The best books I wish I could have read to my children & ones I would read to them again

Who am I?

I really am passionate about children and education. Reading to children is such a joy especially when they snuggle in and get absorbed in the story. Education is the only way to achieve some sort of equity in our world. The world I knew as a child is no more and that is a good thing. Cruel biases and intolerance hurt so many. Today there is more freedom and the potential to live true to yourself whatever that may be. I like books that show the diversity of our humanity, that can be read to children to broaden their understanding, acceptance, and tolerance of family which may be very different from their own.

I wrote...

Basil's Unkie Herb

By Mary Shaw,

Book cover of Basil's Unkie Herb

What is my book about?

Basil’s Unkie Herb is a book about family, perception, and marriage equality. The book uses Basil’s birthday parties to detail how Unkie Herb’s birthday surprises usually have a funny or disastrous ending depending on your perception. The reader learns not to judge by appearances, Fred who owns a donkey and garbage truck is actually a veterinarian; the dangerous motorcycle riders turn out to be Basil’s teacher and Nana’s doctor. 

The book ends with Mom explaining to Basil that Unkie Herb and his boyfriend Ricardo can marry if they love each other because “where we live you can marry whomever you love.” This is a funny, laugh-out-loud book with a happy ending for everyone.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

When We Were Alone

By David A. Robertson, Julie Flett (illustrator),

Book cover of When We Were Alone

Why this book?

This book is a conversation between a grandchild and their grandma who is a residential school survivor. With childlike simplicity, grandma explains why her colourful clothes, long hair, and treasured time with her brother are a reaction to being taken “from community” and being sent “far far away”. Grandma talks about students forced to wear uniforms, cut their hair, forbidden from speaking Cree, and separation from her brother.

This is a book I would probably have steered clear of “not wanting to frighten my children” when I was parenting, David Roberson does a masterful job of gently laying out facts without explanation or accusation. The book opens the door to further questions and conversations that have to be had but are very difficult to start. This is a great start.

Our Subway Baby

By Peter Mercurio, Leo Espinosa (illustrator),

Book cover of Our Subway Baby

Why this book?

Firstly the cover says it all. “The true story of how one baby found his home.” A baby abandoned in the subway is found by Danny, who falls in love with the little guy and convinces his partner to be a foster parent. The couple is broke, but the family rallies with diapers, a crib, etc. I love seeing a gay couple fully loved and supported by extended family and even the justice system. I read this book by myself and smile every time. This is the way the world should be. All accepted and loved. I wish I could have read a book like this to my kids 30 years ago. The book ends with a picture of a real grown-up Kevin and his dads which make the book even more special. The illustrations are fabulous.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai

By Claire A. Nivola,

Book cover of Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai

Why this book?

I really like this book because it is a story about a strong woman, a science student, someone who studied at university. The message “if you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution” and the message of education, and environmental responsibility resonates with me. The illustrations are gentle pastoral scenes and the fact that it was the women who saved Kenya from hunger and devastation makes this a must-read. My favourite scene is when Wangari is telling soldiers to have a gun in one hand and a seed in the other. The true story that just one person beginning with a small act of planting some seeds made a big difference is definitely worth a read.

Dog Man: A Graphic Novel

By Dav Pilkey,

Book cover of Dog Man: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

My son got my grandson a box of the first three Dog Man books for his birthday. A dog's head on a human body working as a policeman. My grandson was furious at the time. He did not want sucky books. When the party was over and the birthday boy was in bed over tired and grumpy, grandpa took out the offending books and start to read aloud. They are so silly, bad spelling but funny, funny to a 6-year-old boy. I actually found it hilarious too. My grandson laughed his head off. And that is why I recommend these books.  Children need to laugh. These books make a lot of kids laugh.  

The Giggler Treatment

By Roddy Doyle, Brian Ajhar (illustrator),

Book cover of The Giggler Treatment

Why this book?

This is a sentimental favourite. There is bathroom humour and funny furry “Gigglers” that protect children from mean adults. I read this book to my son on a plane from Dublin to Toronto after my mother died and he was hooked. I was hoarse after 4 hours but he wanted to finish it. It got very rude at the end (you have to read to find out) and I wanted to stop as we were close to other passengers and I was fading fast. I was talking him out of finishing when the passenger beside me piped up and said “you can’t stop now—what happens?" They added, “I never wanted children but seeing you with your son makes me think.” It’s a good read funny read and a moment I will always remember.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in indigenous peoples, Kenya, and New York State?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about indigenous peoples, Kenya, and New York State.

Indigenous Peoples Explore 11 books about indigenous peoples
Kenya Explore 41 books about Kenya
New York State Explore 420 books about New York State

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Mother Bruce, Minnie and Moo, and Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) if you like this list.