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Why I Read Children’s Books (and Some Recommendations!)

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I don’t have children. I don’t even see my friends’ kids as often as I see the kids in my store. And yet, I read children’s books. All the time. I love picture books, middle grade readers, board books, and young adult books. Why? I read them because at their best, books for younger readers carry simple and impactful messages.

These are messages we can all use. Messages like, be kind. Share. You can do anything. Dream big. Be imaginative. Working together is better than working apart. Great children’s literature manages to teach these kinds of lessons with a bit of magic. They hit home in a way that’s simultaneously nostalgic and new. Maybe you’ve never read the book before, but it reminds you of your childhood. It inspires you to think differently about something going on in your life. How did you feel the first time you read Shel Silverstein’s THE GIVING TREE? Try rereading it. You might be surprised. Great children’s literature uses its limitations to become poetry. To deliver messages and beautiful illustrations that do what all great literature does -- transport us.

So, pick up a kids book. Read it. Maybe even buy it just for yourself. The only one holding you back is...you.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Phantom Tollbooth Cover Image
By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780394815008
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - August 12th, 1961

A surreal journey through a world where concepts become real, like ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The doldrums are just one of the challenges we all must face. (We’ve all hit that point in the afternoon.) This book reads like a parable of how to live and fight, and it’s filled with sparse but striking images, such as Tock, the watch dog.

The Velveteen Rabbit Cover Image
By Margery Williams, Sarah Massini (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780763696412
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Nosy Crow - September 12th, 2017

Everyone should be reading more about scarlet fever. This book allows you to do just that while showing us what it means to be alive, to be loved. This story gets to the heart of what it means to be “real”, to be validated. A sweet, tear-jerking, philosophical inquiry into what qualifies our existence.

Big Bad Bubble Cover Image
By Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780544045491
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Clarion Books - May 6th, 2014

Everyone is afraid of something, and most of our fears our irrational. Who knew someone could come along and illustrate that point so hilariously and eloquently? While younger audiences may be overcoming fears of the dark, adult readers might question more serious fears. Let’s all forget what MOJO says. (You’ll have to read it to meet Mojo.)

But Not the Hippopotamus Cover Image
By Sandra Boynton, Sandra Boynton (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780671449049
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little Simon - November 30th, 1982

Everybody’s having fun . . . BUT NOT THE HIPPOPOTAMUS. Talk about an early lesson on exclusion! This board book is catchy and demonstrates (repeatedly) how it feels to be left out. Maybe after reading this, adults will be inspired to include the hippopotamuses in their own lives.

Who Will Comfort Toffle?: A Tale of Moomin Valley Cover Image
By Tove Jansson, Sophie Hannah (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781770460171
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Enfant - November 9th, 2010

Tove Jansson covers a variety of topics in this grandly illustrated picture book. Loneliness, fear, courage, and love are all faced and uncovered in this magical tome. Where do we find comfort and where do we belong? Will we comfort others? Are our fears founded? As we travel with Toffle, the answers seem obvious.

Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060256753
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - September 24th, 2013

Probably the most didactic of titles on this list, Lafcodio is a lion who becomes more and more human. However, his is a case of anthropomorphizing that contains echoes of cultural appropriation. As we, and Lafcadio, become more and more like the “other” we have to question who we really are. Where do we belong and who is the true savage? This is a message of peace and a message of staying true to yourself.