If you grew up loving Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” books, or Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” series, look for books by the following contemporary authors to introduce your young child to books that blend silliness, creativity and important life lessons. The best part? You’ll enjoy reading them as much as your child will like hearing them.
My sister, who is a reading specialist, deserves credit for recommending the Skippyjon Jones series by Judy Schachner. Loosely based on the quirky habits of one of her cats when he was a kitten, each of Schachner’s Skippyjon books follows a Siamese cat who really wants to be a Chihuahua, as he escapes into imaginary worlds.
More recently, Schachner has begun a series of realistic books based on the adventures of her real-life cats. She read one, “Bits and Pieces,” when she came to our local library, and my son, age 3 1/2 at the time, was so inspired that, on the way home, he began dictating his own story, about our cat, called “Luke and the Scary Dogs.”
The king of silly stories, Mo Willems has a talent for being simultaneously irreverent and sweet. It’s hard to go wrong by picking up a Willems book, which range from board books featuring the Pigeon aimed at very young children, to his “Elephant & Piggie” series, geared towards beginning readers. My son is so enamored of the Elephant and Piggie books that he memorizes them and insists on playing one of the parts when I read them aloud. This, along with his growing understanding of phonics, has spring-boarded into him asking me to point out the specific words that are being said. I could not come up with a better example of enjoyment leading to a desire to read.
When we first picked “Olivia” at random off the library shelves, we had no idea that this pig with attitude would become one of our favorites. Soon we were grabbing up every Ian Falconer book we could find featuring the confident, strong-willed grade-school-age pig. My son loved “Olivia and the Missing Toy,” with its air of mystery, but my favorite has to be “Olivia and the Fairy Princesses” for its message about gender roles and being yourself. Like the Schachner and Willems, Falconer’s books are full of humor that both parents and kids will enjoy.