Books to Inspire Wonder

Eliza Clark
June 18, 2014

Young children live in a state of wonderment that most of us adults only experience in fleeting, precious moments. Our preschoolers see mystery all around them. They wonder about everything and want to learn—think of all the questions they ask, all the times they stop to look, all the puzzles they try to solve.

We are so lucky to get to share some of that wondering with them. Especially when we are enjoying a great book together, not rushing anywhere or in the middle of another task. When we are reading one of these very special books with our kids, we get to partake of their fascination with the world they are just discovering. We hope you and your kids adore them as much as we do!

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

This much-loved story makes a compelling case for the power of imagination. It also frees you from thinking that you need to give or make or buy all sorts of things to spark your little one's imagination. In the case of Harold, whatever he needs, he creates for himself, all with the help of one magic purple crayon. You've got a worn waxy stub of any color at all in that art bin that can spin the same magic. Harold's imagination delights and comforts him, and literally it shows him the way: "He also needed something to walk on. So he drew a path." A perfect bedtime story for especially evocative dreams, this wonderful story will surely help your little person make his own way too.

Moon Plane by Peter McCarty

This tale tells just how far a little imagination can get you. Like Harold and his purple crayon, it zooms off under the powerful engine of a little one's imagination, and in the vein of a certain Max in a certain wolfsuit, it also shows you how that same imagination can bring you safely right back home again. The perfect combination, especially for a child being tucked into bed. This nameless little boy in the book imagines himself flying a plane all the way to the moon, landing there, walking around, and flying home, just in time to be tucked into bed by his mom so that he can dream (some more) about airplanes. A flight of fancy indeed.

Alice in Wonderland Pop-up Book by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Robert Sabuda

While the detail in this story may be beyond the ken of your preschooler, this pop-up version of the greatest tea party of them all charms even when the plot confounds. So, when your little host can be persuaded to put down the tea pot and climb onto the sofa for a read, do pull out this magnificent volume. The page with the cards will take your breath away (no spoilers here), and your little one will finally understand why you are always muttering that you are "late, late, for a very important date!" when rushing out the door.

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poems for Children edited by Caroline Kennedy

We all probably have, somewhere upon our shelves, a weighty anthology of poetry that we last opened when studying for a college English exam. Now that we are parents, it has crossed our minds that our rhyme and rhythm-loving children might enjoy hearing some of those poems that we struggled to parse in English 101. But how to choose? Which ones of the many thousands? We are lucky that Caroline Kennedy has done the work for us and given us her selection of favorite poems for children, each beautifully illustrated. No chronological plowing through the centuries here—the poems are arranged according to themes preschoolers know and love: animals and adventure, silliness and seasons, and bedtime of course, among others. But these familiar childhood topics usher in the greatest poets of our language, from Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes to Sylvia Plath. Reading their words aloud to our little ones is pure pleasure. And small word-sponges that they are, won't our kids be pleased with themselves when it is their turn to take an English exam, and they can conjure William Blake from memories of reading on a parent's lap?

From the Parents

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