Childhood, as it survives in my memory, was one long golden afternoon spent lost in the stacks of my local library. I’m blessed with kids of my own now, one of whom just discovered the magic of libraries for herself.
Between the library and our own large book collection, the kids don’t lack for reading material. Here’s my short list of books I’d want handy if I were trapped on a desert island with a preschooler.
These are books I grew up with, remembered and cherished, and couldn’t let my kids grow up without. We read them all the time. They’re still as much for me as for them.
1. Stories for Free Children: This collection of stories originally published in Ms. Magazine features selections from Toni Morrison and other literary luminaries. I never cared about that as a kid; I was just hooked on the stories of princesses who defeated armies with their wits, saved themselves from boring princes and stood on their own two feet.
2. Pickle Chiffon Pie: A much more traditional fairy tale, Pickle Chiffon Pie offers a beautiful princess and three noble princes competing for her hand in marraige. What makes it great? The marshmallow roasting dragons, piano-playing giants and tiny painting mice. Still as cute as it was 30 years ago.
3. Frog and Toad: After my daughter and I had devoured the Frog and Toad treasury, we went to the children’s library to get more. In my childhood memories, Frog and Toad go on innumberable adventures, traipsing across volume after volume of gently illustrated pages in their quest to eat cookies, take long walks and discover the meaning of friendship. Turns out there are only these three books, collected under one cover. You’ll just have to read them each 100 times like we have.
4. Little Daylight: This is my favorite retelling of a fairy tale, ever. Little princess Daylight is cursed by a disgruntled fairy at her christening, and must wax and wane with the moon until a prince (who happens to be fleeing a revolution in his home country) rescues her with a kiss. Lovely illustrations and moving prose make this book unforgettable.
5. Moonflute: A tiny girl named Firen uses a flute made of moonlight to travel around the world, flying through jungles and sleepy cities until she lands back in her own bed. Obviously, I wanted to be this little girl. I still kind of do. I have only ever seen one copy of this book, and might believe
For more memorable children’s books from our own childhoods, check out this great list of Out-of-Print Children’s Books at Flashlight Worthy Books.
Share your own favorite picture books in the comments.