If you look at my kids’ bookshelves, you will probably get a good picture (pun intended) of my own tastes. I love factual, colourful, non-fiction children’s books. I love stories about animals. I love detailed picture books – both in their illustrations and in their content. I look for a certain poetry in the writing, words and rhythm that feel good to speak aloud. Because the best children’s books are ones that I will read aloud over and over again.
Robert McCloskey checks a lot of these boxes for me. He’s definitely old-fashioned but in a timeless way. We have four of his books, Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, and Time of Wonder. I have a theory that the last three all feature the same two girls. Time of Wonder is my personal favourite as it has almost a singsong quality and captures so beautiful what a summer can be like. While I’ve never been to Maine, many of my favourite childhood memories take place at our family’s lake cottage in Ontario and McCloskey’s writing evokes those simple and beautiful summers.
One Morning in Maine has been a favourite around here since Pearl lost her first tooth in February. I bought it awhile ago but pulled it out when the tooth first became loose. It turned out to be an excellent choice because Pearl’s tooth dropped out and was never found – just like Sal in the story! We’ve been reading it again since Pearl lost her second tooth. It also features a great example of a big sister helping a little sister.
McCloskey’s writing is definitely a little longer than a lot of typical kids books so I’ll freely admit they might not be for every child. I happen to have kids who are generally happy to sit and listen to stories for a long time and I enjoy getting immersed in McCloskey’s writing with them. He’s a classic for a reason.