Our son will be three in August, and here are a few books that he absolutely loves. It’s a good break in between catching bugs, running amok and asking questions about everything. As always, every child is different; what one child considers terrifying another may find humorous. But hopefully you’ll get a few ideas from this list, even if not every suggestion is a perfect fit!
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges – A classic, originally published in 1985, features Caldecott Award-winning writer Margaret Hodges and illustrator Trina Schart Hyman. It’s the tale of St. George, as told in Spenser’s “Fairie Queen”, and is not only stunning to look at but very well written. While some of the content is a little intense for the smallest ones, and may be a bit long for others, my nearly 3-year-old listens to the entire book without interrupting. Which leads me to think that the book itself might actually be magic.
The Day I Traded my Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman – My husband and I purchased a signed copy of this book when we visited Oxford during our honeymoon, at Blackwell’s. Little did we know that our kid would enjoy it so much. While tinged with Gaiman’s usual macabre, the story is amusing for adults and silly enough to entertain kids. Dave McKean’s art lends a comic-book feel to the tale, as well, which serves as a good introduction to the form.
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak – Sure, there are more popular books in Sendak’s repertoire, but I love the quirkiness of In the Night Kitchen. Kids making batter airplanes and being baked into cakes? It serves as a good introduction to cooking and weaves a magical—if not a little weird—tale about what happens in the kitchen when we sleep. Also, like Gaiman’s book, it’s written in graphic novel style.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein – This is the first book I recall taking into bed with a flashlight, and it definitely influenced my reading and writing for many years. With Silverstein you don’t get the feeling he’s writing for kids; you get the feeling what he writes just happens to appeal to kids immensely. From topics about manners, to gypsies, to unicorns and love, the book itself is a perfect introduction to poetry and all things off-kilter.
The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity–Challenge the World Around You – Everything in this book requires parental supervision, of course. And some would argue that under-fives won’t understand what’s going on. I say it doesn’t matter. Exposing your children, safely and responsibly, to science at an early age will give them the curiosity they need to explore their world when their older.
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson – From the writer of classics such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde comes this beautiful Victorian collection of poetry for children. While some might argue that the language is dated, I beg to differ. My three-year-old loves the colorful illustrations and gorgeous language. When he doesn’t understand a word, I explain it to him. Poetry is swiftly being lost on kids, and this is a great way to get kids into the classics at a very early age.
The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss – Okay, so any Dr. Seuss is great at this age. I happen to love The Shape of Me and Other Stuff because it’s a different take on some of Seuss’s classic illustrations. Not to mention it features a creature called a Blogg! It’s also a great book for getting your child to recognize different shapes without seeing the details. Our kiddo loves going through the pages and naming the animals and objects on his own. Definitely a confidence-booster.