What To Read Quicklist (Pre-K)

One of my favorite children’s picture book authors is Valeri Gorbachev (here’s a charming interview with the Brooklyn-based author/illustrator). If you see his name on the book, chances are it’s a sweet story about anthropomorphized- could I possibly have spelled that right the first time?- animals.  Here are my top 5:

  1. Catty Jane Who Hated the Rain My middle boy called this his favorite book FOR. YEARS. It was one of those books we checked out from the library every time.
  2. That’s What Friends Are For Everyone needs these guys to teach a class on what it means to be a friend.
  3. Shhh! A sweet book for a house with a new baby.
  4. Turtle’s Penguin Day A great book for school awareness.
  5. Christopher Counting A sweet tale for young counters everywhere!

What to Read Quicklist (Baking Cookbooks)

  1. Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller is a serious cookbook for real bakers. Not only does this tome count as an intro to weightlifting, but the recipes are delicious and varied.
  2. The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe by Rebecca Rather. The bakery might be gone, but the recipes survive! Shortbread cookies, Texas kolaches, and an assortment of muffin recipes make this one a keeper. It has baked goods AND savories.
  3. Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson. You know a cookbook is good when you check it out so many times back to back that you feel annoyed when the library wants it returned. This is my #1 sign that it’s time to bite the bullet and buy a cookbook. I really like the recipes on Joy Wilson’s blog, but it’s nice to have the instructions on the shelf instead of  constantly pulling up the internet. Her brown butter peach muffins are in heavy rotation at our house.
  4. Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour & Butter by Kate Lebo. This was the book that got me through my early attempts at pie. The main thing I like is that her ratios always work! Not too runny, with healthy doses of booze and reasonable amounts of sugar. I still use her all-butter crust as my mainstay.
  5. Cake Keeper Cakes: 100 Simple Recipes for Extraordinary Bundt Cakes, Pound Cakes, Snacking Cakes, and Other Good-to-the-Last-Crumb Treats by Lauren Chattman. Okay, hang with me on this one because the cover and title does not seem like a great foodie find. Make the oatmeal and applesauce cake though, and then tell me you aren’t willing to look passed the exterior (and shame on you for judging this book by its cover!).

What to Read Quicklist (Fiction)

  1. Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson. If you know us at all, then we’ve probably recommended this book, and not only this book but its two sequels as well. It’s an epistolary novel with an aging father and pastor (Ames) at the core. If you don’t love him and wish he belonged to you in some capacity by the end of the novel, then something is missing in your heart.
  2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. This book is darkness and light painted on a sweeping human canvas. If you can perservere through the hundred pages of French civil war in the middle, then this book has the power to change you. Classics are often lauded for a reason.
  3. The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. This book has been on my favorites list for so long that I almost don’t remember what I loved about it. When I try to remember the story I come up with words like redemption, grace, and compassion. This book is about hard lives handled with gentleness, and I really just loved it.
  4. Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy. Short stories are a beautiful thing! Tolstoy is going to gather all his Russian thoughtfulness and pack it into little novellas that will make you rethink marriage, family, and the good life in 100 pages or less.
  5. The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett. I’ve read every novel Ann Patchett has published because of this book. This book overwhelmed me, on completing the last page, with the feeling that this was a new story and one that I’d never heard before. Some writers are language craftspeople and some are storytellers. Ann Patchett is the latter. [She has a new novel called Commonwealth coming out in September. I may have squealed with joy when adding it to my wishlist.]

What to Read Quicklist (K-3)

  1. Catwings (A Catwings Tale) by Ursula K. Le Guin. I love this book and all its sequels. They are short, sweet stories about cat siblings who were born with wings (probably because their father was a “fly-by-night”).
  2. Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder by Kate DiCamillo. Kate DiCamillo is a master storyteller, and none of her books are quite as fun as the Mercy Watson series. They make us laugh every time, and the illustrations by Chris Van Dusen are part of the package for sure.
  3. Angus MacMouse Brings Down the House by Linda Phillips Teitel. Although the story about a small mouse who wishes to be a conductor is relatively simple, the background information about opera and orchestral music makes this little book feel surprisingly rich.
  4. Adèle & Simon by Barbara McClintock. This picture book delivers a lovely route of Paris, a find and seek game for all the items Simon loses along the way, and a charming sibling story (especially for big sisters).
  5. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. I love all the children’s novels from E.B. White, but ‘Trumpet’ is my favorite. I don’t recommend the movie- it forgets everything lovely from the book- but the audio book reading by the author is a treasure.

What to Read Quicklist (Pre-K)

  1. The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio.  It’s a sweet story about a lion in France who leaves the zoo for a day to wander about town.
  2. The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen. Rhyming, rhythmic tale about shipwreck and a charming escape.
  3. Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall. I always tell my kids this is my favorite children’s book, and they grab it as a special kindness to me. Its lyrical portrayal of farm life and gentle domestic scenes reads like a Wendell Berry primer for kids.
  4. A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse) by Bonnie Becker. I love the illustrations in this book and the vocabulary is particularly rich. Everybody needs a friend, even grumpy old Bear.
  5. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. Great watercolor illustrations in this fanciful tale of a lion and the people he won over. We never stopped wishing for a big cat to wander into our library.