I love our living room. It is in the middle of the house with four interior walls. What this means in practical terms is plenty of room for bookshelves. Ikea anyone?
It has taken me several years of trial and error to find books worthy of our family library shelf space. I am a firm believer in only having the best books on our shelves. Books we come back to read again and again. Books we share with our friends because they are just that good. Books I want my kids to
take with them when they have a home of their own buy for their own bookshelves someday.
One strategy I use when choosing books to include in our library is building a collection by authors we love. Here are six of our family’s favorite authors.
Shirley Hughes is an author and illustrator of over 70 books. Many of them are children’s picture books, but also a good number of chapter books. Even though she has was since 1960, I had never heard of her before adulthood. Our first introduction to this marvelous author was with her most loved book, Dogger.
Shirley Hughes has spent a lifetime observing children. In a video on her website, she explains how the observation of real children inspired her illustrations. The body language and facial expressions are remarkably lifelike. I find myself smiling at her characters as I do my own children. Her pictures tell just as much of the story as her text.
The stories Hughes tells are about the everyday. But they are told in such a delightful way. Almost as if your grandma were telling you a story. Some of her most beloved books are Alfie and Annie, Dogger, and Out and About: A Book of First Poems.
The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook is my four-year old’s favorite. We especially love the story about camping out with dad and having a surprise visitor in the middle of the night. We read it again and again.
If you have yet to discover the joy of Shirley Hughes’ stories and illustrations I encourage you to check them out next time you are at the library. Perhaps you will be like us and simply have to search out all of her beautiful creations and add them to your home library!
DoggerOut and About: A First Book of PoemsThe Big Alfie and Annie Rose StorybookThe Big Alfie Out of Doors StorybookAlfie Gets in FirstAlfie’s ChristmasA Year of Stories and Things to DoAn Evening at Alfie’s
2. Bill Peet
Another children’s author I discovered as an adult is Bill Peet. One day, another mom at the library noticed I had picked up one of his books.
“We love those books,” she said with a smile. It turns out; we do too!
Bill Peet worked as an animator for Walt Disney, drawing scenes from favorites such as Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty. Later on, he was responsible for the entire script of One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone.
The whole time he was working for Walt Disney, however, he dreamed of writing children’s stories of his own. He carried many of his characters and stories on sketchpads and in his head for years!
He wrote some tales in verse such as Huge Harrold, The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg, and Smokey. Others just have a fantastic story like our favorites, Encore for Eleanor, about an old circus elephant who finds a way to make people smile even after her circus days end, or Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent who finds something truly exciting to do!
If you find you like his books, and you will, be sure to check out his Bill Peet: An Autobiography, a Caldecott Honor Book.
Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea SerpentSmokeyThe WhingdingdillyJennifer and JosephineEliThe Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg (Sandpiper Books)Bill Peet: An AutobiographyHubert’s Hair Raising Adventure (Sandpiper Books)Huge HaroldEncore for EleanorJethro and Joel Were a TrollNo Such Things
3. Lois Lenski
Louis Lenski became a household name for us while we were reading Strawberry Girl aloud. Since then, my daughter has delved into her other books excitedly.
Many avid readers will have heard of Strawberry Girl or Blue Ridge Billy, but Lois Lenski’s writing career was both extensive and diverse. She wrote a series of “small books” for young children with Mr. Small as the main character. The Little Sailboat and The Little Airplane are included in this series.
The desire to want to show children at a certain time and a certain place gave her vision for her regional stories which include, Strawberry Girl, Houseboat Girl, Texas Tomboy, and so many others that forever entomb the experiences of the American child. I love the realistic relational drama. Lenski deals with real life in a straight forward, hopeful manner.
If you are on the fence about beginning one of Lenski’s books, hop on over! The dialog takes a bit to master, but the stories and delight from your children will make it well worth your effort.
Policeman Small (Lois Lenski Books)Cowboy Small (Lois Lenski Books)Strawberry Girl 60th Anniversary Edition (Trophy Newbery)The Little AirplaneHouseboat GirlIndian Captive: The Story of Mary JemisonPrairie SchoolTexas TomboyCotton in My SackThe Little Sailboat (Lois Lenski Books)Blue Ridge Billy
4. Grace Lin
I happened to pick up Where the Mountain Meets the Moon for Ruth (daughter, age 8) at the library. I almost never take notice of an author unless the book is fantastic. Well, as you can probably guess, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was amazing! Ruth has read it three times, and we now own a copy.
Grace Lin is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. Her mother and herself are featured in her first book. She has two sisters who were very offended that they were not mentioned in The Ugly Vegetables. They made her promise to include them in future books about their family experiences.
Once Grace Lin was on my radar, I began to notice that she was the author of other favorites such as Dim Sum for Everyone! and Kite Flying. Her illustrations are vivid and exciting. I love the interesting textures and bright colors of her drawings. Each page makes me feel like I want to jump into the story!
I look for such timeless books to include in our family library because everyone enjoys them and we read them over and over again.
Where the Mountain Meets the MoonThe Ugly VegetablesDim Sum for Everyone!Kite FlyingWhen the Sea Turned to SilverStarry River of the SkyLing & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! (Passport to Reading Level 3)Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather (Passport to Reading. Ling and Ting)Ling & Ting Share a Birthday (Passport to Reading)The Year of the Dog (A Pacy Lin Novel)Dumpling Days (A Pacy Lin Novel)The Year of the Rat (A Pacy Lin Novel)Grace Lin (Your Favorite Authors)&
5. James Herriot
James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, who wrote the All Creatures Great and Small series as well as several picture books for children. His veterinary practice spanned the great changes of the 20th century — from working on mostly large farm animals with ancient remedies to mostly small animal practice with the new antibiotics, Wight certainly had plenty of life experiences to draw from.
It is nice to think of All Creatures Great and Small as an autobiographical work, but the truth is, it is only loosely based on his life in Yorkshire. Even so, the picture books and novel series have been a delight to children and adults for nigh on 50 years.
As for the full length novels, they are very appropriate as a family read alouds, as you may want to edit some of the “strong” British language, or for older children interested in the challenge. Full of sweet stories of a country vet lovingly caring for both the animals and farmers in his practice, and his family.
If you are interested in a more accurate account of James Wight’s life, you may enjoy the biography written by his son entitled The Real James Herriot by James Wight.
All Creatures Great and SmallAll Things Bright and Beautiful (All Creatures Great and Small)All Things Wise and Wonderful (All Creatures Great and Small)Every Living Thing (All Creatures Great and Small)The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My FatherThe James Herriot CollectionJames Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and SmallThe Market Square DogThe Christmas Day KittenOnly One WoofBonny’s Big Day
6. Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Alexander is yet another children’s author I did not discover until I had children. His works are best saved for pre-teens and teens. While they are not hard to read, the content will mean the most to older kids.
Alexander wanted to be a writer and worked to go to college. However, he left at the start of WWII to join the army. He had hoped he would experience more adventure and learn more than he had in college.
While adventure was not forthcoming, he did spend time in Wales. The castles, stories, language, and beauty of this country later inspired his most beloved works, The Chronicles of Prydain.
I loved this series. I loved that a fantasy book written in the 20th century felt so much like a fairy tale. I loved the characters who grew in stature, spirit, wisdom, and humility through the stories. I felt like I did too.
Alexander wrote many other books for children set with different cultural backdrops. The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen is considered one of his finest works. A lovely tale from the far east, Prince Jen is sent on a quest and discovers his true destiny. The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha starts with a bang and doesn’t stop. Selfish Lukas-Kasha, who won’t work, suddenly finds himself in a strange land with no friends. Again, the main character grows and becomes more of a person than he was at the beginning.
The Iron Ring is perfect for a book group discussion with other kids or just your family. Those who like mythology from different parts of the world will want to add this book to their home library shelves.
Who are your favorite, not-to-be-missed authors?
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