A Reader’s Gift Guide: Best Children’s Books
This post may contain affiliate links.
Ok, this post is a bit long but it’s worth it . . . today I’m giving you my picks for the best children’s books of 2012: board books, picture books, and chapter books.
Also, I’ve generally used the publisher’s book descriptions due to time constraints. However, I’ve read all of these book and highly recommend them. (Some anecdotal comments are sprinkled throughout.)
Best Gift Boxed Chapter Book Sets
Best Board Books for Toddlers
LITTLE PIM FEELINGS ENGLISH SPANISH FRENCH
The Little Pim book series adapts the most successful and effective elements from the award-winning Little Pim DVDs to promote fun with languages for young children. Each book incorporates an exciting blend of illustrations and photographs, as well as flaps and pull tabs to keep readers engaged. The stories are told in English, with words featured in Spanish and French (the most popular languages in the DVD series). Pronunciation guides for parents are included.
Colors showcases colors and objects, and Feelings focuses on emotions and expressions. Each book weaves its vocabulary into a hide-and-seek story featuring Little Pim as the narrator and concludes with a helpful review of the words learned.
WHO’S LOOKING AT YOU?
Ok, my 7 year old love this book, too — it’s really gorgeous and interesting! Whose eyes flash like mirrors in the dark? What animal can see behind itself? The fun, eye-catching wildlife photography in Who’s Looking at You? will keep kids guessing. Each page features a new close-up photo. Lift the flap to see the animal’s identity and learn a bit more about it!
TONS OF TRUCKS
I LOVE this book!
Big trucks, small trucks, dump trucks, tow trucks, and all kinds of other trucks can be found in this playful touch-and-move book. A backhoe scoops and digs, a cement truck spins, a tar truck oozes sticky tar, and tabs pull up and out to reveal surprises.
The trucks eventually slow down for a rest, where little hands can lift the flaps to see animals snuggling up for sleepy-time—under a rising moon. Filled with vibrant art and adorable characters, this book gives a child everything he’s looking for when he presses his face against the fence at a construction site!
NOODLE LOVES TO DRIVE
So cute and tactile, this is perfect for your little ones. Join Noodle as he plays with his toys that go vroom! Here is another title in this bright, robust series of high-quality touch-and feel board books for babies and young toddlers. Each features stylish art, a simple rhyming text, a tactile element on every spread, and a mirror on the final page of each book.
Find the elephant, Eddie, in this silly board book.
Best Children’s Picture Books for All Ages
CHLOE AND THE LION
A Taylor FAVORITE!!
Meet Chloe: Every week, she collects loose change so she can buy tickets to ride the merry-go-round. But one fateful day, she gets lost in the woods on her way home, and a large dragon leaps out from—”Wait! It’s supposed to be a lion,” says Mac Barnett, the author of this book. But Adam Rex, the illustrator, thinks a dragon would be so much cooler (don’t you agree?).
There is NOTHING boring about being a kid, but one little girl is going to have to prove it in this anything-but-boring picture book from comedian Michael Ian Black.
Just when a little girl thinks she couldn’t possibly be more bored, she stumbles upon a potato who turns the tables on her by declaring that children are boring. But this girl isn’t going to let a vegetable tell her what’s what, so she sets out to show the unimpressed potato all the amazing things kids can do. Too bad the potato is anything but interested….
GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS
A bedtime favorite – totally hilarious!
Once upon a time, there were three hungry Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur . . . and a Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.
One day—for no particular reason—they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then—for no particular reason—they decided to go . . . someplace else. They were definitely not setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl.
This new take on a fairy-tale classic is so funny and so original—it could only come from the brilliant mind of Mo Willems.
ANDREW DREW AND DREW
Andrew never knows what the lines would make — a kite, a rocket, a rabbit in a hat. Making a drawing, after all, is like making magic. Black and white images contrast with a colorful Andrew in this interactive lift-the-flap story reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Delightful and inspiring!
GOLDILOCKS AND JUST ONE BEAR
In this award-winning author illustrator’s witty sequel to the traditional Goldilocks story, Little Bear is all grown up and Goldilocks is a distant memory. One day, Little Bear wanders out of the woods and finds himself lost in the Big City. Will he find the city too noisy? Too quiet? Or just right? And what are the chances of him bumping in to someone who remembers exactly how he likes his porridge?
BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED
You do make a difference in the world!
Because Amelia smiles as she skips down the street, her neighbor Mrs. Higgins smiles too, and decides to send a care package of cookies to her grandson Lionel in Mexico. The cookies give Lionel an idea, and his idea inspires a student, who in turn inspires a ballet troupe in England! And so the good feelings that started with Amelia’s smile make their way around the world, from a goodwill recital in Israel, to an impromptu rumba concert in Paris, to a long-awaited marriage proposal in Italy, to a knitted scarf for a beloved niece back in New York. Putting a unique spin on “what goes around comes around,” David Ezra Stein’s charmingly illustrated story reminds us that adding even a small dose of kindness into the world is sure to spur more and more kindness, which could eventually make its way back to you!
ABC WHAT CAN I BE? PERSONALIZED BOOK
We love JJ’s personalized ABC What I Can Be storybook. From A to Z we read about her in different careers he or she can be, from an Astronaut to a Zookeeper.
When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.
CINDERELLA A THREE DIMENSIONAL FAIRY TALE THEATER
Charming three-dimensional scenes transform the story of Cinderella into a fairy-tale gift to treasure.
Jane Ray’s layered cut-paper artwork elegantly retells the time-honored tale of a scullery maid turned royalty. Six meticulously detailed tableaux include a shabby kitchen, a gorgeous nightscape in a magical garden, and a sparkling ballroom filled with nobles, as well as Cinderella’s iconic gilded pumpkin coach. Side panels unfold to reveal the story’s text and evoke an evening at the theater. Little girls who dream of fairy godmothers will adore this unique portrayal of the world’s most famous princess — no glass slippers required.
GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS AND THE 33 BEARS AND THE BLIIM AND THE FURNITURE AND LOTS MORE VARIATIONS
A classic fairy tale is wittily retold by the celebrated Allan Ahlberg, with charming illustrations by his daughter, Jessica Ahlberg.
Everyone knows what happened when Goldilocks met the three bears. But when she encounters a whopping thirty-three bears, the strange-talking Bliim, or even three little pigs, the stories end a bit differently. Lift the flaps and pull the tabs to join Goldilocks in a hilarious series of adventures, as award-winning storyteller Allan Ahlberg and his daughter, Jessica, put their own stamp on the timeless tale.
CREATRILOGY BY RETER H. REYNOLDS (SKY COLOR, THE DOT, ISH)
Express yourself! The three best-selling, award-winning picture books in the Creatrilogy by Peter H. Reynolds celebrate the power of original thinking.
Presented in a beautiful boxed set, this trio of hardcover titles includes:
The Dot An enchanting invitation to self-expression! Don’t worry, just make a mark — and see where it takes you.
Ish A creative spirit learns that thinking “ishly” leads to a far more wonderful outcome than “getting it right.”
Sky Color The sky’s no limit in this gentle, playful tale — a reminder that if we open our eyes and look beyond the expected, inspiration will come.
Best Chapter Books for Elementary-Aged Kids
IN A GLASS GRIMMLY
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! If you buy one book this year, buy this one. It’s fabulous — we’re on our second reading already. We love the message, the fairy tale mash-up, the humor, . . . everything!
More Grimm tales await in the harrowing, hilarious companion to a beloved new classic.
Take caution ahead—
Oversize plant life, eerie amphibious royalty, and fear-inducing creatures abound.
Lest you enter with dread.
Follow Jack and Jill as they enter startling new landscapes that may (or may not) be scary, bloody, terrifying, and altogether true.
Step lively, dear reader . . .
Happily ever after isn’t cutting it anymore.
ZEKE MEEKS VS. THE GRUESOME GIRLS
Girls are ruining Zeke Meeks’ life. Not only is he surrounded by girls at home, he now has a new girl neighbor. She might be good at sports and video games, but when it comes down to it, she is still an awful girl.
I couldn’t put this graphic novel down! Very entertaining.
A competition of dinosaurs is organized in town, pitting dino versus dino to see who the most ferocious beast is. Peter and Jean draw a monster dinosaur to enter in the competition, and bring it to life using their magic paper. Meanwhile, their dad does the very same thing! When both monsters are entered into the competition, whose creation will reign supreme?
GERONIMO STILTON SAVES THE OLYMPICS
A TRIP TO THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD WITH MOUSE
One of the best early readers ever!
There’s so much to see at the bottom of the world! Join a young explorer and his best friend, Mouse, on a sea journey to Antarctica, where they make new friends with penguins and a whale — and have all kinds of fun. Young readers won’t stop grinning as they’re swept away by the strange and magical world created by Frank Viva, the bestselling author of Along a Long Road, and they’ll want to start the book again as soon as they reach the end! (Are we there yet?)
LULU AND THE BRONTOSAURUS
HILARIOUS! It’s Lulu’s birthday and she’s decided she’d like a pet brontosaurus as a present. When Lulu’s parents tell her that’s not possible, Lulu gets very upset. She does not like it when things don’t go her way. So she takes matters into her own hands and storms off into the forest to find herself a new pet, all the way singing:
I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna, get
a bronto-bronto-bronto-bronto-saurus for a pet!
In the forest Lulu encounters a number of animals; a snake, a tiger, a bear, all of whom don’t particularly impress her. And then she finds him…a beautiful, long-necked, gentle, graceful brontosaurus. And he completely agrees with Lulu that having a pet would be a wonderful thing, indeed! Lulu thinks she’s gotten her birthday wish at last. Until she realizes that Mr. Brontosaurus thinks that she would make an ideal pet for him!
ALIENS V MAD SCIENTISTS MEGA MASH-UP
These books take great subjects for boys and combine them into short, bonkers, and funny stories that are incredibly easy to read. The illustrations are bold and crazy, and there’s plenty of space left on each page — together with suggestions for how to fill it — so kids can add their own drawings. The books read as hilarious, zippy stories that look a lot like novels but are terrific doodle books as well.
The earth is in peril! Aliens are trying to stop it from spinning so that everyone will fall off and they can take over. Mwa-ha-ha-ha! But fear not! The Mad Scientists are building a genius underwater machine to save the day. If only the Aliens would stop zapping them with their Frazzelizers. . . .
One of our favorite new series . . . Second grader Kylie Jean is a busy little lady. Readers have followed her singing, dancing, rodeo and acting experiences. Kylie approaches everything in her life as a possible step toward becoming a real life beauty queen.
THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET
A Wonderful Story!!
Guided by a tattered map, accompanied by Thomas the Pig Boy, and inspired by the storyteller’s blood that thrums through her veins, eleven-year-old Trinket searches for the seven stories she needs to become a bard like her father, who disappeared years before. She befriends a fortune-telling gypsy girl; returns a child stolen by the selkies to his true mother; confronts a banshee and receives a message from a ghost; helps a village girl outwit—and out-dance—the Faerie Queen; travels beyond the grave to battle a dastardly undead Highwayman; and meets a hound so loyal he fights a wolf to the death to protect the baby prince left in his charge. All fine material for six tales, but it is the seventh tale, in which Trinket learns her father’s true fate, that changes her life forever.
A MUTINY IN TIME (INFINITY RING #1)
History is broken, and three kids must travel back in time to set it right!
When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel — a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring — they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone disastrously off course.
Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the Great Breaks . . . and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!
MONSTER HIGH: GHOULFRIENDS FOREVER
Ghoulfriends Forever is a brand-new Monster High series, introducing three new monster characters. As new students, the trio must navigate the bewildering array of cute monster boys, established cliques, and monster-rific subjects like Mad Science, G-ogre-phy, and Physical Deaducation. As if that weren’t hard enough, something strange and sinister seems to be happening at the school. Popular girls like Frankie Stein and Cleo de Nile are acting weird-and all signs point to everyone’s new favorite teacher, Miss Sylphia Flapper. Can the new GFFs expose the fave as a fraud, or will they succumb to peer pressure?
STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY
A stunning book that will leave you richer for reading it!
The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?
But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.
Newbery Honor author Grace Lin brings readers another enthralling fantasy featuring her marvelous full-color illustrations. Starry River of the Sky is filled with Chinese folklore, fascinating characters, and exciting new adventures.
THE LAST DOGS: THE VANISHING
When all the humans in his world disappear, Max, a yellow Labrador Retriever, begins the search for his family. He knows that if he can just find Madame Curie, a wise, old black Lab, she’ll be able to help. Madame had a premonition of astonishing events to come — she might know where Max’s family is.
But Max can’t make the journey alone. Joined by friends Rocky and Gizmo, Max sets off to find Madame. Along the way, the trio must face a pack of angry wolves, forage for food in a land where kibble is akin to gold, befriend a house full of cats, and outsmart a gang of subway rats. Ultimately, they’ll have to escape from the biggest threat of all: the Corporation, a “perfect” society for dogs and by dogs, where nothing is quite as it seems.
The Last Dogs: The Vanishing is a thrilling adventure and a tale of three unlikely friends on an epic quest to find their people — and bring them home.
A fresh, modern spin on a classic fairy tale–from bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski!
Mirror, mirror, on the basement wall . . .
Once upon a time my brother and I were normal kids. The next minute? The mirror in our basement slurped us up and magically transported us inside Snow White’s fairy tale.
I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
But hey — we’re heroes! We stopped Snow White from eating the poisoned apple. Hooray! Or not. If Snow White doesn’t die, she won’t get to meet her prince. And then she won’t get her happy ending. Oops.
Now it’s up to us to:
– Avoid getting poisoned
– Sneak into a castle
– Fix Snow White’s story
And then, fingers crossed, find our way home.
THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN
Totally compelling — one of the best books EVER!!
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES
I stayed up all night to finish this book -it was fantastic!
In this riveting debut, a telepathic girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world—before the wrong person finds the answer first.
Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. And Sophie has a secret—she’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and almost instantly she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.
But Sophie still has secrets, and they’re buried deep in her memory for good reason: The answers are dangerous and in high-demand. What is her true identity, and why was she hidden
JAKE AND LILLY
This is a story about me, Lily.
And me, Jake.
We’re twins and we’re exactly alike.
Whatever. This is a book we wrote about the summer we turned eleven and Jake ditched me.
Please. I just started hanging out with some guys in the neighborhood.
Right. So anyway, this is a book about
goobers and supergoobers
things getting built and wrecked and rebuilt
and about figuring out who we are.
We wrote this together
so you’ll get to see both sides of our story.
But you’ll probably agree with my side.
You always have to have the last word, don’t you?
THE HOBBIT AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY THE WORLD OF HOBBITS
Enter the amazing World of Hobbits. Packed with photos from the new film, this book will tell you all you need to know about these amazing creatures – their appearance, appetites, homes, friends, deadly foes and much more.
THE HOBBIT AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY VISUAL COMPANION
Join the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard and the Company of Dwarves on their Quest to recover treasure stolen by the Dragon, Smaug the Magnificent. Leaving the comfort of Bilbo’s home they must face many perils before they can claim their long-lost gold—Trolls, Elves, Goblins, Wargs, and worse…
Richly illustrated with more than 100 color photos from the film, and featuring a brand new fold-out map charting the journey from Bag End to Wilderland, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion begins the Quest for the Lonely Mountain in spectacular style.
THE HOBBIT AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY OFFICIAL MOVIE GUIDE
Enter Bilbo Baggins’ world through exclusive interviews with director Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and all the principal cast and filmmakers, who share film-making secrets and tales of what it was actually like making movie magic in Middle-earth.
Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos of the actors, locations, sets, creatures and costumes, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide has been produced in collaboration with the filmmakers who have brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel into breathtaking three-dimensional life.
Laini Taylor’s writing is beyond exquisite – this book, like the previous one in the series, captivated me from the first word to the last. Amazing.
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world.
Ar student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Thanks for sharing this list. There are many books on it that I have not yet discovered. I think I will try to find I’m Bored first.
Thanks for this wonderful list – and for doing all the work to create it. What a terrific resource all in one place!
thanks, Susan! 🙂
I really loved many books on this list, esp. Starry River. You curated a good list, here. Thanks for linking it up to The Children’s Bookshelf.
And now I’m off adding to my wish list!