Picture Books (ages 3 years to 8, but adults are also allowed to read & enjoy!)
Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf was one of the first books I recall loving as a child. Ferdinand is a peaceful bull who doesn’t want to fight; he’d rather stop and smell the flowers.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is one of my all-time favorites and I always stocked it in both paperback and hardcover. I often give it to adult friends as a gift. It tells the story of a world traveler, Miss Alice Rumphius who shares her adventures at story-time with her niece and teaches her to leave something beautiful in the world.
Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel is probably the funniest alphabet book ever written and the illustrations are fun for both adults and children. From nonsensical foods, kitty’s bad behavior, foods kitty likes and then atonement, this lively book manages to work through the alphabet several times for new learners.
Scaredy Squirrel by Montreal author Melanie Watt is the funniest and sweetest picture book to come along in a while. I just fell in love with this obsessive-compulsive squirrel who is afraid to leave his tree, until he learns he’s a flying squirrel. There are now a number of books in the series as Scaredy discovers the world (albeit tentatively).
Chester -- also by Melanie Watt -- is a book that makes books come alive. As Melanie tries to write her story Chester the cat keeps interrupting and writing his story in red felt pen, with many hilarious results between the dueling authors.
The Boy from the Sun by Canadian author Duncan Weller is almost dream-like, beginning with the sparsest drawings and elevating into something truly wondrous. Three young children sitting near a large factory are surprised by a boy with a yellow head who descends to earth and teaches them to run, play and enjoy the beauty of the world all around them. This book was winner of the Governor General’s Award for Illustration in 2007.
Middle Readers (ages 8 to 12)
For beginning readers who want to make that big step up and start reading their own chapter books, a very successful series (and at this age children love to follow a series and keep track of the number they read) is the Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne. Every time a young boy and girl enter their magic tree house they are transported to another time or place or even visit exotic animals. I like this series for its short chapters, they still have illustrations, and they are easily geared to children’s interest.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was a book I read 247 times (approximately!) and never tired of. I know I have cried my head off every time I read about the spider Charlotte and her friend Wilbur the pig but it has never stopped me from reading it again.
I like the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary that follows Ramona from preschool through several years, as she goes to school, learns to ride a bike, has a brother, all the things young children may find themselves facing. Cleary makes these everyday events in the hands of Ramona the Brave (or Ramona the Pest) a lot of fun.
What child won’t love Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? In fact, most children get hooked on all of Dahl’s books for his great sense of humor and adventure. As an adult, I love and often give as gifts his books The Twits and Revolting Rhymes.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket have proven to be bestsellers every time one was published. Following the adventures of the Baudelaire orphans trying to escape their evil Uncle Olaf, the thirteen books in this series promise the reader that nothing good ever happens, this is about unfortunate events.
The Daring Book for Boys and The Dangerous Book for Girls are two of my favorite non-fiction books for this age group in along while. Lamenting the loss of old-fashioned fun and basic knowledge, this book offers great stories of exploration and courage, history facts and genealogical tables, how to build a tree house or a go-kart. There are no household chores in the girl’s version (I checked immediately) but does include stories of great women in sports and history. Designed like an old-fashioned almanac, this book should prove to be a keepsake on many a bookshelf.