Your Favorite Children’s Books
A reading list, from our readers.,
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Today, the newsletter is taken over by you — our readers — and your gobsmacking recommendations for children’s books.
Your Favorite Children’s Books
Thank you, thank you. Almost 350 people wrote in to share beloved books, and I loved reading through your suggestions. There were so many books I remembered from my own childhood and from reading to my little cousins.
Readers wrote in with plenty of classics — “Charlotte’s Web,” the “Magic Tree House” series, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” — that should be part of every reading list.
But we also were amazed at the range of titles, with gems for every age group. This newsletter couldn’t possibly list every great choice. But I’ve plucked out more than a few — enough, I hope, to please just about every reader. (The comments have been edited for length and clarity.)
I hope you get as much joy out of this list as I did!
Littlest readers (0 to 4)
“The Book With No Pictures,” by B.J. Novak. If the adult reading it is willing to be silly, the kids you are reading to will be rolling on the floor laughing. — Janet Mogel, Berks County, Pa.
“Good Night, Gorilla,” by Peggy Rathmann. My son loved it. There was a period of months when he plucked it from his stack of books every night, asking “Go?” for “gorilla.” We’d point to the different animals together and look for the little mouse carrying Gorilla’s banana on each page. — Hallie Rich, Cleveland
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” written and illustrated by Mo Willems. Young children are able to both identify with and laugh at the pigeon. The pigeon is living out their dreams — and expressing their frustrations — and kids feel joy both at seeing the pigeon act out those desires and at knowing better than the pigeon. The book enables readers to be loud, quiet, exhilarated. — Renee Marousis, Barrington, Ill.
“Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes,” written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. I love the diversity of the babies and settings in the illustrations, the sweetness of the story and the simple, rhythmic rhyming that infants respond to long before they understand the words. I’ve given it to the parents of dozens of newborns, and it’s a smash hit every time. — Dale Russakoff, Montclair, N.J.
In-between-ers (4 to 7)
“The Paper Bag Princess,” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko. An excellent book for kids of all ages who could stand to see a princess not in need of rescue by a prince. — Maureen Ann O’Malley, Boston
“Mula and the Fly,” written by Lauren Hoffmeier and illustrated by Ela Smietanka. I love the simple but engaging story and that it helps young children learn about the wisdom and value of yoga. — Hildy Simmons, Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Where Are You From?” written by Yamile Saied Mendez and illustrated by Jaime Kim. The question “Where are you from?” is often asked with genuine curiosity but can come across as othering. I love this book because it helps kids learn about inclusion and the concept of identity for both themselves and others. — Alli Hearne, Plymouth, Minn.
“Show Way,” written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. This book helped my daughter feel connected to and grounded in her identity as an African American, a descendant of enslaved women in America, and it also encouraged age-appropriate conversations about atrocities such as the sale of children from their siblings and mothers, and generations of violence against Black Americans. — Phoebe, Bronx, N.Y.
“Julian is a Mermaid,” by Jessica Love. This book is stunningly simple and beautiful, and I’ve seen it excite and inspire young students. It offers hope for those looking beyond gender stereotypes and binaries, and it encourages readers to explore their passions and interests. — Anna Grace Guercio, Tulsa, Okla.
“When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry …,” by Molly Bang. With beautiful, creative illustrations, this picture book captures the feeling of being overwhelmed by anger (or any strong emotion). It was soothing to my daughter when she was too young to put her feelings into words. — Marie Harris
“Jabari Jumps,” written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall. Jabari conquers his fears of jumping off the diving board. My 3-year-old daughter often references the book, saying, “I’ll be brave like Jabari.” — Kellee M., Brooklyn, N.Y.
“The Ugly Vegetables,” by Grace Lin. This story features an Asian American family planting a garden. It connects culture, food and families. I love that it’s about vegetables because it’s usually the kids’ least favorite food. So, it lends itself to many different conversations. — Linda Quan, San Diego
“Be Good to Eddie Lee,” written by Virginia Fleming, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. The main character in this book, Eddie Lee, has Down syndrome. His neighbor, Christy, learns to appreciate Eddie Lee’s differences as they visit a magical pond together. I love this book because it allows readers to truly step inside the characters’ shoes. — Anne Chalcraft, Shoreline, Wash.
On-their-own-ers (7 to 10)
“The Sign of the Seahorse,” written and illustrated by Graeme Base. About the danger of pollution. Also beautifully illustrated. The book rhymes so it is fun to read aloud in a group. — Jennifer Strabley
“The Hundred Dresses,” written and illustrated by Eleanor Estes. It has stuck with me all my life. Published in 1944, it is a timeless tale of the power of teasing and bullying, and the feeling of shame when the protagonist doesn’t stand up for an outsider. While the details of children’s lives today are different, the problems and emotions are the same. — Sylvia Rortvedt, Arlington, Va.
“Guts,” and other graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. My daughter is a dyslexic fifth grader. She plowed through each of these books in a day or two. They were engaging, relevant and accessible. — Kim Swords, Foster City, Calif.
And the big kids (11+)
“Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky,” by Kwame Mbalia. This book has everything: adventure, folklore, Black history, a hilarious sidekick, difficult choices, and a how-to on dealing with guilt and grief. The story burns itself into your memory. — B. Sharise Moore, Baltimore
“Dealing With Dragons,” by Patricia C. Wrede. The main character, Cimorene, is strong, independent and exactly everything I have ever wanted to be. It’s a great inspiration for girls. — S. Asra Husain, Naperville, Ill.
“Singularity,” by William Sleator. Frightening, jaw-dropping, and intimate all at the same time — and based on real science. Twin teenage boys, an isolated farmhouse, unusual skeletons that don’t *quite* make sense, an attractive neighbor:No one I’ve ever recommended the book to has ever forgotten it. — Amelia Baisley, Pittsburgh
“Turtles All The Way Down,” by John Green. Great for any tween or teen, especially those who experience anxiety in general, or obsessive-compulsive disorder specifically. As a mental health therapist who has long observed inaccurate portrayals of obsessive-compulsive disorder in culture (and likewise, the frustrations about this issue of individuals living with O.C.D.), I appreciate the accurate and eloquently-captured experience. — Jackie
I’ll end with my own plug here, which many of you echoed: “The Phantom Tollbooth,” written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It’s full of wordplay, it’s got real moments of literary tension and it’s one of the few kids’ books I’ve ever read about boredom. My very worn copy is always the first thing I put on a new bookshelf when I move.
If you have an idea of another crowdsourced question like this, we welcome ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thank you, again, to everyone who sent in such delightful suggestions.
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