|Let's Count Goats by Mem Fox and Jan Thomas|
My dear friends (known on 10KP as Curry and Boy Wonder) are expecting their first child (a boy) in April. Curry asked me to compile a list of essential picture books to register for, and I jumped at the chance. I know you want to see it too. (The links are either to my reviews or direct to Amazon when I haven't written a review.)
This is the category of books you'll always find in print and at big-box bookshops, though strangely not that often at used bookstores and library sales, because people just never get rid of them. They have been passed on for at least one generation, some 2, 3, 5 generations. Everyone has their favorites. Some people hate Goodnight Moon and The Little Engine that Could and others love them. Here are my 5 classics:
1) Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. (Also, Blueberries for Sal, though really, you can't go wrong with any of his books.)
2) Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Garth Williams (the perfect lesson in a Mother's love).
3) Mother Goose: You can pick any illustrator, though my favorites are the classic and Rosemary Well's. Get a complete one, so that you add variety to your bedtime reading. Similarly, you can't go wrong with the complete Beatrix Potter.
4) The entire Babar series. Or Curious George if you like mischievious monkeys and yellow suits.
5) Moo, Baa, La La La is clearly the best board book ever created, which is why I got it for them already, but all of Sandra Boynton's other board books are winners too.
|The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson & Beth Krommes|
The New Classics
I've said this before, but we are in a golden age of picture books, and so many wonderful books are being released every year. If I could only pick a few to include in my library they'd be:
1) Recent Caldecott winners The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney; A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead (I know, I know, I have to review this still.) (Ps. I already got this for Curry, and she fell in love!); and The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes (review here).
3) How I Learned Geography and When I Wore My Sailor Suit by Uri Schulevitz. Nothing captures imagination and knowledge quite so well.
4) The Squirrel's Birthday by Toon Tellengren is perhaps the dearest book I've discovered since I started LLB. A classic in Finland, these are finally being translated into English, and will be as dear in my home as Pooh or Beatrix Potter. They can be read aloud at a very young age.
5) Little Pea--in board book or hardcover--by Amy Krause Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace. Silly and charming.
|The Song of Francis by Tomie DePaola|
There are not as many great illustrated picture books with a religious theme as I would like, but there are a few masters of the field.
1) Tomie de Paola's Illustrated Bible Stories, Song of Francis, Petook: An Easter Story, and Mary the Mother of Jesus
2) While Lizbeth Zwerger's Stories from the Bible is a treasure, Matie Roche's board book Bible for Little Ones is awfully good for babies and toddlers to bring to Church.
3) Leo Politi's Song of the Swallows--this baby's parents were married in a Mission. Politi is essential. (If only they'd reprint The Mission Bell.) Though, really, Politi is essential in my mind always.
4) Saint George and the Dragon adapted from The Fairie Queen by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Ok, so this is mostly myth and poetry, but it is really one of the very best books about courage and chivalry. Plus: dragons!
5) Christopher Wormell's woodcut bible books (The Animals Came Two by Two and his nativity book Through the Animal's Eyes) are available in both board book and hard cover. They have stunning illustrations, and the board books are especially good for infants and toddlers.
|Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley|
Curry specifically asked me for some "weird" picture books. These fit, I think:
1) Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley is hilarious.
2) A new illustrator that can do absolutely no wrong in my books is Emily Gravett. Dogs and The Odd Egg are my favorite, and I am so thrilled to see what comes next from her.
3) Anything by Daniel Pinkwater
4) No one will be surprised when I share...again...The Adventures of Cow. But I think Curry will like even more Let's Count Goats by Mem Fox and Jan Thomas which is hilarious! (above)
5) When he's older he'll love the odd humor of James Thurber's The Wonderful O (review) and The Thirteen Clocks.
|What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak|
Because It's a Boy!
These are particularly suited to boys, though, honestly, they will be universally liked.
1) D'Aulaire's Norse Myths and Greek Myths. (Dude, my parents read these to use from the time we were born. They are fantastic adaptations.)
2) The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson is one of the greatest picture books ever.
3) What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin and illustrated by Maruice Sendak. These manner books aren't specific to boys, but they are probably the funniest and best way for you to approach the subject to boys. Because, honestly, it's good to know you can be a pirate and still be polite.
4) New books that are so completely BOY: Lets Do Nothing by Tony Fucile, Harry and Horsey by Katie Van Camp and Lincoln Agnew, The Super Hungry Dinosaur by Martin Waddell and (for the older set) Moonshot by Brian Floca
5) When he's older he will come to appreciate the very fine adaptation by James Rumford of Beowulf
|This is New York by M. Sasek|
Because He'll Be Born in NYC
I am a big believer in learning about new places through picture books. But I am just as much a believer in learning about your place through picture books--especially since our generation is so transient that our children will probably not grown up where they're born. There are thousands of picture books about NYC, but, interestingly, none that really stand out the way Make Way for Ducklings stands out for Boston. Still, here are some favorites:
1) The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift and illustrated by Lyn Ward is one of my all time favorite books.
2) Unbuilding by David Macaulay (really...all his books!)
3) Two new NYC books that delight: Next Stop Grand Central by Maria Kalman, and The Lonely Phone Booth by Peter Ackerman
4) The "This Is" series by Czech illustrator M. Sasek are all wonderful. His This is New York is exceptionally good. It shows a very different city, and yet, so much the same! (And, while we're at it, get This is the Way to San Francisco too!)
5) There are a lot of chapter books set in New York, but two stand above the rest: E. B. White's Stuart Little and E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
What books do you see as essentials for a starter library?