Mary Wigmore’s Favorite Children’s Books

Some of the best memories I have from childhood are of my mother lying in bed with me and reading me stories. I can remember way back when books like Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon were appropriate, so we’re talking decades. We had a few greatest hits, Elouise and The Chronicles of Narnia being frontrunners. That time together was pretty indelible. I’m always looking for great books I may not know about to read to my kids. We’ve put together some recommendations that are worth checking out.


The Best Children’s Books

There are several children’s books that we love—a couple of old favorites from when we were kids, others that have recently been given to us by friends and family.

Of all my son Sam’s books, the best of them stand the true test: They can be reread a million times while still retaining a sense of discovery and most of all, comfort. That he asks for them again and again tells us something is working and attests to the true genius of the best children’s book authors.

Looking at our stack of greatest hits, what these books seem to share is a handmade quality, surprising images, clear poetic language—and they never talk down to children.

Duck and Goose
by Tad Hills

This is a story of a duck and goose who mistake a ball for an egg. It’s funny because the reader is instantly in on the joke, and as you see them bumble through mild conflict, their sweetness enables them to work it out. It’s a nice story about sharing and every one of the illustrations is like a beautiful painting for children.

Little Fur Family
by Margaret Wise Brown

Just plain weird and completely wonderful! This is a story about little fur creatures that live in a warm wooden tree. Written like a trippy blank verse poem with illustrations to match, it’s about a day in the life of a small fur boy venturing out into the woods alone, experiencing the wonder of everything and then returning to his cozy and affectionate family, where he receives equally massive doses of unconditional love and stability.

Also by Margaret Wise Brown: Big Red Barn. My husband impersonates Bob Dylan’s “freewheelin” talking blues style when he reads this old timey story and gets laughs (most of the time).

In the Night Kitchenby Maurice Sendak

Like a dream assembled from elements of everyday life, it is at once familiar while you can never be sure exactly what it’s about—which makes it fresh on every read!

Andrew Henry’s Meadow
by Doris Burn

Andrew Henry is a super creative kid who builds elaborate machines, creating havoc in a household indifferent to his creative charms. He runs away and quickly finds like-minded kids who construct a kind of creative misfit utopia. This was my husband’s favorite as a child and now our son asks to read it almost every night.

by Bruno Munari

A gift from his friend Esther, this book has been a real hit, and it is always a surprise when we get to the gatefold with the caption: “The Birds Are Infinite…..” We love the illustrations and the unique descriptions of the animals.

by Leo Lionni

Frederick teaches us that being an oddball visionary is important. A great story about valuing artistic vision. I am sensing a theme here…

This is New York
by Miroslav Sasek

Whenever my husband travels to New York for work, my son and I study this book to learn about the intricacies of the Big Apple. Stylized and high-modern, it’s like a retro fantasy of what New York City life is/was like–and it helps Sam imagine where his dad is.

My Friends
by Taro Gomi

I like this book because it reinforces the way that connections to other people and animals are the most instructive and constructive forces in our lives.

The little girl in the story is adventurous whether she is climbing a tree with a monkey, singing on the roof with birds, or karate chopping a tree with a gorilla. She has the fearlessness and wonder of a romantic poet! What a cool customer! The gouache paintings are surprising with nice colors.

Richard Scarry’s Biggest Wordbook Ever
by Richard Scarry

I don’t know what we would do without this book.

Wonder Bear
by Tao Nyeu

Incredible Illustrations! No words! This dreamy story is different every time depending on the reader!

Also, check this out—a great event for people in NYC and a valuable cause to contribute to:

Read This

Bring your books. You’ve read them, you’ve loved them, and now you can change someone’s life by passing those books on. ReadThis, a volunteer group founded by writers, is on a mission to provide books to people who need them. Through book drives and online wishlists, ReadThis has created libraries for public schools that don’t have them, bought books for high school students who never read a book together, and sent thousands of books to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who requested them. On Saturday, April 10th in NYC, they will partner with the Center for Fiction to gather books for kids in need. Elizabeth Gilbert (a ReadThis board member), Sam Lipsyte, Jamaica Kincaid, Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl), Martha McPhee, Rick Moody, Adam Haslett, and many, many more will be among the writers participating in this festival.

You can go to
for a full program of events, or buy a couple of books online for a needy school. Join ReadThis’s future efforts on Facebook:
or email them at
[email protected]

Mary Wigmore Reynolds is a filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.