March 8, 2009

The FIVE: Best Picture Books Ever

Posted by at 6:39 am in Reads | Permalink

I know we’re all a little old for picture books here, but there are times when nothing feels as good as a trip down memory lane. I was in a children’s book store in Amherst, MA recently, and I happened across a bunch of books that I realized I remembered perfectly even though I hadn’t opened them in many, many years.

Isn’t that how we all got started reading? I never would have learned about the rich, life-changing experiences that books can offer if it hadn’t been for all those late nights with the big illustrated hardcovers that my mom used to read to me (awwwww). So, in the spirit of nostalgia, I’d like to present the FIVE best picture books ever.

5. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

I bet there are a lot of construction workers and contractors out there who can trace their love for building things with big machines back to this book. The relationship between Mike and Mary Anne is really sweet — he stands up for her when newer, bigger shovels come along, and she pays him back by working twice as hard — and I wonder if any of those big, gruff guys you see driving bulldozers feel the same way about their vehicles.

4. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

This one usually gets overlooked in favor of Brown/Hurd’s better-known Goodnight Moon, but it’s still really sweet. Apparently it’s David Letterman’s favorite book to read to his kids, and it was my mom’s favorite book to read to me when I was a kid — and if I say anything more about it, I might cry a little bit (this actually happened the last time I read it).

3. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

You all know this one, but unfortunately I think the most common image of The Polar Express that people have these days is from that creepy animated movie. Don’t let that ruin it for you! The illustrations, like those in all Chris Van Allsburg books, are incredibly rich and evocative, and the story’s not too bad either. Half the reason I love hot chocolate as much as I do (which is a LOT) is that one scene where the kids are on the train and the porter brings them a tray of delicious, delicious, dark hot chocolate.

2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

What do you even really say about this one? I want you all to go out and buy copies for when you have children.

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Max is still who I want to be when I grow up.

And this fall, a movie version of Where the Wild Things Are will be coming to theaters.

What about you guys? Got any good memories of old children’s books? What are you going to read to your kids when you grow up?

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

  1. Crystal

    to magic-esi: The book where the town ate food from the sky was “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”. It was one of my favorites too! :)

  2. PugHugs

    Chris Van Allsburg: No words for the amazingness of his books.
    But this list is sadly lacking the awesomeness of DR. SEUSS! Any of his books would work, though some (like Horton Hears a Who, or How Lucky You Are) are more advanced.

  3. magic-esi

    When I was little, I got tired of picture books quickly and always wanted to go to the library to get new ones, so I don’t have too many good picture book memories. But I have a couple.
    There’s one about a town that ate food from the sky, and I remember when I first learned to read, reading that in the library and thinking how cool it was that I could read weird stories like this.
    Another one I read at my grandmother’s house repeatedly. Katy the Kitten, which was about a lost kitten. I read it every time I went there, and every time it made more sense. I tried to make it more interesting but eventually, I had to start bringing my own books.

  4. Crystal

    1. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And The Big, Hungry Bear
    2. Love You Forever
    3. The Mud Puddle
    4. Jonathan Cleaned Up…Then He Heard A Noise
    5. The Berenstein Bears
    I have new picture book favorites too!

  5. sockmonkey4

    I totaly agree to Mike Muligan and his steam shovel. I love it. My personal favorite though, is Guess how much I love you. It’s even the theme of my baby book! (props to When will it be spring?)

  6. fang_grl27

    I absolutly LUVD pictur books whn I was a kid!!!! I didnt evn care wht mom read 2 me, I just kept staring at the colors in the picturs!!

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