While I procrastinate on the edits to my own children’s book manuscripts, I thought I’d give a shout-out to those authors who have inspired me with their talent for telling stories in rhyme. These are my favorites, subject to the following rules: 1) I omitted Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein entirely otherwise the list would have been eight miles long; 2) Likewise, I omitted the classic and obvious ones like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; 3) My kids must love the book as much as I do (you’d be surprised how many didn’t meet that criterion); and 4) I could only list one book per author. Oh, and the list is in no particular order.
So tell me, what are your favorite rhyming books? I’m always on the lookout for more examples of great rhyme. I love these stories because they endure. Even Em, who is now 7 and more interested in chapter books as a whole, still loves each and every one of these books. Why not? I love them too.
- Time for Bed by Mem Fox – This was my favorite bedtime book to read to my kids when they were babies. They both loved the soothing rhythm. Who wouldn’t? It’s such a sweet story, right from its opening couplets: “It’s time for bed little mouse, little mouse. Darkness is falling all over the house. It’s time for bed little goose, little goose. The stars are out and on the loose.” You just can’t help but snuggle your child closer when you read this book.
- I’m a Manatee by John Lithgow – From the beginning (“From time to time I dream that I’m a manatee, undulating underneath the sea”), to the end (“For every time I’m dreaming I’m a manatee, somewhere a manatee is dreaming that he’s me”), this story is a blast to read. Ard Hoyt’s illustrations are spectacular. The manatees are so ugly they’re adorable. Lithgow originally wrote the story as a song, although we never had the CD (we got this book out of a box of Cheerios). I’m kind of glad because I’ve always enjoyed reading it from the rhythm in my head.
- Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis – This is a cute rhyming story that navigates kids through the full range of feelings to let them know they are all normal. “I’d rather feel silly, excited or glad, than cranky or grumpy, discouraged or sad. But moods are just something that happen each day. Whatever I’m feeling inside is okay.” What really makes this book, though, are Laura Cornell’s illustrations. There is so much detail and humor in the pictures you could spend hours just with those.
- Jamberry by Bruce Degen – Jamberry is second only to Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks as my very favorite read-aloud. How could you resist “Quickberry! / Quackberry! / Pick me a blackberry! / Trainberry / Trackberry / Clickety-clackberry”? Or “Raspberry / Jazzberry / Razzamatazzberry / Berryband / Merryband / Jamming in Berryland”? As if the story wasn’t addictive enough, the illustrations are fantastic with a classic, old-fashioned feel.
- Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner – Ever wonder why, when you build a perfectly sturdy snowman, you often find him all wilted and slumped over the next day? Here’s a theory: “I think that snowmen start to slide / (when it gets really dark), / off the lawn and down the street — / right into the park. / They gather in a circle while they wait for all the others, / sipping cups of ice-cold cocoa, made by snowman mothers.” Mark Buehner’s illustrations are both hilarious and magical.
- Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom – Adorable tale of a little-boy bear going through the daily routine, illustrated by the great Bruce Degen (see Jamberry above). “Jesse Bear, what will you wear? / What will you wear in the morning? / My shirt of red / Pulled over my head / Over my head in the morning. / I’ll wear my pants / My pants that dance / My pants that dance in the morning. / I’ll wear a rose / Between my toes / A rose in my toes in the morning…”
- Ten Sleepy Sheep by Phyllis Root – Ten little sheep “in the grass knee-deep” don’t want to sleep. In this melodic bedtime story, we count them down one by one as they surrender. Each sheep has a colored ribbon around its neck so kids can keep track of them. “10 / Ten little sheep / leap the cucumber vine. / Long grass bends. / Spider mends. / Sleep, sheep. / Now there are … / 9 / Nine sheep race / past the tall green gate. / Wind sighs. / Whippoorwill cries. / Sleep, sheep. / Now there are…”
- I Love You as Much… by Laura Krauss Melmed – Probably the most heartwarming book you could give a new parent, full of heart-melting couplets of mother animals telling their babies how much they love them. “Said the mother horse to her child, / I love you as much as a warm summer breeze. / Said the mother bear to her child, / I love you as much as the forest has trees.” Concluding with, “Now sleep child of mine / While the stars shine above. / I love you as much / As a mother can love.” The illustration of the mother in bed with her newborn baby will kill you.
- Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton – Everyone knows this one. “Stomp your feet / Clap your hands / Everybody ready for a barnyard dance!” Boynton is the master of rhyme for the youngest children.
- How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen – All of the books in the How do Dinosaurs series are fabulous and represent an author/illustrator (Mark Teague) partnership at its best. My favorite one is the food book because of the first verse: “How does a dinosaur / eat all his food? / Does he burp, / does he belch, / or make noises / quite rude? / Does he pick at his cereal, / throw down his cup, / hoping to make / someone else pick it up? / Does he fuss, does he fidget, / or squirm in his chair? / Does he flip his spaghetti high into the air? / DOES A DINOSAUR GLARE?” Teague’s picture of a Supersaurus glaring at his human mother is classic, and that is exactly how my kids look at me when I give them food they’re less than thrilled about at dinnertime (which is often). All of these books are terrific though. You can’t go wrong with a single one in the series.
- Parts by Tedd Arnold – If you are looking for boy-pleasing rhyming books, look no further than Tedd Arnold’s Parts series. Lots of gross-out stuff like this: “..Then yesterday, before my bath / As I took off my clothes / A chunk of something gray and wet / Fell right out of my nose. / I started at it, amazed, and thought, / I should be feeling pain. / Well, wouldn’t you if you just lost / A little piece of brain?”
- Cowboy Bunnies by Christine Loomis – I fell in love with this one for the Western theme. “Cowboy bunnies / Wake up early / Ride their ponies / Hurly burly / Start at sunup / Work all day / Roping cows / Tossing hay”
- I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rosetti-Shustak – Simple, sweet, profound. “I love your top side / I love your bottom side / I love your inside / and outside”
- Carry Me by Rosemary Wells – Actually a set of three stories, this book wins the award for the most poetic storytelling. “Sing me a winter song / I’ll sing you right along / The old song we know / About the Wild Winter Wizard / With his beard full of blizzard / And his bags full of snow.”
Blackie: The Horse Who Stood Still by Christopher Cerf and Paige Peterson – An amazing piece of nonfiction, told entirely in verse, about a beloved horse who – you guessed it – stood still his whole life. This is a great piece for older kids with longer attention spans. Just make sure you have some tissues on hand for the ending! (emphasis in these verses is the authors’) “In a pasture in Kansas / one early spring morn, / A horse quite unlike / other horses was born. / His coat was coal black / so they named the horse ‘Blackie’ / And before very long folks found out / he was wacky! / See, most colts are frisky / but Blackie was not. / Blackie liked standing still! / Yes, he liked it a lot! / ‘What’s the hurry?’ thought Blackie. / ‘There’s so much to see, / Standing here in the shade of a juniper tree….”
Many thanks to these authors who prove time and again that rhyme does work for children’s stories if it is done well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”Categories: Authors, Books, Children's Books, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: Authors, Book List, Children's Books, Read Aloud, Rhyming, Writing