Recently a customer came in to order a stack of books for his children. He lives far outside the city so isn't able to dash to the store or library whenever he wants a new book for his kids. He wanted to create a home library of excellent books for his two young children. So, he came in with a long list.
Where did he come up with the children's book titles on his list? How did he figure out which were "the best books" for children? He was smart. He consulted someone who knows. He came in carrying a tattered copy of Anita Silvey's excellent reference book, 100 Best Books for Children: A Parent's Guide to Making the Right Choices for Your Young Reader, Toddler to Preteen.
Silvey arranges 100 Best Books for Children by age group. Each book listed comes with a short description. Silvey includes more than 100 good books, but stars her top 100.
Anita Silvey is a former children's publisher, Editor-in-Chief of The Horn Book Magazine, and is an expert on children's and young adult books.
Where her first book leaves off, her second book picks up. 500 Great Books for Teens is arranged thematically, which is perfect for teen readers. With categories ranging from "Adventure and Survival" to "Romance" to "Short Stories," there is something for everyone.
My only caveat is that it's important to use these books as a starting off point from which you build. 100 Best Books for Children was published in 2005 and 500 Great Books for Teens in 2006. Many excellent books for children have been published in the last several years. For the newest "Best Book" titles, you'll have to find additional sources for recommendations, such as a children's librarian or knowledgeable children's book seller.
When our customer came in with his copy of Silvey's book, he asked me to look through it and add my own recommendations. I highlighted the books I thought were wonderful and added some newer titles to the list. So, in the end, the books he bought started a diverse, and excellent, home library for his children.
And like I said before, reading the "Best of the Best" is wonderful. Every child should get that chance. But, don't be afraid to let a few "Less than Best" books in there too. No one was ever harmed by reading Captain Underpants. At least not that I know of:)