Books make the best gifts, am I right? To make it easier for you to find the right book for each child on your list, I’m sharing some top kid-favorite, parent-approved book recommendations for children ages 0 to 12.
Also, you might want to check out my favorite reading and writing gifts for kids.
Little Owl’s Bedtime by Karl Newson, illustrated by Miggy Blanco
Little Owl has a job to do. Every night, she passes sleeping animals in her journey to blow out the stars. Lyrical text mimics the flying, soaring, swooping of Little Owl who says good night to the stars and his friends. An enchanting story for bedtime that will remind children that the stars will go away and the sun will always rise again, thanks to Little Owl.
The Wolf and the Fly by Antje Damm
I LOVE this book! And you will, too. A wolf is hungry so he looks at a bookshelf of stuff to decide what to eat. When you turn the page, something is missing, what is it? He eats everyone one after another. Kids need to pay close attention. When he finishes with a fly, that fly wiggles around, and everything comes right back up!
Mail Duck by Erica Sirotich
LIFT THE FLAP / SHAPES
Mail Duck delivers shapes. First, triangles to Trudy. Look at all the triangles Trudy gets in the mail and all the triangle-shaped things in her A-frame house. Mail Duck continues delivering shapes his other animal friends, Cecil who likes circles, Scout who likes squares, Omar who likes ovals, Rosie who likes rectangles, and Harry who likes hearts. Then get ready for a fun surprise inside the post office. Cute with detailed, interesting illustrations to pour over as you read, this is a delightful way to practice recognizing shapes.
Your Nose! A Wild Little Love Song by Sandra Boynton
Perfect for young readers learning body parts, this sweet song in a book celebrates YOUR amazing nose. Sing it your own way or check out Boynton’s version of the song on her Blue Moo album. (We highly recommend it!)
Pin Pon (Canticos) by Susie Jaramillo
BILINGUAL / REVERSABLE
Depending on the way you hold the book, you’ll read this catchy song in either English or Spanish about a darling little cardboard boy named Pin Pon who cleans, eats, and goes to bed just like a regular boy. As you learn about manners and hygiene, lift the flaps to see more to the story and more nouns. Watch the Pin Pon video and hear the song in Spanish on NickJr. (So cute, right?)
The Staring Contest by Nicholas Solis
Get ready to have a silly interactive staring contest with the narrator in this book. This story quickly engages the young readers on your lap as they stare into the narrator’s eyes, trying not to blink! Who will win?
Unicorns Are the Worst by Alex Willan
HUMOR / UNICORNS / FRIENDSHIP
Goblin is annoyed when unicorns move in next door — maybe even jealous. Because unicorns just frolic all day long and they get their own themed birthday party supplies! AND THERE’S SO MUCH GLITTER and so many tea parties…to which they don’t invite Goblin. Unicorns are really the worst! But Goblin’s opinion changes when the unicorns help him escape a dragon. Clearly, dragons are really the worst. Exceptional, inviting artwork!
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Amazing, gigantic illustrations give us a bees-eye view of a honeybee’s life from her birth to the days of working in the hive, guarding the hive, and searching for nectar. Beautifully written and illustrated, this book is an informative book about the life-cycle of bees that sensitively ends with a reflection of the honeybee’s accomplishments (“She has visited thirty thousand flowers…Her work is done.”), her final flight in the warm air, and the birth of a new honeybee.
On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex
A hilarious story of cause and effect with one unfortunate event after the other…all because a girl (you– this is written in the second person) gets gum stuck in her hair. First, the girl’s family tries scissors to cut out the gum. But those get stuck, too! Next, they use two sticks of butter. When that gets stuck, more relatives help out and before long the girl has a head full of gum, butter, scissors, grass, noodles, a pet rabbit, the cat, the vacuum, and a birthday cake! She screams for the fireman to stop when they want to add chili. After her aunt gets stuck up there, it’s time for the girl to go to school. Because guess what?! It’s picture day!
Food Play by Amy Palanjian
Perfect for preschoolers, this is a must-own first cookbook to help start young children in the kitchen with easy and yummy food ideas. Engaging, colorful photographs show kids cooking and the steps for each recipe. Simple text explains what the grown-up prep (gathering the ingredients and cutting) and what the kids do. Together, you’ll learn to make noodle bowls, sandwich spirals, smoothies, pizzas, tacos, and more. LOVE!
Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri
Try this spicy Latinx retelling of Red Riding Hood! In this version, a boy named Federico rides his bike to the marketplace to buy ingredients for his abuelo’s pico de gallo and rides to his abuelo’s tienda. Of course, instead of finding his abuelo, it is el lobo from the woods. Quick-thinking Rico tosses chili powder into the wolf’s snout and a habanero into his mouth. El lobo runs away and Rico saves his abuelo.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
BLACK BOY JOY
I love this exuberant celebration of a young boy’s infinite possibilities illustrated in bright, textured colors. Not only is this beautiful depiction of black boy joy, but it’s also a masterpiece of culture, writing, and art! “I’m the BOOM-BAP– BOOM-BOOM-BAP when the bass line thumps and the kick drum jumps. I’m the perfect beat, the perfect rhyme, keeping everything on point and always on time — but you already knew that.” AMAZING WRITING showing young boys of color that they have worth and that they can be anything. I adore everything about this book.
Everyone’s Awake by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Shawn Harris
What a crazy night! The entire family is awake and doing all sorts of imaginative, random things. “Grandma’s at her needlework. Dad is baking bread. My brother’s making laundry lists of every book he’s read.” Rollicking, rhythmic verses plus neon-bright action-packed illustrations capture the exuberance and activity of this busy night.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri, retold by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Briony May Smith
Heidi’s a sweet, resilient girl who makes everyone around her feel happy, even her grumpy grandpa. She finds a true home with her grandpa in the Swiss Alps but just as she’s settled in, her aunt sends her to live with a sickly little girl named Clara in a big city. Heidi desperately misses her Swiss Alps home; she misses her grandpa and Peter and the goats and flowers. Luckily, Clara’s family eventually sends her back to the Alps after Heidi learns to read and write. Soon, Clara joins Heidi in the mountains– and miracles ensue. Full-colored, beautiful illustrations.
See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Kids who like silly stories will want to read this story again and again! A playful remake of the Dick and Jane stories— with a narrator and dog who argue about the story. Because there is no “blue cat in a green dress” argues the dog! Until…a blue cat in a green dress appears! The repetition of words and similar short text structure makes this a fun new choice for beginning readers.
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lovel
A beautiful picture book that celebrates 50 years of Frog and Toad early reader friendship stories with a ribbon bookmark, bonus materials at the end, and a biography of Arnold Lobel.
Zoey and Sassafras BOXED SET by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
This is a kid-favorite, wonderful fantasy series that incorporates the scientific method! Zoey learns that like her scientist mother, she can see magical creatures and begins to assist her mother who helps injured creatures. When her mom leaves town, Zoey must listen for the special doorbell in case a magical animal needs her help. With the help of her cutie cat named Sassafras, she helps a sick baby dragon in the first story. But that’s only the beginning of her magical animal adventures…
Dragon Masters BOXED SET by Tracey West
Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Diagon Alley and Beyond by Matthew Reinhart, illustrated by Kevin M. Wilson
The coolness factor of this pop-up book is beyond words –because it’s a complete sensory experience. Open the pages and Diagon Alley pops out in three dimensions. Lift flaps, pull levers, read the information, look at the nuanced details, and smell the fresh book smell. What an amazing book!
The Unofficial Hogwarts for the Holidays Cookbook by Rita Mock Pike
Got a Harry Potter fan? Beautiful, full-color photographs accompany clear step-by-step recipes of HP-inspired foods that kids will enjoy making and eating including pumpkin tarts, chocolate frogs, rice pudding, strawberry trifle, crumpets, chipolatas, goulash, and citrus glazed ham. Discover recipes for fall, winter, spring, and summer marked with holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. The only challenge will be which to make first!
Brick x Brick by Adam Ward
I highly recommend this engaging book for any LEGO loving kid! Adam Ward of YouTube fame writes with so much personality and pizazz. Not only does this book show you cool, step-by-step builds, but it’s also filled with facts, tips, history, stories, & more.
The Brave by James Bird
OJIBWE INDIGENOUS CULTURE / NEURO DIFFERENCES / MAGICAL REALISM
Collin is a boy who counts every letter spoken to him and then says the number of letters out loud. He gets kicked out of yet another school and his father sends Collin to live with the Ojibwe mother he’s never met. Living with her is a totally different experience than his previous home — because with his mother, he’s welcomed and not judged. Collin befriends the neighbor girl who teaches him how to be brave. Which he needs. And so does she because she’s going to be a butterfly soon…(I’m intentionally not sharing this part of the plot because you need to discover it for yourself.) This book is one of the BEST middle-grade books of ALL time; you’ll feel all the feelings!
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
On her 12th birthday, Zoe, a girl who loves to bake, discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him if he really committed the murder for which he’s in jail. Marcus writes back to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it. This sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. You won’t be able to put down this winsome middle-grade story with a determined heroine in a story about social justice, family, friendship, and love.
Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry, illustrated by Lindsay Moore
ENVIRONMENT / OCEAN / ADVENTURE
I love this beautifully written story about two orca siblings separated from their families, trying to find food and their seasonal home. Alternating perspectives between the older sister Vega and little earnest, trusting brother Deneb, their voices express a uniquely imagined orca’s perspective. journeying to get safety and food and find their family. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves animals, the writing is wonderfully evocative.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he now must deal with the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school along with racism and balancing academics with his artwork. This story is engaging, relatable, and important.
Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski, illustrated by Gretel Lusky
GRAPHIC NOVEL / SUPERHERO / ART
16-year-old Ashley hopes her latest foster home will be a fit — and it is! The couple is great– they’re funny, quirky, and accepting. Then, Ashley finds very special lab-created body paint in her foster mom’s closet and learns that when applied to her body, the paint gives her superpowers, different powers for each color like fire, flying, and strength. Meanwhile, her incarcerated dad is giving her trouble and the government’s soldiers hunt for the missing paints. Fast-paced and exciting, this story is perfect for readers who love underdogs, girl power, superheroes, and art!
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