Boy, this list was much harder to make than I expected! Too many subcategories. I’ll just have to be satisfied with a general theme of “sevenness,” but I’d like to do more reading lists later. Or is that boring?
These are just seven books which I enjoyed as a child, which my kids read or wanted to hear over and over again, and, most importantly, which I didn’t mind reading to my kids over and over again.
There are so many books which have good stories, but aren’t told well – they’re clunky, wordy, repetitive in the wrong way, or just aren’t crafted with any understanding of how kids listen or think. But these seven are books that got it right, and have fantastic illustrations, too.
Check out Conversion Diary for more links to everyone else’s 7 Quick Takes!
Seven Books You Will Enjoy Reading to Your Kids
Half Magic by Edward Eager.
I never understood why this book isn’t more widely-read (and I think it would make a great movie, too). One summer, four children find a magic talisman which grants half wishes, which leads not only to complications and surprises, but ethical dilemmas (they accidentally made an iron dog half-alive. Should they make it turn back into iron, or bring it fully to life?). The story is incredibly original, it moves along so nicely, and the children and their relationships with each other are so funny and real–it’s a perfect read-aloud book. The illustrations by N. M. Bodecker are also charming and really add something to the story. The author wrote six other books in the same vein, and all are worth reading, but Half Magic is by far the best.
The entire Frog and Toad series, Owl at Home, Fables, and Mouse Tales and Mouse Soup written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel.
Lobel also wrote several other books, but these are the best. So simple and deft, so gentle and witty and full of affection. Frog and Toad are imbued with more personality than any character in a modern novel that I can name — but Lobel does it in five pages of easy-reader words. The vocabulary is simple, but it’s no Go, Dog, Gophonics slog– his prose is a delight to read, never a chore. You never have to go back and reread, because you said some dialogue with the wrong expression–it’s all there. Arnold Lobel ought to be studied in writing classes, and “The Dream” ought to be required reading for first confession classes.
Tales From Grimm told and illustrated by Wanda G’ag.
All the unvarnished truth about fairy tale characters, bloody feet, gouged out eyes, and all. These aren’t just stories, they’re little masterworks of rhythm. The illustrations are otherworldly and unforgettable, and the book includes many less familiar stories, too. Snip, snap, snout, my tale’s told out! (Also by this author, and recommended: The Funny Thing, Millions of Cats, Snippy and Snappy)
Granfa’ Grig Had a Pig and Other Rhymes without Reason from Mother Gooseselected and illustrated by Wallace Tripp.
I feel like my kids should know Mother Goose, but in most editions, the illustrations are creepy, sappy, or bland. This is because the subject matter of nursery rhymes is often bizarre, and no one is sure how to handle the weirdness. Wallace Tripp, one of my favorite illustrators, lets the lunacy and hilarity come through (often providing sly commentary on the rhyme). They are full of detail to fascinate kids, and they’re just funny and refreshing. He also has inluded lots of lesser-known rhymes that you will be glad to know (“Slug abed, slug abed barley butt, / Your bum is so heavy, you can’t get up” comes to mind).
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
All of the books written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire (I just like saying those names!) are wonderful, but Greek Myths is the one I liked the best as a kid. The illustrations always make me think of William Blake on summer vacation: the same primitive feel, the same slightly over-determined composition, and the same naked emotionalism of the faces — but more color, more flesh, more fun. And the stories are just right: they have lots of action, lots of humor and pathos, but manage to be decorous–no easy feat. Those gods were weird.
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories.
For a wonderful introduction to Jewish storytelling, here is a collection of seven sweet, strange, and funny stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, unforgettably illustrated by the master, Maurice Sendak. I’ve read other books written and illustrated by this pair, but this one shows them both at their best.
Homer Price, More Homer Price, and Centerburg Tales.
Another undeservedly neglected collection. A young boy in a rural town (where, without explanation, several of the inhabitants are named after classical heroes and authors) gets into peculiar adventures with skunks, superheroes, balls of yarn, giant ragweed, mysterious mousecatchers, and disastrously catchy rhymes. Just satisfying and entertaining, and, again, lively and funny illustrations by the author, another favorite of mine, Robert McCloskey.
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Happy weekend, everyone! I’ve been in a fog all week, and can’t get ahold of my syntax. Sorry if anything above doesn’t make sense.