Hmmm. Asking a children’s librarian to choose a favorite picture book is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. Almost cruel!
So, instead I’ve chosen a couple; one that I discovered and fell in love with as an adult and the series of picture books that turned me into the crazy voracious reader I am today.
The One that Could Be the Subject of an Entire Graduate-Level Course:
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales written by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith.
Stinky Cheese Man is one of my faves not just because it is insanely hilarious (which it is) or because it zany, kinetic illustrations are also beautiful and detailed (which they are) or because it is a collection of fractured fairytales (which I also love.)
It’s one of my favorites because it is a picture book about picture books. It’s self-referential, post-modern, clever, and ingeniously designed. There is no detail- no typeface or jacket flap or gutter- that is without thought. It’s the kind of book that can be read, viewed, and discussed thousands of times and with each reading you will discover something new. Besides that, kids adore it!
The Books that Helped Me Learn to Read (and Love to Read):
Oh, Little Golden Books. My grandparents gave me a set for a birthday or Christmas when I was about four and I read them for what seems like years and years afterward.
I remember my grandfather (Pop Pop) reading the LGB Nursery Rhymes to me. He would sing and chant the rhymes to me, bouncing me on his knee. (And this was back before the research about phonological awareness.) Over time, I memorized the lyrics to the rhymes and he would tap my finger on the words as we sang together. One day, it just started to “click.” What we were saying and the squiggles on the page connected. A reader was born.
These cheapy little dime store books were written and illustrated by some of the most popular children’s authors and illustrators, including Margaret Wise Brown, Garth Williams, and Richard Scarry. For under 25 cents a book, Little Golden Books were accessible for families on a budget. They helped me (and I’m betting thousands of children) start their own home libraries. Mine were proudly displayed on a small shelf in the living room next to my toy box. Sadly, after several moves, I no longer have my original set. I still get a rich, warm feeling in my chest when I think about learning to read on my own and the pride I felt after reading a story to my Pop Pop.