By Lucile Walgenwitz, ISB Parent and Library Committee Member
Reading bedtime stories to my children, ages two and four, ranks high on the list of things I love to do as a parent. Until recently, the bedtime routine in our home consisted of choosing up to three books, in French or in English, depending on the mood or as determined by what they happened to grab first from the shelves. A few months ago, my oldest child (Celeste in PreK4) started requesting stories “from our heads”—in other words, stories that we invent on the fly. We are no longer allowed to read anything from a book at bedtime. My husband, Conall, is much better at this exercise than I am, and embraced the challenge. I, on the other hand, miss reading books. This sudden change made me realize that I read to my children not only to entertain or to instill in them the joy of reading, but also for me: I take great pleasure in reading a good children’s book. There is much to be said for good writing, pleasant rhythm, and stunning illustrations. Fortunately, Celeste will let me read from a book during the day—and since it’s winter time and we spend more time indoors, there are plenty of other opportunities to read to my children.
Below is a selection of great books to read aloud with your primary school children recommended by the ISB Community, in no specific order but organized by language. Members of the Library Committee and others were asked to recommend a book and share what they love about it. Most of the books listed below are meant to be enjoyed primarily as hard copies, especially when the illustrations are outstanding, but we have tried to make a note when a recording (podcast or audiobook) is available to supplement the experience. Recordings will be useful to ISB parents who do not speak the target language, or to those in need of a short break.
Thank you to all the parents and faculty who contributed by sharing their favorite children’s book(s)!
Blackout by John Rocco: This picture book is inspired by an actual blackout that took place in New York City in 2003. It’s also available as an Audio book, but best to read—the illustrations are incredible!
Elephant and Piggie, a series by Mo Willems: This is a series of 25 titles by award winning author and illustrator, Mo Willems.They are a delight to read aloud to younger kids (3-6 years old), and great for children who are learning to read on their own (6-8 years old).
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen: This picture book is in the ISB Library but only in Spanish: Hilo sin fin. An audiobook is also available in English.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho: A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Islandborn by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa
This book is also available in a Spanish edition titled “Lola” and as an audiobook narrated by the author himself.
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney: This collection of books is appropriate for ages 3 to 5.
Pattern Fish and Pattern Bugs by Trudy Harris: These books are for ages 2 to 6.
The Questioneers, a series by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts: A series of picture books that celebrate STEM and diversity. The three original titles include: Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist. Two new titles were added recently: Sofia Valdez, Future Prez and Aaron Slater, Illustrator.
Anne of Green Gables, a series by L.M. Montgomery: Perfect for ages 9-14 and lovers of classic books. These are also available as audiobooks.
The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen: This book is available at the Brooklyn Public Library catalog and is also available as an audiobook.
The Curious Lobster by Richard Hatch: This book is sometimes referred to as the American Wind and the Willows. It celebrates nature, friendship, and curiosity, and is great for ages 5 to 9.
Dragons in a Bag, a series by Zetta Elliot: In Brooklyn, nine-year-old Jax joins Ma, a curmudgeonly witch who lives in his building, on a quest to deliver three baby dragons to a magical world, and along the way discovers his true calling.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman: This hilarious New York Times bestselling story by author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young is great for young readers (8-12 years old) and for anyone young at heart.
The Moongobble and Me, a series by Bruce Coville: The series includes five chapter books: The Dragon of Doom, The Weeping Werewolf, The Evil Elves, The Mischief Monster, and The Naughty Nork, and is great for ages 5 to 12.
Ways to Make Sunshine & Ways to Grow Love by Renee Watson
Bocababa by Tina Vallès and Gabriel Salvadó: Great for all grades at ISB.
El sueño de Lucas (Lucas’ dream) by Rodrigo Folgueira and Poly Bernalene: This picture book is the story of Lucas who wants a pet more than anything in the world. One night, a fairy comes and grants his wish and he asks for a rhinoceros. His parents are less than thrilled, but sometimes you must follow your dreams.
¡Eso no es normal! (That’s not normal!) by Mar Pavón and Laure Du Fay: A story about an elephant with an exceptionally long trunk for ages 3-6.
ARIOL Un petit âne comme vous et moi by Marc Boutavant and Emmanuel Guibert: This graphic novel is one in a series of 17 titles (and counting!) and works for all ages.
Capitaine Maman (Captain Mom) by Magali Arnal: This is the story of an archeologist, Capitaine Maman, who also happens to be a cat, on the day she makes a significant discovery underwater. A recording of this book is also available as a free podcast (L’Ecole des Loisirs à écouter).
Hector, l’homme extraordinairement fort (Hector, the Extraordinarily Strong Man) by Magali Le Huche: Capable of the most incredible feats on the circus track, Hector, the extraordinarily strong man, is secretly very shy. After his show, he takes refuge in his trailer and knits for his beloved. Also available as an audiobook. Great for ages 4 to 6. *Fun fact: ISB hosted Magali for an author visit in the past.
Les toutous à Paris (The doggies in Paris) by Dorothée de Monfreid: This book is part of a collection. Some titles are available at the Brooklyn Public Library (in French and/or in English).
Zékéyé, a series by Nathalie Dieterlé
Guillaume Fructus, French Pre-K 4 Associate Teacher, says: “The series is inspired by Cameroonian tales. One of my favorites is ZÉKÉYÉ ET LE DJOUDJOUKALABA. We follow the adventures of Zékéyé, who meets with a mythical creature we would not have imagined. Most books have a moral at the end of the story about great qualities like cooperation, bravery or loyalty that can trigger conversations with children.”
The Little Prince / El Principito / Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: A timeless tale, shared from one generation to the next since the 1940s.
Around the World with Mouk / La vuelta al mundo de Muk / Le Tour du monde de Mouk by Marc Boutavant: You can find English and Spanish versions of this book in the ISB Library.