Welcome back to our series of posts on our favourite books for children of different ages to give you some gift ideas for the holiday season. In our last post we covered our favourite board books for infants and toddlers and this time around we will focus on our favourite picture books for pre-school to early elementary school aged children.
This is a tricky category for us to talk about as we have limited space and could easily list hundreds of titles. So, we have narrowed it down to just a few of the stand out books and series from recent years that you may not have heard of.
The "Ladybug Girl" series of books by David Soman & Jacky Davis (Penguin Group, 2008 to 2011)
Including the titles "Ladybug Girl", "Ladybug Girl and Bumblee Boy", "Ladybug Girl at the Beach", "Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad" and the brand new "Adventures of Bumblebee Boy", this is one of the most consistently great picture book series in recent years. Following the adventures of Lulu and her "Ladybug Girl" superhero persona, each book contains a charming story with a non-preachy lesson about things like playing with others, courage, compromise, and admitting mistakes. The illustrations are always incredible, expertly capturing the innocence and playfulness of the characters.
"Me... Jane" by Patrick McDonnell (Little Brown and Company, 2011)
We can't say enough about how incredible this book is! It tells the story of chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall as a young child, her love of nature, and following her dream of helping animals. The narrative of this book is very simple, but there is so much feeling, heart, and inspiration packed in that it feels like you've read a novel in just a few sentences. McDonnell's art, adorable as always, is perfectly suited for this tale of childhood wonder. If you are looking for a book to inspire a young mind, or an adult one for that matter, look no further.
"The Circus Ship" by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press, 2009)
Easily one of the best artists working in the picture book business today, Christ Van Dusen's books are always high atop our list of favourite books. With its Suess-like rhymes and vibrant artwork, "The Circus Ship" is a perfect example of his immense skill. When a circus boat carrying all sorts of exotic animals such as an elephant, a giraffe, a lion, a monkey, and more ends up sinking, the animals all swim to a nearby small fishing village in Maine. Soon, the mean circus ringmaster arrives to collect the animals and the villagers come to their rescue, hiding them in very creative ways (depicted in one of the best two-page art spreads in any book). If you enjoy this title, also check out his great "If I Built a Car" and the new release "King Hugo's Huge Ego".
The "Mungo" series of books by Timothy Knapman & Adam Stower (Puffin Books, 2005 to 2008)
Including the titles "Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates", "Mungo and the Spiders from Space" and "Mungo and the Dinosaur Island", this is a series that is perfectly suited for all adventure-loving children. Each book is about a young boy named Mungo who reads one of his favourite picture books. For various reasons, he is suddenly transported inside the book and becomes part of the story. These books are full of bright and colourful illustrations and have stories loaded with imagination. Whether your child likes pirates, dinosaurs, or aliens, there's a Mungo book out there for them.
"Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of the Girl Who Floated" by Florence Perry Heide & Lane Smith (Random House, 2009)
A humorous take on a Princess fairy tale, "Princess Hyacinth" tells the story of a young princess who has a bit of a problem: if she isn't tied down or weighted down, she floats away. Of course, this problem also means that she is not allowed to go outside and play freely without her heavily weighted Princess clothes. One day she encounters a balloon salesman and convinces him to let her float along with his balloons. Of course things don't go as planned and hijinks ensue. A wonderful fairy-tale story with very silly illustrations by Lane Smith.
We could go on and on and on, but we'll have to stop there. If you are looking for further ideas, take a look at anything written by Oliver Jeffers, Julia Donaldson, Mo Willems, or Melanie Watt who are all amazing and consistently put out absolutely perfect picture books.
Stay tuned for our upcoming posts where we will cover beginner books for early readers, novels for middle-grade readers and young adults, and some of our favourite Christmas-themed books.
Now go read a book with your kids...