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.

Becky Cooper

Sunday Morning by Judith Viorst. It used to make me laugh out loud.

As a smaller kid I loved Ox-Cart Man, which was originally a poem from the New Yorker by Donald Hall.


oddly enough, I was just researching a childhood favorite this morning: "The Ox-Cart Man" by Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney. It's simple and beautiful, and it reminds me of fall.


"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst -- the only children's book I've ever read that says, quite honestly, some days just suck. And it's a good lesson for kids (of all ages) to know and understand...


Without a doubt, "Where the Wild Things Are" is a must for kids. Being the kind of boy that liked to get into trouble every now and again, I would oftentimes get sent to my room. The main character in the book, Max, gets sent to his room and turns the punishment into a forest adventure. I had read the book many times when I was a kid and soon found my imagination going wild whenever I'd get sent to my room. I still have a wonderfully active imagination now as an adult and have "Where the Wild Things Are" to thank, at least in part, for it.

In my opinion, there are few things more valuable that a parent can give their child than an active imagination.


The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, hands down. This book is brilliant in inspiring kids and encouraging interaction with the adults. The mystery is of the context of these strange pictures and the cryptic captions alongside them. The illustrations are beautiful (as are all of Chris van Allsburg's other books, like Jumanji) and just like the best questions in life, there is no correct explanation or answer to describe them. This is really a timeless, ageless book that I can't recommend enough. I hope you enjoy!

Amy Sisson

Although it's a recent book, which I therefore came to know as an adult, Ian Falconer's "Olivia" is probably my favorite picture book. Falconer manages to infuse Olivia, a feisty young pig, with tremendous personality and expression even though the drawings themselves are relatively simple. Each page has hidden humor. My favorite is when Olivia decides to try on ALL her clothes, plus perhaps some of her mother's. In the lower-left corner of the two-page spread stands Olivia, stuffed into ONE leg of her mother's pantyhose. I didn't even see it the first few times I read the book.


One of my favorite books I read to my children is "Manners Can Be Fun" by Munro Leaf. It features simple line drawing pictures and a simple way of explaining what manners are and why we should treat each other well. Towards the end, the author gives silly names to children who misbehave in certain ways such as "A Me-First", "A Touchy", and, "The Pigs." Bringing up those characters in situations where my kids needed correcting was a great way to help them correct their behavior and still keep the mood light. Reading books like this one is a great way to teach proper behavior without just going with the "wait until they mess up then yell at them" school of parenting.

Dena Shunra

Trinka Hakes Noble & Stephen Kellogg's The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash, for its storytelling style (it's told backwards: along the lines of, "nothing happened at school, except the Boa ate the wash" "why did it eat the wash?" "Because the pigs scared it away"... from the end to the beginning, with the wonderful Kellogg illustrations.

Karla Kuskin's The Philharmonic Orchestra Gets Dressed. The transformation of the mundane to the practice of art is awesome (it brings tears to my eyes every time).

And everything by Robert Muncsh. Every. single. thing.

Kate Chicago

I have to say Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It is such a sweet book to read at bed time and always meant a lot in my family. I still have my copy and tear up thinking about how true it is.


My 4 and 2 year old love reading. To gain an appreciation of various subjects, and to make my daughter and son well rounded in various subjects, the following are our family's "Top 5"

1. Fireman Small by Lois Lenski: She has a full series on the exploits of Mr. Small. This series goes into amazing detail for a children's book from parts of a fire engine's pump to roof top ventilation! (I'm a firefighter, so it helps them understand what I do.)

2. Frederick by Leo Leoni: Amazing graphics and a wonderful message in the story of 5 field mice waiting out winter that everyone has something valuable to contribute to society.

3. Ferdinand by Munro Leaf: We love this story of the bull that wouldn't fight because of its international flair. My children love using the Spanish vocabulary.

4. Duck for President by Doreen Cronin: This is part of a series on duck and animals at a barn. We love it because at a basic level it is amusing for children and its satire is hysterical for adults.

5. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis: Everyone grew up making pretend things from old appliance boxes. This is our story. My kids love it.



Josh Swartzlander

Where the Wild Things Are.

Also, Goodnight Moon.


You Can Do It Sam, by Amy Hest.

B/c we adults are so prone to take for granted menial things which our children so fear, and it's great for children to know their fears are not uncommon and to motivate them to overcome them.

And in a funny way, it reminds me as a parent of the same lesson.

Aura Mae

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972)

If you don't love it, I'll eat my hat. It was one of my favorites as a child, and my kids loved it. The illustrations and text are fun for kids, but the unspoken undertones are hilarious for adults. "My dad says please don't come pick him up at work again." It's an important lesson for kids to learn that some days stink. Even in Australia.


"Mommy" by Maurice Sendak, author of "Where the Wild Things Are" (another great one).

It's a pop-out and truly an engineering marvel. My boys love it especially around Halloween.


"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" by Laura Joffe Numeroff are a blast. Silly stories and great art. To this day, with my kids now 18 & 15, if someone starts getting carried away with "If ... Then ..." worrying, we'll chime in, "If you give a moose a muffin."

Sarah H.

Tikki tikki tembo, by Arlene Mosel.
I can still remember the most exciting bit of the story 20 years later: "Tikki tikki tembo no sa rembo chari bari ruchi pip peri pembo has fallen in the well!" This one is a great book to read to a child.
It's a fun and meaningful story about getting past jealous feelings and learning to recognize and love your own strengths. The art is beautiful. The story is based on a Chinese folk tale, and I didn't realize it at age 4, but this book turned me into a big fan of ancient Chinese literature.


I Lost My Bear by Jules Feiffer. The story of a girl who loses her bear and how she finds it. The interactions with her sister and parents are hilarious and true to life.



The rhyme is perfect.
The drawings are exquisite.
The story is classic.
It's so much a part of our culture that it transcends the "favorite" category.

barbara linsenmeyer

I would suggest The Little Engine Who Could. I still think of it whenever I say "I can't" and when I was going through some serious physical rehabilitation that little engine pushed me up the hill. That is a book influencing the child in every grown up.


• Miss Twiggley's Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox.

• The Mitten by Jan Brett

• Weslandia by Paul Fleischman