Few people have done more to encourage our children to read than the late Dr. Seuss, born Theodore Geisel. As the author of iconic picture books including The Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss made words magical and taught generations of children that reading was fun.
For the past 20 years, the National Education Association (NEA) has honored Dr. Seuss by promoting Read Across America on March 2—Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The idea is to encourage kids of all ages to read more through events and partnerships and by making resources available to anyone who wants to help a child gain greater literacy. If your inspired by Seuss’s legacy and want to help your child—or someone else’s—appreciate books more, the easiest way to do it is to read with them. And while Dr. Seuss’s books are an excellent choice, you’ll also want to expand your library with some modern masters who are carrying on the good doctor’s work. These 10 contemporary children’s authors will also make books seem like magic to your kids.
Ed Shankman & Dave O’Neill (Suggested Book: I Met a Moose in Maine One Day)
Shankman and O’Neill understand something Dr. Seuss knew perfectly well: kids love the absurd. With simple rhymes and a fun sense of the unexpected, like a moose who puts on sunglasses and begins dancing, they show young kids reading isn’t drudgery—it’s a window into a world just a little more interesting than the one they live in.
Mo Willems (Suggested Book: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!)
Dr. Seuss had a way of convincing kids they were part of the story. Willems writes books for a range of ages, but Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and its sequels achieves the same immersion when a bus driver goes on break and asks them—the readers—to watch his bus for him. When a pigeon arrives and begs to be allowed to drive the bus, the kids have a ball telling him “No!”
Sean Ferrell and Charles Santoso (Suggested Book: The Snurtch)
Dr. Seuss fit a lot of psychological complexity into his simple books. In The Snurtch, Ferrell, an accomplished adult novelist, writes a fanciful story about a being who plagues little Ruthie’s day with mischievous pranks and other misbehaviors she gets blamed for. There’s a clear love of language and a deep lesson for kids under all the mayhem and fun, and a lot of kids will recognize Ruthie’s predicament.
Anna Dewdney (Suggested Book: Llama Llama Red Pajama)
An overlooked aspect of the Seussian vibe is the sense of danger he hints at, and the underlying feeling of things being out of control. This hits home for kids, and Dewdney—who passed away in 2016—captures those fears and anxieties in this adorably rhymed story of a baby llama worried his mama isn’t coming back to his room despite his repeated calls. Fun Awesome Fact: It’s also one of the only children’s books regularly rapped by rising hip-hop stars.
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Suggested Book: Big Bad Bun)
Another team that gets the Seussian sense of anarchy bubbling under every story, Willis and Ross have created the story of Fluff, who wants to be called Big Bad Bun as he runs off to join the Hell Bunnies and say rude words and generally be bad. The slight edge to the story will appeal to kids, the sweetness of the resolution ensures a good time for all, and the occasional clever moment that lean adult will make parents snort in appreciation.
Peggy Rathman and Anthony Edwards (Suggested Book: Good Night, Gorilla)
Dr. Seuss understood simple was better, and Rathman does, too, offering a simple story about animals being released from their cages at the zoo by a playful gorilla and following the zookeeper home. This is a very visual book, but the words Rathman does include are perfectly chosen to give little readers a sense of adventure that will get them excited for the next book.
Julia Donaldson (Suggested Book: The Gruffalo)
The simple through-line of this clever tale will remind you of the way Dr. Seuss always managed to surprise. Donaldson borrows an old folk tale and reinvents it: a mouse walking home through the forest encounters a series of animals, all of whom wish to eat the mouse. To discourage them, the mouse says he’s having dinner with a Gruffalo, a terrifying creature the mouse has invented whose favorite food always happens to be the animal the mouse has encountered. When the mouse encounters an actual Gruffalo, the clever twist will delight young brains.
Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (Suggested Book: Giraffe’s Can’t Dance)
Andreae’s rhymes have the bouncing rhythms of prime Seuss, and that rhythm is a subtle nod to the theme of the story about an annual animal dance in Africa. Gerald the Giraffe wishes he could participate, but he has “four left feet.” Then he meets a friendly cricket who offers encouragement—and a beat.
Scott M. Fischer (Suggested Book: Jump!)
The madcap energy Dr. Seuss brought to his stories has made them evergreen—no one can forget the Cat in the Hat causing havoc that seems to get bigger and bigger with every page. This feat is replicated by Fischer, who tells a simple story of animals jumping to evade enemies that starts small, with a ladybug, and scales up to a whale in stirring and memorable fashion.
Jan Thomas (Suggested Book: Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny!)
Finally, Thomas’ book has the brightly colored sensibility of a great Seussian ride, as the second book featuring his rhyming, nervous dust bunnies finds them dealing with a cranky gray bunny who finds ways to turn all of their rhymes against them, a perfect short adventure for rowdy kids that will show them reading can simply be fun.