Our Favorite Kids' Books

Arlo and I have done some serious reading over the years... I'd say 30 to 60 minutes per day on average for just about every day of his life. With all the hundreds of books we've enjoyed, there are some that stand out as true favorites. Some are make the list (like the books of Maira Kalman and Calef Brown) because the artwork and words are just as engaging for me as they are for Arlo. A few are classics. Others are just perfect for settling down at the end of the day. For whatever the reason, these are the books that we never seem to get tired of reading.

Maira Kalman Is a Superstar

Next Stop Grand Central
What Pete Ate from A to Z
Smartypants (Pete In School)
Max Makes a Million
Ooh-la-la (Max in Love)

I was a fan of Maira Kalman's books even before I was a Mom, but now I have a legitimate reason to read them all the time. I credit Ms. Kalman with the fact that I have a four-year-old who uses the words "ergo" and "frantic fervor". She doesn't spare the vocabulary, but her books have such a wonderful rhythm and the names are so silly that they are fun even for little ones. Plus, the artwork is fantastic, and there are all sorts of crazy details tucked into corners, so you find something new each time you read them.

Calef Brown Is the New Dr. Seuss

Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers: 14 More Stories
Polkabats and Octopus Slacks: 14 Stories
Flamingos on the Roof
Tippintown: A Guided Tour

Calef's rhymes are masterful and genuinely funny, with just enough grown-up humor, and his artwork is colorful and offbeat. In fact, I liked his drawings so much, I bought some! We have the original painting for "Grandma's Electric Guitar". Calef also has a fun blog at polkabats.com where he shares new work and behind-the-scenes stories. Sadly, you rarely see Calef's books in the chain bookstores, but they are easy to get online. Join me in making him as popular as he deserves to be.

Dr. Seuss, Of Course

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Dr. Seuss's A B C
Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
The Sneetches and Other Stories

Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss... we have a large collection, but these are the titles that have floated to the top of our most-read list. I remember reading "One Fish Two Fish" as a little girl.

Books About Making Art

Micawber (Lithgow/Payne)
Who knew John Lithgow was a children's book writer?! This book is about an art-loving squirrel in New York City who learns to paint. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story is fun with some fancy words like "peregrination" thrown in for good measure.

The Dot (Reynolds)
An empowering little book about making art... you shouldn't be afraid to try!

Good Quiet-time Books

Sleepytime Tales (Little Golden Book Collection)
We keep going back to this collection of Golden Books stories that are just right for bedtime. I especially like the stories by Margaret Wise Brown (best known for Good Night Moon) and the great 50s- and 60s- style illustrations in "Wonderful House" and "The Color Kittens" (which, by the way, is a great band name).

The Salamander Room (Mazer/Johnson & Fancher)
This book was a gift to Arlo when he was first born from my friend Patricia. It's a sweet tale of a boy who transforms his bedroom into a forest to make it comfortable for a salamander he brought home. Both the words and pictures are very soothing. I especially like the phrase "and moss like little stars."

Snow Bear (Moss/Kneen)
This was also a gift almost 5 years ago, but it stays in heavy rotation because the story is sweet and the verse is full of rhyme and alliteration that make it fun to read. The pages are also embossed with textures, so you can feel the animal's fur and feathers. A nice little book.

Bus Stops and My Friends by Taro Gami
These are sweet and simple little books with lovely drawings. Taro Gomi is probably best known as the author of "Everyone Poops" and the "Scribbles" drawing books. The book Bus Stops asks the question "Can you find...something?" on every page, which has started a nightly "Can You Find?" game in other books too. Thank you, Ellie Lee, for these fine books.

Fun and Funny

Is Your Mama a Llama? (Guarino/Kellogg)
Lively rhymes keep this story of a llama looking for his mother going. I'm not as keen on the illustrations, but for some reason, this book never gets tiresome. Another gift from my friend Patricia, who raised 3 kids and know about books!

Where's Spot? (Eric Hill)
The Spot books by Eric Hill are wildly popular and not especially thought-provoking, but I if you have a little baby or even a young toddler, I guarantee they'll love this book for its little lift-up flaps revealing animals tucked in surprising places. Arlo still likes to visit this book from time to time.

What are your favorites?