When I became a grandma, I bought an iPad for the sole purpose of downloading colorful Kindle books and engaging apps for babies. It has been surprising and encouraging to me that my two grandbabies actually prefer real books. Happily, we are prepared for hours of reading courtesy of all our children’s books which have been tucked in boxes and closets for the past 15 years waiting to see daylight again. So which ones have been a hit with another generation? and which I am expecting to become favorites of my grandson and granddaughter?
Ironically, the books your kids devoured over and over have likely been shredded. If you can’t save the actual books, at least make a list, noting who liked which books best. I know you can’t believe you would ever forget that, but you sure might.
As your babies grow and you need to make room for textbooks and yearbooks, take a second look at these titles before giving them away:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I’m guessing that this book popped into your mind for at least a fleeting moment when you read the headline of this blog. Is there a more beloved classic read-aloud? Something about the sing-song narrative and the odd mix of colored and black and white illustrations has fascinated kids for generations. Our 11-month-old granddaughter goes straight to this little board book every time, waiting patiently for the page to turn so she can point to the red balloon.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. No matter how you psychoanalyze poor Max’s temper tantrum, the appeal of a fantasyland of scary monsters who threaten “to eat you up” in an ever so loving manner is not to be overlooked. Somehow the author creates just the right amount of tension to engage babies and toddlers without overwhelming them. And the potential reader sound effects are a riot. A firm favorite of our toddler grandson.
Tom and Pippo series by Helen Oxenbury. This whole series was a delight to our very young children. We originally purchased them from Discovery Toys, and found them reminiscent of Curious George. However, Tom and Pippo’s adventures are mercifully much shorter and to the point than the monkey business with the man in the yellow hat. Prolific picture book author and illustrator Oxenbury is also the illustrator of the beloved We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I’ll admit, I saved the Narnia books because every couple of years I like to re-read them myself. My original set is tattered, and is shelved with “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” first rather than “The Magician’s Nephew,” but that’s whole other blog post. I don’t usually cry anymore when Peter and Susan can’t come back to Narnia, but perhaps when I read them to my grandchildren we can experience those intense emotions together.
Children can understand vocabulary and storylines at a higher level than they can read, so don’t be afraid to sit down with attentive young ones and begin exploring the iridescent world of Narnia.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. This holds a special place on the list because it was one of my childhood favorites. I can still hear the building excitement in my daddy’s voice as we opened the orange book and took off on that rhyming adventure. Of course, any books by Dr. Seuss are worthy of a permanent spot on your shelf. But there is just something endearing about the tenacity of those two strange creatures and their silly culinary conflict.
The Bible. Any special Bible storybooks or presentation Bibles should be a priority save for the next generation. My youngest loved this bright board storybook with a handy carrying handle, and his little niece and nephew love it today as well. In addition, those thin Bible story Arch Books are easy to tuck away. Any time you find an accurate depiction of a Bible narrative which appeals to young ones, keep it close at hand. God’s word is alive and active.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. We loved checking this book out at the library over and over again when our kids were small. The brightly colored tissue paper illustration technique and the little holes provided hours of fun for both babies and older kids.
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. I think my grown children are a little grossed out that I read this 25-year-old tactile book to their kids, and they may have a point. The bunny fur is still soft but perhaps a little darker tone than it was in the 90s. Nevertheless, it is one of the babies’ favorites as they play peek-a-boo and feel Daddy’s scratchy face.
Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever by Richard Scarry. Featuring 288 pages of “82 wonderful round-the-year stories and poems,” the adventures of Pip Pip Cat, Nicholas the Bunny, and Couscous the Algerian Detective, can go on for hours. The illustrations and storylines range from the simplistic to the complex so there is something for every attention span. Pretty much anything with a Richard Scarry byline is baby, toddler, and even preschooler gold.
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A homeschooling unit study just waiting to happen, these books drew us in from the first word and made it to the read-aloud pile more than once. The firsthand account of a bygone day draws an accurate picture of the joys and hardships of pioneer life without emphasizing the life-and-death elements which might frighten younger readers. History and character building lessons all in one set.
Crash! Bang! Boom! by Peter Spier. This one barely survived to be passed on to our grandchildren, but the board book format saved the day here. Subtitled, “A Book of Sounds,” it’s an onomatopoeia lover’s delight. If you’ve ever wondered how to recreate the sound of a flag flapping (whip-whap) or an eraser erasing (uffa-uffa-uffa), this book is for you.
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. This beautiful retelling of a folktale uses a subtle two-color illustration scheme to highlight the gorgeous detail of each scene. The message of generosity and contentment is worth revisiting with a new generation. (If you are one of those creative moms who wants to pull a cooking lesson in and actually make stone soup, remember to remove the stone from the pan before dumping into the garbage disposal.)
So that’s my top 12. What books would you add to this list of classic favorites?
(If you’re wondering what special toys you should tuck away with these books, take a look at A dozen classic toys to save for your grandkids.)
Traci Matt is the author of two best-selling homeschooling books available at Amazon.