Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Sam, Dave and their little dog are going to dig and dig until they find something spectacular. They dig down. They dig left. They dig right. They split up. Nothing. Our kids (who happen to be big diggers themselves) love following the illustrations, seeing how close Sam and Dave come to finding real treasure along the way. They end up digging a tunnel, then falling and falling — ultimately landing right back home. We find the ending a little trippy. Our kids find it magical.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
You have this one, right? Every home library needs Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 classic tale of Madeline. “In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” The 12 did everything together, but it was tiny Madeline who was the bravest. “She was not afraid of mice — She loved winter, snow, and ice. To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, 'Pooh-pooh.'” Both boys and girls get a kick out of Madeline’s spunk and the delightfully rich illustrations of boarding school in Paris.
Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett and illustarted by Adam Rex
When Billy Twitters doesn’t clean up his room or brush his teeth or eat his peas, his parents employ a unique form of punishment. They give him a blue whale. And Billy has to figure out how to take care of it. Not surprisingly, the whale becomes a problem. (Its tongue weighs as much as 400 cats.) But Billy comes up with a pretty clever solution. This book’s a winner for spectacularly messy and imaginative kids everywhere — especially if they’re into learning detailed facts about blue whales.
McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss
This classic Dr. Seuss, published in 1947, is one of our kid’s all-time favorites. While fishing in McElligot’s (teeny tiny) pool, Marco imagines all the super-amazing things that he might catch if he’s patient. “I might catch a fish with a long curly nose. I might catch a fish like a rooster that crows. I might catch a fish with a checkerboard belly, or even a fish made of strawberry jelly!” A hilarious read, true to Dr. Seuss’ enduring themes of big imaginations and optimism.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Re-live the fairytales you loved as a child—Chicken Licken, The Really Ugly Duckling, The Tortoise and the Hair, and others. Wait, those aren’t the stories you remember? But they are, only sillier. (Sidenote: To abide by the "we don’t use the word ‘stupid’ in our house” rule, we change the title to “Crazy Tales.”)
Trixie Ten by Sarah Massini
Trixie Ten has nine (annoying loud) brothers and sisters. She longs to get away from Wanda One, Thomas Two and the others for some peace and quiet. When she takes off, she finds out the rest of the world is just as loud—and she feels very lonely. Soon enough her nine siblings notice she’s gone and bring her home where she happily drifts off to sleep, feeling lucky to be just where she is. “It’s just as noisy as usual. But that’s the way we are.” Our kids identify with the loud-sibling theme and dig the Ed Emberley-inspired thumbprint illustrations so much, they’ve been making their own Trixie Ten creations.
We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu
This little board book makes a super sweet valentine for a baby or toddler in your life. (And our preschoolers still pull it off the shelf.) With a message of “love," it introduces color, shapes and animals in a charming way — with vibrant, happy illustrations die cut to reveal surprises. While most of the board books in our library have now been passed on to younger cousins, this one will stick around.