Our Family Canon

Max and I have been trying to find things to do while Miss M attends her three-hour long ballet intensive.  We would come home, but her ballet studio is 45 minutes from our home, so it doesn’t make sense to do that every day.

Today we went to Barnes and Noble.  I miss bookstores, and even though I know it’s Barnes and Noble, I still can’t resist the opportunity to touch, smell, and flip through real books.

We made it for storytime.  The kids’ clerk read a book about Peanut Butter becoming friends with Jelly.  It was cute. Max liked it, but I’m certain I won’t hear about it again.  As the clerk read the story, I looked around at the titles of the newest books.  I flipped through pages.  I read a few of them, but I found that I just didn’t feel like they were as good as the ones we loved as a family.  It got me to thinking about what books are a part of our family literary canon so far.   These are the books that I feel will be passed on to our grandchildren and maybe even beyond.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

415kZ75KgoL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_1.  Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson Karma Wilson appears often in our house, and her books make the list more than once. This book was read more than any other book on the shelf.  Madeleine received it as a gift for her first Christmas. We’ve read it cuddled up together so many times. For three months, Madeleine referred to herself as “Sleepyhead.”  I find her reading it as a bedtime story for her little brother a lot of the time. Also, thanks to John Segal’s creative illustrations, Madeleine learned what a narwhal was before her first birthday.

51I3hoGSaoL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_2. Daddy’s Girl by Garrison Keillor.  Jedidiah and I have always loved Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion.  We would often joke about how at twenty five, we would listen to the NPR, I with my knitting and he with his New York Times crossword puzzle.  We were already so old!

When Madeleine was born, he picked up this board book at our local Hastings.  He and Madeleine have the entire book memorized.  Even eight years later, they can still recite it.  It’s almost like it’s their “song.”  It’s beautiful, and it’s just theirs.


3. Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman.  This is another book that’s consistently quoted by our family and my in-laws.  Even this last weekend,  you could hear Grandpa uttering lines to Max. No one wears a hat without someone quoting this book.



bear-snores-on_2564. Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson.   Whenever I read this book, I cannot help but become overly dramatic.  I love hearing Madeleine giggle as I snore loudly.  The “Bear” books are great, but this one is by far the family favorite.



where-the-wild-things-are5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  I love this book.  I know many people do.  I loved it so much that I lobbied to have my son named Max and won.  For me this book is more than just a book about imagination, emotions, or pretending.  It’s about the complex relationship between a mother and son.  It’s just beautiful.  Everything about it. Beautiful.


web6. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  Hardly anyone will disagree that this book is one of the best books in children’s literature.  I first read it to Madeleine when we moved to Colorado.  She had to leave behind many of her friends, and I wanted a book that would address that idea but in a “not shoved down your throat” way.  This book did it.  Reading this before the beginning of kindergarten is one of my treasured memories of our new house and life in Colorado. To this day, it’s still her favorite book.

ql-123_1z7. Goodnight, Good night, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker.  This is one of the only titles acquired for Max alone. Aunt Leslie sent it to him for Christmas.  It’s just the perfect book to put a little boy to sleep.  Max doesn’t quite have the same love of books that everyone else in the house does, but offer to read him this or Where the Wild Things Are, and he’s in.



Madeline-main28. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. I have always enjoyed the story about a little French girl with appendicitis.  I KNEW my little girl would love it too.   We have every Madeline title, and they are all proudly displayed on her bookshelf.  We still walk by the tigers at the Denver Zoo and say “Pooh, pooh!”




Crazy_Hair_(Gaiman_McKean_book)_cover9. Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman.  


10. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is extremely popular at our house.  I may or may not have accused by husband of actually having a “Shrine to Neil Gaiman.”  Shrine or not, the man is a literary genius.  He’s one of the greatest storytellers of our time, and besides the Beowulf debacle (I just can’t get over that one, Mr. Gaiman), he’s pretty infallible as a writer.  He can write compelling stories for adults as well as touching, TheDayISwappedMyDadforTwoGoldfish_AudioCD_1250349733humorous, and creative stories for children. Crazy Hair in particular is another quoted favorite.  On any given morning, one of us will tell the other of us that we have “crazy hair.”

What books are in your family canon?

11 thoughts on “Our Family Canon

  1. This was a great post – especially for a grandma who is always looking for books for her grandchildren. I am glad you included the author and a short review – sometimes book cover look kind of blah or just like another book – so I like reading reviews and why people like a book.


  2. Love your list! Our family has a LONG list, but we love most Newbery Award winners. The “Mercy Watson” series is laugh-out-loud wonderful; and we read all the Harry Potter books out loud to our kids as each one was published.


    • Thanks! We have a lot more too. We’ve promised to take our daughter to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” as soon as she reads the first three books. She was an early reader and read most of Mercy Watson in kindergarten. Currently, my husband is reading Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK to her. We love it and CORALINE too.


  3. The copy of Sleepyhead that you gave us for Bo has Been through numerous readings and it’s one of our favorites. A favorite of mine is Little Blue Truck Goes to the City. I have it memorized, including the voices for each vehicle that Little Blue Truck encounters.


  4. One book that has become a bit of a multi-generational touchstone is Dr. Seuss’ “The Foot Book.” I read it to my niece when she was little and would bounce her feet when I got to the “left foot” and “right foot” parts. That was 20 years ago. Now that I have a four year old of my own I’ve been doing the same thing with my daughter almost since she was born. I tried using the same copy of the book I read to my niece but my daughter tore out a page or two when she was just a few months old.


    • My husband read this post tonight. He said he felt bad about my not including Dr. Seuss on the list. I told him Dr. Seuss was a given. Our favorite is I CAN READ WITH MY EYES SHUT or ONE FISH, TWO FISH. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yikes! Go Dog Go haunted my dreams for many years when my kids were small –:) And I’d make the case that Charlotte’s Web is one of the most perfect books of all time, transcending the kids’ book genre. Like your family, we’ve quoted the first line (“Where’s Papa going with that axe?”) as well as many of the Madeline books…you realize just how important these books are. One that looms large in our family canon is The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken — sort of an over-the-top Gothic adventure we’ve read over and over. (There’s a subsequent series featuring some of the minor characters, too.) Thanks for nudging my memory!

    Liked by 1 person

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