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Classic Kids’ Books You Loved As a Kid (& Your Kids Will Love, Too)
You know what’s been unexpectedly cool about mothering? Getting to relive the best parts of my own childhood through my kids. I love to sing the funny summer camp songs that remain burned into my brain 30 years later, dress Barbie for a party, do spin art, and tie dye tee-shirts un-ironically. As my preschooler and baby get a bit older, I’ll be teaching them how to make cat’s cradle with a knotted loop of string (I still remember how to execute a flawless Jacob’s Ladder), screaming “Yahtzee!” and putt-putting golf balls into a clown’s mouth like it’s 1983 all over again. These are the days.
I have a veritable bucket list of childhood experiences that I long to repeat with my kids, from riding It’s a Small World to touring the monuments in Washington D.C., but something that’s easier and a whole lot less expensive to share on a daily basis is my collection of storybooks. I’ve been amazed at how well the tales my parents told me hold up; the lessons are timeless, the humor’s still funny and the slightly dated pictures (i.e. lots of rotary phones) are oddly fascinating to my littles. Here are 15 classic
picture books that won’t disappoint. Try reading one to your kids tonight!
More Fun Stuff:
Classic Books That You Loved As a Kid (& Your Kid Will Love, Too)
Frog and Toad are Friends
Despite their opposite personalities (Frog is cheery and capable, while Toad is a worrywart), these two are more than just friends. They are best friends--there for each other through thick and thin in a series of funny and touching tales. My 5-year-old always howls with laughter during"The Story," in which Toad, desperate to think of a story to tell his sick friend Frog, goes to great lengths to jog his brain, including pouring water on himself and banging his head against a wall.
Bread and Jam for Francis
Picky eater Francis keeps rejecting her mother's home-cooked meals in favor of bread and jam. That is, until her clever parents decide to use a little reverse psychology on her and serve bread and jam for every breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. Even my finicky preschooler agreed that there can be too much of a good thing. Variety is the spice of life.
Caps for Sale
A cap seller falls asleep under a tree, only to discover that monkeys have stolen all of his wares. How he gets his caps back is the clever punchline of Caps for Sale--I won't ruin it for you!
Blueberries for Sal
Sal, an impish toddler, goes blueberry picking with her mother and eats far more blueberries than she collects. Meanwhile, a mother bear and her cub on the other side of the hill are going through the same motions. The dawdling little ones get mixed up and end up following the wrong mothers for a while. There's a reason human mothers sometimes call themselves "Mama Bear"--it's the same dynamic, even across species.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Many storybook heros are aspirational--brave, good and kind, just like we hope our kids will behave. Not Alexander, whose bad mood brings out his worst qualities, and what a relief that must be for our kids to hear! Alexander's bad day starts with gum in his hair, escalates through a series of disappointments, mistakes and bad feelings around siblings and school friends, and ends with an understanding mother who doesn't fix everything, but acknowledges that "some days are like that." Truth.
A stuffed bear who lives in a department store loses the button to his overalls. As he searches for a replacement, inexperienced Corduroy discovers an exciting world beyond the toy department, mistaking the escalator for a mountain and the furniture display for a palace. But one thing that's no mistake is the love between Corduroy and Lisa, the little girl who buys him with her own money and takes him home. This sweet story lets kids imagine that their stuffed animals have rich inner lives. Plus there's a good lesson about saving your allowance.
The Little Engine That Could
A train bringing toys and candy to all the boys and girls breaks down. After several other trains refuse to help, a little blue engine agrees to try, but it won't be easy. She psychs herself up by repeating, "I Think I Can, I Think I Can," a worthy mantra for all our kids.
The Story of Ferdinand
Ferdinand is a bull who marches to the beat of his own drummer. Instead of snorting, butting and fight-starting, he prefers to sit in a field and smell the flowers. A misunderstanding causes Fernando to be chosen for a bull fight (oh no!), but staying true to himself is what saves him in the end. It's a reassuring story for any kid who feels different from the crowd, such as a boy who prefer arts to sports.
The mischievous monkey always getting into trouble is a character any small child can relate to. His human caretaker, The Man with the Yellow Hat, is patient, kind and a great explainer, like the parent we're all trying to be.
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Harold creates an entire world of adventure with his trusty purple crayon, used to sketch everything from a frightening dragon to the nine kinds of pie he likes best. This story embodies the power of the imagination, inspiring our little ones to think, dream and draw.
The plucky heroine is a French boarding school girl who bravely gets her appendix out, making all her friends slightly jealous in the process. The rhyming couplets are fun to read, and the story is short, making this a great "one more book" before bed.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein's funny and bizarre verses (such as "Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich") are a wonderful way to introduce your child to poetry. Thought not strictly a picture book, the poems are accompanied by Silverstein's fanciful illustrations, further spurring kids' imaginations.
The Sneetches and Other Stories
I love almost all of the Dr. Seuss books (especially The Lorax and Green Eggs and Ham), but this collection is a family favorite. The story of the star-bellied sneetches(who have "stars upon thars" is a wildly creative parable about diversity and tolerance. We also enjoy the tongue-twisting entertainment of "Two Many Daves" and "What Was I Scared Of," about a lively pair of empty pants.
The Snowy Day
Peter wakes to a winter wonderland and steps outside his apartment to explore the snow. The simple, evocative language and beautiful illustrations make this book memorable. It's also the only knowledge my southern California girls have of snowy weather.
Where the Wild Things Are
Max is sent to bed without supper and dreams of a world where he is king of beasts and can commence a "wild rumpus." But Max eventually tires of being wild and returns home to the safety of his family. The gorgeous illustrations and imaginative details make this story an award-winning classic for all ages.
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