Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Favorites v Classics

Over at A Fuse #8 Production, Betsy Bird is running her second poll of the top 100 picture books and top 100 chapter books.  Voters can send in their top-ten list for each, ranked in order.  The results of the first poll, taken a few years ago, are here and here

As I tried to compile my own top 10 lists, I got to thinking about what it means that the books is in one's "top ten." I decided that for me, it means it's one of my favorites, a book I return(ed) to again and again, either as a child or as a parent (and wouldn't it be interesting to make two separate lists for those categories!).  My list of favorites overlaps with, but does not entirely coincide with, a list I've been working on for a while of must-have books for every child's library.  Must-haves include classics that I don't necessarily love.  Favorites are books I love.  So, on my top 10 lists, you'll find some glaring omissions.  No Goodnight Moon or Where the Wild Things Are for me.  Classics both, but not my favorites.  Same for Harry Potter, which to me was enjoyable but didn't leave much of an impression (I wonder if it would have if it had come out when I was a child).  And I haven't even read The Hunger Games (and don't plan to), as dystopian violence is just not my thing.

Finally, as hard as it was narrowing my list down to 10, ranking those 10 proved even harder.  In the end, these rankings are a bit arbitrary.  I'm sure on another day, in another mood, I would have ranked these books differently.

Without further ado, my submissions:

Top 10 Picture Books

1.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst - I took my blog title, from this book, so how could I not rank it first?  Not to mention that it is funny and pitch-perfect, with a lesson even every adult needs to hear occasionally.

2.  The Lion and the Little Red Bird by Elisa Kleven - a beautiful book about friendship that does not get the attention it deserves.

3.  Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems - innovative art, spare text with the perfect touches, like the mom who realizes right away the title bunny is missing.

4.  Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes - it was a close call choosing between this and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse but my kids like this one better and I only wanted to include one title per author, if possible, even though that is not required by the rules.  By the way, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was #15 in the original poll and while 2 other Henkes books made it in, Chrysanthemum was left in the cold.  Will things be different this time around?

5.  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

6.  George and Martha by James Marshall - I couldn't choose among the George and Martha books, so I went with the first, as per the rules.  But really, you should just get the complete collection.

7.  Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

8. A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban - I love all these books, with Frances's adorable songs and the true depictions of family life and sibling rivalry but this one, where she runs away to under the dining room table, is definitely my favorite.

9. Dogger by Shirley Hughes - another winner both about a lost toy and sibling relationships.  It was hard to choose between this and some of her Alfie books, though.  It's hard for me to believe that no book of hers made the top 100 the first time around.

10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima - another overlooked book with beautiful language that really speaks to a preschooler's desire for growing independence and a parent's conflicting emotions (nostalgia, pride) in response.

Runners-up included, in no particular order:

Corduroy by Don Freeman (with Dandelion a close second)
Mimmy and Sophie by Miriam Cohen
Sunshine and Moonlight by Jan Ormerod
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan
My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer

Top Ten Chapter Books

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

2. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

3. All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

4. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

5.  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

6.  Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume  - the toothpaste-on-the-toilet scene made my 6-year-old laugh harder than I've ever seen her laugh before.

7.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

8.  Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

9.  No Flying in the House by Betty Brock - an underdog, I know.

10. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord - another underdog.

Runners-up included, again in no particular order:

When You Reach Me Rebecca Stead
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (why are so many of the best kids' chapter books by authors who use two initials?!?)
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg
The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White - I loved this book about the first female president!
No Scarlet Ribbons by Susan Terris - not sure what I'd think of this now, but I loved it way back when.

What are your favorite picture books and chapter books?


  1. It’s fun to see what everybody put on their lists. Yours has a couple I’m not familiar with. I’m going to have to find Dogger and Umbrella.

    Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day also made my list.

  2. Every other list I see I think about all the books I didn't/couldn't include. It was so hard to limit myself to ten!