I think it is a good idea to keep track of the best and most-loved books I come across, if for nothing else than to remember to pull them out for younger siblings or give them as gifts to friends and family 🙂 These are some of our favorites – books that Rondel asks for over and over again and that can be read over and over again by me or my husband without inducing insanity.
Just for reference, at the time of this list, Rondel is 26 months old.
Corduroy, by Don Freeman, 1976
This is a classic story about friendship and home, from the perspective of a toy bear looking for his button. Everyday things and circumstances are described with the kind of wide-eyed wonder that a little kid is going to have as he encounters the world, without losing their simplicity. I think it is hard to capture that kind of innocence in an urban setting in kids’ books, at least from the books that I’ve read, and so this book is great for those of us who live in the city and can’t rely on nature to fuel our children’s sense of wonder and exploration. But more than that, Corduroy the bear is simply an endearing character who quickly finds a place in the reader’s heart. Despite this being a longer book, Rondel asks for it often and gives it rapt attention.
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry, 1974
This has been a favorite of my son’s for a long time now! It can be read cover-to-cover for the story of the Pig family going to the beach, or simply enjoyed on a page-by-page basis for the illustrations and humor. At this point we usually just read a page or two at a time, because it is a long book and Rondel is more interested in the different vehicles on each page than in the story anyway. Especially if your child is obsessed with cars and trucks, this is a good book to have in your home library.
A Child’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, collected by Kady MacDonald Denton, 1998
I’m sure there are a lot of excellent poetry collections available for younger kids, but this is ours, and we love it. Rondel has been asking to read from it at bedtime every day for several weeks now, and when we read from it during the day he keeps asking for more. He’s starting to have favorite poems as well, like the flying-man poem or the chuff-chuff-chuff train poem. Because each poem is illustrated, he has visual anchors to connect with the words and rhythms, which is an advantage over my other favorite poetry collection. There are of course a few poems that feel odd and out of place, or not quite appropriate for the age of the intended audience, but overall the poems are perfect in feel and content and the layout of words and pictures on each page is very well done. The poems lend themselves quite well to finger games, roughhousing, and cuddling also!
Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Garth Williams, 1970
This book is, in my mind, very similar to Corduroy in the way it captures the wonder and simplicity of everyday life. In this case, the setting is a normal day in the life of a little fur child who lives in the woods. He spends all day playing outside by himself, making discoveries, observing the world around him with all his senses; Brown uses simple but evocative language to describe what he sees and feels and hears. Then, at the end of the day, he returns home to the comfort and security of his family, whose love and presence is clearly shown. I have always loved this book, even as a single adult. The prose has just enough meter to feel rhythmic and almost musical without falling into a rhyme-y or sing-song pattern, and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful.
“Could Be Worse!”, by James Stevenson, 1987
This book is definitely intended for slightly older children, but Rondel enjoys the vibrant illustrations, the repeated theme (“Could be worse!”), and the ridiculously tall tale unexpectedly told by the grandpa. He doesn’t get all the humor, or some of the more subtle layers of the book, but he likes it enough anyways to ask for it 5-6 times a day! I have a suspicion that he pictures his own grandpa doing some of the crazier things in the story… 🙂
In addition to these top five, there are quite a few board books that Rondel loves and that are easier to read when Limerick is around, since he has a tendency to try to rip the picture books. But I will save those for another post as this one is already quite long!