You’ve read Goodnight Moon approximately 4,289 times. You’re not crazy about The Giving Tree’s underlying message. And enough is enough: You wish that damn caterpillar would finally feel full already. If you’re stuck in a reading rut with your little kids (or if your big kids are stuck in a rut of their own), I’ve compiled a fresh reading list for you to tackle this year, built with the help of the parents in our Facebook community and with the goal of, hopefully, taking you beyond the titles you already have on your bookshelf.
You can see the full list of recommendations by joining our group, but I’ve compiled a selection of the best of them below — 10 picture books for little kids, and 10 chapter books, series, or graphic novels for big kids.
The Good Egg, written by Jory John, illustrated by Pete Oswald
Group member Autumn recommends this book, a follow-up to The Bad Seed exploring themes of perfectionism and anxiety. Here’s the description from Goodreads:
The good egg has been good for as long as he can remember. While the other eggs in his carton are kind of rotten, he always does the right, kind, and courteous thing. He is a verrrrrrry good egg indeed! Until one day he decides that enough is enough! He begins to crack (quite literally) from the pressure of always having to be grade-A perfect.
Jack (Not Jackie), written by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Holly Hatam
Autumn recommends this book, too, which she says “addresses gender in a way kids can understand.” Here’s the description from Goodreads:
Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack.
The Little Red Stroller, written by Joshua Furst, illustrated by Katy Wu
This one was recommended by Erica, who likes it because “the focus is on sharing and displays varied family structures and cross-racial friendships. However,” she adds, “I must say that a friend’s daughter gets upset by this book because (spoiler alert!) the stroller breaks in the end — but there is an additional happy ending!”
Here’s the Goodreads summary:
When Luna is born, her mummy gives her a little red stroller. It accompanies her and her mummy through all the activities of their day, until she outgrows the stroller and is able to pass it down to a toddler in her neighbourhood who now needs it. And so the stroller lives on, getting passed from one child to the next, highlighting for preschool readers the diversity of families: some kids with two mommies, some with two daddies, some with just one parent, and all from different cultures and ethnicities. This simple, cheerful book is a lovely portrait of the variety and universality of family.
You might think the best book to read to your young child is one they’ll love. One that, when you close the final page, makes them shout, “Again, again!” One that, before you even say, “Go pick out a bedtime book,” is already in their hand and waving in front...Read more
Glad, Glad Bear, written and illustrated by Kimberly Gee
This is another recommendation from Erica, who says, “it’s about a boy bear who wants to go to dance classes and wear a tutu because he feels happy in the space, but he also feels uncomfortable when others don’t look like him.”
Here’s the description from Goodreads:
Bear is very, very, very GLAD today! He’s taking his first ballet class. But he’s a little nervous too. This sweet and silly picture book is an honest exploration of feelings that little ones — and grown-ups! — are sure to relate to.
Bear is so excited that today is dance day! He has his new leggings, slippers, and tutu, and he is ready to go. But when he gets there, he feels a little shy, a little unsure, and even a little afraid. What can make him feel better? Dancing, of course!
Can I Give You a Squish? written and illustrated by Emily Neilson
This book is recommended by Presi, who says, “Of course the message on consent is very clear, but also the illustrations are beautiful. The bonus side-effect for us is that it showed our toddler new ways to show affection.” Here’s the details from Goodreads:
Kai is a little mer-boy who’s big on hugs — or “squishes,” as he and his mama call them. Not everyone’s a fan of Kai’s spirited embrace though, which he discovers soon after squishing a puffer fish, who swells up in fright! Kai feels awful; but with the help of his friends, he figures out another way to show his affection, and then everyone demonstrates their preferred ways of being greeted. Because, as Kai realises, “Every fish likes their own kind of squish.”
Plant a Kiss, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Alanna recommended this book, which she says “has a wonderful message and is one of the few board books I didn’t mind reading a million times. In fact, ‘didn’t mind reading’ isn’t really capturing it — I LOVED reading it out loud. It has a very musical, spoken-word quality to the writing that is just so much fun.”
Here’s the Goodreads’ description:
One small act of love blooms into something bigger and more dazzling than Little Miss could have ever imagined in this epic journey about life, kindness, and giving.
Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Because group member David says you’re a bad parent if you don’t add this one into the rotation. Goodreads’ description:
Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa . . . oh, boy. You’re in red-hot trouble.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — The Galaxy Needs You, written by Caitlin Kennedy, illustrated by Eda Kaban
Marian recommends this one, saying it, “uses example from the Star Wars movies to tell kids to be themselves and be awesome. The main character is Rey. And I love reading it to my son because he needs to know a strong woman can be the centre of a story.”
And Goodreads describes it this way:
Have you ever stopped to think about how there is nobody else in the galaxy who is exactly like you? This empowering picture book celebrates young heroes-in-the-making and features illustrations that follow Rey on her own hero’s journey.
Thank you, Octopus, written and illustrated by Darren Farrell
Group member Seth says, “If you want to hear your kids explode with laughter, the most heavily quoted book in our house is Thank you, Octopus by Darren Ferrell. It’s about a boy and his mischievous octopus pal who live in a boat. Nighttime routines do NOT go as planned. “Let me brush your teeth.” “Thank you, Octopus.” “WITH PAINTBRUSHES.” “No thank you, Octopus!” And so on. It’s the right kind of goofy buffoonery, and the illustrations are suitably odd. A nice complement to some of the other, more moral/value-driven books we read. Probably best for ages 2-5, but we love it, too.”
Global Baby Girls, by the Global Fund for Children
For the pandemic babies among us, Anastasiya recommends this book. She says, “mine is obsessed with faces, since she can’t see them anymore, so this book has been her favourite by far. She stares at the other baby faces.”
As Goodreads describes:
Babies love to look at babies and this bright collection of photos is a ticket to an around-the-world journey. From Peru to China, Russia to Mali, this board book features captivating photographs of curious, joyful, and adventurous baby girls from fifteen different cultures. The bright and bold pictures paired with simple text share a powerful message: no matter where they are born, baby girls can grow up to change the world.
I began to plow through chapter books almost as soon as I could read, and I distinctly remember a handful of “a-ha” moments while submerged in these novels. These moments occurred as I read about experiences I’d never had and people I never knew (I grew up in a pretty...Read more
Scholastic has published a line of chapter books meant for early elementary students who are ready to read independently and are beginning to transition from leveled readers to chapter books. There are more than 20 different series for all different interests. In particular, group member Kristen says The Owl Diaries and The Unicorn Diaries have been hits in her home.
The Macdonald Hall series, written by Gordon Kormon
This series was originally written in 1978, when Kormon was a teenager, and updated and republished in 2003. David, in our Facebook group, tells me the series is great for kids ages 8-12:
“The stories show kids working together at a fictional boarding school. Obviously, they get into some wild, outlandish situations with occasional slapstick humour. However, there’s always a consequence for it, and it’s all very lighthearted. It’s also always done with good intentions. The books aren’t condescending, and helps expand vocabulary — particularly for describing how characters speak (it’s where I first heard the word “retorted” to describe a quick comeback). There’s good representation for male and female characters, too, with an all-girls school across the road whose role gets larger with each subsequent book. I read the series as a kid, and am reading them now to my 8- and 10-year old now, and they can’t wait to get into bed for story time!”
Percy Jackson and The Olympians, written by Rick Riordan
Another chapter book series for tweens, Kristen recommends Percy Jackson and The Olympians, or any others by author Rick Riordan, many of which are inspired by Greek mythology. Here’s the Goodreads description for The Lightning Thief, the first book in the series:
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse — Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mum finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends — one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena — Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
Group member Louise says, “All his books are incredibly well-written, very engaging. The Night Gardener is a creepy story but is beautiful at the same time and really explores deep issues like survivor’s guilt and xenophobia. My middle schooler loved it and so did I — a very powerful read that is thoroughly engaging start to finish. Peter Nimble and Sophie Quire (the two books go together) are magical and so much fun to read. Auxier seems to push the boundaries of what children are capable of reading and understanding but does it in such a way that it’s thoroughly enjoyable and initiates all sorts of conversations. Highly, highly recommend both for yourself and your middle-schooler.”
The Sisters Grimm series, written by Michael Buckley
Jennifer recommends this series of books: “My kids have seriously listened to these on audio book six times. I love them too! Great for 7+ [years old], though my son listened at six, I believe. My son and daughter bother love them.”
Goodreads describes the first book in the series, The Fairy-Tale Detectives, this way:
For Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, life has not been a fairy tale. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, the sisters are sent to live with their grandmother — a woman they believed was dead! Granny Relda reveals that the girls have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. Now the girls must take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives
The Penderwicks series, written by Jeanne Birdsall
Bharathi says her nine-year-old passed the time this summer reading the Penderwicks series. Here’s how Goodreads describes A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, which is the first book in the series:
The Penderwick sisters busily discover the summertime magic of Arundel estate’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. Best of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, the perfect companion for their adventures. Icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is less pleased with the Penderwicks than Jeffrey, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Is that any fun? For sure the summer will be unforgettable.
The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman
This book was recommend by Melissa for ages 10 and older. Goodreads says:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.
But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
Comics can be thought-provoking, boundary-breaking, emotionally complex, and all the things that books without pictures can be. Any kid who’s ever devoured a title such as Anya’s Ghost, Invisible Emmie or A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel can already tell you this. Some parents, though, could use more convincing....Read more
Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans, written by Roland Owen Laird Jr. and Taneshia Nash Laird, illustrated by Elihu “Adofo” Bey
Clovis describes this graphic novel as, “fairly serious, but a casual and easy-to-understand review of African American history.” Here’s the Goodreads description:
Still I Rise is a critically acclaimed work with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America, told in an accessible graphic-novel form. Updated from its original version — which ended with the Million Man March — it now extends from the early days of colonial slavery right through to Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign.
Clovis tells us that Campfire is “a comic book publisher that produces classic novels (such as Kidnapped or Treasure Island on the one hand, or stories from Hindu mythology on the other). These present classics that look like super hero comics. My kids know the Ramayana backwards and forwards because of these books.
The Hazardous Tales series, written and illustrated by Nathan Hale
Group member Julie describes this series of historical tales, told in a graphic-novel style this way: “They are a fantastic read, so fun, and just gruesome enough to draw in older elementary school-aged kids. We have the whole series, both my boys LOVE them (and they can be hard to please with reading).”
And Goodreads advises:
The historic Nathan Hale regales his executioners with tales from history to stall his hanging. The history tales happen out of order, but the narrators’ story is ongoing so reading the books in order is advisable.
I could go on and on, but instead I’ll let you go on and on. What are some titles you and your kids are loving right now that other parents may not yet know about? Share them in the comments!