Legendary author Syd Hoff would be turning 101 years old today–and we certainly wish he was still around. The great man wrote plenty of classic children’s books. He was born on September 4th, 1912, in the Bronx, and was already selling cartoons to the New Yorker by the age of 18. He also had daily cartoon strips and hosted a television show. Hoff is best known, however, for his many contributions to the pioneering HarperCollins series of “I Can Read” books. He wrote over 60 of them, and it’s not easy to choose favorites. We will, however, note that Syd’s books come from an earlier age. They seem fairly long by today’s standards, and can often be broken up into two reading sessions.
We also want to put in a world for Syd Hoff’s amazing horror stories for young readers. He was like the original R.L. Stine. Those stories are pretty hard to find nowadays, though. The same can’t be said of Syd’s classic kid stories, though. It was hard not to list them all, but here are some favorites. The books below are all recommended for kindergarten through 3rd grade, but adults are always happy to read them, too…
There are a lot of parents who look forward to sharing the saga of little Davy and his friend Julius–who happens to be a gorilla. You see, Davy’s father goes off to the jungle to get an animal for the circus, and Julius is really happy to sign on for the job. This book probably couldn’t get written today without a lot of changes, but it makes for a marvelous world of animals–including a fly who has one of the best lines in the history of flies in children’s literature.
Mrs. Brice has mice, alright. She has 25 of them, and they mostly do all of the same things at all of the same time. There’s this one mouse who’s always sleeping when the others are exercising, though–or sometimes hitching a ride on Mrs. Brice’s hat while the other mice take a walk. But when there’s trouble, this little odd mouse out saves the day in this inspiring little story.
The title of this book is a universal question which really appeals to most kids. Freddy doesn’t get an easy answer, either. He’s new in town and wandering around looking for friends–and gets rejected a few times. Freddy doesn’t let that keep him from having his own fun, and that allows the new kid to soon be playing with plenty of new pals.
This is Syd Hoff’s biggest seller, and you’ll find a few sequels about Danny and his prehistoric pal. This one begins the popular friendship with Danny meeting his dinosaur at the museum. It takes a while to learn how to play with a new friend that’s so huge, but Danny manages to have a great day while introducing the dinosaur to all kinds of new things.
Oliver is one of the most polite elephants around, and he has a pretty simple dream. He just wants to be a dancing elephant for the circus. Sadly, there aren’t any openings in the area. Oliver goes looking for another profession. In the process, he charms the local children and finds a new purpose in life during this classic tale.