Cover Story

Books that show, books that tell

Discerning readers offer their favorite picture books and chapter books for children

Issue: "Kids' books," Dec. 2, 2006

On July 1, 2000, WORLD published a "nifty 50" list of classic 20th-century children's books. Readers quickly responded, wondering how we could have omitted some books, so on Dec. 9, 2000, we published a list of reader-recommended books.

We continue to get requests for more recommendations, so we've done something a little different this year-and just in time for the Christmas gift-buying season. We asked WORLD writers and a variety of discerning readers for their five favorite picture books and five favorite chapter books, and gave them the option of adding comments.

You'll see some overlap with our earlier lists, but you'll also find plenty of new titles. The new lists, some with explanations or descriptions, are organized by last names of the individuals or couples making suggestions. The lists from six years ago are included in this week's issue as well.

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Our cover illustration shows the main character from the Hank the Cowdog series, which is one of the best around, especially for boys. Now you can learn more about the series, as WORLD's Susan Olasky talks with author John R. Erickson.

Howard & Roberta Ahmanson

Based in California, Howard is president of Fieldstead and Company, a private philanthropy. Roberta is a writer who works with Howard. They have one son: "Our idea of a good time is to sit and read together. We have read many of these books out loud together."

Chapter Books

● A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L'Engle (Roberta's favorite)

● The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis (Howard's favorite)

● Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

● Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh (a children's book not for children)

● The Lost Princess, George McDonald

Mark & Acacia Bergen

The Bergens live in Seattle and have one born child and another due next month; Mark is a WORLD reporter.

Picture Books

● Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey

● Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett

● A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein

● Love You Forever, Robert N. Munsch

● One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss

Chapter Books

● Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis

● The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

● Half Magic, Edward Eager

● Henry Huggins, Beverly Cleary

● James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

J. Mark Bertrand

Author, blogger at, and Worldview Academy faculty member.

Picture Books

● The Monster at the End of This Book, Jon Stone (One of the earliest books I can remember reading . . . and re-reading.)

● Topsy Turvy Land, Donna Shepherd (Introduces the youngest children to a classic theme: a monkey getting into trouble.)

● Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak (The exuberance of the artwork captured my imagination.)

● Christina Katerina and the Box, Patricia Lee Gauch (My brother and I hoarded cardboard boxes for years as a result of this book, and our back yard never lacked for fortifications.)

● Curious George, H.A. Rey (The classic monkey mischief title. We should all have a man in the yellow hat to look after us.)

Chapter Books

● Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, Donald Sobol (Inspired me to start my own detective agency at age 12. Not many clients, though.)

● The Emperor's Winding Sheet, Jill Paton Walsh (A boy's adventure full of historical drama and passion set at the fall of Constantinople, 1453.)

● The Little Leftover Witch, Florence Laughlin (My wife's favorite from childhood, now hard to find.)

● The Emperor's New Clothes, Hans Christian Andersen (A story for kids that teaches a very grown-up lesson.)

● Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (Classic adventure from a genius of English letters.)

Martha & Bill Boyd

Both grew up in Mississippi and have lived and ministered in Austin, Texas, for the past 11 years, now at All Saints Presbyterian Church.

Picture Books

● Roxaboxen, Alice McLerran

● The Bee Tree and Thank you, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco

● Chanticleer and the Fox Chaucer, illustrated and adapted by Barbara Cooney

● The Caboose Who Got Loose and Farewell to Shady Glade, Bill Peet

● Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Virginia Lee Burton

Chapter Books

● The Wilderking Trilogy, Jonathan Rogers (A weaving of the biblical Davidic narrative into a story of medieval England.)

● Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl (Engaging story, endearing father-son relationship, a good platform from which to talk about ethical issues like stealing, trespassing, greed vs. generosity.)

● The Child's Story Bible, Catherine Vos (One of the best summaries of redemptive history available to children and adults.)

● Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

● Hank the Cowdog series, John Erickson (Helped our children appreciate the beauty of humorous understatement and irony.)

J. Budziszewski

Professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of books including How to Stay Christian in College.

● The children's stories of George MacDonald, especially The Wise Woman, or The Lost Princess: A Double Story. I know no better parable of sanctification in a children's book. His second-best is probably the much longer At the Back of the North Wind. These works can be read to great profit and enjoyment by adults as well.

Janie B. Cheaney

WORLD contributor and author of children's books including The Middle of Somewhere.

Picture Books

● I'm not up on recent picture books, but when my kids were young, our far-ahead favorites were the Church Mouse books by Graham Oakley, especially The Church Mice Spread Their Wings. Second choice would be Tintin: though not technically picture books: they're certainly full of pictures. My personal favorite: The Broken Ear. When they were very little, we liked the Anno books, particularly Anno's Journey.

Chapter Books

● The Story of the Treasure Seekers, E. Nesbit (Published in 1899 and enjoyed by C.S. Lewis, this hilarious first volume of a trilogy follows six siblings.)

● The Cricket in Times Square , George Selden (Chester Cricket chirps his little songs in the busiest place on earth: charming and unpretentious.)

● The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier (New title: Escape From Warsaw. Heart-stirring story of three Polish children, plus one orphan, attempting to re-unite with their parents after WWII.)

● Holes, Louis Sacher (Quirky and original.)

● The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White (The training of young King Arthur, who doesn't know he'll be king: rich in humor, characterization, detail.)

Nick & Arla Eicher

The Eichers live in Missouri with their four children. Nick is WORLD's publisher.

Picture Books

● Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

● Where's My Teddy?, Jez Alborough

● You Are Special series, Max Lucado

● Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel

● If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Laura Joffe Numeroff

Chapter Books

● Mr. Popper's Penguins, Richard and Florence Atwater

● My Father's Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett

● Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

● The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

● Detectives in Togas Henry Winterfeld

David & Sheri Freeland

The Freelands live in Asheville, N.C. David is WORLD's art director; Sheri is a full-time mom for their two little boys.

Picture Books

● Tails, Matthew Van Fleet

● Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin Jr.

● Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

● Go, Dog. Go!, P.D. Eastman

● The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, Kenneth N. Taylor

Greg & Mary Jane Grooms

In charge of Hill House, a Christian study center in "We've read countless books out loud to our five children from birth onwards just for the pleasure of it, and still do!"

Picture Books

● The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown

● Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey

● Andrew Henry's Meadow, Doris Burn

● Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney

● Willy the Wimp, Anthony Browne

Chapter Books

● Nightbirds on Nantucket, Joan Aiken

● The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

● Number the Stars, Lois Lowry

● A Story Like the Wind, Laurens Van der Post

● Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, Gerald Durrell

Denis & Margie Haack

The Minnesota-based Haacks are co-directors of the Ransom They write, "The magic found in a really good children's book is that all ages will love it. These are books we delight in sharing with anyone, any time."

Picture Books

● The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown

● Bunny Cakes, Rosemary Wells

● Charlie Needs a Cloak, Tomie dePaola

● Our Friends at Maple Hill Farm, Alice and Martin Provensen

Chapter Books

● The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Michael Hague

● The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson

● The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, Kate DiCamillo

● The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate Dicamillo

● The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson

Angela Elwell Hunt

Author of The Tale of Three Trees and The True Princess.

Picture Books

● Nicholas Cricket, Joyce Maxner

● Weird Parents, Audrey Wood (For adults as well as children.)

● Joey, Jack Kent (Gentle instruction for moms, humor for kids.)

● Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect, Richard Schneider

● Argyle, Barbara Brooks Wallace (A lovely reminder that fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.)

Chapter Books

● Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

● The Incredible Journey, Shelia Burnford

● Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

● Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Beverly Cleary

● The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

Melanie Jeschke

Homeschooling mother of nine and author of The Oxford Chronicles, including Inklings.

Picture Books

● Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, Jan Brett (A beautifully illustrated tale that emphasizes the importance of character over outward appearance.)

● The Tale of Three Trees, Angela Elwell Hunt (A parable showing that God will fulfill the desires of our heart, but perhaps differently than we've envisioned.)

● Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color, Mary O'Neill (accessible, vibrant poems)

● All the Places to Love, Patricia MacLachlan (luminous illustrations and warm sentiment about a loving family)

● Love Is a Special Way of Feeling, Joan Walsh Anglund (another warm and cozy book)

Chapter Books

● The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

● The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

● The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (charming insights into human nature)

● A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (evokes a rich familial love)

● Black Beauty, Anna Sewell (engaging animal story replete with spiritual values and lessons)

Harrison Scott Key

WORLD correspondent, playwright, and faculty dean at Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Mississippi.

Picture Books

● The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown

● The Boy Who Loved Words, Roni Schotter and Giselle Potter (I read this to my daughter all the time. The hero is overwhelmed by the metaphorical power of words.)

● Pinocchio (Little Golden Book), Steffi Fletcher and Al Dempster (Powerfully affected me when I was little: ideas of transfiguration, transformation, sin and justice are all in this story.)

● Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, Robert Barry (A Christmas book that I read all year round.)

● The Littlest Angel, Charles Tazewell

Chapter Books

● A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle (Awakened my intellect, not just my imagination.)

● The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, J.R.R. Tolkien (I got lost in Middle Earth and never came back.)

● 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne

● The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (When I read this book, I was too young to get it, but I knew there was something there to get, and that was all I needed.)

● Watership Down, Richard Adams (The first book that shook me down to my bones and told me literature was a real thing.)

Bret Lott

Author of Jewel and A Song I Knew by Heart.

● I would have to name Bartholomew and the Oobleck as my all time favorite children's book-it's a Dr. Seuss book, and tells the story of a sensible young boy who helps save the kingdom from an arrogant, thoughtless king's desire to be greater than nature. I read it probably a thousand times when I was a kid, and treasured the book itself-the thing the book was: a story I could hold in my hand.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

Maryland-based author, pastor's wife.

Picture Books

● The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

● Pierre, Maurice Sendak

● Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett

● Small in the Saddle, Mark Alan Stamaty

● Yellow and Pink, William Steig

Chapter Books

● A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

● Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

● Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder

● The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

● The Neverending Story, Michael Ende

Alice O'Ferrall

Co-owner and director emeritus of Alpine Camp for Boys in Alabama, and grandmother of 1-year-old twin girls.

Picture Books

● I Am a Bunny, Ole Risom and Richard Scarry

● TallyHo, Pinkerton!, Steven Kellog

● Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

● The Tale of Three Trees, Angela Elwell Hunt

● A Hole is to Dig, Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak

Chapter Books

● Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

● The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White

● Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

● The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

● The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Marvin & Susan Olasky

Marvin is WORLD's editor-in-chief; Susan is a WORLD senior writer and children's book author.

Picture Books

● Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Richard Scarry

● Ernest in the Wild West, E. Libenzi (out of print)

● The Relatives Came, Cynthia Rylant

● The Bed Book, Sylvia Plath

● The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

Chapter Books

● Redwall series, Brian Jacques

● The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

● The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (great for reading aloud)

● Wambu series, Piet Prins

● Hank the Cowdog series, John R. Erickson

Rob & Christine Patete

Rob is WORLD's assistant art director; Christine is an elementary school art teacher. They have three children.

Picture Books

● The Bedtime Rhyme, Walter Wangerin Jr.

● The Treasure, Uri Shulevitz

● Everyone Poops, Taro Gomi

● Chrysanthemum, Kevin Henkes

● Love You Forever, Robert Munsch

Chapter Books

● The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

● Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

● Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

● The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

● The Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Noël Piper

Author of Most of All, Jesus Loves You.

Picture Books

● Are You My Mother? and Go, Dog. Go!, P.D. Eastman

● Any book by Richard Scarry (Lively fill-up-the-page art and humor that both 3-year-olds and parents enjoy.)

● If I Should Die (now retitled Heaven Is a Wonderful Place), Joanne and Benjamin Marxhausen (Good for children who are facing death-their own or someone they love.)

● 3 in 1: A Picture of God, Joanne and Benjamin Marxhausen and Ed Koehler (An excellent explanation of the Trinity.)

● Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim's Progress, Oliver Hunkin (Fantastic artwork.)

Chapter Books

Some that are good for boys, since it's harder to find good ones that appeal to boys:

● Kirk's Law, Robert Newton Peck

● The Archives of Anthropos, John White

● The Dragon King Saga series, Stephen Lawhead

● The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Ed & Molly Powell

The Powells live in Tennessee with their four children; Ed is a software company CEO and Molly a former Christian school principal.

Picture Books

● Andrew Henry's Meadow, Doris Burn

● The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf

● What Do You Say, Dear?, Sesyle Joslin

● Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson

● Frog and Toad series, Arnold Lobel

Chapter Books

● The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

● Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham

● Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard

● The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by E.H. Shepard

● Little Men, Louisa May Alcott

Russ & Ruth Pulliam

Russ is associate editor of the Indianapolis Star and chairman of the board of WORLD; he and Ruth have homeschooled six children.

Picture Books

● The Priest with Dirty Clothes, R.C. Sproul

● The Treasure Tree, John and Cindy Trent and Gary and Norma Smalley

● From Arapesh to Zuni, A Book of Bibleless Peoples, Karen Lewis (Wycliffe Bible Translators)

● Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss

● Jungle Doctor series, Paul White

Chapter Books

● Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

● Annie Henry series, Susan Olasky

● Sugar Creek Gang series, Paul Hutchens

● Chip Hilton series, Coach Clair Bee

● Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

Matt & Karen Ristuccia

Matt pastors Westerly Road Church in Princeton, N.J.; Karen is the principal of the Wilberforce School.

Picture Books

● The Oxcart Man, Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney (Deftly captures the simple pleasures of passing seasons and a father's ingenuity in caring for his family.)

● Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown (You cannot forget, nor can you beat, the deepening cadences of this "tuck-you-into-bed" book.)

● Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett (Imagine weather as food and food as weather. Definitely a dad's book.)

● The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats (One of Karen's favorites. The marvel of a snowfall well captured.)

● Lyle the Crocodile, Bernard Waber

Chapter Books

● Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (The unexpected blessing of God's providence made plain through the impact of an orphan girl on a home and a community.)

● The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (Perfect as a read-aloud as well as an invitation to enter the matchless world of The Lord of the Rings.)

● Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome

● Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl (A clever and devoted father rescues his family from the threat of three evil farmers.)

● The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (Mole, Badger, Rat, Toad, and others uncover the wonder of the everyday.)

Lauren Winner

Author of Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity.

Picture Books

● Roy Makes a Car, Mary E. Lyons

● Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell and Lillian Hoban

● Click Clack Moo, Doreen Cronin

● Give Me Grace, Cynthia Rylant

● Who Is Coming to Our House?, Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff

Chapter Books

● The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

● A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

● From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

● The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt Patricia McLachlan

● Frog and Toad series, Arnold Lobel

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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