After Looking high and low for good children books for my daughter, I decided to share my findings in:
The list of books
books that will not harm your child
books that will not deprave your child
books, which will not change your child into a 100% egoist
books safe for moms or dads to buy
books whose authors do not mess up with your child’s mind, trying to put everything upside down.
Not many of them can be found these days, as I discovered. I am putting this information together, because I was looking for this sort of list for my use in vain. On many other lists, that I found, the choice of books seemed accidental and it was not what I was really looking for.
I am writing this from a perspective of a Catholic mother, desperately trying to find some decent books for my child. In the world where I get scared reading the titles alone. For example in the on-line bookstore commercials emailed to me. I could describe it as ‘halloween all year round’: scary, depressing, violent and sad. Horror. So, forgetting about these, let’s look at wonderful books, which can still be found in the sea of other books. I am going to put the findings from my searches for good books from many years, so this is just the beginning. I will add some titles to the list below each week:
Paddington by Michael Bond illustrated by Peggy Fortnum
Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem illustrated by the author
When I first heard of books by Jill Barklem, I was discouraged by someone saying that they were “like Beatrix Potter’s books”. I have nothing against Beatrix Potter, quite contrary, I like her books a lot, I just don’t like the idea of something being “like something else”. Luckily, I came across Brambly Hedge books again, and, at that time, I looked into the subject more closely. The books by Jill Barklem have a distinct, one-of-a-kind atmosphere, which can only be known when you dive into one of the volumes by yourself. I would recommend doing it with all my heart. They are lovely little books with breathtaking pictures by the author. You can read them separately and it does not matter in what sequence. The every day mouse life of those living in Brambly Hedge is described in 8 books written in 1980 – 1994 (one would think these are 19th century stories, but no!): Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story, Winter Story, The Secret Staircase, The High Hills, Sea Story, Poppy’s Babies. They are all worth reading and their lovely illustrations are the best commercial.
More about Jill Barklem books: https://www.starystoldowszystkiego.com/brambly-hedge/
Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain, continued by Mike Berenstain
Fairy Tales illustrated by Stephen Cartwright
When I found ‘Cinderella’ illustrated by Stephen Cartwright on the shelf of a bookcase in a small toy store, I immediately had the ‘this is it’ feeling. With a big exclamation mark. I had been looking for the nicely illustrated and simple versions (not too long) of the classical fairy tales for quite some time at that point. On that day, many years ago, I discovered Stephen Cartwright’s warm and beautiful illustrations. This very talented artist immediately became one of my most favourite ones. I bought many other books with his pictures and our first collection were Usborne Fairytale Stories. There is one more book in this series, Three Little Pigs, which I intentionally don’t show here, because although illustrations by Stephen Cartwright are stunning as always, the Three Little Pigs tale was retold in such a way, that it lost all its original wisdom. So, I am skipping the 3 Little Pigs, but Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears with Stephen Cartwright’s illustrations I can read any number of times and I will never be bored. And the picture of a pumpkin changing into a coach etc., from Cinderella, is one of my most favourite illustrations of all the children books that I have ever seen.
more about Usborne Fairytale Stories illustrated by Stephen Cartwright: https://www.starystoldowszystkiego.com/bajki/
Books by Elsa Beskow illustrated by the author
Christopher’s Garden by Elsa Beskow
Christopher’s Garden by Elsa Beskow is a dream book for the fall season. The author’s illustrations are so impressive that probably everyone would like to step into this autumn garden for a moment. Imagine that delicious apples, plums, blackberries and other ordinary and traditional healthy, yummy things have just ripened there. Christopher is lucky to play in this very garden. In it, he meets a boy named September, who helps him find a lost ball. On this occasion, Christopher personally meets the inhabitants of the garden, such as the jovial Mrs. Cabbage, the elegant Miss Plums, or the rather grumpy Mr. Blackcurrant. Some are nice, others less willing to help, as in life, and the matter of finding the ball gets more and more complicated. The action moves quickly, the atmosphere gets tense at times, which makes a walk through this garden and Elsa Beskow’s book fascinating. The child will definitely not get bored, and the person reading it can easily get inspired to bake something sweet with plums, apples or blackberries inside. I know something about that.
more about Christopher’s Garden by Elsa Beskow:https://www.starystoldowszystkiego.com/en/christophers-garden-by-elsa-beskow/
Tales from Fern Hollow by John Patience illustrated by the author
After my daughter received our first book by John Patience as a gift (it was ‘Parson Dimly’s Treasure Hunt’), I started looking everywhere for the other books about Fern Hollow. I was REALLY impressed with both the illustrations (completely different then the typical, ugly, vulgar pictures that I find in most childrens’ books nowadays) and the story.
The other thing that struck me was that, amazingly, we still had some books for children, in which the church building is not only mentioned and shown in the pictures, but plays an important role in the story. I was very disappointed that new books by John Patience were not available, I mean that he wrote them in the 80-ties and they were out of print since then. Luckily, I was able to buy the used copies of the other Fern Hollow books on Amazon. I became a huge fan, as the illustrations in all of these books are as beautiful as the stories themselves. None of them was disappointing. I even remember thinking that if I were an illustrator of children books (unfortunately I am not), I would like to to illustrate the books exactly like John Patience! 🙂
Now, the big news that I found out about recently, is, that last year, in 2019, John Patience started publishing his books again. I have not bought any of the newly printed, because we have them already in the used versions, but they are available now on Amazon. I am waiting for the newly printed books from his other series, ‘Rainbow’s End’, but this is different subject. I don’t want to mix things up too much.
John Patience’s illustrations are fantastic, they are exactly what I would call the real children book pictures. You have to see the SHOES in his illustrations. I have never seen such interesting shoes anywhere. I would not mind wearing a pair like these myself 🙂
About Tales from Fern Hollow by John Patience illustrated by the author:
The Railway Series by The Rev. Wilbert Awdry
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Full of the goodness and peace of the family home, written in a beautiful, simple language, and wonderfully illustrated. That’s how I would describe the stories of the Little Bear’s life by Else Holmelund Minarik with pictures by Maurice Sendak. Else Holmelund Minarik (1920 – 2012) spent her long life in the United States, where she emigrated with parents from Denmark at the age of 4. Her most famous books are those about Little Bear, written in the 1950s and 1960s when she worked as a first grade teacher in Long Island, New York. The idea to write the first book came to her because she wanted to give students a story full of warmth and kindness for the holidays. She perceived that this was something they needed and it was impossible to find in the literature that she had to offer to them as a teacher. She distributed self-made copies of the first book about Little Bear among her students with her own illustrations. And later, the Bear, although so Little, somehow found his way to the wide world. The author once said: Little Bear is me in Denmark, where I was cuddled and loved.
About Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik: https://www.starystoldowszystkiego.com/little-bear/
Dr. Seuss: wise books for every age
Dr. Seuss exposes stupidity and evil. He does it with talent, truly brilliantly (I write in the present tense, because, although the author has already left us, the books are very much alive). His wise reflections get straight to the point. In addition, they are enhanced by illustrations impossible to forget. Plus, these books encourage thinking. Independent thinking, from which children are being discouraged these days. You can even say that it is beginning to be forbidden to children. That is why the books by Doctor Seuss, on which several generations have already learned to read, are invaluable.
More about Dr. Seuss books: https://www.starystoldowszystkiego.com/en/dr-seuss-wise-books-for-every-age/
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
One of the many things this book does, is that it makes people think. Think by themselves and for themselves. Something which is not encouraged today. Like all Dr. Seuss books, it exposes stupidity and evil. In this case, of building unnecessary walls between groups of people. At the very end it shows how dangerous it is to follow the leader blindly (the whole population of the Yooks went obediently to the hole in the ground, quietly, in line, one by one, as instructed by the leader). Wonderful book. Just what the hungry minds of children, discouraged from thinking on the daily basis, need a lot!
more about The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss:
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
This is a very wise book. It reminds us that there is a Real meaning to Christmas and that materialism has nothing to do with it. Christmas is NOT about shopping. For years I thought that I knew everything about Dr. Seuss. Then I came across this book and oh, boy! I am glad I did. Fantastic book. Doctor Seuss at his best.
more about How The Grinch stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss:
The Weight of a Mass by Josephine Nobisso,
illustrations Katalin Szegedi
After the old woman asks the owner of the fanciest bakery in town to give her a crust of stale bread, the baker refuses. He laughs at her because she promises to offer one Holy Mass in exchange of bread. When she is ready to leave the shop, the owner mocks her even more, in front of his noble customers. He puts the piece of paper with the words “One Mass” scribbled on it, on one side of the scale and says that he will give her as much bread as the Mass is worth, according to his trusty brass scale. On the other tray he places the slice of bread. The scale shows that the scribble is heavier than the slice of bread. This does not change even after the baker loads the tray with all the pastry he can find in the store.
All this happened in the kingdom, whose king wanted to get married in the beautiful old cathedral, which usually stayed empty because people stopped praying and turned away from God. After the bakery incident was talked about all over town, people did some thinking and huge crowd attended the royal wedding Holy Mass. And maybe their cathedral was never empty after that.
more about The Weight of a Mass by Josephine Nobisso: