Friday, September 12

20 of the Best Kid's Books

So it turns out that Amazon has a list. Amazon has a lot of lists, but this one specifically is, "100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime." In a word, they have selected the 100 best kids books. Anything for those aged 12 and under. Which, of course, I take a special interest in. But is Amazon right?

As far as I can tell, Amazon does not explain their selection criteria or method behind the madness. Because let me tell you, there are a lot of good books out there--how can anyone choose? Amazon has got classics and award winners, new favorites and the popular. But still. They're not perfect in my mind. So, to help you narrow down from the 100, and perhaps be exposed to a few unexpected titles, here is my response to their list...

Twenty of My Favorite Children's Books
and so I think you should read them

I've split it into 10 picture books and 10 chapter books. First, I'll list the ones that weren't on their list. Three each.

Chapter Books:

1. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrations by K. G. Campbell
First published in 2013

Cynical girl meets squirrel; unassuming squirrel has super powers. They save the world. Or at least her friends and family. What more could you want? It is the most recent Newbery Medal winner, so I wonder if Amazon didn't have it because their list isn't up to date. It's one of my newest favorites.

2. Nate the Great
Written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illustrated by Marc Simont
First published in 1972

Nate the Great is a detective. He works alone. He also loves pancakes. It's short, sweet, and pure genius. The basic mystery story that is perfect for any beginning reader. I grew up on it (it helped that "Emily" was a character) and I think kids will keep growing up on it. Amazon selected Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys--which are fine and dandy, don't get me wrong--but Nate the Great is...well...great.

3. Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Written by Louis Sachar
Original illustrations by Dennis Hockerman
First published in 1978

The school was supposed to be one floor with 30 classrooms. It is actually 30 floors with a classroom on each floor. The builder said he was sorry. In a school that is sideways come some pretty sideways stories about the teachers and students at Wayside. The chapters are short, sweet, and super hilarious. It was the go-to book in our family, and we would laugh every time. Still do.

I also love Holes, which is on Amazon's list, but I'm only giving Sachar one spot on my list. In the interest of being fair and all that.

...and my favorites from Amazon's list:

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
J. K. Rowling (1998)
The definition of my growing up years: the boy who lived.

5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C. S. Lewis (1950)
The best fantasy. The ultimate sacrifice.

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 
Roald Dahl (1964)
A lake of chocolate. Need I say more?

7. The Invention of Hugo Cabret 
Brian Selznick (2007)
Beautifully imaginative, and yet, based on fact. A perfect combination.

8. Wonder
R. J. Palacio (2012)
Learn how to be kind and understanding.

9. Anne of Green Gables 
L. M. Montgomery (1908)
Two words: Gilbert Blythe.

10. The Giver 
Lois Lowry (1993)
A dystopian novel before dystopian novels were cool.

Picture books:

1. Green Eggs and Ham
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
First published in 1960

Will Sam-I-Am ever be able to get his friend to try green eggs and ham? Despite his vehement refusals? It's the first book I read aloud by myself, so there's definitely some bias here. And technically, Amazon has this, but not really because they just listed "Dr. Seuss Classics" which is a lazy way of not picking the best one. Well here it is: the best Dr. Seuss book. All about how hard work and determination pay off, my friend. And how to rhyme. And it's a great St. Patrick's day book. Winner all around.

2. We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems
First published in 2010

Gerald and Piggie have just discovered that there's someone reading their words! They can get the reader to say whatever they want! But there's only so many pages left... Really, any Elephant and Piggie book would do. One should be on here. The books are hilarious, kids AND parents love to read them, and they're excellent examples of good friendship. Elephant and Piggie all the way, man (Amazon picked Willems' Pigeon books instead. Psh. I mean they're pretty good but, psh).

3. The Polar Express
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
First published in 1985

Only those who truly believe in Santa will have the chance to take a ride on the Polar Express. Tell me if there's a better book that gets a person excited for Christmas. There isn't one--no illustrations come close (so detailed and beautiful), and the story is just so freakin' magical (don't you want sleigh bells after reading the book??). Amazon put Jumanji on their list, but I think this is the better Van Allsburg book.

...and my favorites from Amazon's list:

4. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Written and illustrated by William Joyce (2012)
The love and appreciation of all books--get's you right in the feels.

5. The Day the Crayons Quit
Written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (2013)
The collected letters of some pretty passionate crayons.

6. Corduroy
Written and illustrated by Don Freeman (1968)
The joy one stuffed animal can bring.

7. The Story of Ferdinand
Written by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson (1936)
Defying the stereotype.

8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Written and illustrated by Eric Carle (1969)
I also each that much on Saturday.

9. Press Here
Written and illustrated by Herve Tullet (2010)
Entertainment without a tablet or smart phone.

10. The Snowy Day
Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)
Because I love snow, among other reasons.

Okay the picture books were really hard. Let's face it: this list is not even close to perfect. I'll probably change my mind next week! Ah, well, it was still a fun exercise. At least Amazon also opened a list on Goodreads for the popular vote on the best 100. Take a look there, too, see if there's some you like. What would you add to the list?

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