Katey Howes | The Children’s Book Review | January 13, 2018
I’ve been blessed with three voracious readers and the wherewithal to fill my house with books. I’m thankful for this every single day. Even as my girls have grown into opinionated independent readers (preferring animal-centric chapter books, middle grade graphic novels, and dystopian trilogies, respectively), we still make time to read aloud together – and we all continue to enjoy picture books. In fact, when I started making piles of “contenders” for this particular post, my girls kept grabbing them to read and reread. We whittled it down to five favorites together, not without a lot of debate.
Written and Illustrated by Herve Tullet
We have a great fondness for Tullet’s work in general, but this one is extra special. “Blops” appear on every page, introducing concepts as widespread as color blending, reflections, families, matching, and modern art! There are pages that encourage interaction and others that guide readers to tell their own stories. It’s a book that inspires curiosity and creativity at any age.
Ages 3+ | Publisher: Phaidon Press | 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-0714865331
Written by Helen Lester
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Fluffy has one problem. He isn’t fluffy. No matter what he tries (marshmallows, feathers, long soaks in the tub…) he’s still got to admit that his name doesn’t suit. He feels left out and sad until he meets a Rhinoceros with an equally unsuitable name. The clever illustrations, hilarious wordplay and heartfelt message has made this a classic in our house.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | 1989 | ISBN-13: 978-0395520185
Written by Henry Allard
Illustrated by James Marshall
This book arrived in my house in a big box from my mother-in-law, a former Reading Recovery teacher who, upon retirement, sent much of her personal library to her grandchildren. It’s a well-worn and well-loved copy, and I immediately recognized it as a favorite from MY childhood. From the first half of the first line “Potter Pig was peacefully night fishing for guppies…” my kids were hooked. The playful, intelligent text is full of wacky vocabulary (dirigible, bamboozle, and fandango, for example) and the equally entertaining illustrations make it irresistible. My family can reenact the entire thing at the drop of a hat.
Ages 2+ | Publisher: Yearling | 1997 | ISBN-13: 978-0440413660
Written and Illustrated by David Ezra Stein
This laugh-out-loud bedtime book has it all – including a permanent spot face out-on my youngest daughter’s “bookshelf of honor.” Papa Chicken just wants to read his little chick a bedtime fairy tale – but she’s so worried about the characters that she interrupts every story with a rewrite of her own devising. Kids love to chime in on the dialogue between the two characters – and every parent can relate to the honest and adorable ending as an exhausted Papa Chicken falls asleep before his little one.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Candlewick | 2016 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0763689032
Written and Illustrated by Deborah Freedman
Perhaps it’s because, like Shy himself, my children are happiest between the pages of a book. In fact, we don’t see Shy for much of the book, because he hides in the gutter between the pages. Perhaps it’s because, like Shy, my children would happily follow a singing bird anywhere it led. Or perhaps it’s the delicate color palette and broad expanses of Freedman’s evocative watercolors. (My 10 year old has spent hours trying to duplicate the style with her own paints.) Whatever it is, this is one of those books my children literally hug, tuck under their pillows, and treat as a treasured friend.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | September 27, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0451474964
Written by Katey Howes
Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti
Publisher’s Synopsis: Meet Magnolia Mudd: an inventive girl who’d rather tighten a nut and a bolt than tie a ribbon or bow.
For Magnolia Mudd, her Uncle Jamie is the very best grown-up. He always invents cool things with her . . . until the day he and Miss Emily announce their engagement. That’s bad enough—but even worse, Miss Emily wants Magnolia to be a FLOWER GIRL! No way is Magnolia tossing petals. But it turns out that Uncle Jamie’s new bride-to-be may be more fun that Magnolia ever imagined . . .
Ages 3+ | Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1454921745
About the Author
Katey Howes is proud to be a geek. She loves physics and biology, reads everything from classic children’s lit to modern neuroscience, and has strong opinions about commas. A former physical therapist specializing in brain injury, Katey now divides her time between writing and raising kids with a love of books. In addition to her own blog about raising readers, Katey is a team member at All the Wonders and contributor to websites like The Nerdy Bookclub and Multicultural Parenting. Katey is a member of SCBWI and is very active in the kidlit community. Find her online at kateyhowes.com, on Twitter @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.
About the Illustrator
Valerio Fabbretti is a comic artist and children’s book illustrator. Originally from Rome, Italy, he now lives in San Francisco.
Katie Howes, author of Magnolia Muss & the Superjumptastic Launcher Deluxe, selected these five family favorites. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Family Favorites.