In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Building a library -- my top 25 (well, 33) list

Dear Aunt Debbie,

My good friend Ann -- teacher extraordinaire, one of the smartest and most electric people I know -- had a baby just over three weeks ago.  Ann is a reader from way back, and during her pregnancy prepared for her daughter's arrival largely by buying children's books.  At birth, this baby has the beginning of what I know will be an extensive and well-chosen library.

During her pregnancy, Ann asked me for a Top 25 list to supplement what she'd already bought: what kids' books are must-haves in starting a child's library?  Tonight, I set myself to the task.  25 proved too small a number, but I was able to whittle it down to 33, only one of which I haven't yet written about here.

Lists like these are by nature extremely subjective.  As I scrolled through our book lists (over there on the right side of the page), I found myself skipping over many, many books I love.  What made the cut?  It came down to gut reaction for me.  These are the books I have reread with the most pleasure, the most number of times; the books I can't imagine living without in the first few years of a child's life.

I've divided my list into three sub-lists:

For brand-new babies: the absolute first board books to start reading to babies in their first few months. 
Classics: these are largely books I grew up with, some older than others.  They make up the bulk of the list.
Contemporary: books I discovered as a parent, but which I now can't live without.

A few authors make it onto the list more than once: Margaret Wise Brown leads the pack here, with four titles, followed by Sandra Boynton and Robert McCloskey.  In some cases, I've cheated by referencing series rather than individual books, so that in truth this is a list approaching 50.  Within each section, I've listed the books in alphabetical order by author. Here it is:

For brand-new babies:

Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown


The one I haven't yet written about, as you can see by the lack of link above, is Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown.  Expect a post on it next week.

What am I missing?  What have I forgotten?  I'd love to hear from you, and our readers.

Love, Annie


  1. Love your list! I have a wonderful memory of your dad reading Margaret Wise Brown to my own kids :) My kids also love The Lorax.

  2. And two more to consider on your contemporary list...The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (great first day of school book) and The Quiltmakers's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau (one of my fave books to give as a gift - the illustrations are fabulous). Love your list!

  3. "Where the Wild Things Are" - Loved this book SO MUCH as a kid that, Years later (age 34) I asked for T-shirt with book cover as gift - treasure the T-shirt as I treasured the books...and gain Serious street cred with the little people when I wear it ;)
    (remember graduating from enjoying Just pictures to being able to Read it-)
    What Happened to Richard Scary books or The Barenstein Bears?? Loved those but they seem to have fallen Out of fashion.
    Love, Love, Love ALL the Madeline books.
    Eloise books are Fab, too - my sis and I inherited our Mom's :)

    (IBBA site says voting has closed - let us know how it goes - Good Luck!)

    1. I am remiss! Where the Wild Things Are should absolutely be on this list. Thanks, both of you, for the other suggestions!

  4. I've had a top 100 list in progress for a while and will eventually post it. Interestingly, it has very few overlaps with yours - the only ones are, I think, Frances, Corduroy and George and Martha.