Contest: What’s Your Favorite Children’s Book, and Why?

I am scheduled to appear on Good Morning America tomorrow (Wed., Oct. 3), at about 8:30 a.m. E.D.T., to talk about my new kids’ book, The Boy With Two Belly Buttons.

I have no delusions about my chances of success as a children’s author. (They are slim.) Nor do I have any delusions about why I, a first-time kids’-book author, have this fantastic opportunity to go on TV to talk about my book. (It is because of Freakonomics.) But just because I am not deluded does not mean I am also not grateful — which I am, very much so, both for the success of Freakonomics and for the GMA opportunity.

I grew up in a house where reading was beloved, but where children’s picture books were scarce. So I fell in love with them as an adult, reading them to my own kids over the past few years. To me, reading a good picture book is every bit as satisfying as reading a great novel; I constantly marvel at the craft, creativity, and especially the subversiveness of the best picture books. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Empty Pot, by Demi. Extraordinary illustrations, and a great parable about humility and honesty.

Although I’ve never read Shrek, I love a lot of William Steig‘s books. There is a lot more text than in most picture books, and it’s far weirder. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is pretty great, but I prefer the similar and slightly less-good Solomon the Rusty Nail, since my own son’s name is Solomon. I also love Spinky Sulks.

May I Bring a Friend?, by Beatrice de Regniers, and illustrated by Beni Montresor. A deserved classic, sweet and wry; and I am partial to rhyme.

The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Like I said, I am partial to rhyme. The Gruffalo is by far my kids’ favorite book to shout out the rhymes as we read — and isn’t that really what it’s all about?

I am interested to know your favorite children’s books, and why. I am always on the lookout for new books for the kidlets, so I will send a signed copy of The Boy With Two Belly Buttons to the five commenters who write in with the best-sounding suggestions.


I don't know if they are published here in the US or not, since I got them in England:

"Princess Smartypants" and "Prince Cinders," by Babette Cole. They are nontraditional versions of fairy tales, but they are funny and not heavy handed. You have to like a hero whose coat of arms reads "Courage In Tesco," or a princess who comes into the throne room with mucky boots and a pitchfork.

We also love "The Gruffalo." Anyone for scrambled snake?


The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster Great lessons about people who are different than you, boredom (getting stuck in the doldrums) and just a fun way to look at words and numbers. Plus, any story that starts out with a mystery package and a life size car in one's bedroom is a great kid story. I actually still read it now and then.


My all time favorite is Where the Wild Things Are. It was an old book even when I was a kid, but I still love the pictures and the story!


"The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit" is great. Mole gets pooped on his head and goes to find out who did it. Every animal he confronts shows him what their poop looks like by pooping on the spot. Really demystifies the subject for kids.


My kids and I also love "The Gruffalo." Have you read "The Gruffalo's Child?" It's the story of the gruffalo's daughter, who has grown up hearing stories about this terrifying monstrous mouse, decides to venture out and see what it's all about.

I would also recommend anything by Robert Munsch. He's a terrific storyteller who takes every day situations that kids experience and then adds a twist - often making the adults look silly in the process. For example, in "Stephanie's Ponytail," the children (& teachers) at school start to mimic whatever hairstyle Stephanie wears, despite her efforts to be original. In the end, she tricks them by telling them that tomorrow she'll shave her head. You can imagine the outcome.


"Mouse TV"......


"Mike Mulligan & his steam shovel" by Virginia Lee Burton

It is a story of loyalty and friendship, and has similarities to "The Giving Tree" by Shiel Silverstein.


My daughter's love for Knufflebunny by Mo Willems eventually led us to his better known series, starring the annoying (but endearing) pigeon who wants nothing more than to drive the bus. Knufflebunny, in our opinion, stands alone at the top of the heap though. Great drawings laid over familiar pictures of a Brooklyn neighborhood, an exasperated father doing the best he can, an all-knowing mother, the precocious Trixie, and the indispensable Knufflebunny. A regular read for several years...


Two classics come to mind so quickly, it's not even close -- and they're both Margaret Wise Brown favorites:


Runaway Bunny is so fundamentally emotional, so honest about love and family, that it gets me even to this day. And Goodnight Moon is deceptively charming... poetic and thoughtful despite being so simplistic. My wife and I are having our first child next February, and these are the books I absolutely cannot wait to read to my future son. As an only child, I always found comfort in those books. Especially Runaway Bunny.

I went from more simple books such as these into "older" books which aren't necessarily for kids (PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH and WRINKLE IN TIME were among them). But as far as pure "children's" books go, Bunny and Moon are still my favorites.


Absolutely "Miss Nelson Is Missing!" by Harry Allard and James Marshall. My parents read it to me when I was about 5 but it wasn't until a year later, reading it to myself that I discovered what actually happened to Miss Nelson. It was really my first memory of figuring out the hidden parts of really good books.


I have too many to write so I'll pick the best...
My 4 1/2 year old is way advanced in reading so we're doing chapter books now - he really loves the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne.
I like them because each book covers a different part of history or mythology as the kids search for various things and become "master librarians".

I liked reading anything by Sandra Boynton to him and am now reading them to my daughter (almost 1 1/2). Have you listened to and read along with "Dog Train"? Great silly songs by Spin Doctors, Phenomenauts, Bacon Brothers, Weird Al, and more... with lyrics.

My favorite book as a child was "Katy and the Big Snow" by Virginia Lee Burton. My mom found it in the attic and gave it to me so now it's one of my boy's favorites too. We like the detailed little pictures through the book.

We also like Kevin Henkes a whole lot. Especially "Owen" as that's my boy's name. Great stories and sense of humor as well as illustrations.


Scott W

I've always enjoyed The Story of Ferdinand, about a recruited-for-bullfighting bull who would rather smell the flowers. It's a wonderful book for kids, and the illustrations are detailed and expressive. It's a classic, and if you haven't read it, you're missing out.

I also like Wee Gillis, about a Scottish boy torn between two sides of his family, those from the lowlands, and those from the highlands. It's great.

Gray Dougherty

I have a few favorite children's books. I was actually having this conversation with my friends at dinner last night.

First, "The Giving Tree" is my all time favorite. The entire story is about a boy and a tree, but the relationship implications are profound. It makes me cry every time I read it, even now. Shel Silverstein books are amazing.

Second, "Where the Wild Things Are" is a great ride for any child or adult (I see it's already been mentioned). The illustrations are amazing!

Finally, "Harold and the Purple Crayon" is a fun look at a boy and his creativity.

I was never one for children's books with extremely overt agendas or moral lessons. I find that the most powerful children's books are those where the text and imagery so envelope the reading child that the character take on a life of their own, almost leaping off the page.


My daughter's favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. This is largely due to the fact that she can pretend to read it while looking at the pictures because she has memorized it. She will often give readings to her "stuffed friends" from the book. Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives by Kathi Appelt is another favorite. It is about the misadventures of Bubba and Beau before the relatives arrive.

geoff manne

One that almost no one else seems to have read:

When the Sky is Like Lace (

It's a little trippy, it has a great cadence and it uses words that delight (like "bimulous night" and "kissing gourami").

Also, Ogden Nash's Custard the Dragon ( a delight, even for parents (anyone who rhymes Belinda with window and gyrate with pirate gets points in my book).

Mike M.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf


Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

The illustrations are priceless, and it can help children with the potty training process.


I don't remember its title, but it was a book about hurricanes. Nearly every time we went to the library -which was at least once a week- I checked it out. My mom says I liked the diagrams. I guess some of us are nerds before we can read.


Who, Said Sue, Said Whoo? by Ellen Raskin

She is the writer and illustrator, and the book is filled with vibrant pictures and wordplay. You may be familiar with her books for older children (the Westing Game, the Tatooed Potato and Other Clues, the Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)), that all have language puzzles, humor and plot twists.

(I just looked it up and it's out of print (!), but can be bought used.)

A couple more:

Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi
Harold and the Purple Crayon series, Crockett Johnson


Island of the Skog by Stephen Kellog