My list of family favorites is skewed toward books or series my wife and I have been able to share and enjoy with our two daughters (ages 9 and 6). We have many other favorites, but unlike the characters in my own books, I’m a notorious rule follower. So here are just five that have had the biggest impact so far.
By Mo Willems
Inventive art, relatable challenges, and a sneakily dry sense of humor put these among my favorite picture books. My daughters, who have their own versions of a Knuffle Bunny they intend to keep until college, similarly adore them. We didn’t even realize that there were three books in this series until we stumbled across Knuffle Bunny Too in a vacation rental and accidentally packed it when we left. So there’s a child-friendly endorsement: Knuffle Bunny—good enough to borrow permanently.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Hyperion
These were my eldest daughter’s absolute favorite chapter books and now my six-year-old is discovering them for the first time. Best friends Ivy and Bean are just naughty enough to wreak occasional havoc in their neighborhood without ever truly angering anyone (except the insufferably tidy Mrs. Trantz). MacAdam, the weird dirt-eater, makes me laugh every time too. How do I know these books hit the mark? Both daughters, independently and four years apart, wanted to subdivide their bedrooms using chalk lines (like Ivy).
Ages 6-10 | Publisher: Chronicle Books
On one of my first trips to New York as a real live children’s author, a wonderful editor passed along this gem about a little girl and her friend Bernice, who happens to be a squash. When I brought it home both of my daughters were smitten. In fact, as I type this, the decorated faces of two squash are staring at me from a basket in our kitchen.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Schwartz & Wade | Aug. 6, 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-0307978967
When my wife was pregnant with our second daughter, our then-three-year-old, Caterina, had a perfectly normal and healthy infatuation with spiders. For example, she liked to keep a giant rubber tarantula under her bed. (See, perfectly normal.) As we went around in circles over baby names, Caterina calmly informed us that the baby would be named Charlotte, after the most famous arachnid on her bookshelf. We thought we were humoring her, but after nine months’ of references to “Baby Charlotte,” no other name could possibly do.
Ages 8+ | Publisher: HarperCollins | April 10, 2012 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0064400558
By Christopher Healy
It’s fun, light-hearted, and jammed with wit that both kids and their parents can enjoy. Hero’s Guide is one of the few longer novels we’ve read through entirely out loud, and the first one to inspire my daughter to write a fan letter. When Caterina discovered that Chris Healy and I would be on tour together this spring, she insisted that I email her letter to him. Chris was kind enough to write back and now my daughter is plotting how she can help me make more “writer friends.”
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | Apr. 30, 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-0062117458
Paul Durham was raised in Massachusetts and attended college and law school in Boston. He now lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, with his wife, two daughters and an enormous, bushy creature the local animal shelter identified as a cat. He writes in an abandoned chicken coop at the edge of a swamp and keeps a tiny porcelain frog in his pocket for good luck.
Learn more about Paul Durham, visit: PaulDurhamBooks.com
About The Luck Uglies
Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has eleven-year-old Rye O’Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. Now Rye’s only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can’t be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning’s maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she’ll discover the truth behind the village’s legends of outlaws and beasts . . . and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.
The first in an irresistible fantasy adventure trilogy that The Peculiar author Stefan Bachmann hailed as “an action-packed adventure with heroes you’ll root for and baddies you’ll hiss at . . . funny and magical,” The Luck Ugliesoverflows with secrets, friendship, and heart—and is imbued throughout with the magic of storytelling.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | Apr. 29, 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0062271501
Add this book to your collection: The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham