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PAUL V. ALLEN

  nonfiction AUTHOR

My Top 10 Favorite Beginner Books


There are so many fantastic Beginner Books, and in I Can Read It All By Myself: The Beginner Books Story I tried to give all of them equal time without playing favorites. But of course I do have favorites, and now I'd like to share them with you!


I based this not only on my own enjoyment of these books, but on the fact that they all represent the ideal of early readers: They're funny, quotable, written with repetition and rhythm, and have unforgettable illustrations.


  • Sam and the Firefly (1958)

Based on an idea by novelist Nathanial Benchley, P.D. Eastman’s first Beginner Book a lovely and funny story of odd-couple friendship.


  • Stop That Ball (1959)

Mike McClintock and Fritz Siebel’s other Beginner Book, A Fly Went By, is more well-known, but this tale of an out-of-control ball is just so much fun.


  • Put Me In the Zoo (1960)

Robert Lopshire subtly drew on his own childhood to document the talented Spot’s search for a place where he can belong.


  • Robert the Rose Horse (1962)

Joan Heilbroner’s funny words and P.D. Eastman’s funny drawings are a perfect combo. One wishes they’d made more books together.


  • Snow (1962)

Two Beginner Books giants, P.D. Eastman and Roy McKie, teamed up for the first and only time to perfectly capture the joys of winter.


  • Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (1969)

This Bright and Early Book by Al Perkins and Eric Gurney is a rhythmic poem that's perfect for reading out loud. "Hello Jack! Hello Jake!"


  • Tubby and the Lantern (1971)

Al Perkins's story is sweet and Rowland B. Wilson’s pictures are perfect. It’s a shame this book (and its sequel Tubby and the Poo-Bah) have fallen into obscurity.


  • The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (1978)

Rich illustrations, clever use of repetition, and just the right amount of spooky add up to make this the ideal early reader.


  • Anthony the Perfect Monster (1996)

Beginner Books typically offer chaos rather than emotional resonance, but this book by Angelo DeCesare performs the magic trick of combing the two.


  • 4 Pups and a Worm (1996)

This absurdist parody of commercials by Eric Seltzer may just be the funniest Beginner Book there is.


Five Honorable Mentions:

  • Are You My Mother? (1960) by P.D. Eastman
  • Ten Apples Up on Top (1960) by Theo LeSieg and Roy McKie
  • I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words (1973) by Michael Frith and P.D. Eastman
  • There's a Wocket In My Pocket (1974) by Dr. Seuss
  • Monster Munchies (1998) by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans