I used to post up FabKid Lit for no reason other than I thought it was fun. I still think it’s fun. So I’m channelling my inner Gretchen Rubin (she writes all sorts of lists for no other reason than she thinks it’s fun). Besides, not every kid book is awesome, but I promise these are. So even if just one person on the entire inter-web finds a great book on these lists, well, what more could a dilettante children’s literature critic ask for?
Hairy Maclary Scattercat by Lynley Dodd is probably the best book ever written. A three year old’s idea of hilarity is pretty much encompassed inside this book. The dog hides, the cat is unsuspecting…you know the rest. The delight on a pre-schooler’s face is worth the price of admission. When I’m an old woman, I will sneak this book out of the closet and reread it just for the memory of that small, beaming face.
Hairy Maclary’s Rumpus at the Vet by Lynley Dodd is next in line for the best book to capture a pre-schooler’s understanding of silliness. This book is like a mini Three’s Company episode and if you don’t know what that is, that’s ok. Just take my word for it, in fact, you don’t even have to take my word for it, the word ‘Rumpus’ is in the title. That should be enough to sell you on this book. It is a rumpus started by a naughty cockatoo in the vet’s waiting room. Giggles will ensue.
What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis is simply the lyrics to their hit song written down with illustrations. It is very silly and kind of existential in its Swedishness. The reason this book is special is because it was given to G by his 93 year old GG who saw the video of the song on Ellen and loved it so much she had to get it for her great grand son. So. She’s awesome. In case you missed the fox video:
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a beautifully melancholy classic. I think it’s probably more suitable for a five year old’s grasp of the world, as it opens the conversation about impermanence through an anthropomorphized bunny. It’s never too early though to begin to understand we all have to say goodbye to so much in life so often.
Doctor DeSoto by William Steig is a story of survival, yet it is also a story of kindness. If they say altruism is an unnecessary trait in the harsh and cruel reality of evolution, well Dr. De Soto offers a different approach. He’s altruistic, but is smart enough to know the true nature of his adversaries. He helps, but keeps himself protected, a lesson for the ages. Again, maybe better suited to a five year old, but it’s never too early to cultivate a child’s inner scrappiness.
Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman is a fantastic early reader. The pictures depict the words and an almost four year old gets their confidence bolstered as they grasp the words’ meanings. Our nephew told us it was the very first book he could read all by himself. Well done there.
Put Me in A Zoo by Robert Lopshire is silly, rhyming fun. This crazy animal can do all sorts of fun things with all his spots. They make him seem magical. It’s nice to end the day with a little magic.
Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne is…well, what is it? Perfect? Classic? Peerless? Timeless? My grandmother read this collection of poems to my mother and my uncle. My mother read it to me. My uncle recently asked me if I could remember all the words to the King of Peru (who was Emperor too) and I could. So when I heard G at only three at the breakfast table one morning quietly say to himself, ‘He would whisper and whisper until he felt crisper…’ I beamed. I know AA Milne had other plans as a writer that didn’t work out, and I’m sorry about that really, but what would childhood (or life for that matter) be without Christopher Robin and Pooh?
Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems is just classic Mo Willems. Just the title makes me giggle. All of the Elephant and Piggie titles make me giggle. There’s a Bird on Your Head! I’m Invited to a Party! Pigs Make Me Sneeze! The man is a living, breathing example that intelligence is the ability to distill broad ideas down to their barest essence. And he’s still funny! He’s a master.
The BFG by Roald Dahl is terrifying. They say Steven Spielberg is going to make a movie out of it, that’s how terrifying it is. Honestly it is so scary I just don’t know how Roald Dahl ever got away with it. I guess it helps he’s simply a genius and has no equal in his ability to weave the most outrageous tales. As scary as it is and as suited to seven year olds rather than three year olds, we couldn’t put it down. The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant who helps save the world. If you like to read stories in crazy voices and maybe want to catch a glimpse of the Queen of England, you will love this book.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl…well, it’s the winner isn’t it? I didn’t read this story as a kid and I missed Gene Wilder’s version of the eccentric candy maker, but that made it all the more delightful to experience for the first time with our son. On the cusp of four years old, he was enraptured. We read it two or maybe even three times in a row. I don’t know how many times we watched the movie. There was a little hiding behind couches when Augustus Gloop and Violet Beauregarde received their just desserts, but…that’s ok. All we have to say is, “Pardon me Veruca Salt?” when G is acting a little princely and he backpedals it right up!