I just suggested his books as a present idea in Jinxie's post, and started thinking about all of them. First of all, his books are simply amazing. Adults love to read them as much as kids like to hear them. He's also one of the most inclusionary authors I can think of. His books feature kids from a huge variety of races and social situations, from Inuit children to immigrant Lebanese children, girls who want to wear make up and girls who want to play and get dirty, boys who refuse to go to bed and boys who love their mothers and grow up to love their daughters.
Most of his books are inspired by children he's met over the years. His characters are adopted, have parents from different races, have disabilities (that are portrayed as special abilities). The Paperbag Princess, possibly my favourite children's book of all time, features a princess who saves her fiance, a prince, from a dragon, and then calls him a bum and kicks him out when he isn't sufficiently grateful (PFD version here- it's a quick read, and I suspect most of you who don't already have it will immediately buy it to read or give to a young girl you know).
Lest anyone think his books are preachy and educational, his topics of choice include farts (Good Families Don't), peeing (I Have to Go), drawing on yourself with markers (Purple Green and Yellow) and smelly socks (Smelly Socks). I can't think of another kids' book author who gets into their minds so effortlessly.
Love You Forever, which is probably his most famous book, is given out at every baby shower I've ever been to. On his website, he includes a small write up of how he wrote each of his books. Read what he says about this one:
"Love You Forever started as a song.
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."
I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and I couldn't even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn't sing.
For a long time it was just a song but one day, while telling stories at a big theatre at the University of Guelph, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a story around the song.
Out popped Love You Forever, pretty much the way it is in the book."
This is a man who can explain stillborn babies to kids in a sensitive yet truthful way that perfectly conveys the tragedy of the situation. What can't he do?