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)
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.
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.
Best books for preschoolers (ages 3-5)
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: 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).
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. Kristi‘s 3-year-old is all about the Fancy Nancy books right now.
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. 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. 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)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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? 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. 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)
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.
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. 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.
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.
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