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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Dear Annie,

The best lists -- and of course I'm including yours when I say this -- are the most personal: what do I love to read, which ones do my children bond with?  I love that one of the comments, from your pal Rachel at Even in Australia -- a guest blogger and kids' book connoisseur -- says she's working on a list of her own, but that it has few overlaps with yours.  There are so many great books out there, and the process of winnowing them down to a top 25 -- or 100 -- can result in wildly different choices.

The day you posted, I was poking around on Read Roger, the blog of Horn Book editor Roger Sutton, and found an entry on lists.  In that case, it was a list of classic children's book authors: he suggested 26 writers who are “dead but important and still singing to readers.”  It's a list one can definitely debate -- the comments are half the fun.  But it's also another way of approaching book list-making: looking at  authors rather than specific books.

Take, for instance, Sandra Boynton.  She's written a few duds -- hard for a prolific author not to -- but I'd say at least five or six of her books are exceptional.  You listed Hippos Go Berserk -- a big one in both our families -- and Doggies (ah, Isabel).  In our household, Moo Baa La La La would probably supplant Doggies.  I've had customers recite to me much of Barnyard Dance and The Going to Bed Book.  So I'd just say, anything Boynton -- or maybe anything Boynton pre-2001.

The authors I'd offer for your list -- assuming we're aiming at a birth-to-preschool child -- are
Shirley Hughes: I love anything Alfie, or Dogger
Arnold Lobel: Frog & Toad, Mouse Soup, Mouse Tales
Peggy Rathmann: Goodnight Gorilla, 10 Minutes Til Bedtime, Officer Buckle & Gloria
Dr Seuss: anything
William Steig: Gorky Rises and Spinky Sulks would head my list, but one could go anywhere here too.

Coming up with this list makes me realize I've never written about Helen Oxenbury's wonderful collection of eight-page board books: that's my promise for next time.

I'm looking forward to The Little Fur Family!



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