5 Favorite Picture Books: Rhyme Time
One of the big benefits of switching from a lower paying but more creative job (in the scrapbooking industry) to higher paying but less exciting work (email marketing and business ghostwriting) is that I have creative time and creative energy to spare, which has resulted in more crafting, scrapbooking, writing, researching, and purposeless creativity than I've done in years. It's a beautiful thing.
One of the things I'm doing these days is trying to shop around a children's picture book I've written. I have one complete manuscript, with a bunch of half-finished stories and other ideas brewing, too. I'm currently in the "research the publishing industry" phase, right in the middle of trying to decide whether to submit the manuscript directly to publishers or shop for an agent—or do both, simultaneously.
As I'm immersing myself into this world, I thought I'd share some of my favorite picture books with you. First up: books that rhyme. When you read a book to a child over and over (and over), it helps when there's a lovely, lyrical cadence to the language. Here are five delightful picture books that have such a wonderful real-aloud rhythm that they're irresistible to read, as nominated by me and my daughter Keira, age 4.
#1 Wynken, Blynken & Nod
Words: Eugene Field
Illustrations: Johanna Westerman
"Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe.
Sailed on a river of crystal light, into a sea of dew..."
Why I Love It: The words, written over 100 years ago by American poet and literary critic Eugene Field, weave a web of pure childhood magic. And the illustrations are just as timeless and nostalgic in this version of the classic tale, published in the 1990s. I love the winking old moon later on in the book.
Why Keira Loves It: She loves searching for the little black kitty in every picture.
#2 Llama Llama Red Pajama
Words & Illustrations: Anna Dewdney
"Baby Llama, what a tizzy! Sometimes Mama's very busy.
Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama."
Why I Love It: It's amazing to see how many coherent rhymes Dewdney found for "llama/pajama/mama/drama" without ever sacrificing a meaningful storyline for verbal wordplay. The illustrations are beyond precious, especially the expressions of unwarranted terror on baby llama's face. There's a whole series of Llama Llama books, but this is our favorite so far.
Why Keira Loves It: She is transfixed by the sounds of the words when the book is read aloud. She fell in love with this book at age 2 at my sister's house, so we had to buy a copy for ourselves: "I want to read Llama Llama Beejama!"
#3 The Gruffalo
Words: Julia Donaldson
Illustrations: Axel Scheffler
"A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
'Where are you going to little brown mouse?
Come and have lunch in my underground house.'"
Why I Love It: It is utterly delightful to read aloud. And there's not just one, but two, unexpected twists in the plot. The author says she originally envisioned the story with a tiger, but she couldn't work that animal into the rhyme scheme, so she invented the imaginary gruffalo. Good move.
Why Keira Loves It: She loves the clever little mouse, and her eyes grow wide as the gruffalo, with his "knobbly knees and turned-out toes" and "poisonous wart at the end of his nose" starts to take shape.
#4 Little Miss Spider
Words & Illustrations: David Kirk
"For finding your mother, there's one certain test.
You must look for the creature who loves you the best."
Why I Love It: As an adoptive mother, I especially adore this charming and sweet story, with its surprise ending. Yes, it's oversimplified, because birth mothers love their babies beyond reason too, but it makes a complicated concept accessible to young minds. The rhymes are simple and straightforward and fun for little ones to listen to.
Why Keira Loves It: This was one of her favorite books, even from a very young age. I think the bright, primary colors captured her attention, and she was able to easily grasp the gist of the story.
#5 Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef
Words: Marianne Berkes
Illustrations: Jeanette Canyon
"Over in the ocean where the scuba divers dive
Lived an old mother puffer and her pufferfish five."
Why I Love It: The art is incredible. Each scene was shaped entirely from polymer clay before being photographed for the book. It's a great lesson in counting, and the rhyming stanzas are fun and whimsical. There's an entire series by this author, but this is the only one we've read so far. We bought it in the gift shop of the Aquarium of the Pacific in California.
Why Keira Loves It: The colors and textures are dazzling. Keira loves looking for the mother and trying to find and count all the babies hidden in the pictures: one baby octopus, two baby parrotfish, three baby clownfish, and so on.
That wraps up my list. What are your favorite rhyming children's books?
p.s. In case you’re wondering: my yet-to-be-published children's book? Yes, it rhymes. But I’m finding out those are the hardest ones to sell.