Although dishes from lunch are still in the sink, I can’t ignore the afternoon sun warming the living room couch – the invitation to come and sit a while. Can’t toss away those precious minutes when nothing truly important is pressing us and the girls burrow into the cushions with their favorites. Even the boys are beginning to discover what’s inside.
So I snuggle in between them – our shoulders crowding, knees tucked this way and that, and we read.
We go places we never could without words. We harness the imagination. We learn how to be brave, how to build, how to ask questions. They laugh at my funny accents and point out things I’ve never seen before. I notice the stillness of their bodies, the lengthening of their limbs, the soft twitter of their toes. The bounty of it warms me straight through.
We inhabit each book. Out of it grows a rooftop and walls. We step inside – transported – housed by the magic. This year I began reading chapter books to Eliza at night. We finished Little Women before Christmas and a few nights ago had our first peek inside The Secret Garden with Mary.
We can’t just teach our children to read. We must give them something worth reading. Books that will help them make sense of their lives and want to reach out to people whose worlds are different from their own.
So here are our favorite picture books from last year. Some were published in 2010, others are classics from my own childhood. Click titles for links.
Some made the list because I love them (maybe) more than the girls. Some teach excellent lessons. Some are artsy, poetic, or just plain fun. Believe me, it was tough to trim down the list.
Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion – by Mo Willems. I adore Mo Willems – love this whole series. The final saga of Knuffle Bunny was just as delightful as the first. Trixie’s last story is a journey of age and growing up with a charming turn of serendipity.
The Daddy Mountain – by Jules Feiffer. My girls laughed and laughed through this one. Just right for your kiddos who love to climb. There’s nothing like conquering the Daddy mountain.
Eloise Wilkin Stories – This collection of beloved classics is perfect for ages 2-5. Wilkin’s artwork of cherubic babies and toddlers will melt your heart – make you want to step back into the fifties. My girls pore over these pictures. It makes a sweet baby gift and you can find it on Amazon for a fabulous price.
Skippy John Jones: Lost in Spice – by Judy Shachner. Must read this one first. Skippy John has a magnificent imagination and reading with a spanish accent is way too fun. I’m gaga over this little fluffer-nutter of a kitty who thinks he’s a chihuahua.
Make Way for McCloskey – Robert McCloskey’s treasury became a favorite over the summer. Blackberry picking, ocean adventures in Maine, Burt-Dow the deep-water man and his pink and green double-ender, Homer Price and the donut making machine, and of course, McCloskey’s classic – Make Way for Ducklings. McCloskey’s stories are timeless, his artwork delightful, and he has the most spell-binding way of talking about life. Mostly I love that he takes us to the other side of the country, a place I pine for but can only share with my girls via books for now.
The Random House Book of Poetry – It’s taken us a while to grow into this one but the girls are asking for it now. Pick a topic, a holiday, a season, and this collection has a poem for you. I have enjoyed pulling it out as we celebrate a certain change of season or school starts, or christmas comes. It’s so good for small ears to hear poetry.
A Light in the Attic – by Shel Silverstein. Also great poetry. Doug introduced the kids to this one last month. They chortled and belly-laughed for a good hour. (The girls are still giggling over “exactly whats” and “me-whos.”) Sometimes Silverstein’s nonsense can strike just the right funny bone.
On Meadowview Street – by Henry Cole. This charmer was given to us by a good friend who happens to know Henry Cole. He wrote in the inset, “For Eliza… you can make a difference!” It’s about a little girl who moves into a new neighborhood and creates a wildlife preserve in her own backyard. I love the creativity and the concept that one person really can make the world a better place. (Thank you Soozi!)
Cookies- Sweet Little Lessons on Love – by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Fell in love with this one first. The entire series is exceptional – the way Rosenthal defines positive attributes through the world of cookies. Like how to get along with others, use polite manners, how to be gentle with another’s heart. My girls will flip pages on their own for a while, engrossed in the artwork. I bought this one for Valentine’s day last year.
Pete and Pickles – by Berkeley Breathed. A good friend gave this book to me soon after our boys were born. Pete, a perfectly practical and predictable pig, has his world turned upside down by the unpredictable, spontaneous, and rambunctious elephant (Pickles) who has escaped from the circus. Their kinship is a beautiful metaphor for the mother-child relationship. I can’t read the last two pages without getting emotional.
Library Lion – by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes. This charming story offers an elevated take on rule-keeping. It’s all about wisdom and knowing when it’s okay to break a rule. When people (or lions) might be more important than rules. Anything illustrated by Kevin Hawkes is a must-read. He is fantastic.
Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique – by Jane O’Connor. I’ve lost track of all the Fancy Nancy books we have on our shelves (you can get the cheap paperback versions at Target). Ali is especially fond of these. She’s our fashionista. And while Nancy tends to stroke all things materialistic, O’Connor never fails to teach a valuable social lesson that sends the message – people matter more than things. Two weeks ago Eliza turned our entire downstairs into a “boutique” – complete with signs, money jar, receipts, clothes on hangers, shopping bags. We had to call some extended family to come over and “shop.” The whole gig was inspired by Nancy.
The Yellow Tutu – by Kristin and Carin Bramsen. This one is also at the top of Ali’s list. We found it at the library one day. A sweet story that teaches the importance of standing up for a friend. It helps children learn that teasing isn’t okay and one voice can change everything.
Richard Scary’s Best Storybook Ever – This book is gloriously endless – packed with 85 darling stories for preschoolers and great word recognition for early readers. Remember Scary’s books from your young years? Richard Scary’s animals are still as magical and humorous as I remember them. No one at our house tires of this one – including me.
The Lion and the Mouse – by Jerry Pinkney. This Caldecott winner is stunningly unique. It is wordless – not a single line of text. Yet each page is so colorful and rich with subtle detail that children can figure out the story on their own. Ask a few questions and let the pictures do the telling. It’s remarkable.
Did you see any of your favorites? Do tell.
If not, please share. We’re always on the hunt for good reads.
Next up? My favorite books from 2010.
Thanks so much for the recommendations! I went and ordered almost all of them from the library. I love Eloise Wilkin books and Fancy Nancy as well. Delightful illustrations.
Do you know the "Franklin" series by Paulette Bourgeois? Great books.
Looking forward to your pics from the year. Thanks for a great blog and a great example of mothering. Love love love it!
Charelle – We have read several Franklin books. The turtle, right? They are darling. I think we own one in paperback. I should look into others. Thanks for the recommendation! And for your kind comment.
You have inspired me once again to complete my book. Let's talk about it soon.
Great selection of books, I can't wait to get some of them. We are big fans of books and really love the Junie B. Jones chapter books. They are laugh out loud hilarious. Also, love Pinkalicious by the Kahn's; Edwina the Dinosaur who Didn't know She was Extinct, Mo Williams; and for the very little ones all written by Leslie Patricelli including Yummy Yucky, Higher, Higher and Binki! Jonathan can't get enough of those.
Bec – yes – let's get things rolling! I have a couple contacts for you too.
Meesh – for the life of me, I could not remember Edwina!! So glad you jogged my memory. And the Patricelli books sound great. Thanks my dear!
Thanks for spotlighting these books Cath! My friends and I were at dinner tonight talking about how important those reading moments are, and how just as important it is for our kids to see us reading too.
I love how you respond to comments-how fun!
Franklin the Turtle is right. There are a lot of them and they are so lovely. I think my absolute favorite thing to do with my kids, ages 6 (girl) and boys, 4 and 2 is read stories together. I love books and they do too. The library is like a candy store to me. I so love it.
Some other favorites I have to tell you about:
Click, Clack, Moo
anything "Little Critter" by Mercer Mayer and I was given "The 2oth Century Children's Book Treasury" selected by Janet Schulman which is full of all the favories.
Hi – my sister-in-law Michelle Younce directed me to this post for fabulous picture book recommendations. Just yesterday I sat my 3 and 5 year olds down and made them clean out their bookshelf with me. There were some real duds in there and I wanted to clear room for new additions as we enter birthday season at our house. The only book on your list we have is Sugar Cookies so I will anxiously hunt down the others at bookstores or libraries.
As we went through the shelves book-by-book I realized which ones I truly love – Bailey Goes Camping by Kevin Henkes, The Napping House by Audrey Wood, and Christina Katerina & the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch, to name just a few from tonight.
I loved this post and your descriptions of your children listening, laughing, snuggling, reading, and that warm afternoon sun on the couch. Thanks for the reminder to take the time 🙂
Brodi – Great point. There are a lot of things our kids need to see us do. It's so important they see their moms as people with interests and passions.
Charelle – the 20th C treasury book sounds fantastic. I've been putting holds on everyone's recommendations. I'll also check Click, Clack, Moo. Thank you!
Disco Mom – Lucky girl to be related to Michelle and Dave! Love them. And can't thank you enough for sharing your favorites. I love Kevin Henkes. And I had completely forgotten about Christina Katerina. Is that an oldy? Like from my childhood? If it's the one I'm thinking of – where she turns the box into every possible thing she can imagine – it was one of my favorites. Thanks a million!
Do Princesses wear hiking boots
*just two that are pretty much memorized in our household…i hate to admit but we are also fans of "walter the farting dog" which i know can get some grimaces…
luv the collection…oh the moments when we actually SLOW down and read…they are the best of times with me and my girls, i often get lost in savannah reading and just admire her soft skin, sweet lips, and the ways her eyes bring the pages to life.
reading…plain and simple, we should just do more and more of it.
luv all your recent updates! im still stuck in december, got a new calling at church (yw pres) and its got me all flustered :0 lol!
hope to get together with you girls soon!
Cami – Yes, Ladybug girl is a favorite here too. But I don't own a copy. Always library. We do have Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots – a kick to read. Darling. I must admit, however, I haven't read Walter… yet!
Can't believe the hum at your house – wow. The ward didn't let you sit still very long. You will be amazing. AMAZING. Those YW are in for the best thing ever. Lucky girls.
We're planning dinner for late February. Rachel and Sarah are traveling to Kuala Lumpur with Dave's wife, Shirlee, beginning of February. So I'll email you once we pin down a date. Must see you soon!
Cath – what a great resource! I just wandered onto it and love the suggestions. Off to the library to get them! I just read Kermit the Hermit Crab, Bill Peet with my 5 year old and he loved the illustrations of the ocean and the lesson about being kind. The sing-song of the rhyming was alluring to my 18 month too! We should set up a lunch for the Jerusalem girls who are in town this summer – I will facebook you about that. I will be a follower now so keep the good childrens books coming. It is so fun to see your family. -Maren
I know I'm commenting late, but I adore the Frances books by Russell Hoban and Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. So cute.
I think this year I will buy my mom the Eloise Wilkins Stories book. She (and I) love her illustrations. Thanks for the recommendations.