The Very Best Books for Children: Our Top Picks

childrens-bookshelf

I admit, this blog could be a wee bit biased toward books.

After all, many of our cofounders and contributors are writers by trade and bookworms by default.

But whether you’re a published author who’s nutty about literature, or simply a mom who believes reading is an important activity for your child’s development, you’re probably always on the hunt for new titles to add to your family bookshelf. The moms of WMAG got together and came up with this list of the best books for children by age group. We love ’em, our kids love ’em, and we hope you and yours will, too.

Best books for babies and toddlers (ages 0-2)

Brimming with bright colors, sounds, and city energy, this best-selling series of board books includes Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Little Blue Truck (series) by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry: Brimming with bright colors, sounds, and city energy, this best-selling series of board books includes Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.

Putting a twist on the bedtime book, Little Owl's Night is sure to comfort any child with a curiosity about the night. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan: Putting a twist on the bedtime book, Little Owl’s Night is sure to comfort any child with a curiosity about the night. Verena‘s son loves this book.

Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton: One of the silliest, most fun counting books around features "One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos on the phone," until a gang of 45 hippos assembles for a party. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton: One of the silliest, most fun counting books around features “One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos on the phone,” until a gang of 45 hippos assembles for a party. Both of my kids adored this board book when they were babies (especially when I holler like a crazy person “ALL THE HIPPOS GO BERSERRRRRRK!”)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: In this classic of modern children's literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners (myself and my kids included), the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: In this classic of modern children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners (myself and my kids included), the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.

Best books for preschoolers (ages 3-5)

In this beautifully illustrated edition of the beloved nonsense poem by Edward Lear, Anne Mortimer takes the reader on the delightful voyage of the Owl and the Pussycat as they sail across the sea and travel into lush jungles, all by the light of the moon. Filled with rich detail and breathtaking artwork, this is a glowing tribute to the power of true love. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and Anne Mortimer: This beautifully illustrated edition of the beloved nonsense poem takes you on the delightful voyage of the Owl and the Pussycat as they sail across the sea and travel into lush jungles, all by the light of the moon.

"Anything by Mo Willems" is a hit with the younger ones—especially the Pigeon books (e.g., Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) and the ones with Elephant & Piggie (e.g., I Am Invited to a Party!). Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Anything by Mo Willems: I must agree with Sara that “anything by Mo Willems” is a hit with the younger ones—especially the Pigeon books (e.g., Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) and the ones with Elephant & Piggie (e.g., I Am Invited to a Party!). My son is crazy about them, and I actually have a lot of fun reading them with him (can’t say the same about all kids’ books).

This super-fun series features a cool black cat named Pete who loves coffee and drives a VW bus, among other things. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Pete the Cat series by James and Kimberly Dean and Eric Litwin: This super-fun series features a cool black cat named Pete who loves coffee and drives a VW bus, among other things. 

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser: Meet Nancy, who believes that more is ALWAYS better when it comes to being fancy. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser: Meet Nancy, who believes that more is ALWAYS better when it comes to being fancy. Kristi‘s 3-year-old is all about the Fancy Nancy books right now.

Beautifully illustrated in two distinct styles, this book introduces readers to a Zen approach to the world, wrapped in a story about three siblings and their new neighbor, a panda. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Zen Shorts by John J. Muth: Beautifully illustrated in two distinct styles, this book introduces readers to a Zen approach to the world, wrapped in a story about three siblings and their new neighbor, a panda. It’s a favorite of Jenny‘s 2-year-old right now.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans: Mischievous Madeline needs no introduction. An enduring classic, Madeline has delighted young readers since its first publication in 1939. Nothing frightens her—not tigers, not mice, not even getting sick. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans: Mischievous Madeline needs no introduction. An enduring classic, Madeline has delighted young readers since its first publication in 1939. Nothing frightens her—not tigers, not mice, not even getting sick. Everything’s a grand adventure.

Someday by Alison McGhee: A mother's love leads to a mother's dream—every mother's dream—for her child to live life to its fullest. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Someday by Alison McGhee: A mother’s love leads to a mother’s dream—every mother’s dream—for her child to live life to its fullest. A deceptively simple, powerful ode to the potential of love and the potential in life. Julie says it has special meaning right now because it’s about time passing.

Best books for early readers (ages 6-7)

In 16 extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple "thank you" can be. Click for more book recommendations for kids. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes: In 16 extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple “thank you” can be. Kristi says her family loves this book.

This classic series about Ramona Quimby and her sister Beezus are still a favorite for Sara's girls—particularly around age 6/1st grade. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary: This classic series about Ramona Quimby and her sister Beezus are still a favorite for Sara’s girls—particularly around age 6/1st grade. I STILL have my Ramona diary from 1983 (filled with the secrets of my 7-year-old self), and my daughter has enjoyed several Ramona books, too.

British author Sue Bentley describes her series about the adventures of a magical kitten as "fun, sparkly, cute, exciting, collectable." Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Magic Kitten Series by by Sue Bentley and Angela Swan: British author Sue Bentley describes her series about the adventures of a magical kitten as “fun, sparkly, cute, exciting, collectable.” Sara’s 1st grader is digging it right now.

Best books for elementary readers (ages 8-10)

The books about Peter Hatcher and his notorious younger brother, known by the nickname "Fudge," include Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania and Double Fudge. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Fudge Series by Judy Blume: The books about Peter Hatcher and his notorious younger brother, known by the nickname “Fudge,” include Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania and Double Fudge. They were a hit with Sara’s oldest when she was in about 3rd grade.

Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle -- that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo: Tag along on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, you’ll witness a miracle—that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio: August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Sara says Wonder has been “extremely popular among the 4th to 6th grade crowd.”

Beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee and Wringer, addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying in this humorous and heartfelt novel about twins.  Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli: This humorous and heartfelt novel about twins addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying. It’s a profound story of growing up, growing apart, and the difficult process of figuring out who you really are.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Is it us, or does this century-old classic enchant just about every little girl at some point in her childhood? Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Is it us, or does this century-old classic enchant just about every little girl at some point in her childhood? There’s just something about Mary … Lennox, that is … who’s quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin—two sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations.

Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne: Children get to travel across time and space with Jack and Annie, visiting other worlds, which the author brings to life with writing that's informative, fun, and full of details.  Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne: Children get to travel across time and space with Jack and Annie, visiting other worlds, which the author brings to life with writing that’s informative, fun, and full of details. Casey‘s 5-year-old twins enjoy listening to these stories, and her 6-year-old son is diving right into reading them independently. My 9-year-old has been digging Magic Tree House books for at least two years now (she says she wants to meet Mary Pope Osborne someday).

 

Best books for middle schoolers (ages 11-13)

In this series of adventure and fiction books, the gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st century. They still fall in love with mortals and have children who are half-god, half-human, like the heroes of the old Greek myths. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan: In this series of adventure and fiction books, the gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st century. They still fall in love with mortals and have children who are half-god, half-human, like the heroes of the old Greek myths. Sara’s 11-year-old has been devouring the Percy Jackson books.

This uber-popular series of three adventure novels is set in a dystopian universe, and follows young characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Every year, children are chosen to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called The Hunger Games. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This uber-popular series of three adventure novels is set in a dystopian universe, and follows young characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Every year, children are chosen to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called The Hunger Games.

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner: Another exciting series for Hunger Games fans, the Maze Runner books follow Thomas, who wakes up one day and the only thing he can remember is his name. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner: Another exciting series for Hunger Games fans, the Maze Runner books follow Thomas, who wakes up one day and the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

More magical, adventure-seeking cats! Fourth and fifth graders love to read, and even role-play, the stories from the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Click to see our full list of the best books for kids, grouped by age.

Warriors series by Erin Hunter: More magical, adventure-seeking cats! For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by their warrior ancestors. But now ThunderClan is in grave danger. Rival ShadowClan is growing stronger, a traitor may be hiding in their midst, and rising tensions threaten every cat in the forest. Fourth and fifth graders love to read, and even role-play, these stories.

The moms of WMAG got together and listed the best books for children by age group. We love 'em, our kids love 'em, and we hope you and yours will, too.

2 thoughts on “The Very Best Books for Children: Our Top Picks

  1. I excitedly clicked on the link to see “Working Moms Against Guilt’s” children’s book picks! I love children’s literature, and am always looking for new ideas. While I was happy to see many of my favorites as well as some newer options, I was disheartened to see how “white-washed” the list was. Where are books depicting the lives of children and families of color? Only one book in the mix had an African American child on the cover… and that was a collection of poetry; I guess you might count “Zen Shorts” for multiculturalism and “Wonder” for disability, but overall, the choices paint a pretty homogenous picture. In the future, I’d love to see more diversity from this group! I know we can do better!

    1. Kaydee, you are absolutely right. This list represents an example of unconscious bias, and we CAN do better. I’m planning to do another post of book recommendations for parents who want to diversify their child’s bookshelf. If you have any titles you think should be on the list, please send them my way: susanwennerjackson(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback.

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