Not Just For Kids (Part 1)

All across the US, people are mobilizing.  Some are going to visit family or friends, others are going off on a holiday, and others are preparing for the onslaught of guests.  For some reason, thinking of this reminded me of when various cousins came to visit, or we went to visit them, when I was growing up.

Some years back, when I was well into adulthood, I received a wonderful picture book about such visits as a gift.  Thinking of all the people traveling this week reminded me of it, so I checked to see whether it was still in print.  I was delighted to find that it was.


The Relatives Came, a Caldecott Honor Book, is about the shuffling and reshuffling involved in a visit from kinfolk.  Reading it took me back years.  I’m not sure what became of the book.  I think it’s in storage with others the boy outgrew. There are some real gems in that storage bin, books we enjoyed almost as much as he did.

(Part of the joy of a picture book is the art, and I thought the covers showed up better in the larger size.  Hence the unusual layout for today’s blog.)

One book I bought when the boy was little, I really bought for me.  Written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small, The Library is about a young girl whose favorite activity is reading.  I noticed it because that was my favorite activity when I was growing up.  This girl collects books through the years until she has so many that there’s barely room in her house for her (kind of like our house has the potential to be).  I was so struck by it that I sent copies to a couple of friends who were similarly enthralled by books.

A friend gave the boy the wonderful Six-Dinner Sid, which was written and illustrated by Inga Moore.  It’s the story of a crafty cat who, realizing the neighbors on his street don’t talk to each other, manipulates several of them into thinking he’s homeless and putting out foot for him nightly.  Of course his plot is discovered, so how can he keep getting his multiple meals?

The boy enjoyed wordless picture books.  If you haven’t seen any of these, they’re just what the name implies, picture books that have no text.  You make up your own story.

Alexandra Day’s Good Dog, Carl was a shower present from a friend. She followed it up with Carl’s Christmas for the boy’s first Christmas.  The Carl books are about the adventures of a rottweiler and his people’s baby.  The parents go out, leaving Carl to babysit, a strategy that gives Carl and the baby cover for independently exploring.


Yeah, okay, not a great parenting strategy, but it makes for a fun story!  We had a great time making up a tale for each book–except the boy expected the tale to be the same, no matter which parent was reading it!  This led to some confusion early on.

Less well known are Emily Arnold McCully’s mouse family books.  There are three or four, but we ran across only two, Picnic and First Snow. Caldecott medal winner McCully sends a family mice on a different adventure in each volume.  The pictures are fun, with plenty of room to create various stories to go with them.


We all loved Peter Spier, whose picture books sometimes had words and sometimes didn’t.  A lot of them are out of print now, but they’re wonderful if you run across one.  The first one we found was Rain, about two kids who explore their neighborhood in the rain.  We also enjoyed Christmas, which was about a family preparing for and then enjoying the holiday. Neither of these has text for the pictures.Unknown

When the boy was a baby, we all got into Jamberry, a rhythmic book about different kinds of berries.  We’ve given this book as a shower gift (yes, we give books to future parents; we know we’re geeks) many times.  The rhymes are fun, and babies seem to pick up rhythms even when they don’t understand all the words.  When the boy was in first grade, the dh read the book to his class and took a sampling of the berries mentioned in it to share with everyone.  (He did something similar with Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.)


These books gave us many, many hours of pleasure. They’ve also gotten me thinking, so I’ll be doing a similar post to this in December but featuring books for somewhat older children.

Have you read any of these books?  What picture books did you enjoy reading as a child or discovering as an adult? Please tell us a bit about the books you mention so we can all get an idea of what drew you to them.





Posted in , , ,



  • Jane says:

    Hello Nancy,
    I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned. My favorite book from childhood is Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” I also read Dr. Seuss, Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon” and the Berenstain Bears.

  • Hi Nancy! It’s so lovely to remember the books of my childhood. I loved The Night Before Christmas because it captures that feeling of breathless excitement so well. I loved reading to my kids an Aussie book, Hairy McLary from Donaldson’s Dairy, about a group of dogs who were all friends. It had a great rhythm to it and brilliant names like “Bottomley Potts, covered in spots” for the dalmatian. There must be hundreds of others. I loved “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “The Poky Little Puppy” because of the pictures. So many more! But I haven’t read any of the ones you listed, strangely. Must hunt some of them down.

  • Nancy, what a lovely post. And I loved seeing the covers in the larger size. Would you believe I don’t know ANY of those books? Actually I think in Australia we have a slightly more English feel to our children’s books. As you know, I’ve spent a lot of the last year clearing out the house and I came across some treasured children’s books including some gorgeous Oxford fairytale books that I can remember enchanting me when I was a toddler. The historical costumes absolutely fascinated me – clearly I was preparing for my future career. Another gorgeous book I found was the Dent book of Nursery Rhymes with exquisite illustrations (again full of historical costumes) from the Grahame sisters. I’d forgotten how much I loved that book. I blogged about it here:

    • Anna, thanks! You know I would enjoy the English flavor, and I love costumes. When I get to a device that has a bigger screen than my phone, I’ll go read that blog. 🙂

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, what a delicious book, Anna!! Love it! I’m not surprised you’d not heard of any of the books posted, but if you’ve got a few spare moments in the library some time, they are worth looking up for their illustrations alone. :>

      • Jeanne, have to say I love the look of Six Dinner Sid. I house sat for some Burmese cats (greedy little suckers) once who had the entire neighborhood convinced that their owners didn’t feed them!

  • flchen1 says:

    The only one you mentioned that we’ve read (and repeatedly 😉 ) was Jamberry–DS2 especially enjoyed that one!

    A few picture books that got read and re-read at our house–the Frances books by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Garth Williams… they are about a badger (?) named Frances and her friends and family. I think I must have read Bedtime for Frances aloud hundreds of times when DD was little… They also quite enjoyed Best Friends for Frances, and we still use the term “Thelma friend” for a friend that doesn’t always have your best interests at heart…

    My Truck Is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk… a friend gave us that when DS1 was young, and he loved the rhyming… we read that a TON too…

    For board books, we read the Sandra Boyton ones zillions of times (especially The Going to Bed Book) and we now love her song collections, especially Frog Trouble and Blue Moo…

    DS2 was especially in love with Leslie Patricelli’s board books, and we read the whole collection of little bald-headed baby stories zillions of times…

    And oh, DD LOVED the Richard Scarry books, and we still have a bunch of them. DS2’s favorite is still probably Berenstain Bears, and he’ll comfort-read stacks of them even though he’s old enough to read chapter books instead 🙂

    • Oops! Bungled my reply. It’s #7 below. Sorry!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      OMGosh, Fedora, I STILL know all the Boynton books by heart. Horns and Tails and In Between was a favorite as was Moo, Baa, La, La, La. My sons will sometimes still chorus “Three Singing Pigs say LA LA LA!!” usually in response to some mention of pigs in general. Grins.

      I love that a Thelma friend is part of the lexicon in your household. My sister and I both read ALL the Anne of Green Gables stories. There’s a line from midway through the series, where Anne is a teacher with a particularly bright student. And the boy, Laurie, would say to Anne, “YOU know, teacher!” My sister and I still say that for something that only we will get due to shared experiences. Grins.

  • Minna says:

    I’m not familiar with any of the books you mentioned. Some of my favorite books from childhood were books by Mauri Kunnas, like Book of Finnish Elves and Doghill books. Book of Finnish Elves is collection of stories of Finnish elves and doghill books are about how people used to live about 100 years ago, only the people in the books are dogs. And some time ago I bought The Canine Kalevala. Some of his books are available in English (and in many other languages, as well). Another favourite was Riverboat Adventures by Lucy Kincaid. I’m still hoping to find the rest of the books in the series.

  • Shannon says:

    Such a lovely post, and a great introduction to books I never would have known about.

    Like others, I didn’t recognize the titles or the authors, and then I looked up a couple on Amazaon, and the first two were in 1990 and 1995. Being born in 1960, my reading to years were then to about 1970. My nieces and nephews came along in the 2000s.

    Now that I’ve established I’m “old,” I have to say our books were the Berenstein Bears, Dr. Seuss, and Little Golden Books. I checked that. They now have an app for the Little Red Hen.

    • Shannon, thanks! We were reading to the boy in the 1990s. Aside from the classics, what’s available seems to be very much a matter of timing. We loved the Berenstains and Dr. Seuss, and I had many Little Golden Books, including 101 Dalmatians, which is still a favorite of mine.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Seriously? There’s an app for Little Red Hen? What does it DO???

  • Fedora, Garth Williams is also well known for illustrating the Little House books, Charlotte’s Web, and Stuart Little. The boy loved Richard Scarry, and the dh admires the Francis books.

    So nice to encounter another fan of Jamberry!

  • Nancy,

    This year there’s a KFC commercial where a man drags a huge tree into the house and the top is bent wayyyyy over. It reminded me of my favorite Christmas book as a kid, Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree. (

    Loved this story. Bought 3 copies for me and the grandkids!

  • Deb says:

    Cynthia Rylant has written some very good picture books, and I am familiar with WTRC. Another of hers I like is NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. I had some picture books as a child, but have come to know most of them since becoming an adult. Anything by Jan Brett is wonderful. I love how she tells a story with pictures in the frames of each page in her books. My fave of hers are THE WILD CHRISTMAS REINDEER and THE MITTEN. Another favorite picture book is MISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney who also illustrated another favorite of mine THE YEAR OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE. Others are SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY and BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL, and the very funny JULIUS, BABY OF THE WORLD. My most favorite, favorite picture book is WHEN THE SKY IS LIKE LACE.
    A few years ago, someone wrote and illustrated Little House picture books that are just darling.

  • Nancy –

    I’m afraid I’m not familiar with any of those books. The wonderful thing about children’s picture books is that there are so many of them. It’s easy to find fabulous reading material.

    I remember reading Berenstein Bears, Where the Wild Things Are, The Sign of the Seahorse (with beautiful illustrations by Graeme Base), The Polar Express – another with fabulous illustrations, and so many more to my kids when they were little. I especially loved to read the poetry in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Loved his rhymes and illustrations. I remember giving a textless book as a gift because of the wonderful artwork. It was about a snowman, but that’s all I remember. I think my SIL thought I was demented to give her child a book without words 🙂

    • Donna, yes, there seems to be a children’s book about pretty much anything, and most of them are gorgeous.

      I overheard someone talking about The Polar Express just this afternoon. We loved that book and another by its author, Chris Van Allsburg, called Two Bad Ants. It was about a couple of ants who go adventuring in a kitchen and run into trouble.

      The dh loves Shel Silverstein, too.

  • Amy Conley says:

    I love books and reading, but I HATE to be read to and I always have. once I learn to read there is no stopping me.and there still isn’t any stopping me. I think my mother realized I did not like being read to so she told me stories without a book to go with it and that works for me.

    • Amy, it’s interesting that you don’t mind hearing a story as long as it isn’t being read. I wonder why that is.

      My enjoyment of being read to dwindled once I became a proficient reader. I could absorb the story so much faster on my own that I lost patience for hearing someone read aloud.

  • catslady says:

    When young I didn’t have a lot of my own books – we did have some of those golden books but we did make trips to the library. When I had my kids it was my chance to splurge and that I did lol. We had a book mobile that came weekly but I also bought them their own and then when they hit grade school there were all the scholastic books. I have a bin or two or three just waiting for that first grandchild lol. All my newphews and nieces and their kids got books. One just turned two and I bought some of the Mercer Mayer books that I remember from my kids.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oooh, Catslady! I’m with you! I have a bin of books in the attic. I’m sure I’ll have another one or two before my boys get out of the house. Grins.

      If you’re buying for young neices of nephews, you could also try Snowmen At Night and Bear Wakes Up for Christmas. WONDERFUL books!!

    • Catslady, most of my books came from the library, too. I love being able to own books now. We never had a bookmobile, but I made many trips back and forth on my bike.

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Nancy, what a fun, fabulous post! We’ve had snow and wind here all day and my internet’s been in and out but I wanted to be srue and post about all the delicous books.

    We love the Carl books, and Jamberry. I’ve read The Library, when I was in Children’s Literature classes, I think, but I’d forgotten about it. I’ll have to go get that one so I don’t lose track of it again.

    We loved so many books – Is there Room on the Broom, Snowmen at Night, Snowmen at Christmas, Bear Wakes up for Christmas (this one required me to do voices, and the boys wanted it over and over and over again!), John, Paul, George and Ben (Also requiring voices), and as I mentioned above, every single Sandra Boynton book printed. Hahah!

  • Pissenlit says:

    I haven’t read or heard of any of the books you’ve mentioned but The Library looks like it would’ve been right up my alley as a kid. 😀

    My favourite picture books from when I was young are Hilary Knight’s Cinderella, King Stork by Howard Pyle with new pictures by Trina Schart Hyman, The Seasons with Strawberry Shortcake by Mercedes Llimona, I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom illustrated by Richard Scarry, and It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz. I still have those five books. I loved the Charlie Brown book for the story (it was a read-a-long with cassette tape), the King Stork book had a story and illustrations that weren’t all fluffy kiddie-like, the bunny book was very peaceful and beautiful. and both the Strawberry Shortcake book and the Cinderella book had illustrations that I’d spend hours and hours studying where I’d notice every itty bitty thing.

    • Pissenlit, I love Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations. I bought a note card of one, framed it, and gave it to the dh for his birthday one year.

      I love Howard Pyle’s illustrations, too, especially his Robin Hood. I’ve never seen hus version of King Stork. I’m sure Hyman’s is beautiful.

  • What a great post! I’ve never read The Library. What a neat book! They recently put all of the Dick and Jane readers out in special edition hardback and I simply had to buy them. The Carl books are favorites as well. My niece used to call my Rottweiler, Psycho, “Carl” because I read those books to her when she visited.

    I learned to read from the Dr. Seuss books and I have my original copies, a bit worn, but much loved.

    When our local book store went out of business I bought several children’s books because they were simply too beautiful to pass up. These included a number of gorgeous pop up type books on wizards, dragons and fairies.

    • Louisa, I have fond memories of Dick and Jane. My Dr. Seuss experiences were mostly courtesy of the library, but the dh and I picked up several favorites for the boy when he was small.

      How sad about the local bookstore closing! I’m glad you were able to find some good deals, though.