Are you passionate about exposing your child to great literature? Do you worry that your child might be missing out on some of the best books? Has your child got a particular interest which you’d love to indulge through books? If you have answered 'yes' to any of these questions, think seriously about buying a guide to recommended children's books with detailed children's books' reviews to help you select the ideal read.
Although you could consult a suggested reading list of children's books on-line, it is often easier to flick through a good old fashioned book guide in search of that perfect choice of children’s book. Good guides contain descriptive children's books' reviews for a variety of categories and genre of books, and often also give you interesting background information about the author. These facts can be fun to share with your child.
Many guides enable you to search for your ideal choice of book by child’s age, subject theme or category (picture book, chapter book etc), as well as the obvious of title, author and illustrator. These categorisations make it a lot easier to choose the perfect book to excite your child. If you find it hard to limit your choice, it is easy to mark interesting books with post-it notes and come back to them later when you are ready for more choices.
Below is a summary of the best guides to children’s books which I have come across, some published in the UK and some in the USA. Although guides published in the UK obviously have appeal in the USA and vice versa, you will find that there is usually a bias in the books chosen. Many of the books included in guides published in the USA will also be published in the USA, and similarly for the UK published guides. Obviously be aware that guides will not include children's books' reviews for those books published after the guide itself was published.
The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children was written by Eden Ross Lipson, the former children’s book editor of The New York Times. The third edition of this lengthy guide was published in 2000. It suggests 1,001 of the best children’s books of the twentieth century published in the United States. Books are categorised in the main listing into wordless books, picture books, story books, early reading books, middle reading books and young adult books, and within each category they are listed alphabetically.
The children's books' reviews are relatively brief, being only one or two sentences long. Although details are given of the publisher and the date of publication, no mention is made of the number of pages or the recommended age range of each book. Multiple indexes are included at the end which group books by title, author, illustrator; age appropriateness; read-aloud potential and over 50 special subject categories such as Adventure, Friendship, Manners and Science. There are a few illustrations dotted throughout the book taken from the books reviewed.
The Read-Aloud Handbook is a classic by Jim Trelease which was first published in the USA in 1982, with a seventh edition coming out in 2013. Supported by interesting anecdotes and the latest research, it explains the importance of reading aloud to your child to set them on the road to becoming lifelong readers. Over 100 pages are dedicated to a ‘treasury’ of books which are perfect for reading aloud. The books are organised into nine categories: wordless books, predictable books, reference books, picture books, short novels, full-length novels, poetry, anthologies and fairy and folk tales. Within each category the titles are listed alphabetically.
The children's books' reviews include a summary of the book, a suggested listening age range, the number of pages in the book, the publisher and the date of publication, and any appropriate related titles. There is an author and illustrator index at the back of the book but no pictures or illustrations of the books reviewed.
What Should I Read Aloud? is written by Nancy Anderson, a professor at the University of South Florida and was published in the USA in 2007. The first two chapters contains advice on sharing books with young children and how you can help them learn to read while doing so. The rest of the book contains children's books' reviews of 200 of the best-selling picture books published from 1902 to 2005. The list of books chosen is derived from data published by Publishers Weekly on best-selling books whose total sales since the original date of publication have exceeded 750,000.
The books are organised into suggested age levels 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 years, and within these groupings are further divided by topic or theme, such as Colours, Animal Fantasy, Traditional and Realistic Fiction. The reviews vary in length from a few lines to nearly a whole page in some cases, but are on average around ten lines long. Suggestions for other related books are also given. Comprehensive indexes are included for locating subjects, as well as authors, illustrators, and titles. The book includes very few illustrations or photos.
100 Best Books for Children was written by Anita Silvey and published in the USA in 2004. Having spent 35 years reviewing and publishing children’s books, Anita Silvey is well placed to pull together this selection of classic children's books which form, in her opinion, a "basic literary heritage". Books are chosen from 1902 to 2002, with only one book per author, and focused towards preschool to age twelve. The books are arranged by category: Board Books, Picture Books, Books for Beginning Readers, Books for Young Readers, Books for Middle Readers and Books for Older Readers. Within each category the books are listed alphabetically by author.
Each book entry is a page or two long and contains details of the author and illustrator, the publisher and date of publication, the recommended age range and the number of pages of the book. There is a brief synopsis of the book and also an engaging essay on the creation or creator of the book. Anita Silvey knew most of the authors and illustrators for these books personally and so these ‘stories behind the story’ provide insightful historical information and charming anecdotes, making this book a great read in its own right. Additional titles, without reviews, are listed in "Beyond the 100 Best" at the end of the book, which are organized by age (birth through age 12) and also by genre.
1001 Children's Books is a huge 960-page tome. It was published in 2009 in the UK and is edited by Julia Eccleshare who is the Children's Books Editor of the Guardian newspaper in the UK. It includes 1001 of the best children’s books chosen by great children's authors and critics. This is a truly international selection of books with titles included which have been written in a host of different languages. There does, however, tend to be a European bias, with a great diversity of European authors included, from France to the Czech republic. The English translation of some books can be hard to obtain, and unfortunately there is not always an indication as to whether an English translation actually exists.
The books are grouped into five age ranges from 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+ and indexes are included of titles and author/illustrator. Within each age range, books are organised chronologically according to their publication date. There are various lists dotted about with a few extra suggestions on diverse subjects such as Silly Books, Recommended Books about Horses, More Great books about Granddads, Time-travel Tales etc.
The children's books' reviews cover a whole or half page and are written by a variety of contributors, often also including some interesting details about the book’s author. Details of the nationality and year of birth of the author and illustrator are given along with original publication information. Colourful photos of book covers and illustrations from the books themselves are interspersed throughout and most book entries have been illustrated with their first edition covers in the original language.
The Ultimate First Book Guide is a colourful and accessible guide published in the UK in 2008. It contains reviews by a number of contributors of over 500 titles recommended by a team of experts and favourite children’s authors and illustrators. The children's books' reviews are arranged into three age groups 0-2, 2-5 and 5-7 years and within each group the titles are listed alphabetically. There is also an index of authors.
Each book review is several sentences long with many of the entries including a photo of the book cover. Next to some reviews you will find a cross-reference to other titles in the same series or by the same author. The categorisations of the books is somewhat limited, with no indexes by title or subject, and no indication of country or date of publication date. However, there are around thirty special features included throughout the book written by top authors and experts in the field of children's books on a variety of topics and themed lists such as nursery rhymes, books reflecting other cultures, gift books and series fiction.
Other books in this series include The Ultimate Book Guide: Over 700 Great Books for 8-12s and The Ultimate Teen Book Guide.
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