When I compiled the list of my Top Ten Children’s Picture Books, I knew that I had undertaken a daunting task. There are so many wonderful books written for children, each with captivating illustrations, engaging stories and important lessons. I loved reading all of the comments I received about your favorite books. In keeping with my promise to follow up the initial list with other favorites, here are ten more outstanding picture books that would be great in any growing family library.
1. Owen by Kevin Henkes
A little mouse, named Owen, is about to start school and must give up his favorite blanket. After several failed attempts by his parents to get the blanket away, Owen’s mother devises the perfect solution. Children delight in reading about Owen’s clever tactics to hold onto his beloved blanket and many children will be able to relate to his situation. The ability to separate easily from a favorite toy or blanket (much like separating from a parent) is an important social and emotional skill and Owen’s story provides a wonderful springboard to talk to your child.
2. Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
The bright, engaging illustrations and simple, repetitive text make this a delightful story for young children. Children love to feel included in a secret and they will delight in being “in” on the surprise as the zoo animals follow the zookeeper home at night. The story takes an interesting turn when the zookeeper’s wife returns the animals to the zoo, with the zookeeper still unaware of the situation. The illustrations give clues about what comes next in the story, which encourages children to use their visual discrimination skills to follow along.
3. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
When Trixie, a toddler not yet talking, accompanies her daddy to the laundromat, she forgets to bring her beloved Knuffle Bunny home. Of course, her father does not understand her gibberish and tantrums as she tries to communicate her dilemma. Children can easily relate to Trixie’s distress and will delight in her attempts to communicate with her father. Mo Willems combines photographs of Brooklyn with cartoon drawings to create interesting and unusual pictures that captivate a child’s attention. This story also presents a wonderful opportunity to talk with your child about different feelings and how to solve problems.
4. Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
Ira is invited to his first sleepover at his best friend’s house. But he faces a huge dilemma – to take his teddy bear or not to take his teddy bear? With his parents giving their advice and his sister gently taunting him, the problem seems overwhelming. This story reinforces the importance of making comfortable decisions while demonstrating strong problem solving tactics. And children will enjoy learning about the solution Ira discovers.
5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This classic tale of Max, a mischievous boy sent to his bedroom without supper, stands the test of time as our parents likely read it to us many years ago. As the story unfolds, Max entertains himself by sailing away to meet “wild things” in the forest. Children love fantasizing and Max’s journey stimulates a child’s natural imagination. The text of the book gives children important clues about where Max actually is, so it tests a child’s auditory processing skills by requiring children to listen carefully to each word you read.
6. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
This beautifully illustrated story about Chester Raccoon highlights the natural fears of a child who is going to school for the first time. Children empathize with Chester’s fear and are universally relieved when they learn of his loving solution for keeping his mother close. This story presents a natural vehicle for talking to your child about ways to handle the common emotions of loneliness or fear and provides comfortable opportunities for social and emotional growth. (An observant child will also notice that Chester goes to school at night which paves the way for a discussion about the habits of nocturnal animals.)
7. The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Mrs. Peters has a problem. Each of her seven children will only eat one specific type of food prepared in a special way just for them. As her family grows, the problem gets bigger also. Children are well-known for being picky eaters so children love learning about the silly antics of Mrs. Peters’ brood. And the surprise ending is sure to keep your children giggling long after you close the book. The illustrations are delightful and the lovely rhyming text gives children the opportunity to hone important phonemic awareness skills.
8. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
This timeless tale introduces children to Ferdinand, a gentle, flower-loving bull who is very different from the other bulls. Thanks to a loving and accepting mother, Ferdinand is encouraged to be himself, regardless of the expectations of others. This simple but important story provides a wonderful opportunity for discussions about self-acceptance and acceptance of others.
9. Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Seek by Eileen Christelow
This book is a favorite among the much-loved Five Little Monkeys series. In this story, the monkeys beg Lulu, the babysitter, to play hide and seek with them before they go to bed. As is typical of mischievous monkeys (and children!), the monkeys cajole Lulu into playing the game again and again until they find a hiding place that stumps her. In addition to having a charming story, this book has wonderful rhyming text that aids phonemic awareness skill development. Also, children will practice visual discrimination as they try to spot the monkeys in their hiding spots and number recognition skills as they try to keep track of the hiding monkeys.
10. Dandelion by Don Freeman
When Dandelion is invited to Jennifer Giraffe’s tea party, he decides to turn himself into a “dandy” with a new haircut and clothes. Unfortunately, Jennifer Giraffe does not recognize her friend and refuses to allow him into the party. Children will have fun making predictions about how the story will end and can use visual discrimination skills to compare “everyday” Dandelion to the “dandy” version he creates for the party.
What can you share with other parents?
What books you and your children love reading together? Does your child prefer books with rhyming text or bright, colorful pictures? Do silly stories like Where The Wild Things Are seem to be his favorite or does he prefer more “real life” stories like Owen?
Image used under Creative Commons from RachelH_.