Little Boy Brown by Isobel Harris and illustrated by André François
A four-year-old boy lives with his well-to-do parents in a hotel in the heart of New York City. Despite being surrounded by the people and bustle of Manhattan, he feels incredibly lonely. When hotel chambermaid Hilda invites him to visit her little house outside the city, his world opens up. “Hilda’s family is smarter than we are. They can all speak two different languages … They’ve been on the Ocean, and they’ve climbed high mountains.” This heartwarming story was first published in 1949 with gorgeous illustrations by André François, who studied with Picasso. Our kids discover something new each time we read it, sparking questions about what it might feel like to be little boy Brown.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Sam, Dave and their little dog are going to dig and dig until they find something spectacular. They dig down. They dig left. They dig right. They split up. Nothing. Our kids (who happen to be big diggers themselves) love following the illustrations, seeing how close Sam and Dave come to finding real treasure along the way. They end up digging a tunnel, then falling and falling — ultimately landing right back home. We find the ending a little trippy. Our kids find it magical.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
You have this one, right? Every home library needs Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 classic tale of Madeline. “In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” The 12 did everything together, but it was tiny Madeline who was the bravest. “She was not afraid of mice — She loved winter, snow, and ice. To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, 'Pooh-pooh.'” Both boys and girls get a kick out of Madeline’s spunk and the delightfully rich illustrations of boarding school in Paris.
McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss
This classic Dr. Seuss, published in 1947, is one of our kid’s all-time favorites. While fishing in McElligot’s (teeny tiny) pool, Marco imagines all the super-amazing things that he might catch if he’s patient. “I might catch a fish with a long curly nose. I might catch a fish like a rooster that crows. I might catch a fish with a checkerboard belly, or even a fish made of strawberry jelly!” A hilarious read, true to Dr. Seuss’ enduring themes of big imaginations and optimism.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Re-live the fairytales you loved as a child—Chicken Licken, The Really Ugly Duckling, The Tortoise and the Hair, and others. Wait, those aren’t the stories you remember? But they are, only sillier. (Sidenote: To abide by the "we don’t use the word ‘stupid’ in our house” rule, we change the title to “Crazy Tales.”)
Trixie Ten by Sarah Massini
Trixie Ten has nine (annoying loud) brothers and sisters. She longs to get away from Wanda One, Thomas Two and the others for some peace and quiet. When she takes off, she finds out the rest of the world is just as loud—and she feels very lonely. Soon enough her nine siblings notice she’s gone and bring her home where she happily drifts off to sleep, feeling lucky to be just where she is. “It’s just as noisy as usual. But that’s the way we are.” Our kids identify with the loud-sibling theme and dig the Ed Emberley-inspired thumbprint illustrations so much, they’ve been making their own Trixie Ten creations.
We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu
This little board book makes a super sweet valentine for a baby or toddler in your life. (And our preschoolers still pull it off the shelf.) With a message of “love," it introduces color, shapes and animals in a charming way — with vibrant, happy illustrations die cut to reveal surprises. While most of the board books in our library have now been passed on to younger cousins, this one will stick around.
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . . BLORK. Or BLUURF.” And that’s when the belly laughs begin. Our kids find it hil-AR-ious. If you’re an adult, and you come to our house, they’ll try getting you to read it to them. And it’s probably more imaginative and hysterical than any kids’ book you’ve ever read. Yay for originality!