Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites

A good children's book is surprisingly hard to find.

Perhaps I am a hard critic, but I must say that I am largely underwhelmed by the majority of the books that we check out from the library. They tend to be unimaginative, embarrassingly trite, lacking in depth and character development, and crudely illustrated.

On the flip side, there are some children's books that far surpass adult books in beauty and original writing. For your reading pleasure, here are 5 of our favorite picture books that are not particularly well-known:

Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites 1Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli

Mr. Hatch works at the shoelace factory and lives an uninspired, ho-hum life...until he receives an anonymous note in the mail that turns his life upside-down. A lovely story about the power of human kindness.

Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites 2The Chimpanzees of Happytown by Giles Andrae

The Town of Drabsville USA is dreary, boring, and grey...until a passionate and energetic monkey shows up and colors the world. It gloriously illustrates the power that one individual can have to transform an entire community.

Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites 3Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Two beautiful daughters - one with a cold heart, one with a kind heart. A noble and handsome prince must choose a wife. Will love win out? [The answer is: Yes.]

Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites 4What Charlie Heard by Mordecai Gerstein

Author Mordecai Gerstein brilliantly writes the biography of American Composer Charles Ives in a way that appeals to both young and old. His use of the pen is pure music and the illustrations are wondrous. P.S. If you have a chance to get this one as an audio book, DO IT. Hearing Mordecai read his work aloud is an auditory delight.

Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites 5Martha Doesn't Say Sorry by Samantha Berger

Martha the Otter is occasionally naughty and, unfortunately, she is not very good at apologizing. In the end, however, she does learn the benefits of saying sorry. Clever illustrations. Fun to read aloud.

What are your favorite lesser-known children's books? Have you read any or all of the books on my list?

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36 comments on “Children's Books: 5 [Little-Known] Favorites”

  1. Those are great book recs! Martha is the only one we've read and we love it! But my all-time favorite, lesser known book has to be "I Can't Said the Ant"...such a classic!

  2. I haven't read any of the books on your list! They sound good. I love trying new ones. We adore Bookmans, where we sell back old books and puzzles and games and purchase gently used ones. It brings fun variety to our home library in an inexpensive way, and teaches the girls that there's not much difference between new and used stuff except for price (well, depending on what kind of used stuff you're buying...I do have standards, you know!).

    1. This is the same reason I adore the library. We can try tons of new books...without having to spend tons of money! :)

      Now if only there were one a little closer...

  3. For the really little ones - my baby LOVED the Gossie, Gertie, Ollie, and Peedie books by Olivier Dunrea. They are fabulously fun and the illustrations are simple, not overly busy. The other great book that has always been a big hit in our home is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - SO FUN with great rhythm.

  4. My little ones LOVE Mo Williams. Knuffle Bunny has been all three of their first loved book. They laugh hysterically at Pigeon and are learning to read with Pig and Elephant. These aren't deep or anything, just fun. They also love Dr. Seuss and all the Beatrix Potter collection. Do you do voices? Sometimes I wonder if anyone else looses their voice over storytime ;)

    1. Yes! I definitely do "voices" when reading books to my girls. Apparently, I do the Wicked Queen in Snow White a little *too* well because my 3-year-old has been asking me to skip over the parts when she talks over the past few days. ;)

  5. Oh! one more thing. I work at a public library and we own all the books that I mentioned and I must say we have an excellent childrens book collection. If your library doesn't have a good selection, maybe you could recommend some titles?

  6. My 20 month old doesn't really have the patience for a longer book. He likes to read to himself and he likes books that have pictures of trucks, tractors, etc. or that have different textures. The only book that has really held his interest is the first book I read to him when he was only a couple days old: Corduroy by Don Freeman. It's an older book (my mom read it to my sister and me) and it's about a bear that looks imperfect but a little girl saves up her money to buy him.

  7. I love Peggy Rathman too! Ten minutes till bedtime, Goodnight Gorilla. Great books. I also adore almost anything by Kevin Henke. He wrote Old Bear and My Garden. The book Higher, higher is another favorite by Leslie Patricelli. One of my favorites that we borrow from the library is based on the Robert Louis Stevenson poem: The moon. This adaptation has illustrations by Tracey Campbell Pearson. Love it.

  8. i got a great gift from one my dear friends right before i had baby #2--she bought my oldest daughter a book written by Brooke Shields, called "Welcome to Your World, Baby." We read it to my oldest right before the baby came & now she likes me to read it my little one.

  9. some of my favorite books to read the girls are the "pickle town" series. There are more than 26 books - and each about an animal in the town that has a strong trait. Each book will pick a character and will have run ins with other animals in town. Each book teaches something. absolutely love them. They books were from my childhood and I found the rest of the series on eBay. :)

  10. Hmm, I haven't read any of the books on your list. I will have to now! I don't know if this is a lesser known book, but I always tear up a little (in a good way) after reading I Love You More by Judy Cooley.

  11. We haven't read any of these books. We'll keep our eye open for them on our next library visit. They sound like really good ones. :)

  12. My grandson is 22 months old. For the past couple of months my grandson rarely sits still for long.
    I have yet to find a book that would hold my grandson's attention for more than a couple of minutes.

    I am able to keep his attention with the Fisher Price books that play music while reading the story. And its a very short book.

    Any suggestions for books for me to read to him?
    I will try the five books suggested by Stephanie and in the next few weeks other little books suggested by other readers.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

    Cathy from FL

  13. We love any thing by Robert McCloskey especially Lentil. We have worn out or copy of Mike Mulligan and His StEeam Shovel. Emily's balloon has been read almost everyday for a year. We love all of Astrid Lindgren's books especially the books for younger children like I Want a Brother or Sister and Lotta's Bike. They are difficult to find, but worth finding on inter-library loan if your library does not have them. The pictures make me want to cry they are so sweet.

  14. I just thought of a book that I LOVE and recommend to any mother (specially if you have a son) called Love you Forever written by Robert Munsch. It makes me tear up everytime I read it.

  15. The only book from your list I have read is Mufasa's daughters. It was a favorite of mine growing up.

    I have yet to read it to my kids but will definitely look for it at the library.

  16. Thanks Stephanie! A while ago you mentioned "Martha doesn't say sorry" and I bought it. We eat it up! I love it and so does Kyleigh. I just went and purchased these books also :) We are stuck on our "alphabet books" our little one wants to read NOTHING else. So at the moment we read alphabet books and her toddler Bible stories. :)

  17. Oh this is a great list and I haven't read them all yet... I am compiling a list of "teaching" picture books that I enjoy...
    I would add anything by Patricia Polacco - Thank you, Mr. Falker always makes me cry - it's basically her story of how she struggled to read and a teacher who made all the difference.

  18. Those look like some good suggestions! Some lesser know ones we've fallen in love with are:

    "Mother Mother I Want Another" by Maria Robbins - adorable illustrations along with the cute & silly story of the mix up that occurs when baby mouse tells his mom, "I want another, Mother!"

    "Do Like a Duck Does" by Judy Hindley is another one with fun rhyming text and very cute illustrations. It's about a clever duck mother outwitting a wily fox.

    We also love nearly all of Bill Peet's wonderful books, especially "The Caboose that Got Loose", "Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent", and "Hermit the Kermit" - they all have clever stories with great lessons, wonderful rhyming text and fabulous illustrations.

  19. Lesser known? I don't know how to determine that... Here are my favorites:
    Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, Miss Rumphius, The Runaway Bunny, Home for a Bunny, the Frances books (!!! Oh man. Have you read them? They are amazing)... I have a decent list. S's list is all things animal. And butterflies. He is really into butterflies right now. It's pretty darn cute.

    1. We only own one Frances book: Bread and Jam for Frances. It's a fun read, for sure.

      Which Frances books are your favorite?

      1. I think I really like Birthday for Frances. It's just so obvious that the authors had a firstborn daughter. I love it. I also like Bread and Jam for Frances.
        Things to be aware of: She is threatened with a spanking in Bedtime For Frances. Don't know if you stay away from that or not. And in Best Friends for Frances she sings a song that isn't very nice about her friend, but they make up in the end.
        And Miss Rumphius is one of my all time favorites, too. I read it when I am having a particularly bad, "I-want-to-do-something-beautiful-but-don't-feel-like-I-am" sort of days.

        1. I just added "Birthday for Frances" and "Bedtime for Frances" to our library list. I think I read them both as a child, but I can't recall the stories.

          RE: the threat of spanking in the book. We'd read it anyway (and talk about it). Our 3-year-old understands that some parents spank, but we choose not to.

  20. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughter's was one of my childhood reads. It's a good one for sure. I'll have to check out the rest of them.
    The Lorax probably doesn't count as lesser known since it's dr. seuss, but we love it. Also, William Steig's Amos and Boris and Cynthia Rylant's All in a Day are among our favorites.

    1. Have you heard "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters" on CD? We checked out the audio version from our local library and it was beautifully done. The narrator told the story exactly right!

  21. I really enjoy reading the children's books by Max Lucado ("You are Mine", "You are Special") - all of which feature the love of God for his people, and how unique we are all made!
    Even the older kids here at the Ranch (14yr olds sometimes!) love these books!
    Beautifully illustrated and lovely to read :)

  22. I always love finding new books to get for the kids' library. I will have to try some of the these. :)

  23. My girls all have a silly streak so Peggy Rathman's Officer Buckle and Gloria is a big hit. We also love the illustrations in her book The Day the Babies Crawled Away. I don't really know if she's a widely read children's author, but she's definitely one of our favorites for picture books.

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