This week I am delighted to introduce the first of my Book Lists, which will feature a selection of titles following a given theme. I am particularly excited to share these essential treasuries of children’s stories and poems, as they are among my very favorite books for readers of all ages. My own family’s copies of these classic stories are tattered from many readings, and I hope yours will be the same.

The Children’s Book of Virtues, edited by William J. Bennett and illustrated by Michael Hague

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This inspiring collection of stories and poems is an American classic. Moral tales of varying lengths are arranged according to the virtues they encourage, and brightly illustrated in Hague’s magical style. Children of all ages can enjoy these well-written versions of The Little Hero of Holland, The Boy Who Cried “Wolf”, St. George and the Dragon, The Little Red Hen, George Washington and the Cherry Tree, and other meaningful folk tales and fables from around the world. If you can buy only one book for your child, this would be my pick.

A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Tasha Tudor

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There are many editions of Stevenson’s exquisitely fun poems, but this volume with Tasha Tudor’s lovely illustrations is the best for reading with children. This is childhood unplugged. Tudor’s nostalgic paintings match Stevenson’s brilliant portrayal of a child’s mind at play, to create a book that will never grow old. (We especially love to recite My Bed Is Like A Little Boat at bedtime.)

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, by James Herriot and illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett

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This collection from the beloved English veterinarian is a wonderful adaptation for children. The stories – including Moses the Kitten and Bonny’s Big Day – are longer but very pleasant to read aloud, while the warm illustrations (particularly those by Ruth Brown) are gorgeous. There are many friends to be made here, both animal and human; and the stories are heartwarming without being overly sentimental.

The World of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter

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This is a boxed set of the complete, unabridged works of Beatrix Potter for children. Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddle-Duck and all the old friends are here; each with their own volume as originally published. The tales can be purchased more affordably in a single volume, but the small books are charming and much easier to read with very young lap-snugglers. There are 23 books in all, and each reader will surely like some better than others; but these sweet little books with the dainty sketches and timeless watercolors all deserve to be passed on to another generation.

The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables, by Aesop and illustrated by Don Daily

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This selection of Aesop’s classic fables is perfect for children. Along with The Lion and The Mouse and The Tortoise and the Hare, all the most famous stories – and a good sampling of the lesser-known tales – are retold concisely and faithfully in this excellent update. Each tale is enhanced with a full-page illustration and, of course, the moral of the story.

Each of these books provides a great deal of reading time, and options for a variety of ages and interests. They are well worth purchasing, and would make valuable gifts. If your local public library does not have them, consider suggesting these titles or even donating them to the acquisitions department. These are books to ennoble young minds and renew even the most exhausted parent. I hope they earn a treasured place on your family bookshelf.

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