Still looking for a few last minute Christmas gifts for a child in your life? Today I am sharing some of our family’s most-loved children’s books.
I am a bit finicky about kids picture books. I want the illustrations to be vibrantly colorful and either adorable or beautiful. I want there to be some kind of thread of a meaningful lesson in the story, or else I want it to be very silly and fun. I don’t want authority figures (like a parent or teacher) to be cast in an unfavorable light. Oh, and if I can read it in a British accent, all the more fun.
Sometimes I have a hard time finding just the right books, but along the way, we’ve found some fantastic gems. These are books we’ve discovered from the library, blog reviews, wonderful local independent bookshops around the country, or were given as gifts from family and friends. These have been chosen by our five year old daughter to be read countless times at bedtime. Many of these books she has enjoyed since she was one, two or three years old. (Click on the pictures to be taken to the Amazon link).
~Three -six years old – Picture Books:
The often mischievous Berenstain Bears are sweet, likable and highly relatable for kids. They encounter various situations and learn a little lesson along the way. We have an entire collection.
Ree Drummond’s Charlie the Ranch Dog series is about an endearing basset hound that loves to nap and help out on the ranch. My daughter loved his comments in the books about food, e.g., “Breakfast is my life!” Charlie is fun to read in a southern drawl.
Penguin in Peril by Helen Hancocks is so much fun. It’s about three cunning cats who cook up a plan to nab an innocent penguin. Of course, the plot is foiled as the penguin catches on to the plan and makes his escape.
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills A great story to pique little ones’ interest in reading. Rocket loves to play, chase leaves, chew sticks and take naps. Reading doesn’t make the list of his favorite things to do until one day, a little yellow bird appears and starts holding class to teach him to read. She captures his attention by telling him a suspenseful tale of an unlucky dog who’d lost his favorite bone. Rocket returns to class until he learns “the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet” from the little bird.
Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggy books. Elephant and Piggy are best friends and they share many adventures, including waiting for a big surprise,sharing ice cream, and finding themselves in a book in this adorable series. Bonus: These are great for young readers too.
More great Mo Willems books. Our protagonist, “The Pigeon,” smartly represents the feelings and expressions of a toddler. My little one got lots of laughs from these and so did we. Entirely quotable too!
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires is a great book for encouraging young girls to persevere through the creative process, to believe in their ideas, and even to try making something mechanical. In this book, a little girl wants to make an invention. She knows what she want it to be in her mind, but it’s a process to get there. She gathers her things, hammers, tinkers, measures, but it is still not right. Onlookers don’t get what she’s trying to do. She gets frustrated and mad and crunches her finger. Yet, she persists until her creation is finished. It’s not perfect, but it really is “THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING.”
Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle is a great book for little princesses who love to get dirty too. In the book, a little girl who rides her bike, climbs trees, has bad hair days and has to do chores asks her mom if princesses “..seem at all like me?” Her mother assures her that princesses are very much like her. The back page says, “Look inside yourself and see… A princess is a place in your heart.” and has a little mirror for your princess to see herself.
A Birthday for Bear by Bonny Becker is fun to read in a British accent. Bear hates birthdays and company, but Mouse persists until they are gleefully enjoying a party together to celebrate Bear’s birthday. The dialogue in this one is smart and entertaining. This is one in a series of several fun Bear and Mouse books.
In David Melling’s Hugless Douglas, Douglas wakes up and finds he desperately needs a HUG!! But where to find one? He searches and friends help him along the way to find the hug he needs (from his mommy!). Very sweet – it even has pictures of all kinds of hugs (sandwich hug, shy hug, tummy hug, etc.) in the back which my daughter insisted I read every time.
The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is a rhyming book about a glum fish who can’t see beyond his self-image to get a better perspective on life. Many friends try to help by pointing out he’s too glum, but nothing works until a beautiful fish simply gives the Pout-Pout fish a kiss. I love how it shows that kindness makes all the difference. We’ve read it so many times, my daughter and I can nearly recite it from memory.
My daughter just brought Snowmen at Work by Caralyn Buehner home from her school library and we love it! This is about the secret life of snowmen. They actually have jobs, have to go to the dentist and have their coal teeth replaced, and have frozen pizza delivered by the snow pizza man. It all happens at night while humans are sleeping.This is adorable, and BONUS – there are hidden pictures of a kitten, dinosaur and a few other things on every page. So much fun.
True confession: I love The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt even more than my daughter. It is about various crayons who were left behind and sent postcards to the child they belong to. One crayon, Pea Green noted on his postcard, “No one likes Peas. No one even likes the color PEA GREEN. So I’m changing my name and RUNNING away to see the WORLD. Sincerely, Esteban… the MAGNIFICENT! (the crayon formerly known as PEA GREEN)” Funny, clever and very entertaining.
The Enormous Crocodile is one of our favorite Roald Dahl children’s books. If you know anything about Roald Dahl, you’ll know he has a bit of a dark twisted humor that is irreverently funny, which my daughter loves. The Enormous Crocodile is extremely hungry and wants a “nice juicy little child” for lunch. Normally the children run away and he never catches one. But today, he has “secret plans and clever tricks” which of course, are not so bright. The Enormous Crocodile’s plans go terribly awry, and in the process, you and your child will find yourself both a little horrified and greatly entertained.
When my daughter started potty training, I bought her several books on the topic. The Potty Book by Alyssa Satin Capucilli outshone them all and she still loves this book to this day. Very sweet and relatable for kids.
Birth to Three Years Old (and beyond):
You can never, never, never have too many Sandra Boynton board books. My daughter has enjoyed these since she was one-year-old, and now she is reading them to her little brother. The bright illustrations and simple catchy words are very engaging for little ones.
Touch and feel books are wonderful for babies and toddlers. My ten-month-old loves the Baby Touch and Feel Bunny book and all the textures. Feely Bugs by David Carter is another great touch and feel book. It has all kinds of bugs with lacy wings, feathers, leather and fuzz. My daughter loved this one so much, it nearly fell apart!
Of course I must include the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Rich and colorful, it tells the story of a caterpillar who becomes a butterfly, and in the process, gets very hungry and eats many things, which the reader gets to count. My daughter now loves to read this one to her baby brother. There is a great soft book for babies as well.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle has all the animal sounds, a theme of friendship and kindness, even when someone else isn’t kind to you. A delightful, colorful rhyming book.
Children’s Bibles and Christian Storybooks:
I cannot say enough good things about the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Hands down, it is the best Children’s Bible out there. It has wonderful text and beautiful illustrations that tell how the Bible is a story about a King who came to save us. Great for adults too, I’ve found myself shedding a few tears as I’ve read it to my children. The deluxe edition comes with the book on CD’s.
The Lift the Flap Bible is my favorite Bible for ages one- four. I just realized as I was putting this together, it has the same author as the Jesus Storybook Bible – Sally Lloyd-Jones. No wonder! This one has bright colorful illustrations and “lift the flap” to engage children with the stories.
After our adopted son was born, I selected a few books from my daughter’s library to read to him in the hospital. You are Special and Thank you, God for Loving Me by Max Lucado were my top two in the stack. “You Are Special” is about a master carpenter that loves his creation, no matter if they have “gold stars” or “black dots” from other “Wemmicks” like him. “Thank You God for Loving Me” is a rhyming prayer in which “Hermie” thanks God for protecting him and loving him.
Books Under the Tree this Year:
This year, Pete the Cat visited my daughter’s Kindergarten class, and the kids read the books and made little books surrounding the theme. My daughter LOVED it. I Love My White Shoes teaches children about colors in a very entertaining way, as Pete the Cat steps in various things that change his white shoes to different colors.
I heard about this one on the What Should I Read Next podcast, and it sounded like so much fun. Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are great friends until they find there is only one drop of maple syrup left. Havoc ensues as they each try to get that last drop. But will they fare better by working together? I’m excited to see my daughter’s reaction to this one.
I’m more than a little excited about this Christmas present for my daughter that I found at Costco – The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots by Beatrix Potter. This story has never been published as an illustrated book in 100 years. A new-to-us Beatrix Potter story with kitties in it? Yes please. This is wonderfully illustrated by Quentin Blake. BONUS- it has a CD with Helen Mirren narrating the story.
Winnie-the-Pooh everything! We have a boxed set I found at Costco years ago that has been well-loved and enjoyed. These lift-the-flap versions are on my son’s Christmas list.
My siblings and I grew up reading and loving the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was excited to find the Little House Picture Books for young readers. I can’t wait for my daughter to start learning these wonderful pioneer stories too.
I may be a little biased, but I believe that books are one of the most wonderful gifts you can give to a child. They educate, spur their imaginations, normalize their experiences (like having an accident when potty training), and are beautiful on the shelf. I hope this has given you a few ideas for a child in your life’s bookshelf. The above are affiliate Amazon links which help support my blog, but I would love it if you find these and others at a local independent bookstore too.