One of the things I believe about children’s books is that best of them appeal not only to the younger set, but those who are only young at heart. If you’ve got younger children or grandchildren and are looking for something to read to or with them, it’s often difficult to sort through the thousands of titles to find something appealing. I have four suggestions here – one is an old classic and three are much less well known but lots of fun.
Let’s start with a classic from the earliest of the Random House ‘Beginner Book’ series. Mostly famous for the Dr. Seuss books, the ‘Beginner Book’ series had many other fine writers producing wonderful books for the series. Mike McClintock’s ‘A Fly Went By’ is one of these. It is one of the books that made the ‘Publishers’ Weekly’ list of all time best selling books in America, selling several million copies since its publication in1958.
“I sat by the lake. I looked at the sky, and as I looked, a fly went by.”
This unremarkable event is the catalyst for a whole series of events, all of which build on each other so the young reader has lots of opportunities to practice the same set of words. Great pictures and a lively set of creatures, all chasing the fly, make this a lovely beginning reader.
Steven Kellogg is probably best known for his books about the large great dane dog called Pinkerton. The books are based on his own pet. In this book Kellogg introduces another large pet, but one that is nothing like his dog. ‘The Mysterious Tadpole’ starts with the gift of a tadpole to Louis from his Scottish uncle. The tadpole continues to grow until its dimensions are more like those of the Loch Ness monster. But this tadpole is a rather friendly beast with a fondness for burgers and underwater exploration. Solving the problem of what to do with a pet of this size is the crux of the tale. Great fun for small readers and Kellogg is a wonderful illustrator.
Take one small boy with a desire to swim in the ocean, despite having no swim suit, and add a secluded beach at low tide. He decides to skinny dip and places his clothes safely on a rock. After a lovely swim he discovers that the tide has risen and he can’t find the rock with his clothes. How to get home?
Our fourth choice is by Harve Zemach with illustrations by Margot Zemach. The judge sits in his court as prisoners are brought in warning him that, “A horrible thing is coming this way, creeping closer day by day.” The first prisoner insists nothing was his fault as the horrible thing has frightening eyes and a tail. Each successive prisoner adds more details to the creature’s description and the judge, dismissing all of them as liars and scoundrels, sends them off to jail. But it turns out a horrible thing WAS coming their way…