In case you didn't know, I was a teacher before I changed my job title to SAHM. I've taught grades 6, 2, 3, 1, transitional-first, and kindergarten, in that order! Not that it in any way makes me a great author reviewer, but it does mean that I've read A LOT of children's books. Some books are good, even fewer books are great (where you can read them over and over and over and never tire of them) and lots of books are just ho-hum.
When I had my own classroom, after recess the "student of the day" always got to choose a book for me to read. This is going to sound horrible and I'm sure I'm going to offend someone and get some hatemail for saying this, but I always dreaded this story-time, even though the kids loved picking a book for me to read. For whatever reason, kindergartners and first graders love Clifford, Berenstain Bears and Curious George. They love that they can relate to what happens in these stories and that the characters are familiar. However, after reading Clifford for the 100th time, I'm about ready to die of boredom, I can hardly muster the energy to be enthusiastic about reading (don't get me wrong though, any book is better than no book and if your kid loves one of those characters by all mean keep reading it to them)! So, when it was my turn to pick a book to read aloud, I often reached for my all-time favorite author, Kevin Henkes.
Henkes is the author of a series of books with the most lovable mouse characters: Lilly, Chrysanthemum, and Owen to name a few. Each of these characters is humorous, lovable, and they are easy for everyone to relate to. They come with issues, real-life pre-school issues, like getting a new sibling that they don't enjoy too much in Julius the Baby of the World, not loving their name in Chrysanthemum, giving up a favorite blankey in Owen, being mean to their favorite teacher in Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, or incessant worrying in Wemberly Worried. The issues are dealt with with humor, compromise, love, acceptance and self-discovery.
The best part is that they are so fun to read. The words are lovely and lilting and they roll off of your tongue; there's repetition and alliteration and jokes only parents will get. Each page will make you smile. The pictures are charming and delightful. When you finish the book, you will wish for more. They're just that good :)
I should mention too that Henke's has other picture books as well (Eli loves Bailey Goes Camping). He has won the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon, which is a lovely book and geared toward the toddler/pre-school set. He is also the author of several novels. How great is that? An author your kid can grow up with. Cool.