#1 Madeline by Ludwig Bemelman. The tale of a little French orphan taken in by a nun-operated orphanage will delight moms and daughters alike. The illustrations are very reminiscent of Paris.
#2 The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl. Eric Carl’s books are a wonder of colorful artistry, simple story lines and animal-themed lessons. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of my favorites. Kids as young as 2 can recognize the different fruits and vegetables that the hungry caterpillar makes his way through as he gets ready for his very long nap.
#3 Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr. And Eric Carl. I love this book’s huge illustrations of colorful animals and when we borrowed a copy from the library, my daughter brought it to me over and over again to read out loud. She delighted in naming each animal and color as I turned the pages, and the storyline carries an easy rhythm that makes it fun to read aloud.
#4 Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox with Helen Oxenbury (illustrator). This book emphasizes all that is delightfully different about children from around the world while reminding us that we’re all basically similar at the same time. The baby illustrations are too cute for words.
#5 Kipper by Mick Inkpen. Kipper is a lovable dog who lives in a world where fun and friendship reign supreme. My daughters are both big fans of his show (available on disk) and by extension, the book.
#6 Corduroy by Don Freeman. The story of Corduroy the Bear is one that every child will enjoy. Corduroy dreams of going home from the store with a special girl who sees that Corduroy, despite missing a button on his overalls, is the perfect little friend for her. Illustrations are done in bold, primary colors and my 2 & 1/2 year old, who loves stuffed animals of all kinds, gravitated towards this title when we took it out at the library.
#7 Stuart Little by E.B. White. Stuart Little is a favorite of mine from when I was a little girl. Now, thanks to audio books from the library, I’ve been able to share this story with my girls during a car trip that we took. I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of Stuart, the mouse son of a human family. Whether you opt for the audio format or choose to read aloud a chapter or two every night, this is a great introduction to the world of words, as it is a fairly easy read and Mr. White had a talent for descriptive prose and snappy dialogue. I’d choose it over his slightly more well-known Charlotte’s Web due to the somewhat gentler theme.
#8 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgrin. I read Pippi Longstocking as a child and was enthralled, for whatever reason, by the idea of the gawky misfit with her red braids and freckles (in Sweden no less, where everyone is apparently blond and has a flawless complexion). As a parent, I can see the under-tones to the story, which gently emphasize the importance of sticking up for the underdog, fighting unfairness and oppression, and that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. It’s a must read for kids under 5, another read-aloud or audiobook option.
#9 The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Everyone knows the story of Peter, the naughty little rabbit who scampers around Mr. MacGregor’s garden causing trouble, and gets his fair share of trouble in return from the grumpy gardener. It’s a classic allegory for good behavior, and a favorite of children because of the sweet illustrations. No wonder it’s been around for so long…
#10 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the obvious choice for starting your little ones on the Little House series, as it is chronologically the first, but also because the themes are very appropriate for youngsters as the protagonist, Laura, is quite young herself during this book. It’s a great way of teaching children about the history of our country and how people lived back during the pioneer days, when living off the land was the normal thing. There are detailed descriptions of farming, care of livestock, maple sugaring, and homemaking. Though the sun-up to sun-down work ethic of the day comes through loud and clear, Mrs. Ingalls Wilder somehow managed to also convey the joy that being part of a loving family, no matter the year, brings.