April Stevens | The Children’s Book Review | February 27, 2018
Children’s books really are a cure. When life gets complicated and loud, and we grow weary from the whole shebang, tip-toing into the kids section of the library and plopping down with a stack of picture books inevitably frees us from our sometimes narrow lives. Literature in general does this but great children’s books do it in the most distilled, unpretentious, and with any luck, playful way. Here are a few jewels picked from a mountain of gems. My nearly grown up kids officially approved each one.
Written and Illustrated by Shirley Hughes
Shirley Hughes has written so many gems it is nearly impossible picking out which of her books to put on this list. If you don’t yet know her work, a world of wonderful writing and illustration awaits you. Simple stories about children that are deeply and genuinely human. Dogger, about a lost stuffed animal, is one of the most brilliant.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Red Fox | 2010 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-1862308053
Written and Illustrated by William Steig
Steig’s clever, deceivingly simple and downright hilarious little book about a bored kid. Requested over and over again by my family. Oh and one last thought: Steig Rules!
Ages 2-3 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 1998 | ISBN-13: 978-0062051578
Written by Jean Craighead George
Yes. A classic. This is one that will never leave you or your children. An important book especially now in our noisy and hectic world. Jean Craighead George has us living alone deep in the woods of upstate New York for a year beside the young Sam Gribley. An incredible book from an magnificent writer and naturalist.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Puffin Books | 2004 | ISBN-13: 978-0142401118
Written and Illustrated by Harry Horse
A simple and perfect story involving an overly confident young rabbit. Both funny and touching with Horse’s terrific illustrations, this one does not wear thin.
Ages 5-6 | Publisher: Peachtree Pub Ltd | 2002 | ISBN-13: 978-1561452736
Written by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Illustrated by James E. Ransome
This is another book that we would return to time and again. Howard’s story is warm, quiet and lyrical. Always writing with authenticity and from her own life experiences, her other book Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys is wonderful as well.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | 1995 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0395720776
Written by April Stevens
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish and Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s, this heartfelt, deeply moving middle-grade debut features an offbeat girl who learns that she can remain true to herself while also letting others in.
Eleven-year-old Frances is an observer of both nature and people, just like her idol, the anthropologist Margaret Mead. She spends most of her time up on the rocks behind her house in her “rock world,” as Alvin, her kindhearted and well-read school bus driver, calls it. It’s the one place where Frances can truly be herself, and where she doesn’t have to think about her older sister, Christinia, who is growing up and changing in ways that Frances can’t understand.
But when the unimaginable happens, Frances slowly discovers that perhaps the world outside her rugged, hidden paradise isn’t so bad after all, and that maybe–just maybe–she can find connection and camaraderie with the people who have surrounded her all along.
Original, accessible, and deeply affecting, April Stevens’s middle-grade debut about an unforgettable girl and an unlikely friendship will steal your heart.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Schwartz & Wade | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1524720612
About the Author
April Stevens is the author of the acclaimed novel for adults, Angel Angel. She also is the author of the picture books Waking up Wendell, illustrated by Tad Hills, and Edwin Speaks Up, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. She lives in Northwestern Connecticut with her husband, the writer Alexander Neubauer, and their two children.
April Stevens, author of The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley, selected these five family favorites. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Family Favorites.