A recent behind the scenes discussion at GeekMom about children’s literature prompted fellow GeekMom Sophie to introduce many of our writers, and readers, to the children’s books that are invariably read by British children, and that British parents have memorized! On the flip side of this, having grown up in England only to be the mother of American children, I have been introduced to a whole host of adventures that I had never been exposed to before. Certain books that are considered classic over here, were completely new to me when I started having children at 28. So if you have international friends, this small selection might be just the perfect birthday present you are looking for:
Where the Wild Things Are – Written in 1963 by Maurice Sendak. This book permeates American childhood. It was one of the first Christmas gifts that my eldest son received when he was three months old, and it was the theme of my youngest son’s first birthday party. Max, a mischievous young boy, is sent to his room. Once there, a forest grows and he sails away to an island full of monsters where he reigns as king of the wild things. It is a story of pure imagination that begins with trouble and ends with a mother’s love. It is what I hope happens to my son when he is being a wild thing!
The Paper Bag Princess – Written in 1980 by Robert Munsch. I am shocked, simply shocked, that this has not been made into a movie yet. Of all the books that I have discovered as an American parent, this is the one that I adore. It’s not always the one I would pick at storytime, but it is quite simply wonderful. Elizabeth is a princess whose kingdom is ravaged by a fierce dragon, and her prince stolen away. Dressed only in a paper bag she uses her wits and guile to rescue her dashing prince only to… This is one spoiler I refuse to post. The best closing lines of any children’s story ever. My college roommate considers me a heretic for reading the board book edition of this story more regularly than the full version.
Jamberry – Written in 1983 by Bruce Degen. This is an odd book and not one I would have chosen. It is about berries, it is almost about berry picking, it is somewhat about playing with berries. The point of this book, for me at least, is the rhyme and rhythm. Both of my sons have responded well to the way the language of this book moves, so while the “story” still fails me after all these years, I can see why it has endured. It is a story of utter nonsense, such as Spike Milligan or Edward Lear would be proud of, I just find it hard to equate such nonsense with something that I first read as a board book!
Make Way for Ducklings Written in 1941 by Robert McCloskey. I discovered this book prior to having children, as it is a classic in New England at all ages. The story tells of a pair of ducks that are seeking a new home. They settle in Boston and have a family of adorable ducklings, then cross the city to meet up with each other after dad takes a vacation. It is a wonderful story, has beautiful illustrations, and you can even visit the ducklings on Boston Common if you are in the area. Practice your Irish accent, you’ll need it when the police escort the ducks across the road.
Goodnight Moon Written by Margaret Wise Brown in 1947. I am a huge fan of cumulative stories, and this is a classic. “In the great green room / There was a telephone / And a red balloon / And a picture of– / The cow jumping over the moon.” Read along with your child and say goodnight to everything in this little room, and very soon your child will be finishing the sentences for you. This book has spawned a series of geographical spin offs such as Good Night Boston and Good Night New Jersey, and a host of spoofs, my favorite being Goodnight Dune. The Goodnight World series is a great thing to accumulate as you travel, if, like me, you insist on bringing back souvenirs from everywhere you go! On a trip to Philadelphia my eldest son read Good Night Philadelphia from cover to cover for about three hours straight.
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear – Written in 1984 by Don and Audrey Wood. Admittedly this might just be a classic in my husband’s family, but it is an absolutely amazing book. Very simple one sentence pages, telling the story of a little mouse who is trying to hide his strawberry from the big, hungry bear. Both of my sons adore this book, and their grandmother beamed when giving it to them. This book teaches about sharing, in fact it does it so well that my three year old recently used the exact lines from the story to get his dad to split his waffle in half for him: “Daddy, there’s only one way to save a waffle from the big, hungry bear!”
I have undoubtedly missed out on the childhood favorite of many a GeekMom reader, let us know what books your preschoolers are enjoying on our Facebook page.
2 thoughts on “Seven Books American Kids Love (That This Brit Never Knew Existed)”
Paper Bag Princess is my favorite kids book ever. My nieces didn’t like it because they were confused about the message and it conflicted with their beliefs (about marriage and looking pretty being very important). Brave was the first Disney movie where the princess was considered a heroine, but that movie fell short for me (as she was more of a brat). Where as the princess in this book is smart, resourceful, brave, resilient, and has enough self-respect to tell the shallow prince to sod off. I just wish these types of messages were in more places for little girls.
You got me really curious about the Paper Bag Princess. Will get it for my kids!
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