Mike Petrilli of Fordham Foundation has created a canon for little kid literature. He writes:
So I got to wondering: Is there a list of the must-read picture books for preschoolers? The greatest classics, old and new? A “canon,” if you will? I couldn’t find one, so I decided to create one. With help from some friends, I now present to you the Kindergarten Canon.
I love his list.
A canon, after all, isn’t simply a critic’s selection of the greatest books ever written; they also have to be books that everyone reads. You may or may not think Moby Dick was the premier work of American fiction, but you still had to read it because you couldn’t be considered culturally literate without it. Likewise with, say, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There are plenty of children’s stories more compelling, in my opinion. But if you’ve never read Goldilocks, you’ll miss myriad references in literature, pop culture, newspaper editorials, and so forth. Which makes Goldilocks a must.
Hmm. I wonder. His definition holds true for books like Ugly Duckling, Tortoise & Hare, etc. But does anyone make cultural references to Goodnight Gorilla or Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (my favorites)?
All in all, if you're a soon-to-be-parent, like 2 folks sitting in this very room as I type, Mike P's list is something to bring along to the bookstore. Or to Amazon, since that's how you young 'uns roll these days.