What do writers read to their kids?: Five authors share their favorite children’s books

I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books lately. Never mind that Dominic seems far more interested in eating them than looking at them. No, never mind that.

I used to think that it couldn’t be that hard to write a good children’s book, but now now I have a bit more respect for children’s authors. Creating a good children’s book is not as easy as it looks like it might be.

At least, that is the conclusion I draw from the fact that there are so many seriously lame children’s books that managed to make it into print.

Luckily there are a bunch of seriously awesome ones out there, too. My selection is fairly limited at the moment (English-language children’s books not exactly being in great supply here in Laos). But of the ones I have, I love Where’s My Mom? (Julia Donaldson) – the rhymes are great, there’s a surprise twist near the end, and the pictures are vibrant. I also love the beautifully illustrated and clever Rainy Day Games: Fun with the Animals of Noah’s Ark (Andy McGuire)

Reading a couple of those good books lately (and knowing some of their authors) got me thinking. Who better to know and love good children’s books than writers?

So I’ve been polling some of my author friends about what they love reading to their own children. Here’s what they have to say …

Sundee Frazier (award-winning children’s author of Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment, and The Other Half of My Heart)

“These are mostly for the very young:

  • Books by Leslie Patricelli, especially Quiet LoudYummy Yucky, and Higher! Higher! (these books are hilarious, vibrant, participatory, and the first two inspire kids to observe contrasts and opposites all around them).
  • Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox (fun poem with great colorful drawings; a wonderful read-aloud and wonderful for kids learning to read)
  • The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman (brilliant rhyming story; moms will love this one, too)
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!  by Karen Beaumont (hiLARious reworking of an old folk song)
  • My Baby and Me by Lynn Reiser and Penny Gentieu (a book of wonderful photographs of older and younger siblings interacting around everyday objects; nice simply rhyming text)
  • Kiss Kiss!by Margaret Wild and Bridget Strevens-Marzo (I just loved reading this board book with my daughter when she was really little and all the affection it encouraged)
  • Freight Train  by Donald Crews (a classic board book)
  • Bird, Fly High by Petr Horacek (board book that cries out for audience participation)
  • In the Garden with Van Goghand A Magical Day with Matisseby Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober (I got these books before traveling to Paris and Amsterdam with my small children; a great way to introduce the masters!)
  • Jacob Lawrence in the City by Susan Goldman Rubin (and for a prominent African-American painter . . .)
  • Turtle’s Penguin Day by Valeri Gorbachev (just love how this story encourages pretend play and imagination–my kids love it, too)
  • All The Frog and Toad storiesby Arnold Lobel (these amphibians are one-of-a-kind!)
  • Finally, a fractured fairy tale for the younger set: Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra. Illustrations by a very unique artist, J. Otto Siebold. It’s entertaining for all the fairy tale allusions.”

Tracy Groot (author of Flame of Resistance and Madman)

“Here are a few favorites I read to my kids: Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, and Mother Goose Rhymes. We read to them a lot, from the Little Critter Books by Mercer Mayer, to Dr. Seuss books, but these two were always the go-to books. They were special to me simply because they were special to them.”

Sharon Hinck (author of The Restorer-Expanded Edition  and The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Becky Miller, Book 1))

“I love The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown… a classic that shows a love that pursues and never gives us.

Less familiar to many are the wonderful Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Beautiful poetic prose woven with fun nonsense. Reading them aloud is a joy.

And I confess to many hours of giggling while reading or reciting Green Eggs and Ham, Go Dog Go, and other Dr. Seuss books.”

Andy McQuire (author of Rainy Day Games, A Special Fish for Jonah, and Remy the Rhino Learns Patience)

“One of my favorite picture book to read to my own kids is Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. It has the best rhythm of any rhyming book I’ve read.

My favorite chapter book when I was young (and I can’t wait to read it to my kids some day soon) was The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha by Lloyd Alexander.”

Lisa Borden (author of Approaching God)

“Moonbear forever! There’s one thing I know from reading to young kids through the many years: there’s nothing worse than having to repeatedly read aloud a book that is driving me crazy.  Fortunately, I loved the Moonbear books.

From Moongame, Moonbear’s Friend, and other Moonbear books we learned that friendship is sweet, books are wonderful, life can be funny and moonlight is naturally magical.  Asch’s Moonbear books present wonder in everyday things.”

What about you? What books do you love reading to your children? What books do you remember loving as a child?

14 responses to “What do writers read to their kids?: Five authors share their favorite children’s books

  1. Dangerous question for me, Lisa — my list may be as long as your post! My very favorite childhood book was The Bundle Book, by Ruth Krauss – the 1951 version with pictures by Helen Stone (now out of print, sadly). Reading it still brings back my mother’s voice…. Others I loved as a young child and read to my kids:
    The Story of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf)
    The Little Engine that Could (Piper)
    The Little House (Virginia Lee Burton)
    Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak)
    Bounce and the Bunnies (Ruth Carroll)

    And so many more classics I discovered with my own kids!
    Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen)
    Where’s My Teddy? (Jez Alborough)
    Goodnight Gorilla (Peggy Rathmann)
    Jamberry (Bruce Degan)
    Hush Little Baby (Sylvia Long)
    The Lion and the Little Red Bird (Elisa Kleven)- & anything by her!
    Owl Moon (Jane Yolen)
    Dragon Soup (Arlene Williams) – mediation with dragons!
    Crispin, the Pig Who Had It All (Ted DeWan) – the magic of an empty box!
    Tacky the Penguin (Helen Lester) – hilarious
    No Such Thing (Jackie French Koller)
    Children Just Like Me (Kindersley – a UNICEF book)
    I Love You the Purplest (Barbara Joosse)

    Finally, two with particularly inspiring messages I hope all kids will absorb:
    Whoever You Are (Mem Fox)
    God In Between (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

    And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks for bringing back the memories….

  2. My go to resource for books for my kids is The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children. Breaks it down into different groups, Wordless, Picture, Story, Early Reader, Middle Reader, Young Adult. Also, the index breaks it out by subject and age level. Great resource. Opened up a whole world of books to me that I didn’t know was out there. But as far as my favorite read alouds…the top of the list has got to be Where the Wild Things Are. What a wonderful story of imagination but also laced with themes of repentance and forgiveness. Gives me goosebumps thinking about it. And we have recently discovered some very sophisticated pop-up books based on children’s classics like Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland. They are complex and have beautiful, elaborate pop-up illustrations with books within the books that make these stories come alive for my kids. They are illustrated by Robert Sabuda. I could go on forever on this topic. This is one of my favorite parenting activities maybe because I enjoy it so much personally.

  3. Brown Bear Brown Bear What do You See? and Chicka Chicka ABC. I read Bronw Bear to my oldest so many times I could look out the window in the car and flip the pages while reciting the whole book.

  4. It was an incredible experience writing and illustrating, “The Moon, The Star, and the Firefly”. I had written the story years ago when my own children were little and read it to them, but without any illustration. As I started having grandchildren I really wanted the tale to be passed on, so decided to illustrate the tale as well. I love the result and nothing matches the first time I sat with 3 of my grandchildren by my side, turning pages and reading the hardback edition with them. It’s published on Blurb http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1152367

  5. But that aside, my kids loved ‘Pat the Bunny”, Good Night Moon”, All the “Noddy” Books, anything fairy tale-like. So many books, so little time.

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  8. I have my favorite books, but Andrew has his too! He is obsessed with “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” right now. Interestingly, that was the book that I read him most when he was a tiny, tiny baby. I guess the trick is having books around that we, as parents, like to read… so when they pick a favorite that they want to have read 1,000 times in a row we won’t go mental. (Well, at least not as mental). I have a few I have to get rid of. There’s one that’s basically 10 pages of dogs barking that I cannot handle. A person can only “woof” so many times. 🙂

    • Yes. I can only find that stupid moose hiding behind the spruce so many times … !!! Right. I’ll get right on sourcing some of these reccomendations so that I don’t go insane down the track.

  9. We love Owl Babies (so much so that the line ‘and they danced and they flapped and they jumped up and down on their branch’ has become part of our family vocab, lol!), I love 5 Minutes Peace, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Bad-Tempered Ladybug, Baby Bird’s Blankie, Hairy McLary from Donaldson’s Dairy (and anything else by Lynley Dodds), The Little Yellow Digger, The Wonky Donkey, Grandpa’s Slippers, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch… and my kids love Rattletrap Car, Big Red Bath, and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey… and lots, lots more that I can’t currently remember while my 4yr old is talking loudly about a dead lamb!

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