Picture: File photo

Reading picture books aloud is a tradition in many homes. The other tradition? Kids who pick the same books over and over again. 

Sometimes, we need a recommendation or two to mix it up. Here, we asked best-selling authors and illustrators to tell us what they like or liked to read to their young children.


Annie Barrows, the author of Ivy and Bean, and Peter Spier, who penned many titles, including the magical People and the lesser-known Oh Were They Ever Happy!, say that it’s “because it’s about kids whose parents leave and couldn’t get a sitter and the kids paint the entire house!”.

Lisa Brown, illustrator of Goldfish Ghost: “A Woggle of Witches by Adrienne Adams because it’s beautiful and strange, and it’s for kids (like me) who were obsessed with the creepy and witchy. Also, Big Rabbit’s Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu because it anthropomorphises a bad mood, who picks his nose and wipes the boogers on the carpet.”

Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: “I have one book that I give as a gift, at every opportunity, to parents of young children: Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy. The watercolour illustrations are gorgeous to look at and the story, told in rhyme, skips and rollicks along. It’s a pure pleasure to read as it introduces young children to how the sounds and cadence of words can be used for play.”

Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See: “When he was 3, our son asked to read The Stray Dog by Marc Simont every night. I paged through that book with him probably a thousand times. It’s a comic and tender story, aglow with Simont’s watercolours, about a family on a picnic who encounters a stray dog, dreams about him for the whole week to come, and - after a dramatic chase with a dog catcher - takes the pooch home.

“With one shelter dog already in our house, and another about to arrive, I think our son took comfort in the lesson that sometimes a family needs a dog as much as a dog needs a family.”

Sharon Draper, author of Stella by Starlight: “We loved Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.

“The mom in the pictures is bald and wearing a head scarf, her subtle tribute to moms who do it all even while fighting cancer.”

Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: “I loved A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss.

It’s terrifically witty, a sort of dictionary with entries like ‘hands are to hold’ and ‘mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough’ and ‘a principal is to take out splinters’.

“The Duchess Bakes a Cake, by Virginia Kahl, is rhymed and rhythmic, and I loved the refrain of ‘a lovely, light, luscious, delectable cake’, which is the Duchess’s great ambition.

“The illustrations are also wonderful as you watch the kingdom get fat and thin again.”

Katrina Goldsaito, author of The Sound of Silence: “We read Innosanto Nagara’s A Is For Activist to our 2-and-a-half-year-old, and we especially love that it has funky rhyme schemes.

“My husband and I get bored with traditional rhyming books, and with this one sometimes he will beatbox and I rap the words.”

Michael Lewis, author of The Undoing Project: We loved Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole because it’s a hysterical sex ed book.

Sinclaire is a mother, writer, teacher, and educational consultant. Find her on Twitter @leilasinclaire.