To me, the “children’s book” tag suggests no intended audience. Just because a book uses small enough words for a child to understand does not mean that its deeper meaning is likewise simple enough for them to grasp, let alone fully-grown able-minded adults — it’s astonishing the size and number of profundities some authors can fit under the guise of a bedtime story. I hope this short list brings you as much blessed curiosity as it did me.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
If at all possible, I recommend hunting down a copy illustrated by E. H. Sheperd (the guy who drew Winnie the Pooh). I think his pen sketches do the most justice to the work. The plot very tamely and reservedly chronicles the peaceful lives of Mole, Rat, Toad and Mr. Badger in the Wild Wood. By all means, a book with this little going on should not be this interesting, but it just undeniably is. Grahame’s writing will lock you in its amazing character depth and colorful prose. In ways that are difficult to describe, this book is an introvert’s dreamland. You can find it for free on Amazon here.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco
This is like a better, shorterToy Story. Or at least a Toy Story with a simpler perspective, a more magical angle and way more indie cred. It’s about a stuffed rabbit that wants to become real and an old tattered horse toy that teaches him what that actually means. The rabbit goes through a lot with a young boy and eventually finds out for himself. If you’re interested in a quick way to flip your world upside down for a few days, you can find this one for free on Amazon too right here.
The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein
It seems right now that bookstores can’t restock their shelves with The Giving Tree fast enough, but the hype hasn’t caught on to this other great Silverstein work yet. The Missing Piece is a broad scale philosophical exposition on the entirety of life summarized in a little circle thing on a quest for its missing piece. This is what I mean when I say you shouldn’t wait to go to the kid’s books section until you are unwillingly dragged there by one of your own children. This one’s not for free on Amazon, but well worth the couple bucks to buy used. Happy contemplating!