Thursday, June 9, 2011

an ode to childrens books!

This post is inspired by the time I spent recently in a first grade classroom, reading with a bunch of 7-year-olds, and with a conversation that I had today with a new-mom friend, in which we listed children's books that it is perfectly acceptable to fangirl over.
Here's my list of my favorite childrens picture books (non-chapter books). Most of these were around when I was a kid, but there are a few recent classics who have jumped onto the list.

1. Anything Chris Van Allsburg

The man behind The Polar Express, Jumanji, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, and The Wreck of the Zephyr was really popular when I was in elementary school in the good ol' 90s. I would absolutely track down every one of Van Allsburg's books to add to either my classroom (if I taught younger grades) or my future kids' bookshelves.

2. Hooray for Diffendoofer Day & Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Okay, so pretty much all of Dr. Seuss' books are beloved and bona fide classics in their own right. BUT two stand out for me, and they are among the only picture-books that I currently own: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day and Oh the Places You'll Go! One of my high-school teachers, I remember, read Diffendoofer Day on the first day of school to us, and on the last day of school, she read Oh the Places You'll Go. Most of us, including the guys, bawled.

3. StellalunaStellaluna is one of the few childrens books that I definitely remember reading at school, one of the few that I can definitely recall. The story is beautiful, and seriously, it made me (temporarily) like bats!

4. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayOh, I had this book *memorized* when I was in kindergarten. Before When Sophie Gets Angry, there was poor Alexander, who just couldn't get anything to go right for him! Oh, this book will definitely be on my kids' shelves.
Funny story: I read this book to a group of first graders, and one little boy immediately pointed to the cover and asked, "Why is his face yellow? Does he have jaundice?" Kids say the darndest things.

5. Anything by Eric CarleVan Allsburg's illustrations are more beautiful, but there's something delightfully entertaining and beautiful about Eric Carle animals, whether it's a hungry caterpillar, a very quiet cricket, or...bears.

6. Where the Wild Things AreThe fact that this book is #6 doesn't say anything - I'm only posting these as they come to mind, not ranking them. But I loved the book, I own a shirt with the book's cover on it, and I adored the movie, too. This is definitely a worthy classic, and would definitely be included on my future kids' bookshelf!

7. The Stinky Cheeseman & Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Math Curse, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and other deliberately genius books by Jon Sciezka
One of the most-asked-for books that I read to family member's class was The Stinky Cheeseman. Jon's hilarious re-imagining of fairy tales, and his ability to nail the fact that math is INDEED confusing, only make his books all the more enjoyable and classic. The Stinky Cheeseman and Math Curse are some of the few picture books that I own, and boy, they sit on my shelf, next to my YA books, with pride. I will definitely buy more Jon Sciezka books in the future!

8. Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsSure, it's a fun story, and the illustrations are superb, but how awesome would it be to literally have food dropping out of the sky? I reckon that if we lived in a world like that, we'd all sit around like Augustus Gloop, looking up toward the heavens with our mouths hanging open. What a concept! Sometimes the silliest scenarios make for the most fun and engaging stories.

9. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary TaleThe story itself is cute, but what's really cool about this Mo Willems book (and it's sequel) is the visual component. The photography-and-animation component is brilliant, and just adds an extra level of coolness to the book. Oh yes, this book definitely has that artistic edge.

10. Skippyjon JonesSo no, these books weren't out when I was a kid, but one of my teachers read them to us in high school, and they've shot up my list to my Top 12 favorite childrens books. A little Siamese kitten who thinks he's a chihuahua? Absolutely adorable. And if you read the book outloud, with an accent, it makes the experience all the more entertaining (even if you're reading to yourself...ssshhh!) :)

You know how there's that question that's often asked, "If you could recommend one book to everyone, what would it be?" or the more obnoxious-sounding, "If you could make people read one book, what would it be?"
This would be my answer. Because yes, if I could "force" people to read any book, I'd feel pretty guilty about making them read something really long and involved. You Are Special is a short childrens story that has an incredible message and is just one of the sweetest, most endearing books I've ever read. It is one of the very few "picture books" that I own and it stands out among my massive YA-filled shelves.

--Feel obligated to mention--
The Missing Piece and other Shel Silverstein stuff. The reason I'm apathetic toward Shel is because I had a class in which his book was turned into a really in-depth lecture on psychosocial hooha, and we had to write a paper. Boo.

Goodnight Moon
. Oh, dear lord, I think this is why I cringe at heavy-repetition books (except Seuss, who was a Class-I genius). "Good night, ____. Good night, _____." It's what I imagine a childrens book written by the Waltons would sound like. Even as a kid, I'm told that I would make it past a few pages, then scream "GOOD NIGHT ALREADY, GOSH!," like a little mini-Napoleon Dynamite way before its time.

. Didn't particularly care for this book because I have a weird, unexplainable aversion to corduroy. Even thinking about it now, as I type, makes my skin break out in goosebumps. Moving on...

So these were just some picture-books that I loved, still love, will buy and add to my library when I have extra funds, and just wanted to give some attention to. I think I'll do another post about the best childrens chapter books.
What are some of your favorite childhood books?
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