The best children’s books that are truly unique tales (as opposed to preachy and moralizing)

Who am I?

I decided at the age of 5 that I wanted to write and illustrate books for children. That is exactly what I have been doing the last 40 years of my adult life. I find that I walk around seeing and hearing the world as potential stories. It’s fun! I can not imagine doing anything else for a living! I recommended the 5 books that I did because they are a little strange and curious and thought-provoking. The art, as well. Therefore, they feel like they emerged from the author/illustrator from that place within, way down deep, where only authentic expression of self can be found. 


I wrote...

Is That You, Eleanor Sue?

By Tricia Tusa,

Book cover of Is That You, Eleanor Sue?

What is my book about?

Eleanor Sue loves to play dress-up. She decides to ring her own front doorbell to try out these various characters on her mother. Is her mother fooled? Is mom playing along? Hard to know until the reader is pulled into the big surprise. The book confirms the fun of imaginative play and how far it takes us into that realm within. And how satisfying it is to share it with someone you love and trust. And finally, it was fun for me to do a book with a lot of underlying femaleness. An expressive young girl, a willing (and tireless!!) mother, and a grandmother with a dry sense of humor. It was a satisfying feeling when this idea came to me, and equally satisfying to come up with artwork to fill out the words.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Larky Mavis

Tricia Tusa Why did I love this book?

This feels like a fairy tale, of sorts. A curious feel to it. It is touching and evocative and strange - in that good and compelling way. Larky Mavis is somehow an endearing outcast in her small village. Is she a gypsy, is she homeless? The village sees her as socially unacceptable. Not “normal.” It would be interesting to hear the child reader’s take. I would guess a child would relate to Larky’s guilelessness - her open heart and her trust in others. Larky finds 3 peanuts. She does not eat the third one because she sees a baby inside. Perhaps a metaphor for seeing the potential in life if one’s heart is open enough. She shares her delightful discovery with others from town.

These individuals feel they are more the expert in knowing what is inside this peanut. One declares it a worm, another a mouse, another a deformed bat/bird, and finally, a dragon. What happens is surprising and breathtaking every time I read the book. Read it. I dare you to not be affected deeply.

By Brock Cole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Larky Mavis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Another orginal picture-book fairy tale

Larky Mavis, an eccentric soul, finds three peanuts in the middle of the road. The first tastes like liver and onions. The second, like bread pudding. And the third -- well, inside the third is a baby. Larky Mavis decides to name it Heart's Delight and to take care of it. She shows it to the teacher, and he says it looks like a worm. She asks the parson to christen it, but he thinks it's a mouse. And when she asks the doctor to help her teach the baby to say "Ma," he thinks…


Book cover of Leon and Bob

Tricia Tusa Why did I love this book?

Leon and his mom are new to town. His dad is in the army. Leon shares his new room with his imaginary friend, Bob. Their friendship is as important as it is real, to Leon. A tender and loving relationship. A boy moves in next door. Read the book to see how sweet this deceivingly simple story is. The words are sparse and well-chosen. The artwork is loose and expressive ink linework. Beautiful watercolor washes. The imaginary friend theme is treated in a fresh way. I am always touched by the portrayal of little boys’ natural sweetness - as they really are when allowed to be. 

By Simon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leon and Bob as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A touching urban tale about a boy and his imaginary friend, from a multi-award-winning picture-book creator.

Bob is Leon's best friend. He shares Leon's room. Everywhere Leon goes, Bob goes too. Then one day a boy moves in next door. But when Leon goes to ask his new neighbour to go to the park with him, he discovers Bob has gone...


Book cover of Little Bear's Friend

Tricia Tusa Why did I love this book?

This is a perfect union of a gifted author with a gifted artist. I loved this book as a child and was delighted to witness the same reaction in my daughter. I learned to read with this book and what a feeling that was! It is a book with four short chapters all about love and friendship. Emily and Little Bear encounter one another in the forest. Little Bear introduces his new friend to the world of other animals out in nature doing very human things that kids love to do. Little Bear’s mother is one of those great mothers. Loving and easily amused and strong. So, animals with party hats on, a beautiful doll named Lucy, a perfectly delightful friendship between a young bear and girl, adult bears in clothes - what could be better? This tale is, understandably, a timeless classic, and Sendak at his best. 

By Else Holmelund Minarik, Maurice Sendak (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Little Bear's Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Little Bear makes a new friend but misses her when summer ends.

One summer Little Bear makes friends with a girl named Emily and her doll Lucy. But when summer ends, Emily must leave. Little Bear is sad—until he finds a way to stay close to his new friend even when she is far away.

Little Bear's Friend is among the beloved classic Little Bear books from Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak. The first, Little Bear, launched the I Can Read early reader series in 1957.

In the Little Bear stories, we meet Little Bear, whose adventures are filled…


Book cover of Eulalie and the Hopping Head

Tricia Tusa Why did I love this book?

This Is David Small’s very first book that he both wrote and illustrated. I came upon this book in my mid-twenties. I have cherished it ever since. Great artwork with a limited palette due to the archaic 4-color printing process used back then. With this book, it works! Beautiful artwork and humorous wording. Mother Lumps and her baby daughter, Eulalia, are frogs. A mother’s favorite thing happens - Mother Lumps encounters another mother claiming her children are perfect and, therefore, she is perfect as a mother. Grrrrr. Walking along, they encounter a doll left behind at a picnic. They think the doll is a real child. Mother Lumps sees her as abandoned and takes her home. It is so adorable how the story unfolds. I tear up every time. A lovely message is conveyed.

By David Small,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eulalie and the Hopping Head as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A reissue, in a larger format, of the first picture book by Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator David Smalls.


Book cover of Ruby the Copycat

Tricia Tusa Why did I love this book?

Ruby is new to school as she enters Miss Hart’s class. Ruby’s desk is right behind Angela’s. Angela seems to be a self-possessed, lovely young girl and, right away, Ruby is quite taken with Angela.  She wants to be her friend. Perhaps Ruby wants to be noticed and equally admired by this potential new friend, and so she imitates Angela in every way. It gets old fast. Miss Hart handles the situation admirably well, with utmost respect and sensitivity. (I wish I had encountered more teachers like that as a kid.)  Rathmann captures kids’ innocent foibles, well. The artwork is adorable and expressive and loose. Great humor. Full of humanity. 

By Peggy Rathmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ruby the Copycat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Let the Scholastic Bookshelf be your guide through the whole range of your child's experiences--laugh with them, learn with them, read with them!

It's the first day of school, and Ruby is new. When her classmate Angela wears a red bow in her hair, Ruby comes back from lunch wearing a red bow, too. When Angela wears a flowered dress, suddenly Ruby's wearing one, too. Fortunately, Ruby's teacher knows a better way to help Ruby fit in--by showing how much fun it is to be herself!

You might also like...

The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

Book cover of The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

New book alert!

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

What is my book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honeybee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes, and beehives—even water fountains—every eight hundred feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high above speeding cars, creating a safe path for tree-hopping possums and squirrels alike.

Through a mix of lyrical poems, real-life success stories, and bouquet-bright artwork, The City Sings Green explores the environmental impact of humans and showcases the many ways that we can rewild cities across the globe. Together, we can welcome nature back!

The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

What is this book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic. Perfect for fans of The Curious Garden and Harlem Grown.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honey-bee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes and beehives-even water fountains-every 800 feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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