One of the joys of being a parent is sharing books we remember from our own childhood, as well as new ones we discover, with our kids. We build our collection, enjoying the pictures, characters and their stories. Then we separate from our spouse and we have to figure out how to agree on a division of marital property. When it came to splitting the children’s picture books I wish I had put my name in them years before, officially claiming them for my own with bold black ink.
The books listed in this blog post are a few of the picture books that I won custody of in the divorce. I read these with my children, over and over again. Some of these books I enjoy because of their illustrations. Others because of the characters. I hope you find some new finds in this list, and rediscover some treasured classics.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate marketer with Amazon. Although the books in this list actually do exist on my bookshelf, I will receive compensation if you click on the images or titles, and purchase the book from Amazon.
Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
This is a gorgeous book. The water color illustrations help set the mood for the story of a father who takes his daughter owling under a winter’s moon. The story is told by the daughter, now grown, recollecting her childhood trips into the snow with her Pa. My kids and I would “Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo” along with her and her dad, hoping for a site of an owl under the Owl Moon.
The Munschworks Grand Treasury, by Robert Munsch
Robert Munsch is one of the funniest storytellers there is. He has written countless classics about Paperbag Princesses, Mortimers who won’t go to sleep, out of control ponytails, and pigs run amok.
We loved the stories so much we bought The Munschworks Grand Treasury, which brings 15 of his stories together in one place. Even my students, tough to please teenagers, have cracked up over the years as I read to them from this collection. Just wonderful.
Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
If you grew up in New England in the last 80 years or so, then you know Robert McCloskey. If you aren’t from here, then you might be forgiven for not knowing his books, but not after reading this blog. His book, Make Way for Ducklings, is probably better known, but my favorite has always been Blueberries for Sal. The simple black and white illustrations tell the story of Sal and her mother, picking blueberries in Maine. Sal’s tin bucket never gets quite full, and its “ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk” gets the attention of another larger, and furrier, mom on blueberry hill.
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business, by Esphyr Slobodkina
This is a classic! The cap salesman’s refrain”Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!” was a favorite of mine many years ago. When reading to my kids, and the monkey business began, my kids held out their little fists and demanded that the salesman get his caps back.
Harold and the Purple Crayon (Purple Crayon Books), by Crockett Johnson
This is more than a book. It is a celebration of imagination. Based on a simple premise, a boy’s drawings come to life, this is the sort of story that kids can really connect with. Don’t we all wish our crayon dragons would come off the page and solve our problems for us?
Horton Hears a Who!, by Dr. Seuss
This is the book I brought with me when I was the surprise guest reader in each of my three kids’ kindergarten classrooms. The voices I used, whenever I read it out loud, were based off a wonderful audio version by Dustin Hoffman (check it out below), which I highly recommend. Horton was one of the first books that I put on my copy of the division of marital property list. Unfortunately the version that we had in our house my ex-wife had received on her third birthday. I didn’t get it in the divorce. If a kind elephant is not your cup of tea, then I would also recommend The Sneetches and Other Stories or The Lorax (Classic Seuss).
Horton Hears a Who and Other Sounds of Dr. Seuss: Horton Hears a Who; Horton Hatches the Egg; Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose (audio: Dustin Hoffman)
The Monster at the End of This Book
Another Monster at the End of This Book , by Jon Stone
Full Disclosure: My first paid job out of college was to work for Children’s Television Workshop. Fresh out of school with an undergraduate degree, I spent my days autographing character photos and sending them out to fans across the world. I moved on to teaching, but I have a special place in my heart for all things Sesame Street. My two favorite books are these two, written by Jon Stone, one of the first producers on the show. I used to read these books to my kids in full Elmo voice, but it is my Grover that I am especially proud of. Is your little one afraid of monsters? Well, so is Grover…the furry blue monster.
Little Toot, by Hardie Gramatky
Growing up we would spend many summer weeks at a rental house on Cape Cod. The owners had a large collection of pre-1950 books. The ones I remember best were a large collection of Sad Sack cartoons and Little Toot. They don’t make illustrations like this anymore. There are newer editions on the market, with updated illustration that are flashier and brighter, but for me the color quality of the old color separation techniques is my childhood. The edition of the book I have on my shelf, that I happened to find at a yard sale, is from the 40s. The links I provided above are for a reprint of this older version.
Blackboard Bear, by Martha Alexander
This book, the first in a series, has few words. And that is what makes it a special reading opportunity for you and your child. This story expertly evokes the emotions of a little boy, who doesn’t want to be so little when the older boys tell him that he is too small to play with them. The illustrations do a wonderful job of helping you and your child talk through the common childhood feelings of being left out.
Home on the Bayou: A Cowboy’s Story, by G. Brian Karas
It is not easy for kids to move. They lose friends, family, and a sense of security of where they belong. This story does a good job of showing the range of emotions that a boy goes through when his single mom takes him across country to live with her parents. Living in the swamp is not so easy when a cowboy has to deal with a bully like Big Head Ed. Some of the topics this book addresses are loneliness, divorce, bullying, bravery, sadness, family, and manners.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and
Possum Magic, by Mem Fox
Have I said yet how much I love illustration as an art form? Julie Vivas’ colorful and gentle images in these two books are extraordinary. I couldn’t decide which book to choose for this list, so I picked both. The first is about Wilfrid, who lives next door to a nursing home. It is about his relationships with the residents of the home, but especially about his special relationship with Miss Nancy. Having grown up without grandparents, I feel jealous of Wilfrid every time I read it. The second book…possums, magic, Australia, vegemite…what more is there to say?
A Friend For Dragon, by Dav Pilkey
Dav Pilkey is better known for his series Captain Underpants, but this book from the Dragon series is the one that we liked best. It is a book for those of us who have ever been lonely. A trick leads Dragon on a path of friendship, love, loss, and rebirth. Sweet, sad, and wonderful.
Many Moons, by James Thurber
This is an old story. Thurber was a contemporary of E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan), a humorist know for his essays and cartoons about dogs and marital relations for the New Yorker Magazine. In my American literature class in high school I wrote a paper about Thurber’s book, Is Sex Necessary? This story is a bit tamer. It is about a princess who demands the moon. A simple task for any good court wizard, mathematician, or Lord High Chamberlain, right? It isn’t until the court Jester finally listens to what the little girl is actually asking for that the true magic happens.
There’s my list of 15. What would you add to your Division of Marital Assets list?