Book Lovers' Favorites
A bookseller and a librarian share their top choices, old and new, as well as some hidden gems.
Doug Dutton, owner of Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore in Los Angeles, won the 2003 Lucille Micheels Pannell Award from the Women's National Book Association. The award honors booksellers for excellence in bringing children and books together creatively, and in promoting children's interest in reading. He shares his time-tested selections:
Kit's Wilderness by David Almond
Like Harry Potter, this book should be passed from your child to you. "Almond writes about kids seeing things that adults can't see," says Dutton. He also recommends Skellig, another powerful novel by Almond.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
"Anything by Roald Dahl is a favorite," says Dutton, but this particular story follows the antics of a sweet little girl who loves to read. Other great Dahl titles: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, and James and the Giant Peach. Learn more.
Riki Tiki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
"This book probably influenced me the most when I was a kid," says Dutton, "along with The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame."
Abel's Island by William Steig
Although this Newbery Award-winning book is for children 8 years old and up, it is a wonderful read-aloud for younger ones. "It is a nice bridge between children's and young adult literature," says Dutton.
Zeralda's Ogre by Tomi Ungerer
"My daughter loved this one," says Dutton of this funny story of what happens when a grumpy, child-eating ogre meets a girl named Zeralda, who is a fantastic cook.
Judi Bort, a former children's librarian, is now a book selector for school libraries in southern California. Her top picture-book picks:
If at First You Do Not See by Ruth Brown
"Absolutely remarkable," says Bort, describing a book that challenges children to observe the illustrations from different angles while reading about a caterpillar's metamorphosis into a butterfly.
How Groundhog's Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry
This picture book is "great for all types of kids," Bort recommends. "It teaches sharing, unselfishness, and morals, and it has gardening tips!" Learn more.
A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, A Little Pigeon Toad, and The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne
The hilarious illustrations are fun for both adults who read to their little ones and independent young readers, as Gwynne displays how kids must imagine certain homonyms in their minds.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
This picture book is "beautifully illustrated," says Bort. "The shimmering main character has no friends because he won't share his lovely scales — it's a kids favorite." Learn more.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-Up by L. Frank Baum, illustrations by Robert Sabuda
Bort loves this one because of the concept: "You don't need a long attention span to enjoy this book. It's the perfect match for a child who doesn't like to read because he can understand the familiar story and appreciate the pop-ups."