While visiting my parents a few months ago, I had a lot of fun looking through my childhood picture book collection. I was surprised to discover that a few of the books I loved as a child are unremarkable. On the other hand, it was a real treat to discover that a few of the books I loved as a child are fantastic. I have been enjoying reading these books to my children and most enthusiastically recommend Busy People by Joe Kaufman, Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel, and A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz.
What were your favorite picture books when you were a child?
Let’s Go Shopping by Bill Dugand, 1964. In this concept book, readers follow a girl in a cheery pink dress and hat as she shops and learn the names of items available at various stores. Let’s Go Shopping was written in a different era, a pre-big box store era, when people would stop at eight different shops to get what they needed. While I cannot heartily recommend a book about shopping, my children sure enjoy reading this book. Ages 1+
I am a Mouse by Ole Risom and John P. Miller, 1964. A friendly mouse describes his daily routine of greeting his animal friends. As a child, I enjoyed the mouse’s friendly disposition and the pretty pictures of berries, mushrooms, and animals. While I am a Mouse has an uninspired storyline, this book is worth seeking out for its wonderful illustrations. Ages 2+
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, 1948. The story of a young girl who gets separated from her mother while picking blueberries. When I read Blueberries for Sal as a child, I felt like I was reading a serious drama. I related to the young girl, was nervous when she got separated from her mother, and was relieved when she and her mother were ultimately reunited. When I read Blueberries for Sal as an adult, I enjoy the humorous toddler behavior and unlikely mix-up. I also love the wonderful, classic illustrations! Ages 2+
The Moose is Loose! by Mike Thaler and Toni Goffe, 1980. A very silly cartoon in which a moose escapes from a zoo and a detective (Inspector Hippo Spotamoose) is called to find the moose. The moose hides in a variety of funny places. As a kid, I thought the moose’s disguises were hilarious. While neither the plot nor illustrations mark this as a classic, The Moose is Loose! still entertains. Ages 3+
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel, 1972. A collection of five, often-humorous, short stories about two best friends Frog and Toad. Frog and Toad Together has well-developed characters; lovely, muted illustrations; and stories with creative, quirky plots. Ages 3+
We Like Kindergarten by Clara Cassidy and Eloise Wilkin, 1965. A young girl Carol tells readers about a day at her kindergarten. Carol’s kindergarten looks like a lot of fun; Carol’s classmates care for fish and turtles, fingerpaint, play with clay, take naps on colorful mats, dance and play musical instruments. Carol has friendly, round cheeks and wears short, poofy dresses. Carol and her classmates are well-behaved – taking turns, sitting quietly and appreciating activities. Ages 4+
Busy People by Joe Kaufman, 1968. Describes the work of eight characters: Fred Fireman, Trudy Teacher, Peter Policeman, Doris Doctor, Zeke Zookeeper, Perry Postman, Carlo Clown, and Irma Installer. Written in 1968, Busy People conspicuously avoids stereotypes; Both the doctor and telephone installer are women. While I loved this book as a child, I was surprised by how much I loved it when I reread it as an adult. Busy People has wonderful, colorful illustrations and lots of fun and interesting information. Ages 4+
The Cat’s Quizzer by Dr. Seuss, 1976. When I was a child, I was not a Dr. Seuss fan. However, I really enjoyed this Dr. Seuss book — The Cat’s Quizzer. The Cat’s Quizzer is full of silly questions like: “Are freckles catching?” and “Do pineapples grow on pine trees or apple trees?” I especially loved the banana maze. It is unlikely that you will see this book reprinted anytime soon due to the inclusion of a few potentially offensive questions. Ages 5+
Rabbit and His Friends by Richard Scarry, 1953. Rabbit and His Friends is perhaps the strangest story ever written! I will attempt to summarize the plot: An egg hatches to reveal a mysterious animal. (Psst. It’s a platypus.) A group of friends discovers that they each have something in common with the mysterious animal. Despite the growing sense of comraderie, the friends abandon the platypus. The next day, the group of friends discover that the mysterious animal is on display at a circus. The group of friends are proud that they discovered such an unusual creature. Despite this convoluted plot, I enjoyed Rabbit and His Friends when I was young because it included a group of smiley friends, a circus, a platypus eating an ice cream cone, and a happy ending. Ages 5+
A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz, 1976. Provides a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a young student at the prestigious School of American Ballet. In A Very Young Dancer, ten-year-old Stephanie is chosen to play the lead role of Mary in The Nutcracker. As a child, I loved getting to peak in on Stephanie’s life and imagine myself in Stephanie’s shoes. This is one in a series of books that Jill Krementz wrote about very young artists, athletes, etc. and, in my view, the best in the series. Ages 6+