On Monday we had a piece on “beautiful books” and the need of them as a portion of your reading diet. The following list are suggestions from members of the Story Warren team of some of our favorite beautiful books for all ages. Also, check out the comments section of Monday’s post for recommendations from other readers.
The Big Jump Up Animal Book by Lisa Peters, pictures by William Bartlett
This one may be hard to find, but the illustrations are gorgeous and the story a sweet tale of friendship.
Beatrix Potter’s Animal Stories
You know The Tale of Peter Rabbit, of course, but have you read The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, and the Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher? Those are some of my favorites.
Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
A little girl learns to walk the high wire from a master of the craft in 19th century Paris.
The First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein
Reimagines the story of the centuries-old cave paintings in southern France through a second person narrative. This book celebrates the joy of creation and discovery.
Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney
In gorgeous prose, Yolen gently communications the impact of modernization on rural America. A sad, but lovely narrative.
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Diane Goode
A remembrance of the simple pleasures in country living; splashing in the swimming hole, taking baths in the kitchen, sharing family times, each is eloquently portrayed here in both the misty-hued scenes and in the poetic text.
Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli, pictures by S.D. Schindler
While Moses’ family gathers food and warm things for the winter, Moses—against their advice—picks up the sound of the wind in the dried corn stalks and three pebbles. Spinelli’s use of onomatopoeic language may be my favorite thing about this book, but the story’s recognition that there is more to life than simple survival is pretty great, too.
Journey by Aaron Becker
This wordless book follows a lonely girl on her adventure into an imaginary world, with nothing but her red crayon to lead her.
Pockets by Jennifer Armstrong
The somber, hard-working people of an isolated town on the plains ply through life in the drabbest of gray clothes–until, in the linings of their pockets, they begin to discover lavishly embroidered pictures of far-away places, sewn there by a mysterious young woman who has recently arrived and taken up work as the town’s seamstress.
The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Jim LaMarche is a well-known illustrator, brings the story of a boy’s summer as a river rat to life.
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
McCloskey’s story of one summer on a Maine island is full, with a spell of rain, the gulls in a foggy morning, the excitement of sailing, the quiet of the night, the terror of a hurricane, and in the end, the peace of the island as the family packs up to leave.
My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray, Illustrated by Raul Colon
Captured by her mother’s infectious love of dance, a young girl joyously follows her mother in a dance through the seasons.
The Lady and the Lion by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, Illustrated by Laurel Long
Love and honor can overcome even the fiercest obstacles, in this fairy tale with shades of Beauty and the Beast. To save her father, a young woman must go to the castle of a menacing lion. She fears for her life, but finds kindness rather than danger there, for the lion by day is a gentle young man by night-a prince under the spell of a wicked enchantress.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Sam Smith says, “After I read Laura’s review, I read this to my daughter. Then I read it again, and again, and again. Over and over we read it together as a simple delight and a stirring reminder of what adding beauty is worth.”
The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen
This is a great book in verse with incredible illustrations. The book is based on a true story of a Circus Ship that wrecks off the coast of Maine. The animals end up swimming to shore in a non-exotic New England harbor town.
Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen
Another book with great scanning verse. The illustrations are terrific and the story includes an asteroid, a giant robot, and a science whiz that loves baseball but isn’t very good at it.
Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
When day is gone, and shadows begin to deepen, it is time for Grandfather Twilight to close his book, put on his jacket, and go for a walk through the forest. A soothing bedtime book with beautiful illustrations.
Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose, Classic Bedtime Stories, and Classic Fairy Tales by Scott Gustafson
These are gorgeous books with classic texts. Illustrator Zach Franzen says that the illustrations are oil paintings that are so good they make him angry.
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Once upon a time a little house was built in the country. She watched the days go by and her family live their happy lives. And a city grew closer and closer, and the years passed, and the city grew and eventually the little house was swallowed up by the city. Then one day a young man sees her–surrounded by tall buildings and train tracks and trolleys–and remembers her from his childhood on a hill outside the city.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
The Frog and Toad stories celebrate the power of friendship. No matter what kind of adventure they find themselves on, one thing is certain: Frog and Toad will always be together.
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Little Bear and his mother are a delightful pair. When it is cold and snowy outside, she finds just the right outfit for Little Bear to play in. When he goes to the moon, she has a hot lunch waiting for him on his return. And, of course, she never forgets his birthday.
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Over fifty years ago, a small bear from Peru set out on an adventure of a lifetime. With nothing but a suitcase, several jars of marmalade, and a label around his neck that read PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR, he stowed away on a ship headed for faraway England. When the little bear arrived at London’s busy Paddington Station, he was discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Brown. As luck would have it, the Browns were just the sort of people to welcome a lost bear into their family.
The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett
In one of Burnett’s lesser-known books, a boy named Marco and his friend “The Rat” are sent on a journey across Europe to pass a message to certain individuals from all walks of life: “The Lamp is Lighted.” Their friendship carries them through the dangerous journey, and they are part of the restoration of a kingdom.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
When Elizabeth Ann is sent to live with country relatives, the whole experience is a shock to her quiet, sheltered, orderly life. But she soon learns that this new life of hard work and the joys of an active childhood fit her well.
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
When a fortuneteller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller’s mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The four Penderwick sisters, their father, and Hound, get more than what they expected from their summer vacation in the Adirondacks. This book is full of the sweet bonds between sisters, the adventures they have, and the friendships they make. The rest of the books in the series are just as lovely.
The Fledgling by Jane Langton
So when her stepcousins Eleanor and Eddy tell her that she can’t fly, Georgie doesn’t get discouraged — she just tries harder She feels a peculiar lightness when she leaps from the top of the staircase, and is even more certain of her seemingly impossible ability when she jumps from the porch and soars to the rooftop before landing safely on the ground.
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
I love all the Moffat books. The children are interesting and distinct. The boys don’t have to apologize for being boys and sometimes their masculinity is quite noble. Estes highlights the romance of respect for one’s elders, filial love, and love for one’s siblings. The children war against their selfishness rather than make peace with it, and they take ownership of their family, and contribute to their community.
Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These books were written during the New Deal era to remind children of the self-reliant spirit of the Pioneers. Wilder’s tales introduce us to the Ingalls family and their many trials and triumphs as they seek to find a life for themselves as settlers in the West.
The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog by Douglas McKelvey
This is a little story that you still feel deep in your soul even months after you read it. It’s a simple story—a girl lives with her father and their animals in a house at the edge of the forest in a pioneer setting. But there is deep beauty in her courage and her faith in the face of storm and flood.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Princess Irene lives in a castle in a wild and lonely mountainous region. One day she discovers a steep and winding stairway leading to a bewildering labyrinth of unused passages with closed doors – and a further stairway.
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage. When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will.
The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
The first Anne book starts when she is eleven years old, and the series take you forward through much of her life, finishing with the eighth book, which focuses on her daughter growing into a young woman during World War I. Every single one is full of delightful stories and characters who became my bosom friends as a girl and remain so today.
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can’t trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can’t even make a sound. And since he can’t trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him.
Abel’s Island by William Steig
This Newbery Honor book charts the journey of a dandified mouse into the wilderness. He comes out again transformed. It’s a wonderful and rare book.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My Side of the Mountain dramatizes the assumptions of John Muir. A kid gets out of the city and survives in the woods with a great deal of ingenuity and grit.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Another good wilderness survival novel. Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present—and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce.
Chapter Books 13+
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
There is a magic to Stargirl. Leo Borlock is a normal high school boy, whose normalcy is interrupted by Stargirl Carraway, who enters Mica High School, dancing to the beat of her own ukulele. The legend that is Stargirl ripples through the whole school, and some of them will never be the same. (Also, points for awesome cover design–the title is written in pictographs.)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lowry’s classic novel follows Jonas who becomes the receiver of memory for a society that seems perfect. But as he learns what once was, Jonas begins to see that all is not well. Lowry’s descriptions of the memories Jonas encounters are powerful and moving.
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
The book’s setting on an island in the Chesapeake Bay, the sister characters of Louise and Caroline, the sound of a clear voice singing “I Wonder as I Wander” on a cold winter night—this book is full of beauty, heartache, and healing.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I recently re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and realized that it was utterly wasted on me as an eighth grader. It is a book rich with language, nobility, and the beauty of family against a backdrop of horror. I think I could have been walked through the book better as a teen and shown more clearly all the ways that the language rolls, that Atticus Finch stands up for the things we all should, and the ways that truth and justice bring light even in the darkest times. I recommend walking through this book with your teens and helping them see its beauty.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I could recommend every Jane Austen book, but I think that Sense and Sensibility rises to the top in the context of beautiful books. The story of the two Dashwood sisters is a song with a melody and harmony that must learn to sing together. Each line is lovely in and of itself, but together, the music can make you weep.