Katherine here, writing from the Temple of the Inscriptions in Palenque. There’s nothing like deciphering ancient Mayan hieroglyphs to keep your code-cracking skills sharp.

Yesterday, Ahna and I discussed strategies for curating a good children’s library (which, as it turns out, isn’t as intuitive as safecracking or BASE jumping).

But we realized we were missing a key piece of information: a parent’s perspective. As much as Ahna and I know about children’s literature, parents have the invaluable knowledge that can only come from extensive fieldwork.

Luckily, Rachel Bomberger is not only a fellow agent, but also a veteran mother. She very kindly took a break from her mission in Madang to write up a report for us. The following intel comes straight from the private archives of the Bomberger Family Library.

First, we have some book suggestions for very young readers:

A Bit (of a Bunch) of Boynton

It would require a significant level of dedication to stock the complete works of Sandra Boynton (she’s fairly prolific), but every family should have at least a handful of her signature board books. The illustrations are simple and fun, the humor is dry, and the writing is seriously addictive.

Good Night, Chickie and All by Myself! by Émile Jadoul 

I’ve mentioned before how much we love Émile Jadoul’s books, but they’re even a more established fixture in our family library now. They’re short, they’re adorable, they’re funny, and they help us maneuver our way gently through two common family life issues — kids who keep trying to postpone bedtime, and kids who always need company in the bathroom.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Before Shrek made it popular to throw parents a bone in children’s entertainment, A. A. Milne mastered the art. Winnie-the-Pooh is equal parts still water and rippling brook, child-tested and parent-approved. This enduring classic can hold the attention of a three-year-old, but even the big kids (in our house, at least) will never say no to a reread.

Rachel also has a bookshelf (or six) dedicated to her slightly older readers. Among their favorites are:

Roger Is Reading a Book by Koen van Biesen

This is pure, distilled fun-in-a-book that seems to get noisier and more raucous each time we read it.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka 

Repeat the above statement for this blockbuster that deserves every ounce of the acclaim it has received in the quarter century since its publication.

The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico

Most of our favorite big-kid read-alouds are funny (see above). This one’s not. It’s profound. It’s weird. Oh, and also: it’s breathtakingly beautiful. The kids have been known to sneak this one to bed with them after story time, just to spend a few more minutes poring over every lush spread.

And, of course, she’s found that a good way to ensure that her kids keep reading is to find a book series that they love. Here are a few series and collections that Rachel recommends:

Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems

I’ve lost track of how many Elephant and Piggie books Mo Willems has written, but that didn’t stop me getting misty eyed when I read his grand finale, The Thank You Book, this spring. Much like Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series (also a family favorite), these books are easy for beginning readers to get through on their own, but they also have enough humor and heart to keep even the more experienced among us completely engrossed.

A Long Way from Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

Richard Peck won a Newbery Honor and a Newbery Medal for the first two books in this cycle, but we didn’t need any awards to tell us how good they were. I want to be Grandma Dowdel when I grow up. What’s more, I want my kids to want to be Grandma Dowdel when they grow up.

Anything and Everything by Kate DiCamillo

This is a set, right? If it isn’t, it should be. We’re especially fond of Bink and Gollie, but love Mercy Watson, The Tale of Desperaux, and Flora and Ulysses, too.

And, for people who love boxed sets — and really, who doesn’t? They look cool on bookshelves and provide the perfect hiding place for important documents — here’s a book series lightning round (because Rachel, like many good agents, doesn’t know the meaning of the word “enough”):

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
  • The Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Little House Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I hope you find Rachel’s suggestions helpful as you’re building your own home library. I know I’ll be on the lookout for some of these titles at the airport bookshop.

But for now I should get back to deciphering this panel. There’s something here about a secret chamber off of Pakal’s tomb . . .

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About Coffee Break Confidential:

This monthly column is where EBYR editorial assistant/vlogger/super spy Katherine Gibson divulges extra information from Coffee Break with EBYR that would otherwise be kept off the record. She’s researching topics related to children’s literature, posting her findings — and taking down some powerful militarized governments in the process. Just kidding about that last one. (Or are we?)