Home Home About Zen Mama Contact

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Books on My Son's Shelves

I have been collecting children's books since I was in my early 20s. To put that in perspective, I didn't have my son until I was 32 1/2. My collection really amped up after I took the best children's lit class ever, also in my early 20s. The professor who taught that class also taught feminist lit and owned a children's and women's bookstore, so you can bet her suggestions all went on my shelf immediately. I'd like to take this opportunity to pass along to you all the best, funniest, most visually stunning, most important books for children of all ages.

The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
"Mountain Girl (nicknamed for her place of birth) would like her parents to earn more money so they could have nicer things. At a family meeting around their "...old, scratched-up, homemade kitchen table," her parents, who work outdoors for a living, convince her and her younger brother that the enjoyment of their natural surroundings and the richness of one another's company are worth a fortune." (School Library Journal)

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
"This curly haired African-American moppet really likes herself. No matter what she does, wherever she goes, or what others think of her, she likes herself because, as she says, 'I'm ME!'" (School Library Journal)

Aesop's Fables by Kees Moerbeek
Minimal words, maximum gorgeous visuals that pop up to meet us with wonder and amazement.

Romeo & Juliet by Michael Rosen and Jane Ray
"Rosen summarizes much of the action in language that maintains the integrity of the play. Shakespearean passages are highlighted in bold print and unfamiliar words are explained in sidebar definitions. The adapter's prologue and endnote place the narrative in the context of a theatrical performance. The prose is readable and will lend itself to young thespians wanting to dramatize either individual scenes or an abridged version of the whole epic. Ray's fine watercolor artwork, though stylized, realistically portrays the characters and climactic moments." (School Library Journal)

Press Here by Herve Tullet
"Tullet's brilliant creation proves that books need not lose out to electronic wizardry; his colorful dots perform every bit as engagingly as any on the screen of an iPad." (Publishers Weekly)

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
The classic we all remember from childhood. Don't forget to share those good ones with your babes.

Ten Little Menehunes by Demming Forsythe
"This is a charming Hawaiian counting book in rhyme. Learn how to count from one to ten in Hawaiian while learning some of the Hawaiian language. Follow the adventures of these merry Menehunes, the mythical little people of Old Hawaii, as they watch for whales, pick mangoes, make poi, run along the shore and into the deep forest." (Amazon)

All My Friends are Dead by Avry Monsen and Jory John
"If you're a dinosaur, all of your friends are dead. If you're a pirate, all of your friends have scurvy. If you're a tree, all of your friends are end tables. Each page of this laugh-out-loud illustrated humor book showcases the downside of being everything from a clown to a cassette tape to a zombie. Cute and dark all at once, this hilarious children's book for adults teaches valuable lessons about life while exploring each cartoon character's unique grievance and wide-eyed predicament." (Amazon)

Tuesday by David Wiesner
"In this nearly wordless picture book, Wiesner ( Hurricane ; Free Fall ) again takes readers on an imaginative voyage, using everyday reality merely as a touchstone. Here, a squadron of frogs soars through the night air one Tuesday, squatting upon lilypads that they use as flying carpets. Apparently intending no harm, these mysterious visitors to a suburban development leave a minimum of disruption as evidence of their eerie flight: a few startled eyewitnesses, some scattered lilypads and a spooked dog. Wiesner's visuals are stunning: slightly surrealistic, imbued with mood and mystery, and executed with a seemingly flawless command of palette and perspective." (Publishers Weekly)

Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe
"This book is written by Harold. His fulltime occupation is dog. He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their sons Toby and Pete. Also sharing the home are a cat named Chester and a rabbit named Bunnicula. It is because of Bunnicula that Harold turned to writing. Someone had to tell the full story of what happened in the Monroe household after the rabbit arrived.
Was Bunnicula really a vampire? Only Bunnicula knows for sure. But the story of Chester's suspicions and their consequences makes uproarious reading." (Amazon)

We Are in a Book by Mo Willems
"In their latest pairing, Elephant and Piggie are finally ready to get meta. Realizing that their trademark blank background is, in fact, a page, the duo has a blast convincing the reader to say funny things out loud—until Piggie mentions that the book will soon end. Cue Elephant’s existential crisis: “WHEN WILL THE BOOK END!?!” From there on, it’s a cute—but never too heady—play on the physical object that the reader is holding, including a bit where Piggie appears to flip the pages forward to get a sense of how much time they have left. Willems’ satisfying (if self-serving) solution? Read it again!" (Booklist)

Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root
"Four intrepid youngsters set out to find a moose–a long-leggy…branchy-antler, dinner-diving, bulgy-nose moose. They've never seen one, but they know what to look for. Their investigations take them through the woods, into the swamp, behind the bushes, and up a rocky hillside before finally reaching their goal. In the end, they find not one moose, but more than they ever imagined." (School Library Journal)

The Legend of the Ragged Boy by Wes Magee and Linda Hennessy
"On a snowy Christmas Eve, a cold, hungry homeless child wanders the street, ignored by those around him, until a poor family takes him in, and they are suitably rewarded." (Amazon)

I Love You, Stinkyface by Lisa McCourt
"A vividly illustrated bedtime story that shows how the unconditional love of a mother can be tested through the relentless questions of her little boy." (Amazon)

The Tushy Book by Fran Manushkin
"The sounds of the words are as much fun as the scenarios that celebrate the body and how it works, and kids will want to chant along with the infectious rhymes. A book to share and talk about." (Booklist)

Doggies by Sandra Boynton
Kids learn to count, you learn to bark like myriad dogs. Two-fer!

Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith
"While the book looks like a Halloween title, its overarching theme is one of empowerment by facing one's troubles squarely." (School Library Journal)

Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague
"A clever book for a clever dog, Dear Mrs. LaRue collects a series of guilt-inducing letters sent home by the cat-chasing, chicken-pie-eating Ike to his 'cruel' owner Mrs. LaRue, whom he hopes will come to her senses and spring him from obedience school." (Amazon)

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
"A story of friendship across a racial divide. Clover, the young African-American narrator, lives beside a fence that segregates her town. Her mother instructs her never to climb over to the other side because it isn't safe. But one summer morning, Clover notices a girl on the other side. Both children are curious about one another, and as the summer stretches on, Clover and Annie work up the nerve to introduce themselves. They dodge the injunction against crossing the fence by sitting on top of it together, and Clover pretends not to care when her friends react strangely at the sight of her sitting side by side with a white girl. Eventually, it's the fence that's out of place, not the friendship." (School Library Journal)

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
"In this fractured fairy tale, three little pigs are portrayed as frustrated siblings fed up with a wolf that loves to huff and puff and blow houses down. In an attempt to protect their homes in their Japanese village, they train at a Ninja school. As the first brother begins aikido lessons, he finds himself bored and drops out, which gives him little defense when the wolf comes to call. Pig Two attempts his skill at jujitsu but his confidence is larger than his capabilities, and he is no match for the villain. Their sister is the only one who studies well and practices until she masters karate. When the wolf arrives at her door, she settles the score and sends him running. Learning a lesson from their gutsy sister, the brothers return to their classes with more determination and success. Unlike the original tale, the pigs are given responsibility for their misfortune and a chance for improvement. The story has a clear message that success requires perseverance." (School Library Journal)

Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld
"This nostalgic view of Halloweens past will ring true with everyone who remembers the trials and tribulations of trick-or-treating--from the stupid masks with thin gray rubber straps and cheap little staples to the humiliation of having to wear a winter coat over your store-bought Superman costume. Of course, the smart-alecky Seinfeld puts his own stamp on things in a voice that is so distinctly his." (Amazon)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
"Tacky the Penguin is a total nonconformist who lives with a group of formal, proper penguins. But it is Tacky who foils the plans of three critters with get-rich-quick plans that threaten the penguins' existence. With his un-penguin-like antics, Tacky puzzles the hunters to such an extent that they're firmly convinced they cannot be in the land of the pretty penguins. This is a rollicking tale that clearly shows that there are advantages to being an individual." (School Library Journal)

Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen
"The unforgettable story of a young girl and her best friend . . . a dragon." (Amazon)

Dear Mili by Wilhelm Grimm
"On September 28, 1983, the discovery of a previously unknown tale by Wilhelm Grimm was reported on the front page of The New York Times. 'After more than 150 years,' the Times noted, 'Hansel and Gretel, Snow-White, Rumpelstiltskin, and Cinderella will be joined by another Grimm fairy-tale character.' The story of dear Mili was preserved in a letter Wilhelm Grimm wrote to a little girl in 1816, a letter that remained in her family’s possession for over a century and a half. It tells of a mother who sends her daughter into the forest to save her from a terrible war. The child comes upon the hut of an old man, who gives her shelter, and she repays his kindness by serving him faithfully for what she thinks are three days. Actually, thirty years have passed, but Mili has remained safe, and with the old man’s blessing there is still time for a tender reunion with her mother. As for the pictures that interpret Dear Mili—hailed by School Library Journal as 'gorgeous'—they were a milestone in Maurice Sendak’s career, the work of a master at the height of his powers." (Amazon)

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
"Here is the "real" story of the three little pigs whose houses are huffed and puffed to smithereens... from the wolf's perspective. This poor, much maligned wolf has gotten a bad rap. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with a sneezy cold, innocently trying to borrow a cup of sugar to make his granny a cake. Is it his fault those ham dinners--rather, pigs--build such flimsy homes? Sheesh." (Amazon)

It's a Book by Lane Smith
Pure goodness on behalf of the golden age of books that both adults and kids will love.

The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
"In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he'd planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher's trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes." (Amazon)

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
"The literacy rate in Farmer Brown's barn goes up considerably once his cows find an old typewriter and begin typing. To the harassed farmer's dismay, his communicative cows quickly become contentious:
Dear Farmer Brown,
The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets.
The Cows
When he refuses to comply with their demands, the cows take action. Farmer Brown finds another note on the barn door: 'Sorry. We're closed. No milk today.' Soon the striking cows and Farmer Brown are forced to reach a mutually agreeable compromise, with the help of an impartial party--the duck. But this poor, beleaguered farmer's atypical troubles are not over yet!
This hilarious tale will give young rebels-in-the-making a taste of the power of peaceful protest and the satisfaction of cooperative give and take." (Amazon)

What Mess? by Tom Lichtenheld
"A hilarious conversation between a boy and his parents about a room that's such a disaster zone, he'd have to clean it just to call it a mess." (Amazon)

Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos
"When Baby Billy is born with a mustache, his family takes it in stride. They are reassured when he nobly saves the day in imaginary-play sessions as a cowboy or cop and his mustache looks good-guy great. But as time passes, their worst fears are confirmed when little Billy’s mustache starts to curl up at the ends in a suspiciously villainous fashion. Sure enough, 'Billy’s disreputable mustache led him into a life of dreadful crime.'” (Amazon)

Crankenstein by Samantha Berger
"Faced with the slings and arrows of early wake-up calls, miserly Halloween candy givers, melting Popsicles, long lines, cough syrup, and bedtime, the fearsome Crankenstein can only respond with a baleful look and a groaning 'MEHHRRRR!' The only possible cure for such terror? Laughter, naturally, which comes along with play and friendship and puts a total, if temporary, kibosh on the crankiness." (Booklist)

The Happy Hocky Family by Lane Smith
"The Hockies may be a classic family of parents, boy, girl, baby, and pet, but these events--like those in Mother Goose or schoolyard lore--hinge on misfortune: ants escape; the contents of pockets shrivel in the wash; grandmother's perfume smells like too many flowers; a cousin habitually breaks toys; sibs exact retributive justice." (Kirkus Review)

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
"This potent synthesis of art and prose conveys a child's first awareness of the changing seasons with reverence and wonder. Fletcher, a tiny fox, is concerned when his favorite tree turns brown. His mother tells him, Don't worry, it's only autumn, but the tree hardly seems fine to Fletcher. As its leaves fall and flutter away, the youngster struggles in vain to catch and reattach them. When only one leaf remains, he does his level best to secure it to the limb, but eventually the stem dries up and the leaf pops off. Mournful and confused, he carries it home and takes it to bed with him. Still worried about his tree, he wakes up the next morning to find that it has undergone a sweet and satisfying transformation. Beeke's resplendent watercolors work beautifully with the book's tone, content, layout, and design. Picture books about nature sometimes suffer from cloying, excessively pastoral language or imagery; this rare example succumbs to neither. A first purchase for every collection." (School Library Journal)

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
"Gilly Hopkins is a determined-to-be-unpleasant 11-year-old foster kid who the reader can't help but like by the end. Gilly has been in the foster system all her life, and she dreams of getting back to her (as she imagines) wonderful mother. (The mother makes these longings worse by writing the occasional letter.) Gilly is all the more determined to leave after she's placed in a new foster home with a 'gross guardian and a freaky kid.' But she soon learns about illusions--the hard way. This Newbery Honor Book manages to treat a somewhat grim, and definitely grown-up theme with love and humor, making it a terrific read for a young reader who's ready to learn that 'happy' and 'ending' don't always go together." (Amazon)

The Old, Old Man and the Very Little Boy by Kristine L. Franklin
"An African boy loves to listen to the village elder's stories, but cannot comprehend his talk of the very little boy who still lives within the old man. When enough seasons pass, however, the boy, long grown, begins to speak of the inner youthfulness that now underlies his own old age. Franklin summons evocative images to chronicle the links between the generations and the bittersweet passage of time. The old man's face is as brown and wrinkled as the deep garden soil and his toes spread like stubby fingers from decades of walking barefoot, as around and around the seasons danced." (Publisher's Weekly)

The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne
The complete tales of Winnie the Pooh.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
"Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won't stop giving her class poetry assignments -- and Jack can't avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say." (Amazon)

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
"Based on a Rocky Mountain legend, Stone Fox tells the story of Little Willy, who lives with his grandfather in Wyoming. When Grandfather falls ill, he is no longer able to work the farm, which is in danger of foreclosure. Little Willy is determined to win the National Dogsled Race—the prize money would save the farm and his grandfather. But he isn't the only one who desperately wants to win. Willy and his brave dog Searchlight must face off against experienced racers, including a Native American man named Stone Fox, who has never lost a race." (Amazon)

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
"After James Henry Trotter's parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it's as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!" (Amazon)

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
"Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn't always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus's birthday party. Newbery Medal winner Beverly Cleary delivers a humorous tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood. Both the younger and older siblings of the family will enjoy this book." (Amazon)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
"Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues Ronald—who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance." (Amazon)

This is just a sampling. There's a little something for everyone here. Some are his favorites, some are mine. Some aren't favorites, but are important to read, to consider, to take in. I left out some of the more popular, well-known wonders in favor of bringing you the underrated goodness that is here. They're in no particular order. They're all deserving of your and your child's time, though. So, head to the library and get lost in the wonderful world of books. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment