Picture books. The delight of children everywhere. Some books are simple, some are memorable, some have illustrations that deserve viewing in a museum. There are museums devoted to artwork from children’s literature, and someday I’d like to visit one.
In our house we went through picture books by the dozen. We owned a handful of favorites, but mostly we checked them out from the library. Picture books are the natural bridge between board books and books for early readers. They are for snuggling, reading aloud, pointing out things in the story and talking about. A young child who experiences lots of picture books is well prepared for the next steps of learning to read.
Our public library has a whole room-size section devoted just to picture books. We read every book we could find that had a fireman or construction equipment on the cover, along with many others. Don’t neglect the children’s non-fiction section. There are plenty more picture books in that section that may interest your child. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Fix-It Duck by Jez Alborough gets top listing as our favorite picture book! “Plop! goes the drip that drops in the cup. Duck looks down and Duck looks up. ‘A leak in the roof, Oh, what bad luck! This is a job for… FIX-IT DUCK!” Duck has plenty of confidence, but the more he fixes, the worse it gets. The illustrations are marvelous and the story is perfectly written, including the surprise ending. Alborough has written and illustrated many other picture books and they’re good, too, but I think this one is his masterpiece.
2. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff is perfection in a picture book. A little boy gives a mouse a cookie so the mouse asks for a glass of milk, so then he wants to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he asks for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim… It keeps going until the mouse runs his little host ragged. (The mouse may remind you of a preschooler in your life.) Felicia Bond’s illustrations are delightful. There are a number of other “If You Give a” books in this series, although none of them quite measure up to the original. My favorite of the others is If You Give a Moose a Muffin.
3. Jamberry by Bruce Degen is just bursting with fun. As a boy and bear float down a river picking berries, the nonsensical rhymes are memorable and the illustrations leap off the page. Caution: the rhymes will stick! “One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry!”
4. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola – We loved this little picture book, and it is truly a picture book because there are no words. Tomie dePaola illustrates the story of a lady who wants pancakes for breakfast, but everything seems to go wrong. A nice story for children to “read” to themselves. We still use the pancake recipe included in the book.
5. Fireman Small by Wong Herbert Yee – Of all the fireman books we read, this series was the standout. “In the middle of town where buildings stand tall, there lives a little man called Fireman Small.” Kids can relate to little Fireman Small who single handedly saves the day.
6. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik – The Little Bear series is intended for early readers, but I am including it in picture books as an example of the type of early ready you can read to your children before they are able to read to themselves. My son first heard the story of Little Bear when he was only two, and what followed is detailed in Duck’s Story. The original is a sweet story of Little Bear’s adventures as he makes Birthday Soup and flies to the moon. We were delighted to find additional Little Bear books that introduce more characters and are just as sweet and playful.
7. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney – We didn’t know about this adorable book soon enough to use it as a bedtime story, but I’m listing it anyway because if I’d known, it would have been one of our favorites. Toddlers everywhere can relate to the poor little llama who wants his mama.
8. 9. 10. Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton – These classics are some of our other favorites. I was going to write about just one so I asked my son to pick which he liked the best, but he said they were all even.
11. Does anybody remember Richard Scarry books? They’re still around and they are as fun as ever! Better than Waldo, Richard Scarry hides silly little pictures everywhere! These books are good for hours of fun.
12. And finally, don’t miss Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin. Poor Farmer Brown! First his cows get ahold of a typewriter and then they start leaving him notes! He tries giving in to their demands, but where will it end? This story is just too funny!