It's time for We Recommend, where readers ask for suggestions, and we try our very hardest to come up with the perfect book in answer (and then you guys come up with even more amazing choices in the comments). Looking for a recommendation? E-mail us! We're very agreeable.
So, all the hoo-hah about picture books in the New York Times has had one tangible result: this long but interesting and very thorough e-mail. Here's what she says:
I have a 5 1/2 yr old daughter, very engaged in reading, just starting to read herself. We have always read tons. We read the whole Little House series last year (until it got too boring for her – what 5 yr old cares about a 15yr old's time at a party with boys?). Then we read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which she loved. I got the other books in the series, but at that point she rebelled against "chapter books" and has not wanted to read any for the last month or so. The only reason I can get from her is that she wants more pictures.
So we are back to reading picture books, which is fine, but I had recently gotten so over-excited at all the chapter books we could now begin to read (5 little peppers, ramona, etc.) that i feel somewhat at a loss. She LOVED Catwings, and I got some of Cynthia Rylant's books that are stories, not chapters really (The Blue Hill Meadows, etc.) But I'm not really sure where else to look. It is so hard to find the right level of picture book at the library since they are all mixed in together.
Can you recommend some longer picture books (non-chapter) that would be good for a kid that loves pirates, knights, dogs, adventures, animals, Scooby Doo.
She will sometimes tolerate things like Fancy Nancy, but she is not a "girly girl" -she only wears blue, and I actually recoiled somewhat from the Cobble Street Cousins book I got at the library because everything was described as "pretty" and I knew she would therefore hate it.
We have read and liked: most of Keven Henkes, Martha the dog, a million Magic Treehouse (before the chapter book ban), Doctor Doolittle, Rosemary Wells Hilltop School series, Pets to the Rescue series (some great books!), Pippi (the books where some stories from the real book are extra-illustrated actually), Poppleton, Bill Peet books, etc. etc. She does like fairy tales, especially Anansi, but the color fairy books didn't really interest her. She just started kindergarten, and is interested in stories at school, but I am trying (probably in vain) to shield her from too much snottiness and world-weariness, so have avoided some books where school is portrayed as a place where annoying things happen. (e.g. Captain Underpants, which I'm sure she would love).
I think what I'm searching for is some longer picture books like The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes, that we can read before bed. We have almost exhausted the "early Reader" section of the library, but I'm open to that genre of book as well. I think chapter books with lots of illustrations might possibly make the cut as well.
Interesting. I must say, that when I first read this, I had one powerful thought that sort of blocked out everything else: The Velveteen Rabbit, which is one of my all time favorite books, partly for its ability to make me cry every single time I read it. That, my friends, is power.
But on rereading this letter, I think yes, Velveteen Rabbit, but that's not exactly what we're talking about, is it. It's more that she wants stories but she isn't ready to give up on pictures; she's only in kindergarten, after all. And pictures are excellent.
So I thought about those lovely illustrate versions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, or The Wizard of Oz. And those are, of course, excellent. But for a series that keeps on giving, for a girl who likes animals? Here's my pick:
These are strange and wonderful. They are definitely picture books with real stories, and also definitely excellent. They concern a cat named Jenny (duh, yes, but sometimes I feel I stint on the summaries) and her gang (more or less) of neighborhood cats. There are thrills, adventure, etc etc. They are peculiar in the best possible way.
Anyway, given the exciting picture book discussion of days gone by, I'm guessing all of you have all sorts of suggestions of your own. What are they? Put 'em in the comments. And don't hesitate to write in for your own recommendation.