Book recommendations for kids

The number in square brackets before the author is the age at which we read these books with my daughter. For more on the when and why of the books included here, see the notes at the end of this page.

[8] ALEXANDER, Lloyd. Chronicles of Prydain series.

Often recommended to those who enjoy Harry Potter. Although the plots, characterization and style are not as good, and the sense of life is not as uplifting, the series is still an enjoyable read.
Book 1: The Book of Three
Book 2: The Black Cauldron
Book 3: The Castle of Llyr
Book 4: Taran Wanderer
Book 5: The High King

[8] ALEXANDER, Lloyd. Vesper Holly series.

My daughter liked these very much, but for months rather than years.
Drackenberg Adventure
The El Dorado Adventure
The Illyrian Adventure

[6] ALGER, Horatio. See titles below.

The formula stays the same for every book (courageous, intelligent boy overcomes hardships to achieve his goals), but after reading some of the more recent Newbery Medal winners, I’ve come to appreciate Alger’s stress on the values of thought and hard work. The vocabulary is challenging for a six-year-old; I think my husband or I always read these with our daughter.
Ragged Dick and Struggling Upward, Or, Luke Larkin’s Luck
Mark the Match Boy

[8] American Girl Library.

I haven’t read these cover to cover, but what I have read was good sense, and seemed to help and/or amuse my daughter.

Oops!: The Manners Guide for Girls. It’s apparently easier to read about phone etiquette and table manners than to listen to parents lecture on them. Fine by me.
A Smart Girls Guide to Boys: Surviving Crushes, Staying True to Yourself and Other Stuff. Sensible advice, and a good way to encourage a discussion.
Moneymakers: Good Cents for Girls. Moneymaking suggestions, including pet care, cooking, babysitting, computer work, arts and crafts, and tips on running your business.
The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book. Hygiene, puberty, nutrition, sleep: as usual, common sense that makes a good starting point for discussion.
Yikes!: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Surviving Tricky, Sticky, Icky Situations.
The Feelings Book: The Care & Keeping of Your Emotions
Games and Giggles Just for Girls. Great car book.
More Games and Giggles: Wild About Animals.
Brain Waves: Puzzle Book. Riddles, Crosswords, Mazes and Much More! Another good item for a long trip.

[4] ANDERSON, C.W. Billy and Blaze series.

Originally published in the 1930s, the Billy and Blaze series are classic stories of a boy who “loved horses more than anything else in the world.”
Billy and Blaze
And if that goes over well, a set of eight.

[6] ANDREWS, J.A. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.

My daughter loved this book and reread it at least 4 times. I tried to get through it, and couldn’t. Go figure.

[5] ATWATER, Richard & Florence. Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Illustrated by Robert Lawson.

The Popper family ingeniously deals with its twelve penguin pets.

[6] BANKS, Lynne Reid. Indian in the cupboard series.

Omri’s magical cupboard makes plastic figurines come alive – but the tiny cowboys and Indians are real, strong-willed people, not content to be treated like toys.
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Return of the Indian

[7] BAUM, L. Frank. Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Warn the kids that the movie version didn’t faithfully follow the book, which dates to 1900 and whose original illustrations are reproduced in this edition. Spend some time figuring out which illustrator’s work you and your child would like best.

[6] BENDER, Michael. Waiting for Filippo: The Life of Renaissance Architect Filippo Brunelleschi. A Pop-Up Book.

Brief biography of one of the great figures of the early Renaissance, the sculptor, engineer and architect Brunelleschi, who completed the dome of Florence’s Cathedral. This book includes pop-ups of his most famous buildings; the text is considerably more advanced than is usual for pop-up books.

[6] BERENZY, Alix. A Frog Prince.

A frog prince searches for his true love. The illustrations are quite lovely.

[5] BIESTY, Stephen. See titles below.

Incredible Cross-Sections. Castle, coal-mine, observatory, Spanish galleon, opera house, subway station … fascinating. Can’t bear to get rid of this one. (Amazon doesn’t allow a link to this, for some reason.)
Incredible Everything. How Things are Made – from Chocolate to False Teeth and Race Cars to Rockets. Another keeper.

[1] BLEGVAD, Lenore. This Is Me.

Board book. Why this would ever, ever go out of print is beyond me: it was a cherished part of our bedtime routine for months and months. I kept it in the small (really, very very small) box of toys from when my kid was a toddler that I couldn’t bear to part with.

[5] BLIZZARD, Gladys S. Come Look with Me. Enjoying Art with Children.

High-quality color reproductions of 12 paintings showing children, with a series of questions on the facing page aimed at encouraging children to observe paintings closely. Below the questions are a few paragraphs about the painting. Included are works by Goya, Holbein the Younger, Manet, Bouguereau, and Renoir and Picasso (one early and mediocre, the other later and horrid). This was more mine than my daughter’s.

[6] BLUNDELL, Tony. Beware of Boys.

Intrepid boy outwits ravenous wolf. Great illustrations, funny recipes.

[3] BONSALL, Crosby Newell. Who’s a Pest? A Homer Story. (An I Can Read Book, Level 2.)

Homer tries to prove to his sisters Lolly, Molly, Polly and Dolly that he’s not a pest. The text is reminiscent of Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine.

[1] BOYNTON, Sandra. See titles below.

Board books. All her books are fun, but we were especially fond of:
Moo, Baa, Lalala (animal sounds)
But Not the Hippopotamus

[1] BROWN, Margaret Wise. See titles below.

Board books.
Good Night, Moon
The Runaway Bunny

[6] BURNETT, Frances Hodgson. See titles below.

A Little Princess.
Little Lord Fauntleroy. An intelligent, considerate young boy raised in America learns that he will inherit an earldom, but to do so will have to live with his curmudgeonly grandfather rather than his beloved mother.
The Lost Prince. Samavian patriots Marco Loristan and his father must secretly prepare for the day when the Lost Prince will return to his war-torn country.
The Secret Garden. Classic tale of three children who discover a dying garden and strive to revive it.

[6] CLEMENTS, Andrew. Frindle.

How does a new sound become a recognized new word? I suspect I liked this one better than my daughter–philological adventure stories are so rare.

[6] D’AULAIRE, Ingri, and Edgar Parin. D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

Well-written retellings of the principal Greek myths, from Gaea and the Titans to Heracles, King Midas and the Golden Fleece.

[7] ENZENSBERGER, Hans Magnus. The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure. 

A fantasy introducing the wonder of numbers: infinite, prime, Fibonacci, rational, irrational and more. It won’t teach a child how these work or why, but might arouse his interest.

[1] FERBER, RIchard. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.

Being able to sleep through the night isn’t an inborn skill, and figuring out how to teach it to your baby isn’t something you can do when you’re not getting much sleep yourself. This book was a sanity-saver. Incidentally, Ferber’s technique only took one night to work on our daughter.

[3] FREEMAN, Don. The Pet of the Met.

About a mouse family living in an opera house, written by the author of the Corduroy Bear books. I used this to segue into Mozart’s Magic Flute, which the mouse family loves to perform. See Mozart’s Magic Fantasy: A Journey Through The Magic Flute.

[6] FRITZ, Jean. See titles below.

 All Fritz’s books on famous Americans are excellent; my daughter read them again and again. There are many more: see the author page here.
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?  Well-written biography of Paul Revere.
Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? The American Revolution from the British point of view, more or less.
George Washington’s Breakfast. A boy named after George Washington tenaciously tries to learn what the first president ate for breakfast.
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution. Covers the major issues and events surround the writing of the U.S. Constitution and its ratification, written at a level a grade-school child could understand. At the end of the text, the Constitution is reprinted.
What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
Where Do You Think You’re Going,  Christopher Columbus? Fascinating account of Columbus and his voyages.
Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? Patrick Henry’s life and career, including excerpts from his most famous speech.
Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? A “biography” of Plymouth Rock.
Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?  Biography of one of the Founding Fathers.
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? Biography of the Founding Father who was also the richest man in New England.
Around the World in a Hundred Years. Incidentally, if  your knowledge of Age of Exploration isn’t very good, this is a quick fix.

[10] FRITZ, Jean. Early Thunder.

In 1774 Salem, a teenage Tory deals with events leading to the American Revolution; nice integration of historical events with the plot. This is more advanced than Fritz’s books on the Founding Fathers. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure my kid ever read it.

[6] GARDINER, John Reynolds. Top Secret.

Everyone thinks Allen’s school science project, human photosynthesis, is a joke–except the government, which sees him as a national security risk and sends agents to capture him.

[3] GRAHAME, Kenneth. See titles below.

The Wind in the Willows: The full-length version is probably too detailed and a bit too British for very young American children. My family started out with The Wind in the Willows, A Young Reader’s  Edition of the Classic Story. Retold by G.C. Barrett, Illustrated by Don Daily: an abridged version, with lovely illustrations,  perfect for reading aloud.
The Reluctant Dragon: I love the version with Michael Hague’s illustrations. (The original illustrations were by Maxfield Parrish.)

[6] GRIFFIN, Judith Berry. Phoebe the Spy.

During the Revolutionary War Phoebe, daughter of the owner of Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, spies for the Americans. It makes for an exciting story, although the guides at the Tavern declare it’s completely untrue. I liked this one better than my kid did.

[6] HADDIX, M.P. Running Out of Time.

The inhabitants of a whole village don’t know there’s a more advanced world outside.

[6] HEIDE, Florence Parry, and Judith Heide Gilliland.  House of Wisdom. Illustrated by Mary Grandpre.

A boy growing up in ninth-century Baghdad discovers the wonders of the House of Wisdom, one of the greatest libraries in the medieval world. A map and some historical background are included at the end. This is another one that I loved, but my daughter was indifferent to.

[6] HENRY, Marguerite. Misty series.

Classic stories for horse-lovers.
Misty of Chincoteague
For enthusiasts: the boxed set

[2] HOLABIRD, Katharine. Angelina Ballerina. Illustrated by Helen Craig.

Mouse girl finds a way to channel her exuberant love of dance.

[10] HOMER. Odyssey.

The Odyssey. Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean. Literate retelling of Odysseus’ adventures, with well drawn illustrations and a map. At 10, my daughter liked a made-for-TV version of the Odyssey, but hadn’t sat down to read this abridged version.
The Legend of Odysseus. Retold by Peter Connolly. This retelling of the Iliad and the Odyssey is geared for budding archeologists: it includes reconstructions of major sites, illustrations with figures in Bronze Age dress, and maps and photographs, all in color. Although the volume includes interesting sections on armor, burial rites, Troy, Pylos, domestic life, etc., the main text is written with much less appeal than McCaughrean’s version. At age 10, my daughter looked at the pictures but wasn’t enthralled by the text.

[2] I Spy Treasure Hunt: A Book of Picture Riddles.

By age 2, my kid found it fascinating to settle down with a really detailed picture and search for specific things. A book like this can get you a long way on a boring car ride or a long line.

[7] JACQUES, Brian. The Redwall series.

Anthropomorphic animals. My daughter read every book in this series several times. Worth buying, if you have trouble sorting out the characters or visualizing the setting:
Redwall Map & Redwall Riddler
Redwall Friend and Foe

[6] JUSTER, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth.

An intriguing story full of marvelous, silly word-play.

[4] KELLOGG, Steven. See titles below.

The Island of the Skog
Jimmy’s Boa and the Big Splash Birthday Bash
The Mysterious Tadpole (but hmm, it says a revised edition …?)
The Three Little Pigs (They run a “wafflery,” and use their baking expertise to dispose of the wolf.)
And many others.

[6] KING-SMITH, Dick. Babe: The Gallant Pig.

Even better than the children’s movie of the same name.

[7] KONIGSBERG, E.L.  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Claudia and her brother run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they try to discover whether a beautiful statue is the work of Michelangelo.
Since the story is about a work of art and set in the Metropolitan Museum, I don’t mind recommending the video as highly as the book: it’s a Hallmark production, with Lauren Bacall as Mrs. Frankweiler.

[2] KRAUSS, Ruth. I Can Fly.

One of the original Little Golden Books. (“A cow can moo. I can too.”)

[6] KULLING, M. Great Houdini: World-Famous Magician & Escape Artist.

Read it after watching the Breaking the Magician’s Code series … which I see has not been transferred to digital format. How can that be?

[5] LEPSCKY, Ibi. See titles below.

Brief accounts of the childhood of famous people, with the emphasis on what led them to the careers and triumphs they’re famous for.
Albert Einstein
Amadeus Mozart
Leonardo Da Vinci
Marie Curie
William Shakespeare

[6] LEVINE, Gail Carson. See titles below.

The Princess Tales, volume 1:  The Fairy’s Mistake (a fairy’s gift and punishment have unexpected results). The Princess Test (revamped Princess and the Pea), Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep (Sleeping Beauty retold, with an extra prince, new fairy gifts and a flock of balding sheep)
The Princess Tales, volume 2: Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (lonely farm lad uses his ingenuity to win a princess’ hand), For Biddle’s Sake, The Fairy’s Return. … Hmm, I missed those last two: maybe I’ll read them now.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre. When her heroic and charismatic older sister falls ill with the dreaded Gray Death, mouse-hearted Addie must find the courage to search for the cure.
The Wish. A little old lady grants ordinary Wilma her wish to be the most popular girl in middle school, with unexpected results.
Ella Enchanted. A wonderful, unexpectedly different retelling of the Cinderella story, with a spunky, intelligent heroine to whom a fairy has given a severe handicap: if given a direct order, she must always obey. This is one of the books we started reading with my daughter, and she used to sneak off and read more of it by herself after lights out. So my husband and I, who were really interested, read the book separately ourselves, which does NOT often happen with children’s books. – Read Ella Enchanted, watch Ever After and Disney’s Cinderella and the 2015 Cinderella, then have a long chat with your child (or your significant other) about which Cinderella is your favorite and why. What does each one want? What resources does she have to get it? What’s preventing her, and how does she overcome that obstacle?

[3] LINGREN, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking series.

Riotous adventures of a Swedish girl fending for herself while her father rules a South Sea island.
Pippi Longstocking
Set of 3 Pippi books

[2] LOBEL, Arnold. See titles below.

Lobel’s books were favorites for well over a year, and among the first books my daughter read to herself.
Frog and Toad collection
Mouse Tales. Seven charming short stories, with illustrations.
On the Day Peter Stuyvesant Sailed into Town. Entertaining story of early New York. As I recall, I liked it more than my daughter did.

[7] LOON, Hendrik Willem van. The Story of Mankind. 

An entertaining, well-written narrative history of the human race, from 500,000 BC to the present. Although aimed at children, it’s written in such an engaging way that it’s useful for adults who want to fill in the gaps in their education. (I used it as a homeschool history text with my 8-year-old daughter, and we both learned a lot.) The Story of Mankind won the Newbery Medal for children’s books in 1922, the first year the Medal was awarded. Make sure you buy an edition with the author’s illustrations.

[5] MACAULAY, David. Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction.

Wonderfully detailed pen-and-ink drawings show how huge buildings were constructed with minimal technology.

[6] Mad Libs.

Hilarious results, and if being hilarious isn’t enough, it’s good for grammar and spelling as well. Great for car rides. Try The Best of Mad Libs.

[1] MAYER, Mercer. Just a Snowy Day.

A touch book, more interesting than Pat the Bunny and similar books.

[6] McCAUGHREAN, Geraldine. The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet.

Retells the stories of Swan Lake, Coppelia, Giselle, Cinderella, La Sylphide, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, The Firebird, Petrouchka, and The Sleeping Beauty. Still being reread at age 10.

[4] MINARIK, Else Homelund. Little Bear series, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Charming and benevolent, basis for a children’s cartoon.
Little Bear
Boxed set

[7] NELSON, O.T. The Girl Who Owned a City.

[3] NUMEROFF, Laura Joffe. See titles below.

Amusing “what if?” text, with clever illustrations that add considerably to the story.
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
If You GIve a Mouse a Cookie

[1] ORMEROD, Jan. Messy Baby.

Charming story, mostly pictures.

[6] PATERSON, Katerine. The King’s Equal.

To inherit his father’s crown, spoiled Prince Raphael must find and marry a woman who is his equal in beauty, intelligence and wealth.

[7] PAULSEN, Gary. Hatchet.

Suspenseful, often grim story of a thirteen-year-old who must use his courage, know-how and determination after he’s the sole survivor of an airplane crash in the wilderness. My daughter read this with me with breathless fascination, but would never reread it on her own. … I see from Amazon that this became the first of a trilogy. I haven’t read the others.

[6] PAXTON, Tom. The Marvelous Toy, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles.

Words and joyful illustrations of the boy and the toy from one of my favorite Christmas songs: “It went ZIP when it moved, and BOP when it stopped, and WHIRRR when it stood still; I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will.” This edition has piano music on the flyleaves. My father (who died in the early 1980s) used to sing this song at Christmas: every time I read the book, I hear his voice.

[5] POTTER, Beatrix. The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter, With Her Original Illustrations.

Nineteen stories, superbly written and not at all politically correct, including the tales of Peter Rabbit, the Tailor of Gloucester, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck. My daughter and I read this together, and later she read it herself, over and over and over.

[4] PRELUTSKY, Jack. See titles below.

One of my daughter’s favorite poets.
A Pizza the Size of the Sun: Poems.
It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles.
The New Kid on the Block.
Something Big Has Been Here.
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, ed. Prelutsky. This wonderful collection of poems will entertain for years; it includes classics (“The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat”) and many more recent works. Still on our bookshelf.

[8] PULLMAN, Philip. His Dark Materials trilogy

The His Dark Materials trilogy is grimmer than the Harry Potter books (more evil characters, more deaths), but has unique, well-developed characters moving purposefully in suspenseful plot. The discussions of Dust will be fascinating to many adults. My daughter rated this slightly lower than the Harry Potter series, but reread it several times. The boxed set includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

[6] QUACKENBUSH, Robert. Daughter of Liberty: A True Story of the American Revolution.

Daring heroine rescues George Washington’s documents from the Morris-Jumel Mansion (still standing in upper Manhattan).

[6] REY, H.A. Find the Constellations.

A well-written discussion of basic astronomy. Rey’s descriptions of the constellations fit in especially well after reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (above). Of course, this book’s even more useful if you live in the country, and can actually see the stars at night.

[7] ROWLING, J.K. Harry Potter series.

I’m a big fan: see my op-ed.
Year 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
And once you’re hooked, the set.

[6] SABIN, Louis. See titles below.

Both a bit heavy on narrative, but nevertheless very interesting.
Thomas Alva Edison: Young Inventor. Focuses on how Edison’s childhood led to his later scientific work.
Wilbur and Orville Wright: The Flight  to Adventure. Focuses on how the childhood of the Wright Brothers prepared them for their pioneering experiments in flight.

[5] SCHWARTZ, David M. How Much Is a Million?

This discussion of the values of large numbers is too amusing to count as a textbook. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg, who has written or illustrated many excellent books for children (see above).

[4] SILVERSTEIN, Shel. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.

Heavily illustrated story of a pie-shaped piece searching for fulfillment. I don’t like all Silverstein’s books, but I do like this one.

[7] SIS, Peter. Starry Messenger.

Galileo’s life is told in large type, with additional information in captions and marginalia: for example, quotations and the title page of his Starry Messenger.

[9] SNICKET, Lemony. Series of Unfortunate Events.

“Miracles are like meatballs,” we read in the ninth book of this series, “because nobody can exactly agree what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.” I resisted this series for years, assuming the books would be depressing if not outright malevolent. It’s the charm of the language that finally persuaded me to try one, and got my daughter addicted. As it turns out, Snicket warns of such disastrous events that when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel almost cheerful.
Although I don’t normally recommend books on tape, and I certainly don’t recommend them in place of books, most of the Unfortunate Events are read hilariously by Tim Curry, and will also teach the proper pronunciation of words like “ersatz.” If your child likes the books, offer an audiotape and watch what happens to your child’s speaking vocabulary.
Book 1: The Bad Beginning.
And if you’re hooked: the set.

[4] STANDIFORD, Natalie. Bravest Dog Ever, The True Story of Balto.

Great as a supplement to the animated movie Balto.

[5] STEIG, Jeanne. Alpha Beta Chowder.

Silly poems for each letter of the alphabet, with a much more elevated vocabulary than usual for children’s books.

[4] STEIG, William. See titles below.

Doctor De Soto. A compassionate and clever mouse-dentist outwits a fox with a toothache … and an appetite.
Doctor De Soto Goes to Africa. Dr. De Soto, called to Africa to help an elephant with a toothache, is kidnapped by the evil Honkitonk.

[5] SUKACH, Jim. Dr. Quicksolve mysteries.

At about age five, my kid became fascinated with logical puzzles. They’ll give your brain a workout as well. Among those in the series:
Baffling Whodunit Puzzles
Quicksolve Whodunit Puzzles: Challenging Mini-Mysteries
Great Quicksolve Whodunit Puzzles

[6] SCZIESZKA, Jon. The Math Curse.

Bemused student finds that almost everything in his life is a math problem.

[6] SCZIESZKA, Jon. Time Warp Trio series.

Not at all realistic but very entertaining. My daughter started reading these around age 6, and four years later she was still rereading them. They’re based on history and myth, so some of the jokes she certainly didn’t get the first time through.
If your child’s interested in a particular subject or period (the Wild West, Ancient Egypt, etc.), try the book that’s related to that first. There doesn’t seem to be a boxed set. Check out Amazon’s Author Page for links.
Knights of the Kitchen Table (Time Warp Trio, 1). King Arthur’s court.
The Not-So-Jolly Roger (Time Warp Trio, 2). On a pirate ship.
The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy (Time Trio, 3). Wild West.
Your Mother Was a Neanderthal (Time Warp Trio, 4). Stone Age.
2095 (Time Warp Trio, 5). Late 21st century.
Tut, Tut (Time Warp Trio, 6). Ancient Egypt.
Summer Reading Is Killing Me! (Time Warp Trio, 7). The Time Warp Trio among characters from classics of children’s literature: an easy way to get your child interested in such works.
It’s All Greek to Me (Time Warp Trio, 8). Ancient Greece.
Sam Samurai (Time Warp Trio, 9). Japan, ca. 1600.
See You Later, Gladiator (Time Warp Trio, 10). Ancient Rome.
Hey Kid, Want to Buy A Bridge? (Time Warp Trio, 11). During construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, with guest star Thomas Edison.

[2] THOMPSON, Richard. Tell Me One Good Thing.

I cross-stitched the title poem for my kid’s room. We read it aloud and answered all the questions every night for a couple years.

[6] THURBER, James. See titles below.

The Great Quillow. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. Courageous inventor struggles to rid his small town of a destructive and ravenously hungry giant. This is one of my all-time favorites, exciting and hilarious. Woddly, woddly, woddly.
Many Moons. What a parent thinks a child is asking for is not always what a child wants.

[8] THURBER, James. White Deer.

Fantastic events happen when three princes set out on perilous labors assigned by a princess who has been transformed into a deer.

[6] TWAIN, Mark. See titles below.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Great story for reading aloud with kids. You might want to look for an edition with illustrations that suit your taste.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Sequel to the above. This edition includes reproductions of the illustrations for the 1885 edition, by E.W. Kemble.

[5]  Ultimate Visual Dictionary.

We still have the 2001 edition on our living-room bookshelves – the link above is to the latest version. Includes over 600 pages of excellent photos and drawings, giving the names of wholes and parts of everything from the solar system to downhill ski equipment, with gothic cathedrals and CD players in between. A fascinating book for children to flip through: leave it open on a table. You can find the information on the Net, but you lose the serendipity.

[6] UNTERMEYER, Louis, ed.  The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry.

This wonderful illustrated collection includes many familiar poems by authors ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson, William Blake and Robert Browning to Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe and Ogden Nash. It’s particularly strong on story-poems like “The Highwayman” and “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Still on our shelves, after 20 years.

[1] WELLS, Rosemary. See titles below.

Board books. We were very fond of Max.

[5] WILKINSON, Philip. Illustrated by Paolo Donati. Amazing Buildings, a Dorling Kindersley Book.

Cross-sections of castles, cathedrals, palaces, etc.

[6] WISNIEWSKI, David.  See titles below.

Extremely silly answers to such questions as : Why eat your vegetables? Why drink milk? Why comb your hair? Why not jump on your bed? My daughter still read this and giggled at age 10.
The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups
The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups: The Second File

Notes (and an occasional rant) on this list of book recommendations for kids

  • This is not a definitive list of books for kids. It’s the running list of favorite books my family found, until our daughter was about 10 years old. She was born in 1992, so you won’t find much that’s published later than 2002.
  • The number in square brackets before the author’s name is the age at which our kid enjoyed the book. Kids (surprise!) vary in their development. Find a book on the list that your kid currently enjoys, and then find other books with the same bracketed number.
  •  I have not vetted these books for political or philosophical correctness. If you disagree with a point one of the authors makes, tell your child that you disagree, and why. It can lead to fascinating conversations. And it is never, EVER too early to introduce the ideas 1) that people can politely disagree, and 2) that just because words appear in print doesn’t mean they’re right.
  • I believe very strongly in stretching a kid’s horizons – and my own. Try sci-fi and fairy tales, Bach and Bing Crosby and the Beach Boys, and for that matter, lychee and leeks and lamb (not all together!). If it isn’t life-threatening or mind-altering, one try isn’t going to hurt you, and it may lead you to find a life-long favorite.
  • Amazon is an invaluable source of excerpts and reviews that can help you judge whether a book is right for your kid.
  • From the introduction to this list when I first posted it on ForgottenDelights.com, around 2004: “We’re told to read with our kids, but far too often kids’ books are so boring and repetitive that neither kids nor parents enjoy them. The books I pick out for my daughter fall into three categories: books I thought looked fascinating, that my daughter could never be persuaded to read; books she read once, and happily sent to the used book store a year later without ever reading again; and books she read and reread for months or years. This list is of the keepers – with, I admit, a few books that I still think she should have liked. I haven’t included books on Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine, the Magic School Bus, American Girls, and such major franchises (even though my child enjoyed them), because you can’t miss those unless you live in a sensory deprivation tank.”
  • Thanks to the Hilses and the Sandlers, whose recommendations when my kid was small were invaluable!