Below are some Highlighted Lists I made for different categories of books. I will add to the lists as I get the chance.
These lists began as lists I made in my six months working for the Office for Children, as a resource for Childcare Providers who would like to have recommendations of good books to have for children of different age ranges. I tried to pick a nice mix of classic and new titles. The first several lists will be for certain age ranges, but I hope to get a little more quirky down the road. I will keep a record of all my lists on this page.
The most recent list is from Betsy Bird's Top 100 Children's Books Poll, presenting my personal choices.
Top Ten Chapter Books
1. Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
I would have loved to include Emily of New Moon. But this is right. Anne is classic. Anne is the heroine who started it all. I first read this book in 10th grade, and I found it a breath of fresh air after all the adult books I'd been reading. Then, as I was in high school and college, they slowly came out with more and more of L. M. Montgomery's books. I also own all the volumes of her journals and everything I could get my hands on of hers. My absolute favorite is The Blue Castle, but it's actually a book for adults. Anyway, Anne Shirley is a character who comes alive.
2. Momo, by Michael Ende
I know this one won't make the list, but I can't let it go unrecognized. This was the first book I ordered from Book-of-the-Month Club, and it was so good, I blame it for all the other books I ended up ordering. When I moved to Germany, my first purchase was a copy of this book in the original language (German). Momo is a little girl with a gift for listening. So when gray men come and steal people's time by convincing them to save it, Momo is the only one who can see them, because she really listens to them. This book is mythic in scope.
3. Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
I tell the whole story of how much I love this book in my review. Let's just say that I remember my mother reading it to me. Then I remember reading it to my little brothers and sisters. Then, in college, I learned that one of the most fun things to do was read with a group of friends, where different people read the different voices. And finally, I got to read it to my sons, or together with my sons. Oh, and I've read it in German!
One of the funny things is that it reads on different levels. I remember as a child just taking the things said as perfectly reasonable and matter-of-fact that now I think are hilarious. This book is a work of genius.
I also have to mention that I brainwashed both my sons into loving these characters so that the very first characters they pretended to be were ones from Winnie-the-Pooh. In fact, my son learned early to write his own name -- "P-O-O-H." (When he called me in the night with the call, "Pi--iglet!", I thought he'd gone too far.)
Now, to be honest, The House at Pooh Corner is a little better, since it includes Tigger. However, last time I voted for The World of Pooh in order to include both and my vote was totally wasted. I'm sure everyone who reads the list will be thinking of ALL the Pooh stories.
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
I remember at my vast old age in 7th grade sadly concluding that I was too old for the Narnia books now. (I had already read them many times.) Then I took them up again in college and found new riches. I know I will never "outgrow" them again. Of course, it does help that I'm a Christian, and love the insights about God found in Lewis's writings. But the magic of the stories works fully, even without that. (And I appreciate that part much more as an adult than I did as a kid.)
As I said in my review, no kid who reads this book will ever look at a closet door the same way again.
5. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
I remember reading this book on the way to school and having to stop right when Bilbo was in the tunnel leading to the dragon's lair. That was excruciating!
6. The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner
When we were reading to both our kids together, my older son said we had to read this book next. I was skeptical, but by the time I finished, I was a complete fan. And it grows on me with each rereading -- because I notice more clever things each time. The second book, The Queen of Attolia would be near the top of my YA list.
7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling
Oh, our family got hours and hours and hours of enjoyment out of these books. We read all of the first five out loud as a family, with no reading ahead. (Or as little reading ahead as we could stand.) We read books #3 and #4 on family vacations, and ended up putting off a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle because we just had to finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
8. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
This book isn't perfect, but how it endures. I didn't read this until I was in college. When I did, I was so grateful to the person who told me about it.
9. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
This book has such childlike exuberance. Pippi is someone we'd talk about as if we knew her. ("And she sleeps with her feet on the pillow!") This is a child-sized tall tale.
10. Half Magic, by Edward Eager
My favorite of his is Seven Day Magic, but Half Magic is more well-known, the first one I read, and a classic concept.
Ages 4 to 5
Timothy and the Strong Pajamas, by Viviane Schwarz
Timothy Smallbeast’s favorite pajamas wear out, but his mother mends them into Super Strong Pajamas. After a day helping others with his Super Strength, his new friends come to his aid when he needs them.
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, by Eugene Trivizias, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Three sweet little wolves are up against a pig who “isn’t called big and bad for nothing.” When blowing down their houses doesn’t work, the pig starts in with a sledgehammer. This hilarious twist on the traditional tale will have everyone laughing.
A Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Bear does NOT allow visitors. But a persistent mouse quickly has readers wondering where he will pop up next. Despite Bear’s best efforts, the mouse shows Bear that some things are better with friends.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
In this Caldecott Medal-winning book, Sylvester the donkey finds a magic pebble and rashly wishes to be a rock when attacked by a lion. But how can a rock reach the pebble to wish himself back?
Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathman
Officer Buckle is sure that his safety demonstrations are a hit with kids. He doesn’t realize that his dog Gloria is acting out all the accidents behind his back.
Millie Waits for the Mail, by Alexander Steffensmeier
Everyone who sees this book will enjoy the silly situations as Millie the cow waits for the mail – so she can scare the mail carrier out of his wits.
Clever Cat, by Peter Collington
A cat learns that being too clever can backfire. Maybe not a great message, but very funny.
The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
Here’s a beautiful little book about making your mark and not judging yourself by other people’s standards. Kids who read this will never dare to say they’re “not good at art.”
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
The classic tale of a naughty rabbit outwitting Mr. MacGregor is still as pleasing as ever.
Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss
A faithful elephant tends a nest because he meant what he said, and he said what he meant.
Ages 3 to 4
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr, and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Rollicking sounds and rhymes have the naughty little letters of the alphabet climbing up and falling down from the coconut tree. Irresistible rhythm!
Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman
Katie is a dog who loves the new little kittens but doesn’t know how to contain her enthusiasm for them. A great twist on welcoming new members of the family.
The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney
This 2010 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book wordlessly tells the famous fable with lush pictures full of details your child will want to examine over and over again.
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
This much-loved classic has ducklings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack following their mother through Boston to get to the Public Garden, with help from kind policemen stopping traffic.
Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
The animals of the farm want something to do and go to the public library. But only the hen can get the librarian to understand what she wants.
The Three Pigs, by David Wiesner
This Caldecott Medal-winning book plays with the rules of illustration to show the three pigs escaping the wolf by fleeing from their book, and then visiting other books to find resources to build a happy ending.
Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag
This timeless classic tells of a very old woman and a very old man who want one little cat and find millions and billions and trillions of cats.
A Porcupine Named Fluffy, by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Poorly named Fluffy is angry when others laugh at his name – until he meets a rhino whose name is even less appropriate.
Serious Farm, by Tim Egan
Farmer Fred is too serious. The animals on his farm try to make him laugh, and don’t succeed until something happens that’s very serious to them. This book will succeed right away at making the reader laugh, child or adult.
Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
A farmer goes to greater and greater lengths to keep bunnies out of his garden. Each time the bunnies get in, there’s a refrain ending with Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!
Ages 2 to 3
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Reading this book, the child gets to make the rules. The pigeon begs and pleads and throws a temper tantrum, but please don’t let him drive the bus!
Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer
When George tries to bark, the wrong animal sounds come out! George’s mother takes him to the vet, who finds animals inside George. Simple text gives excited anticipation as the animals get bigger and bigger.
Go, Dog. Go! by P. D. Eastman
This classic book explores colors and shapes, in and out, over and under, using dogs and cars and a big dog party at the end.
(Don’t get the board book – This is a book that should not be shortened!)
Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig
This book is a fun excuse to play along as Pete’s father turns him into a pizza – with lots of tickling as he goes.
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
In this book, a big green monster gradually appears, using cleverly shaped cuts in the pages. Then, the reader says, “Go away!” to each scary part until the end, “And don’t come back! Until I say so!”
Toot Toot Zoom! by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Fun sound effects abound throughout this story, as a red fox drives up a sky-high mountain and finds some friends.
Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann
The pictures tell the story in this book where the gorilla follows the night watchman around the zoo, unlocking the cages.
Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea
The little hippo’s silly Daddy keeps getting everything wrong, so he has to show Daddy how to do simple tasks.
Little Quack, by Laurel Thompson, illustrated by Derek Anderson
Five little ducks, named Widdle, Waddle, Piddle, Puddle, and Little Quack are trying to get the courage to jump into the water behind their mother. Splish! Splash! Sploosh!
Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
A simple story with strong rhymes portraying night time worries calmed after Mama Llama doesn’t come back as fast as little Llama wishes.
Ages 0 to 2
Blue Hat, Green Hat, by Sandra Boynton
The ultimate toddler book, this board book presents colors and items of clothing – and a turkey who always gets it wrong. Oops!
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
This sweet-as-can-be picture book celebrates the love of all babies everywhere – especially your very own baby.
Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
A classic lift-the-flap book has Spot’s mother looking for him, but finding many other animals.
Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell
Another lift-the-flap book has the zoo sending a child bigger and bigger pets until they finally send just the right one.
Freight Train, by Donald Crews
Simple irresistible text shows different colored train cars traveling by.
Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
The classic bedtime book to soothe toddlers to sleep.
More, More, More, Said the Baby, by Vera B. Williams
The opposite of soothing, this book has a built in tickle game.
Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
This book uses rhymes to help a child guess which mama animal is coming next.
Peek-a Who? by Nina Laden
A simple rhyming board book with holes to peek through and guess who’s hiding on the next page – ending up with a mirror to see Baby.
Cat the Cat Who Is That? by Mo Willems
Cat the Cat meets an assortment of new friends until she meets one that defies naming.