Author and Hastings Resident Dan Greenburg Shares His Five Favorite Children's Books

The author and Hastings resident on his five favorite books for kids


Though his How to Be a Jewish Mother catapulted Dan Greenburg, the author of 72 books published in 24 countries, to initial fame, the Hastings resident has since become equally well known among younger readers for his children’s book series: The Zack Files, Secrets of Dripping Fang, Weird Planet, and Maximum Boy. Here, he shares his favorite children’s tomes. 

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1) Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Greenburg says that he has loved all the characters in the Pooh titles since childhood—especially “the depressed, self-effacing, controlling, and passive-aggressive Eeyore.” One of his favorite scenes in this book? When Pooh and Piglet, circling a tree in the snow, follow the footprints of what they believe to be two strange animals—and they discover the footprints are actually their own.


2) Flat Stanley (Jeff Brown)

A heavy bulletin board falls on a boy named Stanley Lambchop when he’s sleeping and, after his parents lift it off him, he’s left as flat as a pancake. Yet no one seems too alarmed by this turn of events, Greenburg notes; Stanley gets rolled up, mailed, and flown like a kite. “Brown’s exposition,” he says, “is as flat and funny as his protagonist.”

3) A Lion Named Shirley Williamson (Bernard Waber)

In this title by the author of the Lyle the Crocodile books, the other zoo lions resent the title character because of her snobbish name and the special treatment she gets from the zookeeper. Greenburg is especially taken with Waber’s “marvelous deadpan humorous style” and “tone-perfect, droll illustrations.”

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4) Robot Dreams (Sara Varon)

A graphic novel, this title centers on the close friendship that develops between a dog and the robot he assembles from a kit—and the series of tragicomic, soap-operatic events that ensue when they are separated. “Although there isn’t a single word of dialogue,” Greenburg says, “Varon managed to put me through an astonishing rollercoaster ride of emotions.”

5) The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett (Daniel Handler)

In this first book of the darkly comedic series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, three orphaned children are sent to live with their distant cousin, the sadistic Count Olaf. “Even more than the perversely humorous plot,” says Greenburg, “it’s the author’s voice that makes this one a favorite of mine.” Indeed, he adds, “as a darkly comedic children’s book author myself, I struggle not to be influenced by Handler’s style.”


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