Four children’s books I consider my favorites

Who knows just how much children are influenced by the cadence of language in the books we read to them? I believe little ones are instinctively attracted to patterns and rhythm, syllogism and resolution. Affection for lyrical language remains with us in adulthood, as does the desire for a tidy ending. The absence of apparent conclusion elevates some literature to a status that endures, as it forces adult readers to wrangle with potential interpretations.

You may not find all four of these, my favorite children’s books, still in print:

Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney

Guess How Much I Love You
written by Sam McBratney
and illustrated by Anita Jeram

I own the board book edition of this story, which was first published in the mid-‘90s and has been translated into at least 27 languages. Its charming ink and watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter’s, but the book’s affectionate tone is entirely contemporary. All traces of stern authoritarianism are missing. It expresses an indulgent postmodern society’s perspective of childhood.

We Help Mommy
written by Jean Burger Cushman and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

We Help Mommy, by Jean Cushman

We Help Daddy is the counterpart to this Little Golden Book, which is so old-fashioned that some of today’s parents might actually consider it inappropriate. I can’t stop loving this 99-cent book, because I remember the day my own little girl acted it out by trying to bake a pie unassisted. She placed a pizza pan on the kitchen floor, sprinkled a box of Jell-O mix over it, and plopped maraschino cherries on top.

Roll, pat. Roll, pat.
I’m making a treat for Daddy.
It’s a funny man, with two cherries for eyes,
and one cherry for a mouth.
“Daddy will be very pleased,” says Mommy.
And she puts it in the oven.

We Help Mommy is a story about the author’s own children, Martha and Bobby Cushman. Holly Reed and Larry O’Loane posed for Eloise Wilkin’s classic illustrations. The book was published in 1959.

Le Petit Prince, par Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Le Petit Prince
avec dessins par l’auteur,
Antoine de Saint Exupéry

I almost never write in the margins of books. My copy of Le Petit Prince is an exception, although I can no longer recall sitting in class as my animated high school French teacher, Christiane Edmondson, explicated. My favorite chapter is when the prince meets the fox:

—Viens jouer avec moi, lui proposa le petit prince. Je suis tellement triste . . .

—Je ne puis pas jouer avec toi, dit le renard. Je ne suis pas apprivoisé.

Please read this lovely story in the language in which it was first published in 1943.

Christmas Trees
written by Robert Frost and illustrated by Ted Rand

Christmas Trees, by Robert Frost

The jacket flap copy for this book, published 17 years ago, says, “In 1916, when Christmas trees cost a dollar, Robert Frost wrote a poem that he described as a Christmas circular letter.” Children love the poetry of the plainspoken. The child in each of us hopes for the ending of this book.


Had I thought through this countdown, I should have chosen a simpler syntax for the titles of the final six posts of NaBloPoMo. Four weeks ago, I started with a meme, so it’s fitting to conclude this week with the seemingly innocuous question:

What are your four favorite children’s books?

7 Replies to “Four children’s books I consider my favorites”

  1. I must have read about 1000 children’s books to my girls in the past five years and yet we keep coming back to classics like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I can’t name just four, though, because there are my favorites from my own childhood like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and the Judy Blume novels Blubber and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret…plus new picture book favorites like Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock and The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Noble. We have a large library at home!

  2. With Goodnight Moon, it’s the “goodnight nobody” surprise. It also rhymes but not strictly in meter, so I think it flows a lot better than some stories whose rhymes get monotonous and annoying. There is an ease to the language that lends itself well to winding down for the night.

  3. My favorites right now are the ones my almost three year old hard of hearing daughter recites portions of aloud at random times. She will recite parts of Stellaluna, Rosie’s Walk, and Click, Clack, Moo — Cows That Type. She will also read to me Flotsam, which has no words, but she has gotten so used to me telling her the story by pointing out and talking about the pictures that she can do it herself.

  4. Laura:

    The first passages children memorize seem to become part of family lore, don’t they? I recall my daughter being fascinated with a story about Peter Rabbit that involved a gun. I should ask her the next time I visit the correctional center. (I’m kidding.)

  5. “Where The Wild Things Are,” ANY book by A.A. Milne, ANY book by Shel Silverstein (um, I think I went over the limit with five…heh heh), “The Wind In the Willows,” and….(drum roll please for the favorite childrens’ book of all time…)


    I have ALWAYS wanted to be Real. A Real Rabbit with a gun. Ahahahahaha…

    Enjoyed this post ENORMOUSLY, as Anne Shirley would describe it.

  6. Oh, Click Clack Moo is hilarious! What a great book for both parents and children. My husband and I both laughed aloud the first time we read it (and sometimes still do). I second Shel Silverstein, his poems are funny and clever, lots of fun.

    “Real rabbit with a gun”—laughed aloud at that, too!

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