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Kids' books we loved in 2020

📅 2020-Jul-15 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 🏷️ book ⬩ 📚 Archive

We buy books to read for our son and also borrow a ton of books from the local library. There are only a few which stick and turn out to be favorites of our kid. Surprisingly, most of the recommended books like Goodnight Moon, We're Going on a Bear Hunt or a ton of Dr. Seuss books were all unpopular at home. Listed below are the books that we were a hit with our 5-year old this year.

Amar Chitra Katha: Panchatantra, Hitopadesha and Jataka Tales

This is a collection of 23 ACK comic books, each a compilation of themed stories from each of the Panchatantra, Hitopadesha or Jataka tales. I liked that the stories in each book have a common writer and illustrator. These books are meant for older kids, but we read out these stories to our kid and he likes looking at the pictures while we do that.

I have great childhood memories of ACK, which I why I got these books for my son. But to be honest, many of the stories here have not aged well. A lot of the societal and cultural themes in several of the stories may not be appropriate in this day and age. Things like caste hierarchy and gender bias pervade the stories involving humans, while the animal stories might have lots of gore.

Berenstain Bears

We discovered this series of ~600 illustrated short books featuring a bear family at the local library. These were created by a couple named Stan and Jan Berenstain, starting in 1962, also lending their last name to their books. The stories in these books revolve around a bear family, which has a papa, mama, a son, a daughter and a baby. The books start out with only the first three and the other kids are added in later books. A typical story involves the father or the mother leading the family confidently but blundering along the way, usually losing miserably, which make this fun to read to my kid. The pictures are warm and cozy and the prose has a nice rhyme, so the whole package is great.

Books we liked reading:

Many of the books in the series do not have a story, these are usually the ones we did not like:

Greek Myths

Towards the middle of the year I realized that I knew very little about Greek mythological stories and characters. I used my son's constant demands for bedtime stories as a forcing function to go through a lot of Greek myth books that both kids and adults could enjoy. The book that we ended up laughing, discussing and falling asleep to for many months was this picture book by Marcia Williams.

This book has all the important Greek myths and characters in a humorous comic book format. The humor is of the cheesy juvenile type, which was perfect for our kid, but also destroyed that high-brow feel of these myths and showed them for what they are - great stories.

Fly Guy

This is a series of easy-to-read picture books featuring a fly who lives with a kid. Written by Tedd Arnold this is yet another adolescent humor that our kid snickers about while we read it to him.

Dog Man

And finally, the award for the most popular book at our home this year goes to Dog Man! This series of 9 graphic novels by Dav Pilkey (famous for Captain Underpants) are full of cheesy juvenile humor, the kind that a 5-year old brat would holler about. Initially, our son wanted us to read the speech bubbles while he enjoyed the drawings. But the drawings were simple enough that he soon enough he started flipping through the pages himself and understand the story without having to reading text. The special fliporama pages and the how to draw sections at the back of the books also were hits. Our kid started to make simple comic books featuring the Dog Man characters influenced by these books. Stuck at home all year due to COVID, our son truly found a hero we can all bark about. We are eagerly awaiting the upcoming books from this series.