SILVER SPRING, Md, August 3, 2012 – We all have memories of being read a favorite picture book when we were children. Whether we were sitting on a parent’s lap, part of a bunch of siblings crowded onto a bed, or as part of a group during story time at a library, school, or bookstore, those memories endure and those books are ones we so often want to share with our children. However, sometimes the mists of memory can fog our recollection making it difficult to find those beloved children’s books on the crowded bookshelf.
To help remind you of those golden treasures, and maybe introduce you to a few more here is a list of 10 of the top classic children’s books. For this list, “classic” is being used to refer to children’s books that have been read by more than one generation and can still be found on shelves in bookstores.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (ISBN 9780395259399)
Originally published in 1939, this classic picture book follows Mike and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, as they help dig the foundations of the canals and buildings that rapidly grew up during this era. But as new machines arrive, Mary Anne is going to be sold for scrap. In the end, Mike is able to save Mary Anne and guarantee her a job. This story deals with friendship and loyalty through change, and has long been a favorite of boys and girls.
Curious George by H. A. Rey (ISBN 9780395259399)
Who hasn’t heard of this very good but very curious monkey? Curious George follows the appropriately named monkey from his jungle home in Africa, across the sea to a great city, and finally to his new home in the zoo, all the while keeping taps on the mischief caused by George. Originally published in 1941, the character became so beloved, it spawned a series of picture books and later an animated series in the 1980s. Rey’s curious little monkey is a great character to teach children how too much curiosity can get them into trouble.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (ISBN 9780394800165)
While a top 10 list could be entirely comprised of books by Dr. Seuss, for this list Green Eggs and Ham was chosen as the Seuss representative based on it being the author’s highest ranking book on Publisher Weekly’s 2000 list of top 100 best-selling children books of all time. Originally published in 1960, this book about being open to trying new things has been a favorite of parents to entice children to eat their vegetables for decades. The refrain of “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I Am,” is burned into the memories of millions of adults from either reading the story to their children or hearing it as a child themselves.
The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff (ISBN 9780449810866)
Animals always make popular characters in children’s picture books, and what lexicon would be complete without everyone’s favorite clothes-wearing elephant, Babar? Originally published in French in 1931, then in English in 1933, this story follows a young elephant who flees the jungle to escape a hunter. He comes to live in the city but eventually misses home and returns to the jungle where he becomes the king of the elephants. Much like Curious George, Babar has spun off, producing 7 books by Jean de Brunhoff and dozens more by his son Laurent de Brunhoff, as well as an animated series that has been broadcast worldwide.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (ISBN 9780060254926)
This Caldecott winner was originally published in 1963, and since then Max and his Wild Things have become a fixture in children’s literature. Max is a little boy who dresses in a wolf suit and his wild behavior gets him sent to his room. In the dark of night, his room becomes the jungle home of the wild things. Max is so fierce these monsters make him their king, but after the wild rumpus, Max realizes he misses his home and returns back to his room because sometimes it is best to be where you are loved best of all. This is a great book that really illustrates the imagination of a child.
Corduroy by Don Freeman (ISBN 9780060254926)
How many children have ever imagined accidently getting locked in a store after it closes and everyone goes home? Originally published in 1968, Corduroy is a little stuffed bear that comes to life after the store closes to look for his missing button so that he will be purchased by the little girl who has been eyeing him on the shelf. After his adventures fail, the little girl comes back to buy him, and once they get back to her home, she gives her new friend a button to replace the missing one.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (ISBN 9780060229351)
Originally published in 1955, Harold and the Purple Crayon is a story that brings imagination to life. 4-year-old Harold, goes for a walk one night with his purple crayon, and everything he draws becomes real, starting with the moon and ending with his bed. This book teaches imagination development through art. Like several of the other stories in this list, the popularity of this story led to other books and a short animated series.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (ISBN 9780723263920)
First published for the public in 1902, making it the oldest of the books on this list. This classic British story follows the mischievous rabbit in an overcoat, who steals Farmer McGregor’s carrots. Peter and his sisters and friends became the subject of several books to follow.
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (ISBN 9780394800189)
P.D. Eastman is another children’s book author who could have multiple entries on this list. Originally published in 1960, this story has been a favorite of mothers for decades as it follows a little bird who is looking for his own mother. He asks each animal he meets if it is his mother, and over and over he is told no, then moves on to boats and planes. In the end a steam shovel drops him in his nest just as his mother is coming home.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (ISBN 9780394800189)
Originally published in 1969, this brightly colored picture book follows a little caterpillar as he hatches from his egg then eats his way through the book, transforming into a butterfly at the end. This book works with the concept of numbers as it counts the number of each food he eats. The colorful illustrations are child favorites, and available in board book or regular picture book formats, this is a standard that can be a constant in your children’s library from when they are infant onward.
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