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June 22, 2009 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Please share your short list of best children's books ever!

After checking out some of the books from this question, I’ve gone head-over-heels for Click, Clack, Moo – Cows that Type; the Ernest and Celestine titles, William's Doll, and Zen Shorts. I also love Hoban's Frances series. Would love to know what your absolute favorite kids books are (on ANY subject), especially for the wee ones (ages 0-4) but wouldn’t mind having some recommendations for older kids too. In general, I prefer books that are dryly funny yet also thoughtfully written and portray generally kind people. Either vintage (think the Country Bunny and the Gold Shoes) or otherwise is fine. Can provide more details if that would be helpful.

I’ve checked out many of the award-based book lists, but frankly found the mefi recommendations for the link above far, far better and more on-target. Thanks in advance!
posted by dreamphone to Media & Arts (82 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where the Wild Things Are
posted by smitt at 12:17 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Little Prince.
posted by amro at 12:17 PM on June 22, 2009


I like The Very Hungry Caterpillar when I was a kid. I even had the stuffed animal to go with it. It was one of my favorites.
posted by Sargas at 12:19 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Roland The Minstrel Pig
posted by The World Famous at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2009


seconding The Little Prince.

also, Nothing. a wonderful book! and a bit of commentary on consumerism and greed.
posted by gursky at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not completely sure that it's the "type" you're looking for, but I have always loved The Monster at the End of this Book. Probably my absolute favorite book as a young child, and I still own a copy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:27 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Any and all of the Olivia books.
posted by bunnycup at 12:27 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Danny the Champion of the World was my favourite book as a kid, probably better for kids older than 4.
posted by IanMorr at 12:29 PM on June 22, 2009


The Dog Who Thought He Was a Boy, Bunnicula
posted by heather-b at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2009


The Magic Well by Piero Ventura, though it is likely out of print.
posted by mbatch at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2009


It's like this, Cat by Emily Neville. Even as an adult, I'll pick this book up for a quick read - and a mental stroll down memory lane.

For a younger audience, just about anything that'll get them to read is worth it. (Let 'em know that it's banned or that you disapprove and they'll pick it up even quicker!)
posted by Man with Lantern at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2009


The Wump World
posted by DetonatedManiac at 12:45 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mo Willems writes a lot of good stuff. For that age group I would recommend "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", and "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale"
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:46 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann is a hoot. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems got my intro to children's writing class all riled up (Knuffle Bunny was also a hit). I'm a huge fan of Peter H. Reynolds' The Dot and The North Star (the latter skews much older, but is really inspirational for adults as well) -- his writing really seems to fit the thoughtful angle you're looking for.

As a kid, I really loved The Story of Ferdinand, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and all of Shel Silverstein's books.

Metroid Baby, my husband fondly remembers The Monster at the End of this Book, and we eventually picked up a copy at the supermarket. I can't believe I missed it as a kid!

On preview: totally beat by mcstayinskool. Everyone likes a book you're encouraged to yell at.
posted by giraffe at 12:48 PM on June 22, 2009


The Berenstain Bears were near and dear to my heart when I was little (though likely in large part due to the fact that they were the longest books I was allowed to choose for my bedtime story).

And also, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
posted by philotes at 12:49 PM on June 22, 2009


Speaking as a nanny (and a former 5 year-old, I guess)

Books for kids who actually understand what you're saying:
My Father's Dragon
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Blueberry Girl
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
Paperbag Princess
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

For the little ones:
Sandra Boynton
Goodnight Moon
cardboard books by Taro Gomi
posted by zoomorphic at 12:50 PM on June 22, 2009


It seems you may be in Boston - if that's so, then Make Way for Ducklings should be on your list.
posted by quodlibet at 12:52 PM on June 22, 2009


Oh - and I should have added: Of course, despite the fact that I like dry/funny/thoughtful/kind books, who knows what kinds of books my kids will end up liking, so please don't limit your recommendations based on my "criteria" - I just provided extra guidance in the event that people wanted some guidance.
posted by dreamphone at 12:53 PM on June 22, 2009


Aliens Took My Daughter
posted by IndigoJones at 12:57 PM on June 22, 2009




Each Peach Pear Plum and the Alfie books by Shirley Hughes
posted by the latin mouse at 12:59 PM on June 22, 2009


Rosemary Wells's Max and Ruby, McDuff, Yoko, and Bunny Planet stories are fantastic -- funny and smart, and some of them (Yoko, McDuff) are beautifully rendered.
posted by ldenneau at 1:12 PM on June 22, 2009


Arrow To The Sun, by Gerald McDermott
Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson
Moonbear's Bargain, by Frank Asch

And, when they are old enough to read books without pictures, The Pushcart War, by Jean Merrill
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 1:12 PM on June 22, 2009


My kids loved Harold and the Purple Crayon and my wife and I loved reading it to them.
posted by maurice at 1:13 PM on June 22, 2009


Small Pig by Arnold Lobel. It's wonderful.
posted by meggan at 1:16 PM on June 22, 2009


You might be interested in Fuse #8's 100 best picture books of all time. She's a prominent children's book blogger, and she compiled the list by asking her readers to submit their own top 10s with comments.
posted by lampoil at 1:26 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding Small Pig! And adding the Frog and Toad books also by Arnold Lobel. And don't forget Little Bear.

For slightly older, The Cut Ups by James Marshall are wonderful as are The Stupids by Harry Allard and James Marshall. You can't really go wrong with James Marshall, I think. Also for older kids, of course, I'm going to recommend all of the Moomin books.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:29 PM on June 22, 2009


Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life by Maurice Sendak. LOVE it. One of my all-time faves, still have my childhood copy of it.

Also, for older kids, Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching novels... The Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2009


What fun! Check out anything and everything by:

Mo Willems -- especially "Knuffle Bunny" and the Gerald and Piggie books
David Shannon -- the "David" books
Grahame Base -- "Animalia"
David Weisner -- "Tuesday"
Chris Van Allsburgh -- "The Polar Express," "Bad Day at Riverbend"
Jon Scieszcka/Lane Smith -- "The Stinky Cheese Man"
Mercer Mayer -- "There's a Nightmare in My Closet"
Ian Falconer -- "Olivia"
Adam Rex --"Frankenstein Takes the Cake"

Neil Gaiman's "The Wolves in the Walls" skews for the older picture-book crowd. A bit unnerving.

You might also look at this question I asked a while back. Enjoy building your library!
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:32 PM on June 22, 2009


Nthing The Little Prince. But the older translation by Katherine Woods is subjectively better, and you can still find copies on eBay.

I also loved The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
posted by Ky at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2009


I can't believe that Charlotte's Web has not been mentioned.
posted by Danf at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2009


1. Harold and the Purple Crayon
2. Where the Wild Things Are
3. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
4. A Bear Called Paddington
5. Blueberries for Sal
6. One Morning in Maine
7. Cranberry Thanksgiving
8. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day
9. The Story of Babar
10. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
11. Madeline
12. The Giving Tree
13. Corduroy
14. The Very Hungry Catepillar
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:37 PM on June 22, 2009


Charlotte's Web too!

There's some controversy with various children's books that try to teach a "moral," of course, so it's really up to the adult to help the child interpret the content. I mean, I did enjoy The Giving Tree, but it's entirely possible to interpret the point very negatively too.

I guess that's why some people want more stringent banning powers over kids' books...

posted by Ky at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2009




I Can Fly is great--Mary Blair illustrations! By Ruth Krauss!--especially for kids who love animals.

In my experience, kids also love the Octonauts books. Amazing art and cute stories about underwater adventures.
posted by leesh at 1:42 PM on June 22, 2009


For little ones:

Frog Goes to Dinner (no words)
Hug (almost no words)
Good Night, Gorilla
Guess How Much I Love You?
Goodnight Moon

For slightly older kids:

Dr. Seuss's On Beyond Zebra, Happy Birthday to You, and the Sleep Book
Dorrie and the Blue Witch

On Beyond Zebra is probably my favorite Seuss book of all time, and in fact, it's where I got my MeFi username from. The book's first lines:
Said Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell
My very young friend who is learning to spell:
Seussian craziness ensues from there!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by ulotrichous at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2009


My kids are 3 and 1. Here are some of the books they love that I also love reading to them:

Bear Snores On
And Tango Makes Three
Hug
Good Night Gorilla
Goodnight Moon
The Beatrix Potter books
The Monster at the End of this Book

OK, on preview I see most of these have been listed already, so I'll stop wasting my time w/the links...
Guess How Much I Love You
The Velveteen Rabbit
Where the Wild Things Are
Corduroy
Brown Bear, Brown Bear
the Franklin series
posted by widdershins at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2009


On (failing to) preview, seconding/nthing Where the Wild Things Are, Monster at the End of This Book, Animalia, the Frog and Toad books, and just about anything by Shel Silverstein... though be careful with Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, which he claims is just for adults. But I think kids of the right age (ie, old enough to know Silverstein is joking) might enjoy its subversiveness.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:51 PM on June 22, 2009


Anything by Robert Munsch. I still read those books, 20 years later. My favorites are "Purple, Green, & Yellow," "50 Below Zero," "Murmel, Murmel, Murmel," "David's Father," and, of course, "The Purple Bag Princess." The best part is listening to him read the stories.
posted by lilac girl at 1:51 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day
No, David or anything by David Shannon
posted by Flacka at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2009


Caps! Caps for Sale! Fifty cents a cap!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:53 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, also anything by Ezra Jack Keats, particularly The Snowy Day. Gorgeous book.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ferdinand....funny story and awesome illustrations...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2009


Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
published 1929
posted by BostonTerrier at 1:59 PM on June 22, 2009


Never Tease a Weasel. I didn't link to one because there is a new cheap version with new illustrations, or an expensive old version (OOP) with awesome old illustrations. I would recommend watching on ebay to find a decent copy of the old one. "Never tease a weasel, not even once or twice. The weasel will not like it, and teasing isn't nice." In the old book, a boy is wearing a wolf mask to scare the poor weasel, for example.

Also, Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing

Another great oop book is Mercer Mayer's Professor Wormbog and the Search for the Zipperump-a-zoo, but that's another one to watch for on ebay.

To Market To Market is also great and not out of print. The lady in the book was a New Orleans english teacher who taught and wrote children's lit. (Coleen Salley)

Also, Dr. Seuss ABC
posted by artychoke at 1:59 PM on June 22, 2009


If you ask me, then Mr. Boo is the greatest children' book ever written. Tove Jansson's Moomin books come in close second.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2009


Cinder Edna- Ellen Jackson and Kevin O'Malley
The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down- Paul Johnson
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales - Jon Scieszka (all his books are great, but this one is my favourite)
No, David- David Shannon
posted by sadtomato at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2009


My all-time favorite: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The "If You Give a ____ a ____ " series (A Mouse a Cookie, A Moose a Muffin, etc.) are also great.
posted by moojoose at 2:25 PM on June 22, 2009


As far as simple and beautiful books go, i had a book named "Dawn" as a kid. It's out of print, but I recently got it used off Amazon, and it's still amazing in its simplicity.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2009


Oh! I almost forgot. Robert Munsch writes some incredibly funny books, too.
posted by moojoose at 2:30 PM on June 22, 2009


Henry's Awful Mistake!!

And Robert Quackenbush's whole Henry series.
posted by roxie5 at 2:56 PM on June 22, 2009


Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg.

Maybe some Roald Dahl stuff - I can't remember how young his younger stories go to, but they're pretty cool.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:06 PM on June 22, 2009


stinky cheese man can not be mentioned enough. test your tongue twisting skills by reading to them fox in socks. and age permitting, fantom toll booth rocked my world as a young reader
posted by Redhush at 3:22 PM on June 22, 2009


Fireman Small by Wong Herbert Yee
posted by ellenaim at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2009


Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar, and the sequels
posted by Herschel at 4:04 PM on June 22, 2009


Have a look at the list of books selected by Daniel Pinkwater for review on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.

[Full disclosure: Yours truly runs pinkwater.com, but does not profit from any of these books sales...]
posted by greatgefilte at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2009


Anything by Robert Munsch. I still read those books, 20 years later. My favorites are "Purple, Green, & Yellow," "50 Below Zero," "Murmel, Murmel, Murmel," "David's Father," and, of course, "The Purple Bag Princess."

I meant "Paper Bag Princess." Doh.
posted by lilac girl at 4:59 PM on June 22, 2009


Gorky Rises
Harold and the Purple Crayon
The Carrot Seed

And all of Beatrix Potter
posted by nax at 5:31 PM on June 22, 2009


The Runway Bunny

Good story, lovely illustrations.
posted by creepygirl at 6:10 PM on June 22, 2009


If you like _Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type_, I'd recommend the rest of Doreen Cronin's books as well, if you haven't come across them already. You may or may not know that she wrote a bunch more books that take place on that farm.
_Giggle, Giggle, Quack_
_Dooby, Dooby, Moo_
_Duck for President_
_Thump, Quack, Moo_
I found all of those books to be quite clever and funny. They can be read at different levels, which make them enjoyable for adults and children alike. Doreen Cronin has also written another series of books, which involve the exploits of some simpler animals.
_Diary of a Worm_
_Diary of a Spider_
_Diary of a Fly_
I found those books to be very enjoyable and amusing as well. I'm in Early Childhood Education, and I *love* the associated literature, though it seems like most of the books that would have come to my mind have been mentioned already. I could second many of the above recommendations, but this is already getting very long, and I have some recommendations for older children as well.
For older children, I would recommend pretty much anything by Shel Silverstein, _The Phantom Tollbooth_ by Norton Juster, _The Secret Garden_ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and many, many, many others as well. Children's literature is quite a rich, and vastly underestimated genre. If you do spend some time exploring the children's section of any bookstore or library, you're likely to find quite many books that are very much worth a read or several.
posted by edupoet81 at 6:40 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Along the lines of Click, Clack Moo, the kids I babysit (and I!) adore The Secret Chicken Club.

Even though they're obvious, both Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny are just amazing.
posted by radioamy at 6:45 PM on June 22, 2009


Seconding the books for children by Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater. Both of them prepare youngsters for the subversive books for adolescents by Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater.
Dr Seuss and Beatrix Potter are classics.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:14 PM on June 22, 2009


Goodnight Moon was my favorite.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:35 PM on June 22, 2009


You are in luck: fantastic French illustrator Marc Boutavant's extremely fun Around the World With Mouk has come out in English this year.

My toddlers and I also love anything by Richard Scarry.
posted by Dragonness at 7:38 PM on June 22, 2009


"How the Trollusk Got His Hat" by Mercer Mayer -- while the illustrations depict some not-always-nice people, they come around in the end. It's a very sweet story about a creature that ventures out into the world to return a hat that blew in his window.
posted by cranberry_nut at 7:41 PM on June 22, 2009


Old Turtle, by Douglas Wood and Cheng-Khee Chee
The Velveteen Rabbit
Make Way for Ducklings
What A Truly Cool World, by Julius Lester and Joe Cepeda
The Happy Hedgehog, by Marcus Pfister
posted by ainsley at 8:15 PM on June 22, 2009


Personal favorites from when I was young:

Hey, Al
Where The Wild Things Are
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
Monster at the End of this Book
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Anything Dr. Seuss
posted by fishmasta at 8:16 PM on June 22, 2009


I think I had some odd, but good, taste in books as an older (8-12) kid and recently compiled a list of those that have stuck with me. Comments/additions on that blog post come from a fairly geeky crowd, in case that's not readily apparent ;-)
posted by knile at 8:46 PM on June 22, 2009


Most of my favorites for the little ones are already listed (and multiple times), though I didn't see one favorite - Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman.

For older kids, The Phantom Tollbooth cannot be recommended enough. Also, Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books are great fun, as well as the Little House books, the Narnia series, Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Edward Eager's Magic books (Half Magic, etc.), Anne of Green Gables, Mary Poppins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.
posted by gudrun at 10:40 PM on June 22, 2009


I know you're swamped with recommendations, but for the older grade schoolers, I'd have to put a word in for the Encyclopedia Brown series.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:33 AM on June 23, 2009


Book of Cities
posted by Dick Paris at 4:17 AM on June 23, 2009


Blueberries for Sal
The Story About Ping
The Five Chinese Brothers
Tikki Tikki Tembo
The Magic Pudding (an old edition, not the PC edit)

Out of print, but so awesome it still gives me goosebumps more than a quarter of a century later: Bear's Magic and Other Stories.

For older kids:

Start buying Tintin and Asterix books to put aside for a rainy day when they're older. Ditto The Three Investigators and Biggles. Also, put away a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth. Inscribe it with something special. Grab a copy of The Master of the Grove while you're at it. And the Chronicles of Prydain.

I wish I was eight years old again.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:58 AM on June 23, 2009


I can't believe no one has mentioned it yet... Fantastic Mr. Fox!
posted by symbollocks at 6:18 AM on June 23, 2009


Mrs. Mooley was beloved by my three sons when young, and I loved to read it to them, too.
posted by eafarris at 6:36 AM on June 23, 2009


Miss Rumphius!
posted by lunit at 9:09 AM on June 23, 2009


Check out responses in this older ask - great suggestions
posted by darsh at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2009


Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed is pretty fantastic.
posted by Twicketface at 11:02 AM on June 23, 2009


Just So Stories

Rikki Tiki Tembo (not to be confused with Rikki Tikki Tavi)

Amelia Bedelia

Miss Nelson is Missing and associated books

I could go on forever, but I probably shouldn't. Many of my favorites have been suggested already, too.
posted by zizzle at 12:57 PM on June 23, 2009


Iggy Peck, Architect.
posted by gregoryc at 7:23 PM on June 23, 2009


Charlie Brown's 'Cylopedia set

Books by Richard Scarry

I loved these as a tot.
posted by chugg at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2009


I think nobody has mentioned Go Dog Go, so I will. It's still a favorite around my house and my kids are 17 and 26!
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2009


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