In this article:
- Children’s books are pivotal to the development of our imaginations and our morals. And most of us can remember the children’s books that we were read as kids word-for-word.
- I recently discovered that most of the children’s books that I remember from my childhood are the same books that my friends read as kids. It seems our entire generation was raised on the same books conveying the same morals.
- In this article, we’re going to take a look at 7 of the most iconic and popular children’s books of this generation.
For those of us fortunate enough to grow up with loving parental figures in our lives, some of the most formative times of our youths were the hours spent in bed as our parents read children’s books to us. These books helped teach us morality and life lessons through the adventures of mythical creatures and talking animals. They helped stimulate our imaginations by presenting us with magical and otherworldly phenomena. And, of course, they delighted and entertained us with their colorful illustrations and captivating storylines.
I remember the children’s books that were read to me as a child perfectly to this day. At such an impressionable age, these stories obviously made a lasting impact on me and helped mold me as a human being. However, I recently discovered that many of the stories that I remember so well were the same stories that many of my friends remember from their own childhoods. Yes, it seems that there are a handful of stories that nearly every child of my generation is familiar with. These books have had a major role in forming the morals of our generation.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at 7 of these instrumental children’s books and what they taught us about life. Here are the 7 most popular children’s books that molded a generation.
1. Where the Wild Things Are
Adapted into a film in 2009, Where the Wild Things Are was originally a children’s book by Maurice Sendak, published in 1963. The book tells the story of a misunderstood kid named Max who likes to dress up in his wolf costume. Max is a bit too wild for his parents’ liking, so he gets sent to bed without supper.
READ WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE BY MAURICE SENDAK
Once in his room, Max travels in his imagination to a faraway land inhabited by monsters. When the monsters try to scare Max to no avail, he’s crowned the king of the Wild Things. However, when max begins to feel lonely, he travels back to his bedroom to find hot supper waiting for him. This book is all about the power of the imagination and the importance of family.
2. The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, published in 1964, is one of the most controversial children’s books in history. And, while there’s definitely some debate about how this book should be interpreted, nearly everyone has read The Giving Tree at one point or another. This book follows the relationship between a boy and an apple tree throughout both of their lives.
READ THE GIVING TREE BY SHEL SILVERSTEIN
As the boy moves through various stages of his life, the tree provides him with all of the things that he needs: money, a house, a boat, and more. However, eventually, all that remains of the tree is a stump. And, in one final act of giving, the tree gives the boy (now an old man) a comfortable place to sit. With each act of giving, the tree grows happy. While some have claimed this book to be about the joys of giving, others have argued that it’s actually about the exploitation of nature.
3. Harold and the Purple Crayon
The 1955 children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson certainly makes a statement about the power of art. Using his purple crayon, the protagonist Harold draws himself an entire world to explore, showing that imagination can take us anywhere that we want.
READ HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON BY CROCKET JOHNSON
It all starts off when Harold decides that he wants to go for a walk in the moonlight. However, upon discovering that he can’t see the Moon in the sky, he decides to draw himself one. Then, discovering that he has nowhere to walk, he decides to draw himself a path. Harold has many adventures along the way back to his house. In the end, he just draws his bedroom and falls asleep. This book is a ton of fun and, undoubtedly, inspired an entire generation of people to pick up a crayon and make their own worlds.
4. Goodnight Moon
If you ask any parent from the last half-century, they’ll probably tell you that the 1947 children’s book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown was their best friend. That’s because this book was designed to put even the most rambunctious children to sleep. The format of the book is a rhyming poem about a bunny. The bunny describes its bedtime ritual, saying goodnight to a number of different objects around its room.
READ GOODNIGHT MOON BY MARGARET WISE BROWN
The book starts at 7:00 p.m. and ends at 8:10 p.m., with each two-page spread occupying a different 10-minute interval. By the end of the story, the bunny has said goodnight to a red balloon, a pair of socks, a dollhouse, a bowl of mush, two kittens, and the Moon. The repetitive structure and melodic rhyming of this book are guaranteed to cause any child to drift off to sleep within minutes.
5. The Cat in the Hat
There are quite a few different books by Dr. Seuss that could’ve been included in the list; however, the 1957 book The Cat in the Hat is perhaps his most famous work of all time. The book is told from the perspective of an unnamed boy, who is home alone with his sister Sally and their pet fish. Things get out of hand when an anthropomorphic cat appears and offers to show the children some tricks that he knows. Despite the fish’s warnings, the children agree to let the cat do his tricks.
READ THE CAT AND THE HAT BY DR. SEUSS
The cat then performs a series of disastrous tricks and even invites his two destructive friends into the house, Thing One and Thing Two, and leaves the house a mess. However, right before the children’s mother comes home, the cat returns with a machine that makes everything look spick and span. When the mother comes back inside, she asks the kids what they did while she was gone. The book ends with the question: “What would you do if your mother asked you?”
Any child who has ever had a teddy bear has imagined that their teddy bear was alive and could go on adventures. This is exactly the premise of Corduroy, the children’s book written by Don Freeman and published in 1968. The story starts with a little girl named Lisa who is visiting a department store and asks her mother to buy a teddy bear for her. Lisa’s mother refuses and points out that the bear is missing a button anyway.
Corduroy the bear then comes to life when the department store closes and goes on an adventure to find his missing button. While Corduroy is unable to find his button, Lisa returns the next day to buy him with her own money. When Lisa brings Corduroy back home, she sews on a button on his shoulder strap and the two become best friends. This book teaches us about helping others and accepting help from those who love us.
7. Go, Dog. Go!
The 1961 children’s book Go, Dog. Go! by P. D. Eastman was written to teach children basic language and social interaction. However, for whatever reason, Eastman chose to convey these messages through dogs that ride various different vehicles. The book deals with the concepts of work and play, up and down, liking and disliking, and much more.
READ GO, DOG. GO! BY P.D. EASTMAN
On top of teaching children these basic concepts, Go, Dog. Go! also seems to invite its readers to appreciate the little things in life. For these reasons, this book was adapted into a CGI Netflix series in 2021. Who doesn’t love a dog driving a racecar?