This was really hard because I literally have an entire shelf dedicated to “What Must Be Read to a Child Before She Turns 7.”
I will start with my absolute favorite Children’s Book (there will be none of this saving the best for last business), Ootah’s Lucky Day by Peggy Parish:
Oh, this book. A sweet Eskimo boy awakes in his igloo freezing and hungry because there is no meat for the cooking pots and no oil for the fires. The hunters refused to take him with them saying he was too young and so, brave Ootah decides to go hunting for his people himself.
This book is a wonderful portrayal of kindness and bravery and self-sacrifice. I still sometimes choke up at the end.
You might recognize the name Peggy Parish, as she’s also the author of the well-known Amelia Bedelia series but I think Ootah is her best work. I wasn’t sure you could still find this book since it’s a Weekly Reader from 1970 (that’s almost 50 years ago!) but I checked Amazon and found it (affiliate link). I should order another copy since ours is quite well-loved. I checked eBay too but most of them wanted 3 times as much.
Speaking of well-loved books, I can’t even show you the cover of this one because it’s been torn off. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey is an adorable story about a family of ducks who make their home in Boston. The illustrations are just delicious.
Make Way for Ducklings is a great story all on its own but you can add a history and geography lesson in there as well since the ducks fly over many famous parts of Boston, like Bunker Hill or Louisburg Square, trying to find just the right spot:
These photos are from my tall, used-to-be green covered hardback book which is, obviously, my favorite one to read from but I did find that we have the scholastic paperback version as well. (Why, yes, I am a book hoarder. Thank you for asking.) So, here’s that cover:
Now I am second-guessing myself as to my very favorite Children’s Book:
Balto is the TRUE story of a sled dog who led the way through a snowstorm to bring medicine to sick children and stop an epidemic of diptheria. Did you know there’s a statue of Balto in Central Park in New York?
This story has everything children love: dogs, heroism, kids, and a happy ending. What is not to like?
Ok, seriously, I was wrong, THIS is my absolute favorite Children’s Book. For sure.
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.
When I read this book aloud, I always give the peddler a slightly clipped accent. I imagine it to be Eastern European but it probably comes out more Italian? I am terrible at accents. But this book begs me to read it that way and I can’t stop. One of my kids once “corrected” the lady at story time for reading it wrong. Oops.
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Some Monkey Business is a charming story about exactly that.
This is a great story to re-enact with the kids. Stomping is really quite fun.
All of the previous books have been one session reads. I would be surprised if you could get through this book in one go. I have read this one out loud but it wears me out, so now we listen to this one on tape. It’s much better with a proper British accent anyway.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
This book is really for a child closer to 7 (and up!). Originally published in 1872 the language can be a little antique and younger kids might have trouble keeping up with the story. It is worth it to push through so give it a chance because it is a marvelous story.
Wikipedia begins their description with:
Anne Thaxter Eaton writes in A Critical History of Children’s Literature that The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel “quietly suggest in every incident ideas of courage and honor.”
I want to put heart emojis all through this review. I hate children’s books that get all moralizing and beat you over the head with their “lesson.” I want a good story for me and my kids and this is it. A princess, a courageous boy, goblins, and adventure. I don’t want to tell you anymore; you have to listen to it.
Get this book on tape but also get the book so that your 12 year old can pull it off the shelf one day, peruse it, and fall in love.
By the way, this is the cover of The Princess and the Goblin that I have:
I do not love that cover. Can we agree that the title page is the better of the two? I mean, come on. GOBLINS. It’s like they’re not even the same book.