Booklist: Very Best, Most Favorite Kids' Picture Books Ever

Freedom to Read Week 2009

I was excited to learn about Freedom to Read Week, an "annual event that encourages ... to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom."  Then I realized that it was just for Canadians.  Now, I love books and appreciate Canada, so I've decided to celebrate the opportunities I have to read, think, and share whatever I please.  So, in observation of this worthwhile idea, here's a list of a few of our very favorite children's books of the minute.  Honestly, our favorites change with alarming rapidity (since you probably have children you know just what I'm talking about), but these are classic books that I reccommend heartily.

This may be the only book on my list with even a hit of subversiveness (thanks to some cute little treasures hidden in the illustrations--can you find the woman breastfeeding, or the girl on the potty?), but it's definitely #1 on our list!  In the Town All Year 'Round is an absolute classic.  The narrative-free illustrations take you through the seasons of the year in images of a single town.  There are special threads to follow (Cassie the cat is on every page, meets another cat, falls in love...has kittens!), and so much to see.  We've looked at this book a hundred times and each of us find something new each time.  Don't miss this one!

We love all of his books, but Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day is right at the top of our list.  The pictures are detailed and (aside from the fact that the characters are, well, pigs, worms, cats, and other animals) present lots of solid information about things preschoolers really need to know about and are fascinated by (community helpers, how houses are built, where wood comes from!).  I loved this book as a kid, and it's such a delight to share.  My second choice from Richard Scarry would have to be Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever!, a compilation of many favorite stories.

We've just finished reading The Boxcar Children, one of my very favorite books from childhood.  It follows four orphaned children as they try to escape their (apparently unfriendly) grandfather and set up housekeeping in an abandoned boxcar in the woods.  It's a charming story with lovely, relatable, well-mannered characters, and we all loved reading about how they kept their milk cold in the stream and cooked food over the fire.  Written in the early 20th century, has weathered the years very well.

When I was nine or ten I had a book that told the history of everything and I read that thing until it fell apart (and I can still tell you about the discovery of vulcanized rubber and the history of vaseline--creepy, I know).  Daisy and Scout both seem to have inherited my love of facts and trivia, so I was excited when I picked up the Smart-opedia Junior: The Amazing Book About Everything.  I was even happier when I looked through it and found that it tells you just enough about, well, everything!  From explaining how your body works in logical progression to the workings of the universe, she's absorbed by the wonderful illustrations and straightforward information. 

Finally, I'm going to cheat by throwing in all the rest of our favorite books in a single volume: The 20th-Century Children's Book Treasury.  I'm not usually one for greatest hits-type compilations, but this one really gets it right.  It's a book we keep in the car, pack for trips, and read over and over.  It includes the full text and pictures from stories (from Madeleine to Harry the Dirty Dog to Millions of Cats) by all of your favorite authors (from the Berenstains to Maurice Sendak to Kevin Henkes).  There are a very few duds in the bunch, but there's enough here to keep occupied for years.  It's my go-to baby shower gift :)

What's holding your kids' attention these days?  Do you have a favorite from your own childhood that you share?  I'm always in the market for a new one!
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