As long as there have been books, there have been parents who can’t wait to share their favorites with their own children. When my brother and I were small, I remember my mom reading her favorite Nancy Drew mysteries to us one chapter at a time, and us begging her to read just one more. What else can a parent ask for than that; the chance to share the gift of a good story and to bond over a classic? (Or, you know, maybe the occasional chance to take a bath without someone knocking on the door.)
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams and William Nicholson
Originally published in 1922, this ultimate tale of love and hope will show kids the magic in their toys. And it will bring parents to tears. With gorgeous, gentle illustrations and a story that is just as accessible today was it was in the ’20s, this is a bookshelf staple. Kids who are attached to their toys, kids who have to let go of something, and kids who have experienced a lengthy illness will especially find happiness and comfort in Williams’ must-read classic.
The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard
No childhood is complete without Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet. The sheer number of revisits, movies, and other related media (including the 2016 Caldecott Medal-winning Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear) that have come from the original publishing of Winnie-The-Pooh are testament enough to the beautiful staying power of the Hundred Acre Woods. Pooh’s charming innocence and naiveté, Eeyore’s grumpiness, and Tigger’s boundless energy all reflect attitudes and emotions that children can strongly relate to. This series began in 1926 in England and has never lost its magic.
The American Boy’s Handy Book, by Daniel C. Beard
The ultimate 1882 handbook for outdoor adventures is a fit for every rough and tumble kid in 2016. The title may say that it was created for boys, but with instructions on how to build and fly kites, go fishing, blow soap bubbles, and track animals, there is a something for all children. Even if you are raising a future outdoor aficionado in a big city, kids will still love to read about all of the possible adventures out in the big wide world. We may not be hunting and trapping today, but our love of nature and adventure hasn’t changed.
Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, by Carolyn Keene
In 1930 publisher Edward Stratemeyer created Nancy Drew, and ever since a series of authors has taken this intrepid detective on countless mysteries under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Major female figures have cited Nancy as a role model in their childhood, and critics has applauded the series’ staying power. This early feminist idol, her tenacity, and her brave adventures, is just as exciting for boys, girls, and parents today as she was over 80 years ago.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater, and Robert Lawson
Mr. Popper came back recently in a live action movie, but his original story was published in 1938. The tale of a painter, his dreams, and his growing brood of penguins that came to live with his family is an all time classic. Kids of all ages love penguins, that seems to be a universal fact, and everyone loves it when penguins get into mischief. The funny wordplay, the silly situations, and the dreams of Mr. Popper are infectious, and this story will easily become a bedtime favorite among modern children.
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
If The Velveteen Rabbit doesn’t bring you to tears, then this 1964 classic will. The story is a stunning metaphor for generosity, love, and the power of selflessness, and parents will see themselves on every page. Kids may not be as deeply affected by the metaphor as parents, but they will understand the power of the tree and the amazing transformation it undergoes. This timeless story can also be used to discuss the evolution of fruit trees, the uses of wood, and the cycle of life. Basically, Shel Silverstein is a genius.
Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, by Deborah Howe, James Howe, and Alan Daniel
This 1979 chapter book was personal favorite of mine when I was a kid, and I can’t wait to read it to my daughter. Chester the cat and Harold the dog have to work together to solve the mystery that is causing the household food to turn white, and contend with the family’s new pet rabbit. The four-legged sleuths will become your young readers’ favorite heroes as they work to get to the bottom of the mystery. The series continues with Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and others, so you are absolutely going to have hours of pet detective work ahead of you.
What treasured childhood books are you excited to share with your children?