Five Family Favorites with Ruby Shamir, Author of What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies
Ruby Shamir | The Children’s Book Review | January 26, 2017
We started reading to our kids when they were infants because we love books, but also because we were desperate to establish a routine that would trick them into sleeping through the night. While we clung mightily to the drill (bath, books, bed), they didn’t keep up their end of the bargain (no one slept through the night until they were around three). But, as a side benefit, they all developed a love of reading. Since our three kids range in age from 4 to almost 10, we have fond, not-too-distant memories of the books we read together when they were babies. Now, the two older kids giggle as we read to our youngest some of their treasured favorites, but the best, of course, is when the older kids read to the littlest.
Baby Love Books
Written and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
We loved reading these board books to each of our children starting from when they were tiny newborns. As they grew into proper babies and came to resemble the adorable, bubble-faced tots in the books, it was so much fun to watch them begin to act out the scenes from the pages, and, later, sound out along with us the words describing some of their favorite activities—like “singing all together” and “dancing round and round.” Whenever friends have new babies these are the first gifts we send them—we figure they’ll get enough gear from others, and I don’t know how to knit.
Ages 1-4 | Publisher: Little Simon | 2009 | ISBN-13: 978-1416995463
Any and all Frog and Toad Books
Written and Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Actually, it was hard not to populate this list solely with books by Lobel. His stories and his drawings have a depth and pathos I have never seen in any other children’s books. And his tales quietly convey an enduring, quirky wisdom through simple, earnest language that tugs at my heart. Frog and Toad are our favorites because the books make us laugh so hard with Toad’s impulsive, hot-headed neurosis colliding with Frog’s sincere, unironic straight man. But the best part about the books is how much Frog and Toad love each other; their deep, abiding friendship is the beating heart of the stories.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2004 | ISBN-13: 978-0060580865
Written and Illustrated by Charles M. Schulz
When I was a kid I owned about 20 Peanuts books (like Fly, You Stupid Kite, Fly and Don’t Hassle Me With Your Sighs, Chuck) and I read them over and over and over again, splattering them with milk as I dug into my morning bowl of cereal. I felt a real connection with the Peanuts because they were cute but savvy, innocent yet sharp, insecure and wise. When my oldest child started reading, I gave him all the Peanuts books I had kept and rescued from my childhood home, and he fell in love with them too.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Magic Tree House Books
Written by Mary Pope Osborne
When our oldest started reading chapter books, he wanted to read everything he could get his hands on. Fortunately, we had inherited our nephew’s Magic Tree House series, which our son devoured while we quickly amassed other books for him to consume. Our second child reads with just as much excitement and gusto and loves reading and re-reading the Magic Tree house books. She has a tendency toward fantasy, so the trips Annie and Jack take give her a springboard for her own imaginative impulses.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | 2008 | ISBN-13: 978-0375849916
Written by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Garth Williams
Even though it is quite an old classic, this Margaret Wise Brown book was unknown to our family when my youngest received it as a gift for her first birthday. It’s a little bit surreal but also wonderful and adorable, nestled in its furry brown cover. As our littlest daughter memorized it and grew obsessed with it, we did too, because there is nothing cuter than hearing a sweet, breathy, sixteen-month-old describe anyone as “warm as toast, smaller than most” and invite you inside “out of the windiness, out of the wild.”
Ages 2-6 | Publisher: HarperFestival | 2005 | ISBN-13: 978-0060759605
Written by Ruby Shamir
Illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Publisher’s Synopsis: First Ladies are more than just wives of U.S. presidents! This fun, kid-friendly book of trivia and history shows that First Ladies help influence America in ways both large and small.
Did you know that Mary Todd Lincoln hated slavery and helped to end it in America? Or that Edith Wilson helped decode secret messages during World War I? How about that Sarah Polk didn’t let anyone dance in the White House while she was first lady?
It’s true! In addition to being hostesses, advocates, ambassadors, activists, patriots, and role-models, each first lady put her own stamp on the White House—and on our country. In this fun-filled, fact-filled book, you can find out just what made each first lady unique and why they were so important. As it turns out, first ladies are a pretty big deal after all!
This book is perfect for fans of So You Want to be President? and Rad American Women from A-Z:Rebels, Trailbalzers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History…And Our Future, and is a great entry point to discussing elections, inaugurations, and all aspects of the White House with children.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Philomel Books | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399547249
About the Author
Author Ruby Shamir (www.rubyshamir.com) is a writer and literary researcher based in New York City. She aided in the researching and editorial planning of many high profile non-fiction titles. Ruby’s public policy and political experience includes working for three and a half years at the White House, two of which she served in the First Lady’s office, and leading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New York Senate office. Ruby holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College and a Bachelor of Arts from Bates College where she graduated cum laude. She lives with her husband and three children in the Bronx.
Ruby Shamir, author of What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies, selected these five family favorites. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Family Favorites, President’s Day Books, and Women’s History.