Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Favorite Picture Books

A few weeks ago, a family we're close to had a birthday party for their three-year-old daughter, and for a present I'd picked up a copy of an old Darwin favorite (one which I heard many times as a child) Bedtime for Frances.

Later, on hearing the recipient had much enjoyed the book, I said, "Oh yeah, that's always been one of my favorites."

It occured to me afterwards that it's perhaps odd for a grown man to have favorite picture books, and while it's true that I didn't necessarily take time out to read them before I had kids, I easily could have listed off a dozen or more favorite picture books at any given time. Perhaps we have bookish enough readers that this will not seem terribly odd to you for an adult to have favorite picture books. Either way, the following is a rather slap dash listing of favorites with a few notes on why -- making use of Amazon links since it's the fastest way to get images in on all these.

There are several other Frances books, all of them charming, but A Bargain for Frances is a favorite because of its lessons in negotiating and diplomacy for the 3-5 year old.

Ignore the later sequels, but the original Babar books are imaginative and charming in the extreme. From The Travels of Babar comes the useful line, "I've had enough. I'm going to smash everything." And I find that I still read the books in the same tone and cadence I recall from the voice of the reader on the Caedman audio books we had of Babar when I was a child. (Does this mean that our children will someday read the Narnia books with the voices of Kenneth Branaugh and the other British actors recruited to read the audio books they listen to all the time?)

What child does not at times wear his wolf suit and make mischief of one kind and another?

Although I'm fond enough of Peter Rabbit, I like Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Tom Kitten and the Fierce Bad Rabbit at least at much. Plus I can't help noticing the salutory moral involved in all of these stories being about foolish or mischievious animals being nearly killed and/or eaten.

As with Babar, I dislike all the later knock-offs, but the classic George books are quite enjoyable and the source of several household favorite lines.

Sadly, one of my favorite series of picture books in pretty thoroughly out of print, and very expensive. Graham Oakley's Church Mice books were very British and utterly charming. Now, however, they seem to be selling for quite a bit used.

I'm sure I've missed some favorites, but these seem to hit the high points.

UPDATE: Are the Amazon-hosted images loading for people? Questions on technical issues in the Darwin household. Okay, went through and hosted all the images on Blogger. Sigh...


Jim Janknegt said...

Only the last image loaded for me. One of the best parts of raising our daughter was getting to read picture books. I love ERic Carle's illustrations. WE had a bunch of his books. Maurice Sendak's The Moon Jumpers perfectly captured playing outside at night in the summertime. Another favorite illustrator is William Joyce, The Leaf Men is great. And I really like an odd, quirky illustrator-j. otto seibold. I miss getting to read these books.

bearing said...

I love Frances too, every one of them. I even have favorite lines from the books. Especially from Best Friends for Frances. I never get tired of reading a Frances book. Which is good, because they are highly demanded around here.

I like all the books written and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. Kids going off to sea and being ship's boy and saving the day. Veddy British.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is another old favorite. And I like How to Behave And Why by Munro Leaf (of Ferdinand fame).

Wayne Johnson said...

I recommend The Man Whose Name Was Not Thomas by M. Jean Craig, and the "Little Bear" books by Elsie Minarick. Little Bear's Visit and Little Bear's Friend are favorites around here.

The "Not Thomas" book tells the reader who the young man isn't and what he doesn't do. The pictures tell what he does. I love the detail, and the kids love hearing what his name actually is.

I also recommend What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear? to parents and silly kids, but the author escapes my memory.

lissla lissar said...

Hah! I just rescued two of my Church Mice books from my parents' house, and am looking forward to reading them aloud, when my son is old enough to appreciate them. I'm sad that they're OOP. I seem to have lost the one about traveling, but still have the first one and The Church Mice and the Moon.

Doesn't everyone have favourite children's books?