by Ronaldo Tumbokon
The benefits of reading books to children are many and all are important. Because of this, parents need to cultivate a child’s love of books as early as possible. One of the best ways is to make sure that they fall in love with books is to choose the best ones. A positive experience with books early in life can make them lifelong readers.
The best children’s books have captivated the hearts of young readers and their parents through the years. Because these books are so well-loved, they have become classics. Most of these classic children’s books are listed below, including a few that are new, but are so unique and appealing that they will be considered favorites in years to come.
Note that for kids to fully appreciate books, they have to be appropriate to their ages. Books are written and illustrated to appeal to kids of specific age groups. Most books for the youngest kids have appealing colorful pictures and illustrations with simple words. As the youngest kids cannot read, they are meant to be enjoyed with the parents. Books meant for older kids have more text and more complex stories, and the pictures are usually left to the imaginations of the more developed minds.
Below is a list of the 101 best children’s books that kids and kids with their parents have enjoyed through the years, and are also chosen by experts in children’s literature. Although they are grouped by age, keep in mind that some kids are advanced readers, and some books that are meant for the younger kids are appealing and say something even to older ones.
Also, some of the books in this list are part of a series, and a great introduction into the series:
Best Books for Babies, 0 – 1 Year Old
Babies can’t read of course, so these books are meant to introduce them to wonderful objects called books. Reading to your baby is a warm and joyous occasion for her, especially before bedtime, and choosing the best books will add to her enjoyment.
What to look for: eye catching pictures (black and white for the youngest baby), easy words, ability to interact, fun to read aloud and listen to, even interactive.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – this classic picture book sold more than 12 million copies for a reason. The delightful illustrations, book design and the magical story makes it a fun reading for babies and toddlers. It follows a caterpillar from being hatched from an egg and eating his way through different kinds of food (including the page of the book itself!) until it turns into a butterfly.
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. – This book is the baby’s fanciful introduction to his or her ABC’s. The characters of this book are the letters, the lower case are kids who are climbing the coconut tree, while the capital letters are the grown-ups who come to their rescue when they get into trouble. The books clever rhymes make it a fun read.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr. – A parade of animals of different colors will delight your baby when you read him this book. The illustrations are attractive colored collages, and the sing-song minimal text makes reading enjoyable for you and your baby.
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney – This bedtime favorite is about love, and as such. elicits warm and tender connection between you and your baby as you enjoy your reading time. It is about two hares, a little one and his big papa, imaginatively trying to describe how much they love each other. Your baby will love the repetitive sounds.
- Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz – A fun book to read that will delight your baby as you go through the page looking for the parts of baby’s body by opening the flaps and playing peekaboo. The colorful illustrations and the interactivity will engage your baby.
- Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day – What is unique about this book about a responsible rottweiler and his infant mistress is that there are hardly words in it. Words just appear in the beginning and the end, and in-between are detailed illustrations that show the dog and the baby girl having adventures. Because of this, you need to use your imagination to tell the adventures.
- Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox) – Each page of the book illustrates and presents different kinds of sheep that get themselves into all kinds of situations. The illustrations are cute and colorful, with rhymes that appeal to young ears (There is a bilingual English – Spanish version that you can read to expose your baby to both languages).
- On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman – For a book you can read to your baby, this one has depth and poetry, as it presents the miracle of our human existence, and how a child fits and becomes part of the natural world. It also has beautiful and colorful illustrations.
- The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister – The book glitters and sparkles, with beautiful illustration, and is about a fish who gives part of itself away in order to make friends. The book’s lesson divides parents, some see it as about the virtue of sharing, while others do not agree with “buying” friends. But the artwork, including the shimmering gills of the rainbow fish will delight your child.
- First 100 Words by Roger Priddy – The book does not have a story, but just presents 100 colorful photographs that you can look and talk about with your baby. The book also introduces your baby to her first 100 words – a great start for her to recognize name of things and build her vocabulary.
- My Big Animal Book by Roger Priddy) – Like the “First 100 Words”, this is a collection of colorful photographs, this time, of animals, which little readers will find fascinating. Different kinds of animals from pets to farm animals can be found here, and is the perfect way to start your baby to build his animal vocabulary.
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – This classic bedtime book for you baby contains a short poem of goodnight wishes from a young rabbit to everything he finds in his room, including bears sitting on chairs, kittens and mittens, toy house and a mouse. The rhymes of objects have a lulling effect, matched by the calming colorful illustrations which becomes darker as bedtime approaches. The end of the book is a perfect cue for baby to sleep.
- Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann – Another good bedtime book for your baby. It is a funny book about a gorilla who stole the keys from the zookeeper and free his animal friends. The animals then follow the zookeeper to his home. When the zookeeper’s wife turn off the lights and say goodnight, all the animals then say goodnight in turn. The text is spare (some pages have now words), and the illustrations are simple but have lots of colorful detail.
- Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal – This is the picture book that’s perfect for the very young infant. The cut-paper art illustrations are in high contrast black and white which catches the baby’s eyes. It is the ideal first book for babies just beginning to look at a book.
- Baby Touch and Feel: Animals by DK – A unique book that engages not only your baby’s viual and aural senses in reading a book, but also his sense of touch. In addition to bright-colored real-life animal photographs, touchable textures like soft fur or a ball of yarn are added to each page for your baby’s hand to explore. This makes a fun, interactive read for you and your baby.
- Potty by Leslie Patricelli – This book follows a toddler comically thinking aloud to himself to finally decide to go to his potty. He goes through observing the cat’s and dog’s solutions, until he finds himself in the process of being able to achieve something big! The cartoonish illustration of the baby is very appealing, and contains very little simple words. The book humorously introduces your baby to training himself for a very basic body function that he had to go through as he grows older.
- Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry – This is the first of a well-loved series of books about Little Blue Truck. In the story, Little Blue Truck gets stuck while pushing a dump truck out of the mud. Fortunately, Blue has a lot of animal friends he made while traveling his route, and they will do everything to help their troubled friend. Similar to other books in the series, this is a very appealing book because of its cute illustrations and wonderful rhymes incorporating animal sounds. It also sends a good message about helping those that are in need.
- Corduroy by Don Freeman – Acclaimed as one of School Library Journal’s “Top 100 Picture Books” of all time, and one of the National Education Association’s “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”. It tells the sweet story of a small, stuffed bear that no one wants waiting on a department store until he finds a home willing to accept his imperfection.
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – This book won the 1963 Caldecott Medal. The book tells the adventure of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day. The spare but lovely artwork depicts his adventures with the snow – experimenting with footprints, creating snow angels and more. It makes every child empathize with the boy’s sense of wonder at experiencing snow for the first time.
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – This moving picture book tells the story of an apple tree that keeps on giving by first becoming a leafy playground, a shade provider, then an apple bearer to a boy who demands more and more from the tree through the years until there’s almost nothing left of it. The book teaches the value of generosity and sacrificing for a person you love.
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff – A funny, fanciful read with delightful artwork about a young boy who is doing favors for a mouse starting with giving the mouse a cookie. The book introduces your young child to valuable lessons of cause and effect.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess – Dr. Suess’ books are always fun to read by kids, that’s why he is the most beloved children’s book authors of all time. This book has one of his most famous character – the Cat in the Hat. It tells the story of a boy and a girl who are bored on a rainy day, until the Cat in the Hat suddenly arrives and makes the dull day interesting, to say the least. The typical Dr. Suess rhymes are always a delight, and the pages are full of humor and surprises.
- Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag – Winner of a Newbery Honor, the book tells a quite surreal story of an old couple who are very lonely and decides to get a cat, but when the old man starts searching, he discovers he has millions and billions and trillions of cats to choose from. The woodcuts illustrations are unique. The repetitive verses not only make the book fun to read, but also help develop your child’s reading skills. Especially recommended for cat lovers.
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr.Seuss – Another Dr. Suess classic that delighted a generation of readers. It is about a character named Sam-I-am who persists in convincing a skeptic to try tasting green eggs and ham in many different locations. Your child will enjoy the funny ways Sam-I-am pressures the skeptical character by reading the rhymes with simple words and looking at the wonderful illustrations.
- The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper – This book will entertain your child as well as learn a life lesson about having a “can-do” attitude. It is the story of a train filled with toys for kids. The train breaks down and asks for help from several passing trains. Only the little blue train agrees to help, and after many obstacles, is able to bring the toys to the children at the other side of the mountain. Colorful and attractive illustrations.
- Stellaluna by Janell Cannon – A well-loved and award-winning classic picture book tells the story of a baby fruit bat who gets knocked from her mother’s embrace, ends up in a bird’s nest, and finds herself adopted by a family of birds. She is loved by her new family, and acquires peculiar bird habits growing up. At the same time, the bird family are also influenced by her batty ways. It sends a message about how you can be different, and yet be loved and love those who are different from you. Beautiful pictures and a heartwarming story make this book deserve being highly popular.
- Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young – A winner of the Randolph Caldecott medal, awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book of the year. As the title indicates, it is a version of the Little Red Riding Hood from China. Told with beautiful painting-like illustrations, it is the story of an old wolf who disguised himself as an old woman and tried to get inside the house by deceiving three young children who are left at the house by their mother. The children are able to escape the tricky wolf by outwitting him in turn. A good story, beautifully told in more ways than one.
- Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems – The story is about Trixie, a toddler who left her toy, “Knuffle Bunny” in the laundromat, and tries to tell her father about it. Her father can’t understand her desperate baby talk. At home, it is the Mom who notices that “Knuffle Bunny” is missing, so Trixie and her father goes back to the laundromat to search for the toy. Your child can relate with Trixie’s frustration to communicate, and can help your child to be patient with being understood. The book is uniquely illustrated with hand-drawn cartoon superimposed on the Sepia-tone pictures of a Brooklyn neighborhood.
- Owl Moon by Jane Yolen – The Caldecott Medal winning book is a story of a girl and her father taking a walk in the woods in the moonlit winter night to go “owling” or see an owl. At the end of their little countryside adventure, the Pa imitates the Great Horned Owl’s call, and eventually gets a response. The watercolor artwork enhances the beauty of the prose.
- The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf – This classic book was first published in 1936. Ferdinand is a bull who would rather sit and smell the flowers rather than run, jump and butt heads like the other bulls. It extols the virtue of not conforming with what is “normal”. The illustrations are in glorious black and white.
- Press Here by Herve Tullet – This is an interactive book that teaches your child to follow written instructions. The text is a series of instructions that, when followed, does something to the dot as can be seen when the page is turned. The dot multiplies, travel around the page, grow and shrink in response to commands to clap, shake, and other actions. It is a fun and entertaining book to read, especially when the reader pretends that the book is magical.
- The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – This children’s book is a #1 New York Times bestseller. It tells the funny story of Duncan whose crayons have had enough and quit. One crayon at a time airs its grievances through letters. Each crayon has a distinct personality revealed through the letters, and illustrations reveal each crayon’s true colors.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – The first of a series of classic, well-loved books about Peter Rabbit who is told by his mother not to go to the garden of Mr. McGregor. He goes anyway and gets chased around the garden by Mr. McGregor. Peter escapes and returns home to his mother, but ends up bedridden from his adventure, while his sisters enjoy a hearty meal. Many childhood memories are built around parents reading this to their kids since 1902, learning about the consequence of being disobedient. This is a beautifully illustrated book with text using more extensive vocabulary.
- The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin – The book’s moving rhymes express a parent’s wonder about the potential of her little one, or what her child will turn out to be. With clever rhymes, and heartwarming, sometimes humorous illustrations, it is enjoyable for grown-ups to read to their young. Also makes a great baby shower, birthday, and graduation gift.
- A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead – Also a Caldecott Medal winner, it tells the story of Amos, an old zookeeper. He is friend to many animals, and he does fun things with them like running races with the tortoise and reading bedtime stories to the owl. One day Amos becomes too sick to make it to the zoo, and his animal friends visit him and return the favor. It is a heartwarming tale of a good person being rewarded. The artwork uses woodblock-printing style that reinforces the warmth of the tale.
- Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry – For kids fascinated with means of transportation, or things that go! It features hundred of labeled vehicles, some real and some imaginary, driven by colorfully drawn silly animals. It’s a fun and great vocabulary builder for your toddler.
- Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin – This New York Times Bestseller is a funny book about dragons who love all kinds of tacos but should not get spicy salsa because of the terrible effect it has on them. The cartoon illustrations enhance the humor, and the writing style is a delight to read aloud. Perfect for dragon-loving kids.
- Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden – This book is a lift-the-flap. Through simple guessing rhymes, your child anticipates what’s hiding behind the flap, and have fun revealing the surprises. The colorful pictures and simple rhyming text make the book an enjoyable, interactive read for you and your child.
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker – Truck loving kids will love the story about hardworking trucks saying goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator lie down to rest at the end of the day to prepare for another grueling day of work in the morning. Detailed cartoon illustrations make the truck characters come alive. The rhymes are fun to read. Another great book to read to your child before bedtime.
- Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh – Three white mice discover three jars of paint – red, yellow, and blue and each climbs right into the jars, and becomes colorful mice. The simple book teaches lessons about colors – about how mixing primary colors results in secondary colors. The illustrations are cute cut-paper collage. A fun book to introduce art to your child.
- If Animals Kissed Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul – This is a bestselling charming bedtime book about the ways animal families might show affection to each other by kissing each other good night. The playful verses and whimsical illustration depicting love between animals make this book another great read before bedtime.
- Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean – A bestseller and Theodor Suess Geisel Honor Awardee about a cat who keeps singing a song while losing his totally groovy buttons. Your child will learn how to count down, and in the end learn about a part of his body that is also a button! The rhymes are delightfully rap-like and the illustrations with primary colors are fun and “groovy”. There’s a simple moral lesson that young kids will understand.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst – This book helps your child understand what it means to have a day when everything goes wrong. A bad day is something that could happen to anybody, and your child may find comfort in realizing it. Alexander’s day begins by waking up with gum in his hair, tripping on his skateboard, his mom forgetting to put dessert in his lunch box, and his dentist finding a cavity. The detailed illustrations are not in color but looks amazing.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – a classic Caldecott Medal-winning picture book is one of the most popular and best acclaimed children’s books of all time. The story and the unique artwork are masterpieces of children’s literature. The book’s giant monsters’ looks are iconic. It has inspired an animated short, an opera, and a movie. The story is about Max, a boy with a wild imagination. After being sent to bed without supper, he goes through an adventure in his mind across oceans to find the Wild Things – and end up being their king. The book also conveys a lesson about anger and parents’ unconditional love. A must read for kids everywhere.
- Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish – Amelia Bedelia is a series of books about a maid who follows instructions to the letter (like dressing a chicken), and this leads to hilarious situations that delights kindergarten readers. No life lessons here, but the silly story is extremely entertaining, and kids will recognize the confusing aspects of the English language.
- Mr. Poppers Penguins by Richard Atwater – A classic funny book about a house painter who wishes that he could go on explorations. Instead, he is sent a penguin, then another penguin whose family grows to 12, and must be fed. To raise money, Mr. Popper created “Popper’s Performing Penguins” and their adventures and slapstick moments while on tour are moments of wild hilarity. A great read for your child who is ready for chapter books, and appreciates the absurd.
- Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary – The classic book celebrates sisterhood. Ramona is a four year old sister of Beezus. Because of Ramona’s wild imagination and tendency to create chaos, being an older sister becomes a challenge for Beezus, especially during her birthday party. Younger kids will identify with mischievous Ramona, while older ones will sympathize with Beezus’ frustration, but despite the times where it’s hard for them to get along, the sisters will always love each other. The book is part of a series called “The Ramona Collection”
- Bread and Jam for Francis by Russell Hoban – Frances the badger only wants to eat bread and jam, and doesn’t want to eat anything else. Frances even sings witty songs about her likes and dislikes of food. Her parents decide to give Frances bread and jam for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner until she cries and begs for something else. With cute illustrations and text that is appropriate for slightly advanced readers, it teaches the lesson that variety is a good thing.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein – Another wonderful book by Shel Silverstein, who wrote The Giving Tree. This is a collection of imaginative poems illustrated with simple pen and ink drawings. Your child will read about a crocodile with toothache, a skinny boy who disappears down the bathtub drain, a place where shoes fly, and more. The verses are hilarious and some are also profound.
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson – Another timeless classic about where imagination can take a little child. Harold, a young boy, uses an oversized purple crayon to draw himself a world where he goes through a variety of adventures and solves problems by using his seemingly magical crayon. The illustrations are in purple (except for Harold) with crayon-like drawings depicting the world that Harold creates.
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey – This Caldecott Medal winner from 1941 tells the story of Mrs. Mallard, the mother duck, who wants to take her eight ducklings to the pond in the Boston Public Gardens because it is a perfect place for them to live. But going through the busy streets of Boston isn’t easy, but thanks to the help of a kindly Boston policeman, Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings arrive safely at her new home. It is an amusing and heartwarming tale with beautiful brown and white drawings.
- Olivia by Ian Falconer – This bestselling Caldecott Honor book tells the story of Olivia the pig, who is also an enthusiastic, strong-minded child, is good at a lot of things, and never gets tired. She goes through many different activities throughout the day, and at the end of the story, she lays down in bed to read a story with her mother, and then goes to sleep. Olivia is drawn in glorious black and white, with words that are easy to read. It can inspire your child to live a full and active life.
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – This Caldecott Honor Book is the story of the smallest of twelve boarding school girls, and is set in the city of Paris (the girls form two straight lines while walking, eating and sleeping). Although the smallest, Madeline is brave and cheerful, even when she has to have her appendix taken out. The story is told in delightful rhymes, and the Paris setting is well-depicted in the artistic illustrations.
- The Frog and The Toad Collection by Arnold Lobel – These books are about two best friends. The Frog and the Toad have fun doing a lot of things and having hilarious adventures. It shows your child how real friendship works, with a lot of action and intrigue that will keep your child engaged.
- The Mitten by Jan Brett – The story is a Ukranian folk tale about the boy Nicki who lost his white mittens in the snow, and the woodland animals, one by one, find it and crawl in to make themselves cozy and warm. The tale is full of humor, and the intricate illustrations of animals and the landscape in the winter is captivating.
- Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik) – An ALA Notable Children’s book, this is a collection of short stories whose theme is about the warmth of a mother’s love. The titles are “What Will Little Bear Wear”, “Birthday Soup”, “Little Bear Goes to the Moon” and “Little Bear’s Wish”. In these stories, Mother Bear is always there when Little Bear needs her. Perfect for kids who are just beginning to sound out words and sentences. Distinctive artwork by Maurice Sendak.
- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka – This fractured fairy tale picture book tells the story of the three little pigs with a new twist. It is told from the point of view of the wolf who corrects the familiar story, but the story he tells is hilarious and breaking all conventions – with the story and the text literally falling apart, characters being blown right out of the story itself, letters fill into a waiting basket, and the animals settle down to a bowl of alphabet soup. For your child, it is a departure from the familiar, and this will perhaps encourage him to use his imagination to step outside of the ordinary.
- Tuesday by David Weisner – A !991 Caldecott Medal winner, this picture book is about some events that happened on Tuesday. But there is no text in the story – just great-looking illustrations of frogs riding lily pads on a flying adventure in a suburban neighborhood. The story is inside your child’s imagination. Superb watercolor artwork, like from an animated feature.
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton – This book has delighted generations of children since it was first published in 1939. It is about the relationship of Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne. Together, they dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers. But with the arrival of new machines, the duo are out of work. Mike has one last chance to save Mary Anne from the scrap, will they be able to make it? The gray crayon drawings enhance this classic tale of friendship, determination, and hard work.
- Go, Dog Go by P.D. Eastman – This Suess-styled fun book about colorful dogs of all sizes is a fun read for beginner readers. Dogs are on the move driving around in cars and even having a big dog party up a tree. A lady dog asks “do you like my hat” over and over again to hilarious effect. The book introduces your child to a microcosm of life. Single-syllable words repeated rhythmically make for easy reading, and the cartoon dogs are fun to look at.
- Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups by Kay Thompson – Eloise is a 6-year-old precocious girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York, and does not allow herself to get bored. This makes her fill her day with non-stop adventures. In fact, her exploits are continuous that the text in the story does not have a period. Her boundless energy and mischievousness are what make the book fun. Your child can appreciate the kind of life of someone who’s different. Delightful artwork too.
- Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – A very touching book about a young mother who sings lovingly to her newborn son about loving him forever. The boy goes through childhood and becomes a man, many times engaging in exasperating behavior, yet her mother’s love endures. The ending, which depicts the circle of life, has brought tears to millions of readers, and made the book very popular.
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – This fantasy book is about a young boy, Elmer Elevator, who runs away with an old alley cat to Wild Island to rescue a baby Dragon. Talking animals, a wild, exotic island, a dragon – the artwork may be black and white, and not all pages have illustrations, but the story elicits your child’s colorful imagination.
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig – A Caldecott Medal winner, this is the story of Sylvester, a donkey, who finds a magic pebble and because he is trying to escape a lion, turns himself into a rock in a picnic area. He leads a depressing life as a rock, and the love of his mom and dad who never gives up looking for him rescues him from his predicament. Beautiful and colorful illustrations of animals who behave like humans.
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – This is a famous and well-known Swedish children’s book about a girl who has crazy red pigtails, a horse that lives on a porch, and a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson. She has no parents, and is a friend of the neighbor’s children, Tommy and Annika. She is also funny, headstrong, unconventional and unpredictable. The book is a series of short stories about this unique and unforgettable character.
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss; – This book encourages kids who are newly venturing into the world – from nursey school and beyond. Suess addresses life’s ups and down with the humorous verses and artwork he’s famous for. Not much story, but a lot of inspiration for going through life. Life may be a “Great Balancing Act” but through it all “there’s fun to be done”.
- Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say – A Caldecott medal winner, this is a moving book about the immigrant experience, and makes kids understand their immigrant parents. It tells the story of a Japanese immigrant who has an American son, but goes back to Japan because he misses his homeland, but once in the homeland, misses the new country. Simple story but moving, beautiful artwork.
- Miss Nelson Is Missing! by Harry G. Allard Jr.) – This hilarious book about the worst-behaved class in the whole school is actually a lighthearted reminder that we sometimes only appreciate something once it’s lost. The class does not respect their sweet, good-natured teacher Miss Nelson, but when she is replaced by the witchy substitute Miss Viola Swamp, they regret being rude to their former teacher. They tried to find her, and the ending is a surprise. Silly colorful pen, ink and wash illustrations.
- Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes – This book about Lilly, the mouse, is very funny, yet teaches a lesson about controlling anger and righting wrongs. Lilly loves everything about school, especially her teacher Mr. Slinger, but when she becomes disruptive, Mr. Slinger confiscates her purple musical purse. Lilly, in anger, impulsively gets revenge by making a mean drawing of her teacher. She soon realizes that this is a mistake, and she finds a way to make things right again. Great looking watercolor-and-ink illustrations.
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton – The Borrowers is a series of classic books about the Clock family who are little people who lives under the floor, and whose every home furnishing are “borrowed” from the “human beans” who tromp around loudly above them. Everything is going well until the teenage daughter, Arrietty makes friends with a human boy! A Carnegie Medal winner for the more advanced chapter book reader.
- The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H. A. Rey – Curious George is a very popular children’s book character, and his books are one of the most treasured classics of all time, that it has inspired a cartoon series. Curious George is a good little monkey from Africa, and as his name indicates, is always curious, and sometimes his curiosity gets him into trouble. Kids through the ages can relate to George, and enjoy the adventures of this curious and mischievous monkey.
- Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback) – A fun, interactive book and awarded a Caldecott Honor. It teaches the virtue of frugality. When Joseph’s favorite overcoat gets old and worn, he makes a jacket out of it. Then when the jacket gets worn, he made it a vest, then a scarf, then eventually something out of nothing. What makes this book unique is the inventive use of die-cut pages to show what the creative Joseph will be making next from his amazing overcoat. Your child will appreciate the visual humor.
- Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola – This classic Caldecott Honor Book is based on an ancient tale. It tells the story of Strega Nona, which means “Grandma Witch” who is a source of potions, cures, magic and comfort in her Calabrian town. Trouble begins when Big Anthony, who’s supposed to look after her house, didn’t follow her instructions, and recites the magic verse over the pasta pot. A well-loved tale told with great humor. The funny line drawings are endearing.
- When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang – This Caldecutt honor book and Charlotte Zolotow Awardee is the story of a child, Sophie, who gets really, really angry that she acts up violently. The book reveals how her anger affects how she sees the world – with images of flames and volcano and red background. She finds a way calm down, and this makes her see a harmonious world with leafy greens and hand. The book gives kids a lesson on how to handle their intense emotions.
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae – All Gerald wants to do is dance, but he’s a giraffe and therefore has crooked knees and thin legs which make it difficult to dance. But the lesson of this book is that you can overcome your limitations and achieve your potential – in your own unique way. Gerald is able to realize this with a help of a friend. Fun rhymes and detailed, eye-catching illustrations.
- The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen – This best-seller book is about a fish whose face is stuck in a permanent pout. In the story, he learns that being glum isn’t really his destiny, and he can actually smile – with the help of a stranger who shows him how he can spread happiness to others. Funny, cartoonish illustration and playful rhymes that kids will love!
- The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore – A fresh retelling of Clement C. Moore’s holiday classic poem (“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”), and beautiful, watercolor-style illustrations with cozy, heartwarming details. The story is seen from the perspective of a fox, Papa, a toddler, and the pet cat. A must-read for the holidays.
- Just Me and My Dad (Little Critter) by Mercer Mayer – Little Critter is a typical little boy, except that he’s a “critter”. In this story, he goes with his Dad on a camping trip where they enjoy canoeing, fishing, and building a campfire. The child-Dad bonding has many funny moments. The story has sparse text, but the illustrations of the other creatures in the camp adds to the fun. If you like this book, check out Just Me and My Mom about Critter’s mom bringing him to the city.
- The Lorax by Dr. Suess – The children’s story that introduces your child to protecting the earth, told with fanciful rhymes and whimsical artwork, typical of Dr. Suess books. It tells the story of the Once-ler who discovers Trufulla Trees and chops them down to mass-market Thneeds. The wonderful Trufulla Trees swiftly disappeared, and the Lorax becomes the only hope of saving the trees by speaking for them. A great book that could influence your child to love and help preserve his environment.
- National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why by National Geographic – This book is perfect for the curious preschooler (and which child isn’t) who loves to learn about his or her world. It uses an interactive question and answer format, and in addition to information explained in a lively way, also contains features like hands-on games, crafts, and more. The appealing photographs are what you would expect from National Geographic.
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – One of America’s top 100 most-loved novels is a must-read for your child! It is the story of Fern, a little girl who loves a little pig named Wilbur and his dear friend, Charlotte, who is a spider. With the help of a rat named Templeton, Charlotte hatches a clever plan and saves the life of Wilbur, who grows up to be a substantial pig. It is a paean to spending childhood in a farm, and a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death. The superb black and white drawings add to the book’s appeal.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – Who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter, one of the most popular, if not the most popular character of recent times? This is the book that introduces the boy wizard to the the magical world that J.K. Rowling created. It tells the story of Harry, an orphan who lives under the stairs because his adoptive family loathes him. When he turns 10, he discovers that he came from a family of wizards and must save Hogwarts from the evil Valdemort who killed his parents. The young reader will be enthralled in this very engaging story of sorcery, magic, fantasy and friendships.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This English novel is considered one of the best children’s book of the twentieth century. It tells the story of Mary Lennox who is sent to live with an uncle in England when her parents died in India. The uncle, “a miserable hunchback” owns a secret garden that used to belong to his wife, but after her death locked the garden door and hid the keys. Mary is determined to find it, and her determination and discovery of the secret garden changes her and her uncle’s life.
- Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – Another classic children’s book about five lucky children who is allowed to go inside the eccentric Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. The kids, because of their bad behavior and odious personality, get ejected from the tour in comical, mysterious and painful ways – except for Charlie who is honest and kind. Charlie ends up winning the factory and becomes Willy Wonka’s successor. An engaging, humorous, and fanciful story with deep themes for the young reader.
- Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper – The book that can change how a child (or adult) look at people with disability. It tells the story of Melody, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, and therefore cannot talk, walk, or care for herself, but inwardly she has a brilliant mind. Despite her disability, she has inner strength, and she fights the odds to let her intelligence shine through. In contrast to most children’s books, this is a realistic story, and not fantasy, and the insight a reader can gain is derived from empathizing with a real human situation.
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo – A poignant story that will appeal especially to the young dog lover. Winn-Dixie is a dog who touches the life of Opal, who finds Winn-Dixie in a local supermarket, and her friends. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal learns to make friends, she dares to ask her father about her mother who left when she was three, and also make Opal’s friends heal their heartaches. A touching story with a sprinkling of humor.
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – This classic Newbery Medal winning book is a bittersweet tale of friendship and loss. It is the story of Jess and Leslie who become close friends and spend many days in the woods where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. Tragedy happens when Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess, and because of this, Jess must find a way to deal with what happened. The young reader will appreciate the themes of friendship and grief.
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – This well-loved story about a young girl who is a truth-teller has even inspired some to be writers. The 11-year-old Harriet behaves like a spy who writes everything she knows about everyone, including her classmates and best friends, in her notebook. Her troubles begin when she loses her notebook and it ends up being read by her friends. Now her friends know the truthful and sometimes awful things she’s written about them, ruining her relationships, which she then had to fix. The story teaches young readers the relevant lesson that there are consequences for being a truth-teller.
- Holes by Louis Sachar – This intriguing, multi-award-winning book is about Stanley, a boy who has been unjustly sent to a detention center, where the boys spend all day digging holes. The place, called Camp Green Lake, is full of holes. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to figure out that boys are digging holes because they are providing free labor for the warden who is looking for something. Stanley strives to find out the truth, and in the process learns about an unjust world and redemption.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis – The classic book is about four siblings who, while playing hide and seek, discover a wardrobe that is actually a portal to the magical world of Narnia. Narnia is a place with talking animals – some good animals and some bad, but all are under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. There is a battle of good and evil, and a sacrifice to be made. Some readers see in this story an allegory about Christianity and the Bible, while some, one of the best fantasy-adventure stories.
- Matilda by Roald Dahl – Matilda is a lovable, extraordinarily smart young girl who is not treated well by her parents and brother at home. School is not much different, since her headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is a kid-hating terror. She makes friends with Miss Honey, who believes in her, but couldn’t get Miss Trunchbull to move her into a higher class. Matilda soon discovers that she has telekinetic powers, and she uses this to get revenge on mean adults, and help Miss Honey and herself. A heartwarming and delightful read, and a favorite of many young readers who sympathize with Matilda’s plight.
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – The theme is about sibling rivalry and relationships. Peter, the older brother, feels that living with his pesky younger brother, Fudge, makes him feel like a “fourth grade nothing”. Although Peter is a trouble maker, he gets away with everything, to Peter’s annoyance. Then one day, when Fudge walks off with Peter’s pet turtle, Peter has enough. Written with lots of humor, the book depicts the frustrations of a child having a difficult relationship within the family. It is highly relatable for kids with siblings.
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – A Newbery Honor winner, an exciting tale of survival, with a thirteen- year-old as a protagonist. Brian is a sole survivor of a plane crash. He is alone in the Canadian woods with nothing but his clothes, a windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present. All by himself, he learns survival skills, and his experience gives him a greater understanding of himself and his parents. A thrilling read, and inspires the young reader to be a survivor.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – This classic, along with the other books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is hailed as one of the best fantasy books of all time. The fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien is full of thrilling adventures and wonderful creatures – including orcs, goblins, dwarves and hobbits, a human-like race but are small and have hairy feet. Bilbo Baggins is one of the hobbits. He is satisfied with his life of comfort until an old wizard Gandalf convinces him to set out on an adventure to reclaim their treasure from the marauding dragon Smaug. Many young readers claim that this book is one of their most memorable.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg and her two friends, as they search for Meg’s father who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract project. A Newbery Mead winner, this book has been praised for being an exhilarating and imaginative coming-of-age sci-fi that young people can relate to, especially teen girls.
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – This book has been described as a modern Alice in Wonderland, but it’s much more than that. Bored Milo sees a tollbooth suddenly appears in his room. He drives through it and finds himself in a place full of fantastic lands and mythological creatures. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you have to jump to get there), learns about time from a ticking watchdog name Tock, and embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. The uniquely-written story is full of delightful puns and wordplays, as well as profound insights into life.
- The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman – This book has found itself in the lists of top books of all time, and had been called “the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past 20 years” by Washington Post. It is the story of Lyra, a wild girl, who lives in a world where every person is paired with a “daemon”, a kind of animal familiar. When Lyra and her daemon Pan overhear a discussion about children being stolen for some sinister purpose, she becomes determined to save his kidnapped friend Roger, and this starts her on a thrilling and suspenseful adventure in a spectacular fantasy world. This is the first book in the author’s critically-acclaimed His Dark Materials series.
- The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton – A gritty, coming-of-age classic about a teenage boy who feels he is an outsider in society and struggles to distinguish between right and wrong. He believes there are two kinds of people in the world – the soc who has money and belongs to regular society, and the greasers, who are poor and lives on the outside. When his friend Johnny kills a soc, his bifurcated world starts to crumble. The story of gang warfare and its effect on their humanity is as relevant today, as it was 50+ years ago.
- 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) (National Geographic Kids) by National Geographic Kids – For the child who would rather read non-fiction and thinks factoids are fun. This book is full of fun and fascinating information, and going through the pages can be addicting. Text-heavy but full of colorful photographs from National Geographic, for the more advanced reader.
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – This heartwarming tale of a boy and his two dogs has touched millions. It is a powerful tale of outdoor adventures, special friendships, and coming of age. Set in the Ozarks during the Great Depression, it is the story of Billy who grew up poor, but longed to have dogs that his parents cannot afford. So he works to save money, then hikes 60 miles barefoot through the woods to pick up two pups. Billy trains his dogs and they become such a great hunting team that they are able to compete in a racoon hunt against grown men.
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio – This beautifully written, heartwarming book is a bestseller, is in a lot of lists of best books for children and young adults, and inspired the Choose Kind movement. It tells the story of Auggie whose extraordinary face prevents him from going to a mainstream school because he is being bullied. The book is unique in that it is first told from the point of view of Auggie, then his classmates, his sister, and others. The perspectives converge and elicit empathy and compassion.
Best Books for 2 to 4 Years Old
At this age, your child still doesn’t read, or doesn’t read well. Picture books are still best, as she enjoys looking at the pictures. She may also recognize some words. At this age, although your child reads for enjoyment, she may also learn some simple life lessons.
Best Books for 5 to 8 Years Old
At this age, your child can read simple books by himself. He now learns to enjoy reading, and derive positive messages from the best books, as well as discover role models.
Books for 9 -12 Years Old
At this age, your child is ready to learn about values and the human situation, important when facing a world where you will be continuously alone. These are books where he learns about people, relationships, and different aspects of life. Some of these books may even help form his moral compass.
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