International Children’s Book Day is celebrated in April, typically on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, April 2.
This year the event happens to be on his actual birthday.
If you don’t know who Hans Christian Andersen is, then just go watch a Disney movie.
Okay, it’s not that easy, but he is best remembered for his fairy tales and many of those have inspired a Disney movie or two, namely The Little Mermaid and Frozen are what come to mind for me.
In his lifetime Andersen wrote over 150 fairy tales, some of which were happy (and more along the lines of what we would consider a “fairy tale” today) and others that were not so happy, to say the least.
But, no matter the mood, Andersen never shied away from a story that generated an emotion, and that was his appeal to both children and adults during his lifetime (and still is today).
His fairy tales have been translated into more than 100 languages and he is regarded by many as one of the best fairy tale writers.
This yearly event that falls around Andersen’s birthday is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Each year, they select a country to sponsor that year’s theme. This year’s sponsor is IBBY Canada with a theme of “Stories are wings that help you soar every day.”
It’s a bit of a complex theme in my opinion, but basically, I understand it as stories offer a way for you to fly to another world every day.
And, that’s what I’ve always loved about reading…it transports you to another place. Another dimension, another realm, another year. You can escape the world around you and get lost (in a good way) in the world the author created.
Even as a kid I loved reading, and I can tell my daughter does too. She can’t get enough of her books and frankly has so many that I rotate them around to keep things “fresh” and new for her.
I can’t wait until she is old enough to read some of my favorite books, and that’s what I want to share with you today in honor of this “holiday”; some of my favorite children’s books.
I’m starting at the “beginning” so to speak and listing in the order of reading age/recommended age.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
This is a book I read to my daughter all the time. It is a classic “bedtime” book in my opinion and I think every baby should have this one.
It has a great contrast between colored pictures and black and white and appeals to children for many years.
One of my favorite things about Goodnight Moon is that on every page in the bedroom (the colored pages in the book) there is a mouse that moves around.
He is in front of the fireplace on one page, eating the “mush” on another, or just sitting atop a clothing rack or window sill. It’s a fun way to engage young kids in the book while reading…finding the mouse in the scene on the page (my daughter loves pointing out the mouse to me).
Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
When it comes to books for babies and toddlers, there is no one better than Sandra Boynton.
Barnyard Dance is my favorite of hers, probably because it’s basically a song and I would dance/act it out for my little sister when she was young and she loved it (and now my daughter does too!).
Sandra has so many other great books too, and we own probably a dozen of them at this point. They are fun and engaging for young kids and even parents too (although I have too many memorized at this point…).
Some of her others that are my favorite include:
Little Owl’s Day by Divya Srinivasan
There are tons of children’s books out there that I could fill this list with that you have probably heard of, but Little Owl’s Day one might not be one of them.
I hadn’t until someone gave us this book as a gift, but I’m really glad we got it (we have a few other Little Owl books too now!).
My daughter LOVES Little Owl and this book specifically.
As I mentioned, Srinivasan has a few others with the same character, but I think this is the best one. The recommended age for this one is 3-5 years, but I read this to my daughter now (she’s 1.5 years) and it holds her attention well.
It’s a bit more complex of a read than the other two books I mentioned above, so I like that it challenges her in that regard. It’s more than just clever rhymes so I enjoy reading it too because it feels like a little novel for toddlers.
I’m jumping ahead a bit in ages with my next favorite children’s books, but honestly, these are some that I cannot wait to read with my daughter when she is older.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I vividly remember reading this book for the first time and just LOVING it. It’s a great book for younger kids (recommended age is 8+) and a great introduction to fantasy writing for this age group as well.
It’s full of wonderful themes and imagery and is just a classic children’s book that is great for so many ages.
If you didn’t know, this is part of a series of seven books by C.S. Lewis and in my opinion, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was intended to be read first in the series (no matter what order you see books published in nowadays).
I’ll be honest, I tried to read the whole series, but I never made it past the third or fourth book. I can’t remember why, I think they just lost their luster for me. The series connects loosely in terms of everything being set in Narnia and some of the same characters, but some of the books were much earlier or later than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I guess I just lost interest.
But, that’s what’s great about this series is you don’t have to read them all to get to the “ending” if that makes sense. Each book is self-contained and you can read what you want.
A few of the novels have also been adapted into movies, and I always enjoy watching movie adaptations of any books I’ve read (although it feels like everything is turned into a movie or TV show eventually!).
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is probably one of the single most influential children’s books out there today and, even as an adult, it is still my favorite book of all time. ALL-TIME. Period. End of story. I could only read this book series for the rest of my life and be happy…seriously.
I remember midnight book releases at the book store for this series. I remember staying up all night to read an entire 500+ page book. I remember seeing the movies for the first time.
Harry Potter was everything to me as a young adult, and it still means so much to me today. It is the thing on this list that I am most looking forward to reading to my daughter (I pray she loves it as much as I do!).
But, beyond how I feel about the Potter series, it completely changed the world of children’s literature. Suddenly kids who had never been interested in reading before wanted to read this book, this series.
I don’t think there would be as many readers today as there are without this series.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
A series for the teenage girl in your life, this was one of my favorites growing up. The first one came out in 2003 (when I was 13), so I grew up during my teen years with the “Sisterhood.”
I love that the series grows up too in the same way a teenage girl does. It’s full of the ups and downs of teenage life and I related to a lot of the topics explored in this series. I still have all five books on my bookshelf in my office/guestroom, and I adored Sisterhood Everlasting when it was released several years after the fourth book in the Sisterhood series. It was perfect timing for the version of me that was getting ready to graduate college.
Two movies came from this series too if you are interested in seeing those too (as I said before…everything gets turned into a movie or TV show at some point!).
So there you have it; six awesome books for children (for a variety of ages). I hope that on International Children’s Book Day you take a few minutes to read (or read to your child if you have one) and enjoy the faraway places that literature can take you.
“Stories are wings that help you soar every day.”
I know there are SO many more great children’s books out there, so comment below with your favorite (doesn’t matter if it’s for babies or young adults!).