Our Current Favorite Children’s Books.

By: Jen Shoop

*Slippers above an amazing $12 Amazon score! Both of my children adore these, and I love the retro (almost “Christmas Story-esque”?) styling.

It’s been awhile since I updated my list of favorite children’s books (and also, our favorite toys — maybe will revisit that soon). I thought I’d share the ones my children are particularly captivated by at the moment. Many of the books from my initial list are still (!) getting a lot of reads in these parts, especially Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans for mini (she is fascinated by the injured soldier and has recently started asking questions about why Madeline doesn’t live with her father — interesting to see her gears turn! There’s actually quite a bit of meat on this sweet little book and it is such a poetic joy to read aloud) and Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom for micro, who simply loves the illustrations, especially the one where the father bear comes home while Jesse is on the swing.

Our other current favorites:

Wake Up Mr. B. by Penny Dale. Fabulous illustrations and a must-own for any fellow Airedale terrier parents! (It’s uncanny how much “Mr. B” looks like our own Tilly, including in how she’s drawn stretching, moving, etc.) This is a simple, illustration-centric book with sparse prose and therefore lots of opportunity to narrate what’s going on, which keeps it interesting as a parent! A sweet vignette on the friendship between a dog and a child.

Bonapart Falls Apart by Margery Cuyler. I bought this for mini last Halloween (pro tip: order now before it sells out in the pre-Halloween rush, as it did last year) and she insists on reading it year-round. I love the general premise of trying multiple different tacks to solve a problem. Clever!

Hug by Jez Alborough. Admittedly, this one is not my favorite — there is only one word in the book (“Hug”) and you have to read it over and over in various intonations, but this is one of my son’s absolute favorites. He loves to point out the animals and he grows increasingly concerned about the tiny gorilla looking for his mother. The end of the book is sweet — mama and baby are reunited! — and micro absolutely rent my soul from my chest when he pointed at the mother gorilla and said: “You, mama” and then at the baby gorilla, “Me, Hill.”

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee. A super clever book that introduces the concept of meta-fiction to tiny readers — absolutely brilliant. Mini loves this book at the moment, and there are some humorous images and set-ups that truly tickled me as an adult. Great illustrations and great at suspense-building.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. A continuous mainstay in our reading repertoire.

Truck by Donald Crews. Both of my children were fascinated by this wordless book, especially when we lived in NYC and were doing some driving to/from Manhattan — I think the tunnel depicted in the first portion of the book is meant to be one of the tunnels out of NYC, and the entire vignette looks familiar to them. This book interestingly led to the first time Hill said the word “rain,” out of the blue! (There is a page where the truck drives through rain.). It’s funny how sometimes these wordless books can draw out great opportunities for practicing words.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. A classic. I love the way this book broaches the related concepts of permanence, time, repetition, age.

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Long. It mildly offends me that this book is “recommended” alongside that “Dragons Eat Tacos” books, which is (unpopular opinion!) one of my least favorite children’s books! Grumpy Monkey is all about making space for one’s own emotions — not pushing them aside or attempting to imitate the mood of others. It does so with a light touch, and there’s a great ending vignette that is both heart-warming and hilarious. (It involves a gorilla with bandaids all over his rear end. I’ll let you guess how many four year olds love that premise…!)

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler. Oh my gosh, this book. A simply though movingly illustrated book about a digger who tries to protect flowers from being uprooted in a building project and eventually replants the seeds elsewhere. My son is SO upset by the scene in which the flowers are torn from the ground — the illustrations are evocative! This is a great pick if you have a truck-loving little one and can’t stand reading “Goodnight Construction Site” again.

The Cyclops of Central Park by Madelyn Rosenberg. Oh I love (!) this book! It’s a whimsically illustrated tale about valuing the safety of home and the adventure of the outside world. Lots of New York haunts featured in it, too.

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. My daughter laughed hysterically the first few times she read this book. This is another one of those simple, illustration-driven books with minimal prose, but the premise is pretty funny: a gorilla unlocks the cages to all of the animals in the zoo and then they all pile into the zookeeper’s home. Not a particularly resonant message, but stimulating to young children, even tiny ones, who will enjoy pointing out the animals.

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Sesame Street. This one gets a lot of play in our home — mini is of course drawn to the Sesame Street characters, but it’s a thoughtfully illustrated book with lots to look at and, sometimes, a sort of “Where’s Waldo” vibe that sends mini searching for various characters. The broader premise is lovely, too — celebrating differences and at the same time calling out similarities.

The Napping House by Don Wood. This was one of my childhood favorites — I can remember my mother’s voice reading this with clarity. It has a great poetic sequencing, and the illustrations are evocative.

Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld. One of my son’s favorites — he loves pointing out the jaguar/cheetah that threatens the wild baby on every page and saying “oh no!!!” A sweet rhyming book about the limitless love between a mom and her baby.

What are your children’s favorite books at the moment?

P.S. Recent Amazon finds and — random and unrelated — this site is currently offering 20% off any full-priced item, including Yeti products. A good time to get a little price break on the Yeti Rambler Jr kids cup!

P.P.S. My favorite audiobooks (comments are a treasure trove!), though I haven’t been listening regularly to anything in awhile. I’m finding it difficult to find a space in my day for that at the moment. I now prefer to walk Tilly without listening to anything but the serenity of my suburban neighborhood (!) and simply find myself walking by foot far less. This reminds me of an old prompt: how do you find time to read?

P.P.P.S. Mom guilt.

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12 thoughts on “Our Current Favorite Children’s Books.

  1. Awesome, thank you! One of my 3.5 yr old has become soo difficult to manage. Everything we say/do annoys him and the screaming, hitting, bitting starts. Ugh, it’s terrible. I just ordered, Bubba the Hamster- Tames his Tantrums. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    1. Hi! Oh, solidarity! Emory went through a major tantrum phase around that age. I remember a Magpie mom writing in to say that the half years (i.e., 2.5 or 3.5 or 4.5) tend to be particularly bumpy periods for some reason, i.e., midway through major shifts?, and I have to say I have found that to be strangely true ever since! Keeping you in my thoughts. In the meantime, my sister recommended this series:

      Worth a shot!!


    2. Thank you! I’ll definitely try that. I also ordered ‘Have You Filled a Bucket Today?’ Its a little long for my kids but the message really really resonates. Check it out if you haven’t already.

  2. We must be tired of our own books, bc only library books are coming to mind! My 4yo likes to get Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey from the library every summer (it’s loooooong but good) and we just borrowed When I Was Young In the Mountains (sweet!) The Relatives Came (read this to her several times a day while we had it) and Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee (fun!). My 1yo really liked a board book called Anne’s Colors that had darling embroidered illustrations.

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing these — am not familiar with any so added to my list. Some of those McCloskey books are so long…they are so well-illustrated and I like the way he tends to weave the patterns of the natural world into the lives of children, but man! I don’t think I can read “One Morning in Maine” again…ha! I get about halfway through and…! But my daughter loves that one, too. Thank you for sharing these!


  3. I read to my grands on Sundays (virtually) and here are some of the favorites, some classics, and some new:

    BEAR SNORES ON (Wilson)
    THE GRUFFALO (Donaldson)
    THE MITTEN (Brett)
    KNUFFLE BUNNY (Willems)
    CAPS FOR SALE (Slobodkina)


  4. Grumpy Monkey is definitely a big fav for us too! We just started back part time at Daycare and loved The Kissing Hand and The Night before Kindergarten to help with the anxiety. Other favourites have been the If I built a car/house/school series from Chris Van Dusen. I am looking for a book to help with taming tantrums – any recommendations? I find my kids do better learning with books.

    1. Hi! Oh I love “The Kissing Hand.” Had forgotten about that one — will need to pull it out in advance of the start of school! We don’t have the Van Dusen books – thank you for the rec!

      Hmm, I don’t know about tantrums. Let me ask my sister (early childhood reading specialist, who knows EVERY BOOK, I swear) and get back to you.


    2. Hi Bhavna! Totally relate — often books resonate with my daughter so much more than me just talking about it. Re: tantrums/big emotions: we really like Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri Meiners (Learning to Get Along series). We have several books from this series, including When I Feel Afraid, Share and Take Turns, Try and Stick With It — and I find them to be very helpful. I appreciate how they validate/acknowledge unpleasant feelings and teach coping skills.

      I also like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.

      Re: The Kissing Hand — I got this for my daughter too before she started school and it was so helpful for the transition! One caveat though — whenever the word “secret” appears in the text, I replace it with “story” (this seems to fit in with the plot). I have been teaching my daughter body safety and consent since she was a baby, and recently I’ve learning more from Rosalia Rivera/Consent Parenting. She makes the distinction between secrets vs surprises. I learned that adults (even those they know) should never ask a child to keep a secret, even if it sounds like a good thing — and if anyone does, she needs to tell me or her dad. I could be overthinking this, but I find that using the word “secret” in this book, while trying to teach her the lesson about secrets, can be potentially confusing.

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