Full stop. Before you write an indignant comment below asserting that Eric Carle’s books are just wonderful, let me assure you that I agree with you.
My kids and I are fans too!
We have a collection of at least 18 books that he authored, illustrated or both, including the much-loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar and BrownBear, Brown Bear. We had our own Eric Carle phase. But he is not the only children’s book author worth knowing, reading, or collecting.
For the past two years that Sanne and I have been urging and equipping parents to habitually read to their children, requests for Eric Carle books would often land in our email or Facebook message inbox. This post, actually, is prompted by one such request. (Thank you, Mommy S, for the push. I’ve been meaning to write something along this vein for ages!)
Parents would also approach us after our parenting talks looking for any book by Mr. Carle, and would sigh in disappointment when we answer in the negative; his books get snapped up really quickly.
We shake our heads sadly when a mom walks away from classic, well-known, and wildly loved books because she.just.wants.Eric.Carle. Our mission is to introduce parents to a wide variety of brilliant children’s books to find their own family gems. It just breaks our hearts when our message is somehow not conveyed.
I’m sharing here with you just five of our favorite authors in addition, I repeat, in addition to Eric Carle, in the hopes that you will discover authors and artists for your children to get to know and enjoy.
1. Tomie de Paola
When I explained to my daughter what I was writing about, she immediately
said shouted, “Tomie de Paola!”
She’s wild about Tomie, from his nursery rhymes, folk tales, fact books, to his chapter books (which she has read “hundreds of times”). His delightful illustrations are distinct, much like Eric Carle’s are. You’ll know it’s Tomie’s.
We really adore aaall of his books, and we are likely to keep his books “forever” more than the others.
If you ask me for my top five favorites, I’ll say: the Strega Nona series, Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story, the Fairmount Avenue series (his autobiographical chapter books), Clown of God (and his other books that depict the Catholic faith), Helga’s Dowry. I know, I cheated, those are more than five because of the series.
2. Russell Hoban
A writer of many genres, Russell Hoban came to be known for his picture books featuring Frances. Little girls since the 1960’s have been able to identify with Frances’ temperament and her little dramas.
In all of the seven books in the series, you will find her in various situations and emotions much like your own little one’s. Bread and Jam for Frances, for example, is about her devotion to just one type of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In Bedtime for Frances, you’ll see her making all kinds of excuses to not go to bed yet. In A Baby Sister for Frances, your heart will break for her as she tries to come to terms with the arrival of her baby sister Gloria.
3. Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes is a multi-awarded author-illustrator of children’s books. He approaches issues of childhood in a humorous way like Russell Hoban, but in a more modern setting.
We read and re-read Lilly’s Plastic Purse, which is about dreams being quashed, plotting and getting revenge, and feeling sorry about it. Sheila Rae The Brave (available at the shop), on the other hand, talks about pride, bravery, and love for one’s sibling. Sheila Rae projects to the world that she is the bravest of all, only to be saved by her sister when she becomes a scaredy-cat upon losing her way home. And of course, Kitten’s First Full Moon, which won a Caldecott, is gloriously illustrated. I want to jump to the moon too!
Most of Mr. Henkes’ books feature the same set of characters, which will thrill little readers as they meet them again and again in different situations.
4. Sandra Boynton
For the really little ones, Sandra Boynton is the go-to gal for “serious silliness.” Her website cites her motto as “Trying to find a Motto since 1973.” If that doesn’t give you a clue to her zaniness, I don’t know what will!
“With some on top and some beneath,
They brush and brush and brush their teeth.
And when the moon is on the rise,
They all go up to exercise!”
We loved The Going To Bed Book when each of my kids was younger than two years old. Barnyard Dance is another favorite, with the wacky animals doing their own thing such as twirling (and twirling) and playing a fiddle. The rhymes in her books are catchy and the drawings of animals very appealing to babies and toddlers.
5. Helen Oxenbury
Babies love seeing babies in their books, and Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations of cute babies doing what little babies do are therefore irresistible! Illustrator of the Michael Rosen classic We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, her depiction of a family’s adventure is action-packed but still charming.
When we have stocks of her books in our shop, I inevitably get them for our home library. Our favorites are her highly commended works: All Fall Down, Farmer Duck, Tickle, Tickle, and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.
My kids, when they were still babies (sniff!), were really able to relate to the pictures and would try to copy what the babies in the books are doing!
For what age are these authors’ books?
Children are different from each other and may enjoy books at a different time than other children their age. My daughter enjoyed most of the books by the above authors far earlier than my son. But that’s okay. With the elegant language and glorious illustrations, these authors – including Eric Carle – are helping our family with our road to reading.
Children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. Books that may seem to be over their head might actually capture their imagination as books are meant to be read aloud to your to your two year old or to aid your preschooler’s reading skills.
Tell me, which author is your favorite?
I wanted to include many more authors/illustrators like Mercer Mayer, Arnold Lobel, Maurice Sendak, and Charlotte Zolotow, but they’re for another blog post! I hope, however, that you have been inspired to grab books by the above authors from any bookshop that you patronize. They deserve a space on your bookshelf, alongside the very popular Mr. Eric Carle.
Who are your family’s favorite children’s book author and why? Do share in the comments. I would love to discover them too!