I don’t care how old I am, I still love reading children’s books and watching my favourite childhood movies. There’s something comforting about revisiting old, familiar favourites and re-experiencing the story from a different perspective. I know a lot of adults tend to scoff at the idea of reading books intended for younger audiences, but there are many great children’s books out there that have just as much appeal for adults.
I have always been a huge fan of popular children’s series like Berenstain Bears, Frog & Toad, and the Little Critter books. I also adored anything by Robert Munsch, and of course all of the classics by Dr. Seuss. I still have the majority of my children’s books in a box in my basement because I refuse to part with any of them!
As tempting as it was to go the easy route and list the usual suspects like Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, I decided to go for books aimed a little younger. I think picture books are very underrated, and there are quite a few that I think would be fun and worthwhile for everyone.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Purple, Green and Yellow (Robert Munsch)
This was one of my all-time favourite books when I was in elementary school. Robert Munsch is a brilliant children’s author, and this book is one of the best. It is about a young girl named Brigid who begs her parents to buy her progressively fancier sets of markers, on the condition that she only draws on paper. Of course, Brigid gets into trouble and colours all over everything, including herself. I’ve always loved this book for the colourful illustrations and the simple but hilarious storyline. Of all the books on this list, this is probably the one that has the least “message” to deliver, but it is a thoroughly entertaining book.
2) Chester’s Way (Kevin Henkes)
I would also highly recommend the brilliant Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, but since I have already written about that (here), I decided to pick another one of his books. This book is about two friends named Chester and Wilson who have always done things a certain way. When they meet their new neighbour Lilly for the first time, they are surprised by how different she is and try to avoid her. Kevin Henkes books are illustrated with adorable mice as characters, and carry wonderful messages. This book is about learning to accept other people’s differences, and that it is still possible to be friends with someone different.
3) Odd Duck (Cecil Castellucci)
This is a children’s book that only ever read as an adult, and it was actually one that my mom discovered and recommended while working at the library. This book is about a duck named Theodora who is very happy with her normal life, which is mostly just like all the other ducks but she has a few unusual quirks. Like with Chester’s Way, Theodora meets an unusual new neighbour named Chad who is very different from her. Theodora and Chad become friends, with each seeing the other as the odd one. This book carries one of my favourite messages — that normal is relative, and it is important for everyone to be themselves. Even reading this as an adult, it was a great and very meaningful book.
4) When Elephant Met Giraffe (Paul Gude)
When Elephant Met Giraffe is another book that I’m sure I’ve discussed before, and another that I read only as an adult. I discovered this book at the library while looking for something to read to some of my participants at work, including one who is obsessed with elephants. This book consists of three stories that all focused on what it means to be a good friend. It seems to be a running theme with the books I’m recommending that they focus on friends learning to manage being very different. In this book, talkative Elephant is offended because Giraffe is silent until he learns that giraffes actually can’t speak. Instead of letting that get in the way, Elephant figures out how to make friends with Giraffe anyway. My favourite of the three stories is the third one, where they decided to play with costumes but can’t agree on what to play. It is a simple, straightforward, and adorable book!
5) Me Too! by Mercer Mayer
I debated for a long time whether to include any Little Critter or Berenstain Bears books on this list, because there were so many to choose from. I decided to choose one that stood out to me most, but I would highly recommend any of the books from these two series! I’ve always loved the Little Critter series because of how cute the illustrations and the stories are. This one specifically is about how annoying it is to constantly need to share everything with a younger sibling. Being the younger sister myself, I can’t say I necessarily relate to the story but I thought it was a great and realistic view of sibling dynamics at an appropriate level even for young children. It tells them that it’s okay to be annoyed with your sibling sometimes, and that it will pass. It is so important for children to understand that more negative feelings are normal and okay, instead of books trying to cover them up.