Favorite Picture Books

Here are some of our family’s favorite picture books, in absolutely no order at all, except possibly the order in which we happened to read them. Or maybe the order in which I thought of them. I only included books we love and can recommend without any reservations. Enjoy!

The Maggie B by Irene Haas
Before Margaret Barnstable turns out the light for bed one night, she wishes upon a star for “a ship named after me, to sail for a day alone and free with someone nice for company.” The rest of the book is the story of her wish come true. Haas’s colorful and whimsical illustrations perfectly complement this happily imagined story of a delightful day at sea on a beautiful little sailing ship. 

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Stephen Gammell
A rollicking romp of a book about those crazy relatives who drove up from Virginia and filled the house with their laughter, hugs, love, and joy. Gammell’s colorful illustrations complement Rylant’s playful text to create one of my favorite celebrations of summer road trips and family get-togethers.

My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, illus. Susan Condie Lamb
This is the story of Houston’s great-aunt who was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Arizona read and dreamed of the far-away places that she would one day visit. But she never did. To find out why and what she did instead, you’ll have to read it for yourself. Be forewarned: my kids have a love-hate relationship with this book: they love the book, but they hate that I cry every time I read it. I don’t mind the crying: they’re good tears, the kind that spring to your eyes when you’re face to face with beauty. 

Thundercake by Patricia Polacco
A delightful story of a girl and her grandmother in mid-century Michigan, and how Babushka teaches young Patricia about overcoming fear and the true nature of courage. And for the intrepid among you, there’s a recipe for thundercake in the back of the book. My kids and I made it two summers ago during a thunderstorm. It was delicious, but the book is better.

 Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illus. Barbara Cooney
How do I sing this book’s praises adequately? Cooney’s illustrations are like jewels, or desert glass, a perfect accompaniment to McLerran’s lyrical and poignant paean to the power of children’s imaginations. Together, they paint a picture of Roxaboxen so vivid, it transports me to the desert and at the same time sends me straight back to my own childhood summers of playing make-believe and spinning stories to act out and live in. A simply beautiful book.

 The Raft by Jim LaMarche
When Nicky arrives at his grandmother’s house for the summer, he is not excited, to put it mildly. Grandma lives by a river in the Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin, and there’s nothing to do. No friends, no video games, no nothing. But then he discovers a mysterious raft, and his summer unfolds in an unexpected direction, and Nicky discovers an unexpected talent. In the process, Nicky’s dejection and disappointment about his summer in Wisconsin turn to wonder and delight. LaMarche’s illustrations beautifully capture life on the river and Nicky’s quiet transformation.

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