Many years ago, a college artist-friend of mine and I visited a used-book shop together. She immediately headed for the children's books and started flipping through them, remarking, "I always like to look for children's books that have good art, because most of the art in children's books is simply dreadful!"
At the time, I wondered greatly at her comment. Didn't she know how insanely difficult it was to get published as an author of children's books? How could any but the best be on the market? Having never considered the matter before, I was quite puzzled.
The truth of the matter didn't strike me until about ten years later, after I'd been knee-deep in children's books for a couple of years - "Wow! Most children's books really are awful!"
And it's true - for whatever reason, and despite the fact that it is indeed difficult to get children's books published, a huge percentage of children's books out there are pretty bad quality - either in content, artistic quality, or both. (And this, of course, applies especially to mass-produced "grocery store" children's books and to books produced from children's television shows.)
However, I've spent the past eight years going through "good books" lists and seeing the best of what's out there in children's literature. Now, thankfully, I know what to look for in children's books, and - like my friend! - one of my greatest joys is hunting through thrift stores for the best of the best.
With that in mind, here are some of my latest finds! (Notes on books go from left to right, top to bottom.)
Thrift store trip #1:
- Poppleton in Winter - We love Poppleton! So incredibly funny. I hope to collect the whole set.
- Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm - Having just finished with our unit study on Germany, we have read many fairy tales - and the 8yo is thrilled to have his own volume to read!
- Curious George Flies a Kite - We always love Curious George!
- Desert Animals - I love collecting good-quality materials that apply to our local habitats. This one is excellent.
- A Tree is Nice - Classic pre-school/kinder story. I'm so excited to have it!
- Armies of Ants - This was a hit with our son when we read it a year or two back. I'm so happy to have our own!
Thrift store trip #2:
- Heidi (abridged) - We have "Robin Hood" in this version, and it is excellent. I'm thrilled to add "Heidi" to the collection!
- The World of the Microscope by Usborne - Love (almost) anything by Usborne! I'm always on the lookout for these.
- Abe Lincoln and the Muddy Pig - A historical reader - always so fun.
- Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride - Ditto.
- The Night Before Christmas (ill. Tomie de Paola) - We love Tomie de Paola! Two of his books - what a score!
- Quakes! - A science reader - children love these.
- Tomie dePaola's Rhyme Time - I'm always on the lookout for good poetry, having discovered the surprising fact that children actually love the stuff. This is now next on our list!
- Atlas of United States History - This one was great and will be so handy for history studies!
- Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia - More Usborne! Hurray!
- You Can Do It, Sam! - Wow! We love the "Sam" books, and I never expected to find one in a thrift store! Yum!
And an added bonus: A free curriculum swap at which I obtained some of my favorite classics (for me as well as the children!):
- Rod and Staff readers - I'm in loooovvveeee with Rod and Staff. Their stuff is just so sweet. I can't wait to use these with our little guy!
- Memorial Press Series Copybook - We will probably have to take a break from Handwriting Without Tears next year, and this is most likely going to fill the gap!
- Keeping our Children's Hearts - I adore anything and everything by the Maxwell family. I never dreamed of getting one of their books for free!
- Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit - Neither did I dream of getting TWO of the Maxwell books for free, including this one - my ultimate favorite!
Have I mentioned yet that I love searching thrift stores (and curriculum swaps!) for children's books?
If you're just beginning to learn about children's literature, here are some awesome resources to get started!
- The Read-Aloud Handbook
- Honey for a Child's Heart
- Books Children Love
- "Books for Boys" and "More Books for Boys" (link - they also have "books for girls" resources that we have not yet used)
Many great blogs and website also have great reading lists - try these lists:
- Ambleside Online
- The Art of Manliness (books for boys)
- Twaddle-Free Literature from Charlotte Mason Online
- Raising Real Men (books for boys)
Enjoy, dear friends!