Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Mike Mulligan - two absolute classics

I had these 10 and I couldn’t figure out how else to write about them.  But I couldn’t not write about them.  They are 10 of the great picture books of all-time.  Not all of them were books I read as a child.  But some absolutely were a vital part of my childhood.  Others have become a vital part of my interactions with my son.

They all relate directly to the whole notion I created with my For Love of Books posts.  How will you read to your children?  I can understand people flocking to e-books who just go through disposable books.  If what you read is the monthly Harlequin or the latest James Patterson as soon as it released, why bother with buying an actual book.  Will you ever read it again?  Is it something to treasure or a pleasure to be gotten through once and then move on to the next one?

Great pictures book are definitely the former.  Will you try to stretch out your Kindle to make the screen larger so your child can sink into the illustrations?  Will you hand over your piece of (expensive) electronic equipment to your two year old so they can flip through the pages?

I will stand on the side of the books themselves, physical objects I can pull off the shelf and curl up with my son to read in his little reading corner.  Or he can grab them off the shelf anytime he chooses and look at them himself.  There is always that option.Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  –   Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault  (1989)

This was the first book that Thomas ever memorized on his own.  If I were to walk in to his room now and say “a told b,” and pause, right there, he would immediately reply “And b told c, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.”  He obsessed on it so much during his second year in pre-school that we actually found a coconut tree at an educational store that comes with numbers that can be stuck on and gave it to his pre-school teachers.  Their readings of that book with him had made a definite positive impact.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel  –  Virginia Lee Burton  (1939)

This is an old family classic.  Word has it that my oldest brother used to demand this book every night at bedtime.

The other 8 essential picture books for any collection

Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever  –  Richard Scarry  (1950)

I could have gone with Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, but this one has so much of everything.  I was drawn to include it from a Get Fuzzy strip in which Bucky is trying to get Rob to trust him and Rob says “You couldn’t swear enough on the good book for me to believe you.”  Bucky then stands on a Richard Scarry book (I think it might have actually been the Rainy Day Book) and says every swear word he can think of, insisting “it’s a very good book.”  That it is.

Miss Nelson is Missing  –  Harry Allard and James Marshall  (1977)

This was one of my absolute favorite picture books as a child.  I’m not sure why I was so drawn to it.  I missed out on the sequels because they weren’t written until after I had started to get too old for picture books.  But this remains of my favorites.

The Story of Ferdinand  –  Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson  (1936)

In one sense, this is every bookseller’s nightmare and it’s Walt Disney’s fault.  Disney made a short film of this wonderful book just a couple of years after it was published (it even won the Academy Award – Disney won the award the first 8 years it existed; this was #7), but he called his cartoon Ferdinand the Bull.  So, when you try to look it up by title, you always think it’s called Ferdinand the Bull and can’t find it.  It’s The Story of Ferdinand and it is absolutely wonderful.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day  –  Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz  (1972)

In some ways this books means more to me than any other book on this list.  When you have several older siblings and you are expected to live up to what has come before, it can be very rough.  It makes it easier on you if your mother reads you a book that makes you feel better about it all.  My mother read me this book a lot when I was a kid.  I have yet to move to Australia (though that is mainly because everything in Australia can kill you).

Good Night, Gorilla  –  Peggy Rathmann  (1994)

Both my sister and I have ended up with multiple copies of this book because everyone loves it so much they feel the need to give it to people when they have kids and so you get it multiple times.  We actually bought it an extra time deliberately because it came with a plush Gorilla.

Thomas, Veronica, Ron and Andrea at the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston Public Garden in January of 2008

Make Way for Ducklings  –  Robert McClosky  (1941)

If there was one good thing about working for Borders in Back Bay it meant that we were only a couple of blocks from the Boston Public Garden.  That meant that it was easy for Veronica and Thomas to come by and we could go walk to the duck statues.  It also meant that we sold insane numbers of this book.  And with good reason.  It is fantastic.

Where the Wild Things Are  –  Maurice Sendak  (1963)

Much as Alexander is the book for my mother and me, this is the book for my father and me.  I remember him reading it to me and getting very loud with the growls.  I love reading it to Thomas in just the same way.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  –  Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle  (1967)

This is another book that I didn’t know growing up but which Thomas instantly took to.  It wasn’t look before he had it completely memorized and it has come with us on numerous trips (it helps that we also have an audio version that we can play in the car while he looks at the book).

So there we have it.  Ten absolute classics.  If you have kids, you should have these.  If kids are in your future, get them now.  You can start reading to them in the womb.  Prepare them for the wonderful things to behold.

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