Friday, April 8, 2016

What’s the best children’s book?


Do you have a favourite children’s book?  Sure, you do.  One you love opening up, time and again, and it makes you smile every single time.

But is it the best children’s book?

What IS the best children’s book, anyway?

Asking this is very much like asking, "What is the best food?"

The answer, of course, is pizza.


Who doesn't love pizza???

Seriously, though, most of us recognize that there is no answer to this question. It really depends on so much. Like what your tastes are, along with your nutritional needs and your mood.

Sometimes you're in the mood for something sweet - fantastical, lackadaisical fiction or whimsical poetry... my kids and I have recently enjoyed Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan, but also spend lots of time re-reading Shel Silverstein. He's definitely up there in the "desserts" category.

But sometimes you need good, solid protein - creative fiction and nonfiction that helps kids explore the world and discover new perspectives... we just finished reading Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising. It's serious, but nothing kids can't deal with - and it opens up tons of deep conversations.

These are chapter books, because my kids are older. But you can find great examples of every kind of book at every reading level.

In the U.S., by the way, the Common Core standards are trying to create the equivalent of the "food pyramid," by telling kids how much of each type of book they should be reading. By fourth grade, they ought to be getting 50% "informational" reading - I guess that's nonfiction. By twelfth, they ought to be up to 70% informational reading.

Drawing this line seems like dangerous territory. Reading Esperanza Rising, for instance, my kids learned about immigration, Mexican/U.S. geography, history, trade unions and more - yet the Common Core folks would likely consider this "literary" and not "informational" text.

The very best fiction and nonfiction books, of course, span both worlds and defy boundaries. Kids can learn as much from a great fiction book and enjoy the literary qualities of a great nonfiction book.

Books that do both are, ultimately, the very "best" in children's literature.


  1. I agree that the best books are ones that teach as they entertain but I think the best of the best books are ones that do so in a natural way. I'm not published but I try to keep a subtle lesson in the background of the stories I write. (Subtle as in a lesson can be drawn from the story using common sense NOT one where the lesson is spelled out.)

    P.S. I know it sounds weird but I'm glad you're back. I've missed your posts here. As an unpublished author who feels like a salmon swimming upstream, your blog posts here make me feel inspired. So thanks :)

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As always, I love to hear from you.