The “Unsung” Favorites of Children’s Literature

Yesterday marked the beginning of Children’s Book Week, which according to the Children’s Book Council is

“A celebration of the written word, Children’s Book Week introduces young people to new authors and ideas in schools, libraries, homes and bookstores. Through Children’s Book Week, the Children’s Book Council encourages young people and their caregivers to discover the complexity of the world beyond their own experience through books.”

Throughout the week, there are celebrations planned in major cities across the U.S.A, and your local libraries and schools may be planning celebrations as well.

In children’s literature, there are classic books – a canon of sorts – that have stood the test of time and find a place in nearly every child’s library.  Timeless treasures like Goodnight, Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You, Where the Wild Things Are, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do See? are some of the standards most every child knows and loves.

Yet browsing the shelves at your local library or bookstore proves there are hundreds of other wonderfully illustrated, charming stories that your children will find delightful.  How to choose?

If you have a few minutes, would you share with us your unsung favorite of children’s literature?  What is the book that has captivated your family but not many others seem to be familiar with?

Of course, you can share more than one if you would like.  Sometime next week, I’ll choose from among the comments a person to send a copy of our family’s unsung favorite to – a book I’ll be telling a little more about next week.

I can’t wait to hear more about your family’s favorite children’s books!

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  1. Ah… Annie and The Wild Animals.

  2. For bedtime reading, my 4 year old and I currently love “You are Special” and “You are Mine” by Max Lucado. And for laugh-out-loud silliness, Robert Munsch’s “Andrew’s Loose Tooth” and “Mmmm, Cookies” are wonderful! Reading bedtime stories is one of my favorite times of the day – such great opportunities to explore ideas about God, life and the world with my little guy.

  3. Our bedtime favorite here is “It’s time for bed” but I can’t remember the author off hand. It is has a soothing repetitiveness about it that both my 5 and 3 year olds love!

  4. well, we have so many many favorites around here, but some unSUNG faves?

    TULIP SEES AMERICA by Cynthia Rylant


    THE EMPTY POT by Demi

    i cannot wait to check out some of the other suggestions. we have a complete love affair with books in our home. thanks for this great post, simple mom!

    cate’s last blog post..Corner View: The Great Outdoors

  5. 1. The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear, illus. Jan Brett) – beautiful, rich illustrations. You could read it every night for a week and find something new each time.
    2. Complete Beatrix Potter, especially “The Tale of Samuel Whiskers” AKA “The Roly-Poly Pudding” – I like when kid’s movies put in little jokes for the parents, and whether intentional or just as a product of their times, so many of Potter’s works do the same thing. Approachable for kids, but often funny enough to make me laugh out loud even on the second or third reading.
    3. The Church Mice Chronicles (Graham Oakley) – This one is from my own childhood and not my childrens’. Incredibly detailed illustrations.

  6. We love THE CHILDREN OF NOISY VILLAGE and HAPPY TIMES IN NOISY VILLAGE, both by Astrid Lindgren; WOODY, HAZEL AND LITTLE PIP by Elsa Beskow; ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY and ALEXANDER WHO USED TO BE RICH LAST SUNDAY, both by Judith Viorst; the RAMONA series of books by Beverly Cleary. We also love Roald Dahl’s THE BFG and the MOOMINTROLLS series of books by Tove Jansson.

  7. I always loved the kind of forgotten The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews. If you’re interested in a crazy good listing and review of picture books take a look at Fuse 8 (School Library Journal blog) They have an unofficial readers list of the top one hundred kids picture books based on reader recommendations and rankings.

  8. There are so many great books here! We love Fox Makes Friends by Adam Relf. When Fox says he is going to go out and catch a friend, his mom tells him he has to make friends instead. So, he gathers sticks and veggies in an attempt to ‘make’ a friend. He is frustrated when his creation doesn’t do anything. A squirrel and rabbit come to help. The story is precious (in a good way), and the drawings are gorgeous.

    Emily’s last blog post..Here am I; send me.

  9. Well, I haven’t had a chance to read ALL the comments, but here are some of our favorites (that aren’t the classics and popular books):
    Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins (rhythm, rhymes, animals, counting, what’s not to love?)
    Cookies: Bite Sized Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (beautiful book about positive character traits)
    all sing/read books but especially On Top of Spaghetti by Paul Brett Johnson and Mary Had A Little Lamb by Mary Ann Hoberman
    The Cuddlers by Stacy Towle Morgan (great for kids who like to climb into bed with mom and dad at night)

    Of course we love all the common books as well but these are more off the beaten path and I’m SO glad we found them.

    Andrea @ The Train To Crazy’s last blog post..Why be a friend?

  10. Another favorite chapter book is The Miraculous Adventure of Edward Tulane. Other favorites stories include The Velveteen Rabbit, Leo the Late Bloomer, Click Clack Moo,Cows that Type, and anything by Shel Silverstein.

    Brigid’s last blog post..we heart turtles

  11. Ooo. this is a great list. Many we already love, and many I will have to add to our library list for next week.

    One of our great “new” finds I haven’t seen mentioned here are the Toot and Puddle books by Hollie Hobbie. Fun stories about two pig roommates, one who loves travel and adventure, and one who loves being at home in the woods.

    We also love Peter Spier’s illustrated books. Anything by Sendak (especially “Pierre”). Mercer Myers “A boy a dog and a frog” wordless adventures. Original Milne and Beatrix Potter. Many of the old Caldacot winners. But I think those are all “already sung favorites” =)

    Marianne’s last blog post..Pregnancy 3: Week 24

  12. Yikes! I goofed. It’s the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. (Not adventure.) Sorry!

    Brigid Day’s last blog post..we heart turtles

  13. My oldest son loves “Not a Box”, and “Not a Stick” by Antoinette Portis. The drawings are sparse, and it encourages dialogue and imagination.

    Amy Bohls’s last blog post..Sheet Fort Fun!

  14. My kids love the Tacky the Penguin books. They are cute and simple enough tat my 3-year-old loved them, but funny and fun enough that my school-aged kids enjoyed them too. Good stuff!

    Erin’s last blog post..You Too Can Have This Much Fun for Only $16!!!!

  15. Oh my, there are so many great suggestions to look into. I’m so addicted to children’s books. I would have to say that my son’s favorites are Enid Blyton’s “Adventure’s of the Wishing Chair” and “The Magic Faraway Tree”. I confess that I too, love Enid Blyton books! I am looking for a good copy of “The Wishing Chair Again”, since we’ve read all the other stories many, many times. Since Enid Blyton is an English author, they are not super easy to find in the US. I started collecting children’s books when I lived in Australia, so I got some pretty cool ones.

    Mama Bird’s last blog post..The Lure of Living Abroad

  16. Wow!!! There are so many great books listed here 🙂 One of our favourites that I picked up even before Nate was born is called Snuggle Up, Sleepy Ones by Claire Freedman and the beautiful pastel watercolour illustrations by Tina McNaughton are just as magical as the rhyming verse about the safari animals settling down for the night. Definitely a great one to check out for the younger crowd, although I imagine we will cherish this one for a long time to come.

    Jen’s last blog post..Fix, Freeze, Feast and Toddler Firsts

  17. Michelle in Canada says:

    We love the Big Bug Ball
    Author: Dee Lillegard
    Illustrator: Rex Barron

    I bought for 35 cents five years ago. It is so fun to read and when the kids were smaller I memorized it so we could “read” while we waited in lines and waiting rooms.

  18. This is a wonderful topic for all parents who want to make sure their kids grow up reading quality material! I am so excited to add all of these books to our library list!!
    Our “unsung” favorites are Jamberry by Bruce Degen and The Napping House by Audrey Wood. My 3 year old son has adored these books since he was about 20 months old and still asks to read them regulary. Thanks for the great topic Meg!

    Jenny’s last blog post..That Magical Castle

  19. Michelle says:

    I second the Billy and Blaze recommendation. I also love The Fire Cat–an I Can Read Book that has recently been released in paperback.

  20. rosesmama says:

    The girl insists I mention that rascal, Skippyjon Jones. And Pippi Longstocking. I glanced at the shelves and vote for Jane Yolen, especially The Flying Witch, and Vera B. Williams, mostly the series starting with A Chair for my Mother. There are so many others, but these are some favorites.

  21. Both my Kindergarten class and 4 year old son love The Gingerbread Man and all of the different versions of the Gingerbread Man like The Gingerbread Baby and the Gingerbread Girl. I also love If You give a Mouse a Cookie and the other books by this book’s author. My son also learned the letter names and sounds by listening to Chicka, chicka boom boom. It’s amazing how much children learn from listening to good books. I now begin the schoolyear with a chicka, chicka boom boom theme. My favorite from childhood is Harry the Dirty Dog.

  22. Freight Train by Donald Crews is really great as a board book for little ones.

    Byron Barton’s vehicle books are great as board books, too. Trucks, Trains, Machines at Work and Planes were all favorites.

    shelley’s last blog post..Sam waxes poetic

  23. I love any of the Frances books by Russel Hoban–so very funny and true to life in a child’s world, My Friend Rabbit, by Eric Rohmand, reminds me of myself.
    Fix it Duck by Jez Alborough, captivates my daughter! She laughs and laughs.
    Mad about Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams illustrations by Donna Green–gorgeous book, Ten Tiny Tickles and Toes, Ears, and Nose by Marion Dane Bauer/Karen Katz, my 20 mo old LOVES them, Mailing May by Michael O Tunnel–my personal fav., Little Bear series is wonderful! Amelia Bedelia for upper grades–2-3 working on words with multiple meanings. Can you tell I love preschool, teaching, and children’s lit??? Have a wonderful day!

    jennie bender’s last blog post..Blessed

  24. Ahh, the magic of books! I can’t get enough of children’s literature! A few of my personal favorites from my childhood are The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Secret Garden, Encyclopedia Brown, Caps for Sale, Nancy Drew (I loved mysteries and still do), The Hobbit, and The Borrowers (whole series). As a parent and school media specialist, my children and I have enjoyed A Beasty Story; The Dark at the Top of the Stairs; A Dark, Dark Tale; Tikki Tikki Tembo; Hug; Guess How Much I Love You; Each Peach Pear Plum; Corduroy; Curious George; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; and Swimmy. For an intriguing, thought-provoking book, try Van Allburg’s The Wretched Stone. Patricia Polacco is a favorite with me–The Bee Tree and Thunder Cake are particular favorites. For a child who struggles with reading, share Polacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker. My students love the Willems’ Pigeon books, Pilkey’s Dogzilla and Kat Kong, and The Magic Tree House books. Box Car Children are also still popular with many of them, and The Spiderwick Chronicles are growing in popularity with the 8 years and up crowd.

    Sandy’s last blog post..Celebrations

  25. My son and I loved:
    Wet Dog – Elise Broach (illustrated by David Catrow) – Illustrations and language
    I’m Dirty and I Stink – Kate and Jim McMullan

    And both of my children have also loved:
    Snuggle Puppy – Sandra Boulton
    Goodnight Gorilla – Peggy Rathman
    Tuesday – David Wiesner

  26. Some of my family’s favorite children’s books include Harold & The Purple Crayon, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See, But No Elephants, If you Give A Mouse A Cookie (& the rest of that series), Good Night Moon, Big Red Barn, The Very Busy Spider, The Mitten and many more! We love to read in our house, and my girls are only 2.5 yr and 10 months!

    Shirley Rempel’s last blog post..Faith & Pop Culture: A Review

  27. Unsung, huh. There are so many…
    “A sense of wonder” by Rachel Carson first comes to mind.

    My family also loves Grandma Dowdel from Richard Peck’s “A long way from Chicago” and “A year down yonder.” Along that genre is “The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs” by Betty Birney.

    “Swamp Angel” by Anne Isaacs is a wonder folktale that involves a WOMAN.

    As for comfort books there I believe nothing tops the “Voyage to the Bunny Planet” by Rosemary Wells. “Far beyond the moon and stars, twenty light years south of Mars, spins the gentle bunny planet and the bunny queen is Janet…”

    Shopping Golightly’s last blog post..The Golightly’s Teen Thrift Store Trunk Show

  28. i love ‘happy birthday moon’, among others. children’s books are some of my favorite things in the world.

    jen’s last blog market, to market

  29. Stephanie says:

    My kids always laugh at this book: “Little Pea” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It’s about a pea family that makes their pea son eat his dinner which is candy and he hates it. But if he wants dessert he has to have 5 pieces of candy. Dessert is, of course, his favorite: SPINACH!

  30. Catherine says:

    Favorite Unsung Book (also a Favorite without any qualifications): Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield (a book from the late 60’s or early 70’s that’s been reprinted). This is the perfect book: a fairty tale that is smart, funny, sweet, enchanting, and wise, with a message that would change the world if taken to heart. My toddlers love it, yet there is sophistication enough to entertain adult readers too (through endless readings). You really have to see this one to believe it. I read thousands of children’s books a year, and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

  31. All the George and Martha books have been consistent favorites for both the kids and adults.

    I also love “Umbrella” by Taro Yashima. It’s such a sweet story with lovely illustrations.

  32. I have such a hard time coming up with a submission for these kinds of lists ’cause I have so many favorites!! A recent big hit with my students has been The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. I really love this one. Very cute and clever!

    Amy @ Literacy Launchpad’s last blog post..Improvising Lessons When Needed

  33. I just had a similar post on my blog asking reader’s for their favorites and I posted mine today. Like Amy I have so many. My unsung favorite is “Something from Nothing ” by Phoebe Gilman.

    Allie @ No Time For Flash Cards’s last blog post..Sunday Spotlight – My Favorite !

  34. I agree with SO many of the above books and cannot wait to check out some of the new ideas. Childhood is way too short for bad books…

    We love Read-Aloud Bible Stories (there are volumes 1-4) by Ella K. Lindvall… for anyone looking for Bible stories that are not too cutesy but still appropriate for very young children, they hold the attention of a 12-18 month old, but our 4 year old still loves to listen.

  35. One of the ways we show love is by sharing our dearest books with the people we care about. At home with my own kids, I’ve loved reading one of my childhood favorites, I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom. So simple, touching, and timeless. With my students, who are teenage boys and struggling readers, a recent fave is Eve Bunting’s Riding The Tiger. Powerful imagery, relevant, allegoric message, and stunningly beautiful woodcut illustrations by David Frampton combine to make this a touchstone text in my reading workshop.

    katrocada’s last blog post..the man who walked between the towers

  36. @Julie–I started w/Charlotte’s Web too (at 4). We went on to Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, the “My Father’s Dragon” trilogy, some Roald Dahl, Little House on the Prairie, and the first 3 Ramona books. We are now reading Ella Enchanted. (dd is now 5). Tried Stuart Little and Ralph S. Mouse but they weren’t as captivating for her.

    As far as picture books: lots of our favs have been mentioned. We also like The Napping House and Piggies by Don and Audrey Wood (priceless illustrations!) Fanny’s Dream is a sweet, beautiful story but I think I appreciate it more than my kids. Time for Bed by Mem Fox is a beautiful before bed read. We have it in a board book.

  37. The Bugg books, specifically Evil Weevil. I can still recite the poem at the beginning of each one!

    A Richard Scarry book that is now out of print called Pig Will & Pig Won’t.

    And this is pretty well-known, but I can’t get enough of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

  38. Quick As a Cricket by Don and Audrey Wood. My favorite by a mile.

    Susanne’s last blog post..Water, Water Everywhere: Part Three

  39. I tried Goodnight Moon but my husband really doesn’t like it. “Boy that’s a weird book” he said.

    We like anything by Sandra Boynton and Hand Hand Fingers Thumb is always a classic.

    Mary @ Parenthood’s last blog post..May 18, 2009

  40. The Boy Who Cried Wold by B.G. Hennessy is a hilarious rendition of the old story. My son cracks up every time!

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship’s last blog post..How to Purchase, Store and Cook with Onions and Garlic

  41. My kids love Frog and Toad, and the Babar stories Henry and Mudge, The Story about Ping and Good night moon. My parents bought me the Sweet Pickle series by Richard Hefter when I was little. I have been wanting to get those for my kids. I loved those stories. This is a great list.

    Rana’s last blog post..The Wedding.

  42. All of the Arnold Lobel books are sweet. In addition to Frog and Toad, there are Mouse Tales, Mouse Soup, Owl at Home, and my favorite, Uncle Elephant.

  43. i’m catching up on blog-reading, so i’m a little late to the game, but i thought i’d offer some of my faves that i didn’t see mentioned here. i have always loved the Serendipity Books by Stephen Cosgrove. They’re all great, but the ones that stand out to me are: The Muffin Muncher, Morgan and Me, FLutterby, Leo the Lop, and Snaffles. Also, a wonderful Christmastime book is Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden.

    trisha’s last blog post..field trip


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