Finding a good children’s book is about as simple as … well, nothing.
It’s hard, simple as that and with so many to choose from and almost no guidance, its easy to find oneself floundering around in a sea of princess’, dinosaurs, pirates and dogs trying to work out which one has worth and which one is worth it.
In an effort to somewhat ease this inevitable headache I have written a small list of some of my favorite.
Now, I don’t claim they’re the best books ever written, however, they are books I have seen 100’s of children lose themselves in … and that’s about as good an endorsement as you’ll get.
Clown – Quentin Blake.
If there were some kind of royalty given out to children’s authors then chances are, this man would be King.
Oh wait, there is, it’s called the children’s laureate, and this man was it. Blake is best known for breathing sketched life into Roald Dahl’s macabre characters, but lesser known is his contribution to the world of children’s picture books, and Clown, according to me at least, is his white album.
Clown is an abandoned toy alone on the streets of London, searching tirelessly and bravely for a home for him and his discarded friends. A home is found in the arms of a girl and boy in a struggling single parent family.
This story is sweet, subtle, and surreptitiously educational, and worthy of all its salutes.
Shoes from Grandpa – Mem Fox
When we think of Mem Fox its hard not to be buried under the avalanche of Possum Magic adulation, but if you hold fast and dig your way out you will find a little less known gem by the name of, Shoes from grandpa.
This lyrical feast is fun, quick, and a great opportunity to dust off your pantomime skills and take on the characters as Jesse’s extended family try desperately to buy her clothes that match said shoes.
A rhyming triumph, the faster you go the more fun you have. Mem Fox is one of the best and here she shows us why and coupled with the somewhat magical collages of Patricia Mullins, get comfy, we have a page turner.
Rose meets Mr Wintergartten – Bob Graham
Rose has moved into a new house. Next door is a looming black mansion covered in continuous cloud.
It is the home of Mr Wintergarten, a grumpy old man who rumor has it, guards his house with a crocodile and wolf. He instills fear in the kids of the neighborhood, that is until one little girl dares to ask for her ball back.
Make no mistake, Bob graham is an author for the children and deep within his pages lies a sensibility that runs so closely to that of a child’s that he is near impossible to ignore.
There is a lot to choose from with Bob Graham, but this is a good place to start.
Oh yeah, he also donated all his prize money from an award he received from Australia’s current government, to the plight of the refugees. That’s kinda cool.
Black Dog – Pamella Allen
Now, I must start this by telling you, it was near impossible to choose a list of my favorite books for children without basically having Pamela Allen occupy all top ten spots.
Instead what I have done is picked the one I feel is a little less known but deserves further scrutiny.
Pamella Allen is the undisputed queen of children’s literature and is more broadly known for her Mr Mcgee Series and classic, Alexander’s Outing, but what is often overlooked is her extraordinary ability to address such complex issues as greed, grief and jealousy through a narrative that’s sophisticated, thoughtful and respectful to the child’s intelligence. In particular is the story about Black dog. Black dog lives in a house in the woods with its owner.
This story is dark and it is a little confronting but it is also a heartbreaking attempt to connect with the child who feels they have been left behind.
This book is for kids and adults alike. It is a triumph in children’s story telling and an amazing conversation starter.
If you only read 124 children’s books this year, make sure they are 124 by Pamela Allen.
Caps for sale – Esphyr slobodkina.
A Begger rests on a tree exhausted from his day peddling his hats.
When he awakes, he finds his hats are gone, stolen by a handful of monkeys living in the tree above.
This book is a CLASSIC and I defy anyone who sees its artwork and claims ignorant to the memory. Its been around for years and rightly so. Funny, ridiculous, with little to no educational pander.
This book is just monkeys making fun of a man. Yep, Awesome.
The Little Mouse, the Red-Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear – Don and Audrey wood
The little mouse finds a strawberry. It is picked, but us ,the reader, warn the mouse of the big hungry bear.
Through a cunning not shared by the mouse, we convince the mouse to share the strawberry with us. Poor mouse, lucky us. Fun first person read.
Where the wild things are Maurice Sendak.
After almost 15 years in the early childhood trade, I would like to have thought I would have been able to shake off the shackles of cliché and be able to enlighten my mind with some new classics waiting to happen. But sometimes there is a reason why things are so popular.
Where the wild things are is brilliance, pure and simple.
They rarely come better than this. We’re not sure what was going on at this time in Mr Sendak’s life for although he went on to do several other books, it is fare to say, none of them came close to pinching a layer off the top of this fundamentally perfect literary cake.
Thanks for the book Maurice, greatly appreciated.
Handas Surprise. Eileen Browne
Not least for its multicultural goodness, this simply is a great farce.
Handa packs a giant basket of fruit for her friend, Akeyo, in the neighboring village.
Along the way, with the basket on her head, a bunch of cheeky animals take it in turns to empty her basket by stealing the fruit without her knowledge… much to Handas surprise.
Walker Books – Publishers
Now, strictly speaking this is not a book, but if you bound all of their content together, you would have a book worthy of lethargy, bed sores and a life of page turning.
If you ever find yourself feeling a little woozy as you spin violently around trying to find the best book for your child, my suggestion is, look for the silhouette of the bear holding a candlestick.
Content before commerce. They love their children’s stories and love to share them with us.
The bear is the bees knees. Walker books, all the way.
Cars Galore – Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake
Is this one of the greatest books ever written?
Who knows, but its good for a laugh. Funny rhymes, and silly pictures make for a great romp through the nonsensical pages guaranteeing a giggle at every turn.
Ironically the follow up to this gem, toys galore, lacks the same zing despite being an identical concept and format. It just goes to show, what the hell makes a good kids book?…no idea.
Perhaps it’s just the look on your child’s face as you read it.
Enjoy reading with your kids,