designers guide to the best childrens books // round-up // sarah sherman samuelWe are BIG into children’s books around here, especially Archie. It’s built into our bedtime routine, nap routine, morning routine, and many times a day he will carry one around grunting in the way he does when we wants something, “eh eh, eh eh, eh eh” meaning read to me pleassssse.
I put a call out for everyone’s favorite books about a year ago, on instagram, and since then, we have been devouring them like crazy and I wanted to share my list of absolute favorites.

Some books don’t hold his interest at all, and some he wants over and over and over again. Of course it changes as he gets older, but there are some that I love for design/illustrations and storyline (huge bonus when it’s both like Gaston and Henry’s Bright Idea) and ones that he loves (the ones that hold his interest all the way through from start to finish) and those crossovers are what made my very select list of favorite books.

walnut-animal-society-book-henrys-ideaOH and I totally judge a children’s book by the cover. Archie is most attracted to clean illustrations (as am I, obv). When there is too much going I think it was hard for him to take anything in. He has started to look at busier, more detailed picture books now that he is older but from age 6 – 12 months those Moe Willems Pigeon Books were almost all he ever wanted. Each page is super simple with just a flat image of the pigeon on a solid color. We bought every single one of them because they are so good… clever, funny, well designed… and Archie was obsessed. Two of those made the list, but really all of them are great.

And still my favorite book of all is Gaston. I think I have bought this one book 7 times now giving it as a gift for friends with kids or babies on the way. It was one of the first books I got after Archie was born and there were many a night when I would stand by the kitchen extractor fan (serving as a giant white noise machine) bouncing a swaddled newborn Archie to sleep while reading “Fi Fi, Foo Foo, Ooh La La and Gaston…”. Each page is a frame worthy illustration and the story is so sweet.

designers guide to the best childrens books // round-up // sarah sherman samuel If you are only in the market to add a few books to your library, make sure the top 3 (but really the top 6) are in there. Those are our absolute favorites of the favorites.

Happy Reading!!

Gaston // Extra Yarn // Henry’s Bright Idea // Mr. Tiger Goes Wild // An Awesome Book // The Pigeon Needs a Bath // Home // I Want My Hat Back // My Teacher is a Monster // Wolfie the Bunny // The Day the Crayons Quit // The Little Gardener // Big Bear Hug // This Moose Belongs to Me // The Wonderful Things You Will Be // Cats Night Out // The Pigeon Wants a Puppy // Archie and the Pirates (I mean how could I not?)

Image by Katherine Rose 


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  • Rebekah

    Thank you for sharing!! This is just the list I was looking for. Also, where did you get the area rug in the photo? Thx again!

    • sarah

      Hi! I’m got it from The Rug Warehouse in culver city. It’s a vintage Khotan. X

  • Katy

    What a great list! I am constantly on the lookout for books that both my son and I can enjoy. There is a book i remember getting lost in as a child that I need to order, you’ve just reminded me. It’s called “The Philharmonic Gets Dressed”. It’s all about the New York symphony musicians getting ready for their big night and the illustrations are so detailed and interesting. I loved that booked a kid! Oh and Design Mom has a series on her blog about beautiful children’s books if you ever need inspiration.

    • sarah

      hi Katy! Ah so great! thanks so much for reminding me of that one and for the resource. Never enough books. 🙂

  • Laura

    Sarah, I stumbled on your boards and LOVE this rug. Can you share where it’s from? Thanks! – Laura

  • Julie Balcom

    Yes, Gaston! My son erupts in giggles with each Fi-Fi, Foo Foo repetition and promptly asks me to read it again.

  • Great choices. I especially love Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. I teach teachers how to use the elements of design in picturebooks and that is always my go-to for peritext features (all the parts of the picturebook that aren’t the words and pictures). Ask children why the endpapers are brick on one side and jungle on the other, why they made the hardcover tiger fur under the book jacket, and what the author means dedicating the book to “tigers everywhere.” All encourage deep critical thinking on the children’s part.

    You’ve seen This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, right? Best of the hat books, IMO! Took home the Caldecott for that one, he did. 🙂

    • sarah

      THanks for sharing this victoria! I never even put that much thought into the tiger fur under the book jacket. That clever peter brown. And yes! We have that hat book too. And actually I think you are right in that I might like that one even better. I basically had to flip a coin on which one to put in the round up. 🙂

  • […] real mom series is hitting the books today! You might remember I shared my carefully edited list of favorite books a while back. And if you don’t make sure to head to the post RIGHT HERE to see my all time top […]

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