshall

George and Martha are two hippos who provide lesson after lesson in how to be a real friend.  Lovely, simple stories for younger listeners and early readers.  

The original Curious George stories have lost none of their appeal since they were first published, forty years ago.  The syntax and expressions ("My new, fine kite!") sometimes feel stilted, but it never gets in the way of enjoying this little monkey's antics.  A word of caution: the "New" Curious George stories are sterile and hugely disappointing.  Original only!

Officer Buckle And Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle's safety talks leave the kids snoozing, until he is joined by a theatrical police dog called Gloria, who quickly becomes his best pal.  When Officer Buckle discovers that his newfound popularity is due to Gloria's performance, his pride is hurt.  But, ultimately, he learns the most important safety tip of all: always stick with your buddy.  A sweet look at human (and canine) fallibility, friendship, and chock full of safety tips.  An absolute winner.  

Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest 

Another dog-eared, taped-up veteran from a thousand bedtimes.   A fantastic way for aspiring firefighters to learn their letters, and pick up a little industry knowledge along the way.  
"K" is for K-tool, to open locked doors; "L" is for ladders that climb several floors."  

Dig Dig Digging!  by Margaret Mayo & Alex Ayliffe

This is for very young listeners and probably belongs with the pram post, but I had to include it.  It is impossible to look back on the past seven years without chanting: "Dig, dig, digging!"  If you spend considerable chunks of time watching building sites (and you're not a foreman), this is for you.  

crayon image from courtneycolors, via photobucket


  1. Dig, Dig, Digging. What memories! I must have know that book by heart when D was smaller. Loving your blogs on books Kate. Do one again on the books you have been reading recently. Your last one kept me in new books for a good few weeks.

  2. YOU guys were the ones who gave us Dig, Dig, Digging! And I can vouch for you: you DID know it off by heart. I still do!

  3. p.s. grown-up recommendations on the way!

  4. Kate - I want your library!


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