Psst, What Children’s Books Do YOU Like?

Psst, What Children's Books Do YOU Like?

Children’s books can be very sweet to read, but, let’s be honest, not all of them are equally compelling. Paddington Bear makes my eyes glaze over, and as Alex once said, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar is tough sledding.” So, between us adults, I’m curious: What children’s books do you actually enjoy? Here are 9 I love (and the boys do, too)…

What books do you like reading? I’d love to hear your recs!

P.S. My kids’ hilariously passive-aggressive notes, and what parenting is really like.

(Top photo by Alpha Smoot of Toby’s bedroom.)

  1. Not sure this will be seen, but as a former 3rd-grade teacher I was a fan of many of the ‘Who Was’ books for kids (we read several as a class).

    The Harriet Tubman book, though, should be reconsidered for this list. In the book there is language saying that Harriet was happy as a slave.

  2. Meg Danger says...

    Late to the game, but can’t recommend Cross Country Cat enough (Mary Calhoun)!

  3. Maiz says...

    I loved to read picture books aloud to my kids when they were little. These are MY favorites to read out loud (also loved by the kids):

    “Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman
    “What Was I Scared Of?” by Dr. Seuss
    “The Day the Babies Crawled Away” by Peggy Rathmann
    “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson
    “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen
    “Doctor DeSoto” and “Shrek” by William Steig (and all of his other books)

    We have many other much loved favorites, but these are the ones that I’ve read more than 100 times and I still enjoy them.

  4. Tory says...

    Thank you to everyone who recommended Shirley Hughes!! I found several of her books at our local library (Out & About, Don’t Want to Go, Dogger) and they have been an immediate hit!

    a very grateful american anglophile

  5. Kimberly Locke says...

    Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey.
    One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
    Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem
    Stick by Steve Breen
    Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

  6. Carrie says...

    I love All The World in a board book… my daughter was not as interested, but it’s such a lovely and sweet poem.

  7. Anna says...

    The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch, Just us Women by Jeannette Caines, and everything by wonderful children’s author Deborah Underwood. Check out her site:
    I especially love The Quiet Book, A Balloon for Isabel, and Pirate Mom.

  8. Vanessa says...

    For younger kids, I like Full Full Full of Love by Trish Cook. It has great rhythm for reading. For older kids I love the message of The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

  9. Jenna says...

    The Very Itchy Bear by Nick Bland (along with the others in the series)! The rhyming is so good and it’s funny for adults as well as kids. Katie the Kitten and Freddy the Frog are great for little kids (my 2 year old is a huge fan) – we love Alex Scheffler’s illustrations.

  10. Shira says...

    I love the other books in the Iggy Peck series – “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” and “Ada Twist, Scientist.” They all feature the second grade class with Miss Lila Greer, and you can find Iggy in class scenes in the other two. All have the same easy rhymes and stories about reaching for our dreams. They’re all amazing.

    • Lucy says...

      Ditto. There’s also now a chapter book series featuring the same group.

  11. Emma A says...

    Owl Moon. Beautiful words. Exquisite illustrations. We read so many books. Hubby says you will never see anyone more excited about $1 only (used) books than my kids. Maybe me. :) We love to read but I remember Owl Moon as the start of a new (to us) reading “tradition”. We usually read picture books all together. The kids almost always talk about what they see on each page—- which we love to do with them and we love listening to. They could go on and on. So, one cold night, with both Hubby and I exhausted (and all of us under the weather, really), we asked our kids to stay warm and cozy under their blankets, hug their fave stuffed toys and imagine the “scenes” as I read to them. Peeking inside the book was not allowed. I tried my best to sound like Helena Bonham Carter in The Gruffalo (another fave). We didn’t show them the pictures until breakfast (the following day). We then talked about how they pictured the story in their mind and they compared that with the actual illustrations. Lovely nighttime routine and great morning conversation for all of us. Win-win.

    • Vee says...

      HO.LY.COW. This is the greatest idea in the history of great ideas. Thank you, thank you, a bazillion times thank you for sharing this!!!! Immediately instating this tradition in my family <333333

    • Vee says...

      Also, have to nerd out over love of Owl Moon!

      I bought it for my daughter for Christmas when she was 3 & her teachers gifted it to her first! I was actually pretty devastated that I didn’t get to be the one to share that book with her first.

    • Rosa says...

      What an awesome idea and a great introduction to imagining reading adult books that of course have no pictures hahahaha the readers in this blog are the best

    • Kristian Olson says...

      Your children’s teacher must love you! These are the sorts of skills taught when teaching reading.

  12. Julie says...

    ESCARGOT, by Dashka Slater, is so fun to read (in a French accent, of course!)

  13. Ivy says...

    I have no children, but I completely adore the children’s section of the book store. Thankfully many of my friends are popping out babies so I’m lucky to gift some of my favorites!

    Laugh-out-loud funny:
    – I Want My Hat Back
    – Mother Bruce
    – Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (I bought this book for myself because I think she’s such a little badass.)
    – The Monster at the End of This Book

    – What Do You Do With an Idea?
    – What Do you Do With a Problem?
    – Love You Forever
    – The Story of Ferdinand


    • Liz says...

      Stuck is one of my son’s new faves!

  15. LindyO says...

    Read this post the other day and thought how wonderful storybooks are when you are young and cuddling and sharing an adventure together. Then remembered we have great-niece’s birthday coming up, turning one. We ordered Waiting, Amos McGee, and Zen Shorts. They arrived today.
    I am sure our niece and nephew will appreciate that we are thinking of them too.

  16. Rose says...

    I’m not sure if it is available in the US, but The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson is the most beautiful book about imagination, loss, and the power of memory, as well as the bond between mothers and daughters. I cry almost every time I read it. My three-year old daughter also loves it, although for her it is funny and kind, rather than sad.

  17. Kem says...

    The children’s books I most enjoy are ones I read when I was a child, like Frog and Toad (and anything else by Arnold Lobel), Gnomes, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Strega Nona, all of Leo Leonni’s stories, Christina Katerina and the Box, Leo the late Bloomer, all of Ezra Jack Keats’ books, Caps for Sale, and everything by Tomi Ungerer. A series of contemporary children’s books my family really loves are Julia Rothman’s “anatomy” series: Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, and Food Anatomy.

  18. tara says...

    My 7 year old twins have outgrown it but I will always and forever love “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen. I think it give such wonderful advice on overcoming life’s obstacles. I repeat the text to myself whenever I’m going through something challenging:

    We can’t go over it.
    We can’t go under it.
    Oh no!
    We’ve got to go through it!

    • Molly K says...

      My siblings all seem to love this book and buy it for their kids, and I think their kids love it too. But someone gifted us a copy, and… my kids are scared of it! (They are scared of a lot of things though.) The bear creeps them out!

  19. Nicole K Crump says...

    I love this post! I thought I was the only one who didn’t like some of the most famous kids’ books! Thanks for the suggestions. :)

  20. Katie says...

    My favorites:
    Is your Mama a LLama? (great rhyme scheme)
    Windows (Julia Denos and EB Goodale) (especially if you’re from Boston–this book is set in Somerville!)
    Rosie Revere, Engineer

  21. Elizabeth says...

    I’d love suggestions on books or series for older kids – 3rd and 4th grade. My 8 yo son loves reading but if he doesn’t have a book he’s into, he defaults to cartoon books like DogMan. Nothing against those, they’re fun and he’s reading, after all…but we want him to be swept up in a good story and challenged. Recent favorites are Roald Dahl books and The Wild Robot!

    • Erin says...

      Harry Potter series
      My Side of the Mountain
      The Phantom Tollbooth
      Farmer Boy / Little House on the Prairie series
      Who was… series
      Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH
      The Collectors, by Jacqueline West
      Narnia series
      Wings of Fire (paragraph and graphic series)
      Princess in Black series (2nd/3rd)
      Mercy Watson series (2nd/3rd)

      FWIW, we require “paragraph books” for their 20-minutes of homework reading. Plenty of graphic novels and comics come home from the library for pleasure reading.

      I currently only have female independent readers. There’s obviously a lot of overlap, but some of their favorites would be (I’d guess) less interesting to a boy. But here they are:
      Princess Diaries / From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
      Ever After High series
      Nevergirl series
      Oddfellows Orphanage / Snow & Rose
      Babysitter Club (paragraph and graphic series)
      Nancy Drew

    • Allison says...

      Diana Wynne Jones has a bunch of amazing books for that age range and also fun for adults to read aloud.

  22. Beth says...

    Some gems that my kid and I love have not been mentioned:
    Baby Monkey, Private Eye
    The Zebra Says Shhh
    Magic Beach
    The Cow who Climbed a Tree

    The Very Little Girl by Phyllis Krasilovsky (with the green. And pink illustrations) really spoke to me when I was a very little girl. Unfortunately it is out of print and hard to find.

  23. Holly says...

    The Snail and the Whale, and Hooray for Wodney Wat.

  24. MCr says...

    Amos and Boris. It was read to me as a little girl and now I read it to my children. I tear up every time.

    • Anneka says...

      We love this one!

  25. Martha Patterson says...

    The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munch is hilarious! Guess How Much I Love You is a go to baby shower gift….our 18 month nephew loves the Big Blue Truck series…The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, …and No, David!

    • Leanne says...

      On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman has become my go-to baby shower gift. It’s lesser known, so not many people get duplicates of it, and it’s so beautiful it made me cry every time I read it to my own tiny humans.

  26. Erin says...

    I haven’t made it all the way through all the excellent comments, but here are some of my favorites which have not yet been mentioned:

    Castle Full of Cats
    Beauty and the Beast, by Jan Brett (hands down my favorite version)
    James Harriot’s Treasury for Children
    Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo
    Not Your Typical Dragon
    Stop That Ball! by Mike McClintock (an oldie)

    P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever, by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter is the first children’s book I bought solely for myself. It makes me laugh so hard. Only my oldest (5th grade) really gets the jokes.

  27. J.L. says...

    I love anything by Matthew Forsythe, especially his new book, “Pokko and the Drum”.

  28. Rachel says...

    Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney!!
    This is a beloved book from my own childhood that I pass on to so many people to this day. Its a story about filling your life with adventures, treasuring the place that feels like home, and doing something to make the world more beautiful. And the artwork is beautiful!

    As a displaced Canadian east coaster, the lupin flowers at the centre of this story (which are so common on our east coast and in New England in spring) always remind me of home <3

    • Lindsey says...

      Miss Rumphius is a favourite in our house too – both my sons and my daughter love it. A few others include:

      – Small Saul by Ashley Spires – Celebrating difference. Truly such a gem! We never tire of reading this one
      – Piggy Book by Anthony Browne – Funny and clever and the illustrations are full of hidden images
      – all of the Andrea Beaty books (!)
      – Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann – your kids will love it
      – Someday by Alison McGhee – so sweet

      and cannot forget…
      Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker – My two-year-old has this one memorized

    • Ali says...

      This is an absolutely lovely book! I saved my copy from childhood and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my daughter.

  29. Allyson says...

    Press Here by Herve Tullet is wonderful fun. And The Color Monster is fun for my little toddler– although the message of bottling up your emotions by color may need un-done at some point. :)

  30. Johanna says...

    I feel compelled to ask why books always link to Amazon here. Why not just link to the publisher even? Asking with all due respect as a curious fan. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we actually do a mix! if you click around on the various links, you’ll see them to the strand, powells, indiebound, etc. thank you so much for asking!

  31. writergal says...

    Tomorrow I’ll be Brave and Florette are my two current favorites (and my boys love them too).

    • Heather says...

      Florette! My mom gave it to the girls for Easter and it’s so sweet – I love the illustrations.

  32. Charity says...

    There are so many kids books that I love. Current favorites include Ella by Mallory Kasdan (kind of a hipster parody of Eloise), The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, pretty much anything by Lauren Child, and I just picked up Lunch At 10 Pomegranate Street by Felicita Sala, which is part story book and part kid’s cookbook and has the loveliest illustrations and yummy looking recipes!

  33. Clara Molina says...

    Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal. Is an amazing story. I cried at the end of it. Great use of representation and heritage. I loved it. and so did my child. It had great talking points and my child was engaged and was curious about how they got their name. It was a great book.

    • Erin says...

      ‘Alma’ was an absolute gem from a recent library visit. My daughters and I really loved it!

      A similar book that we enjoy is ‘All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel’ by Dan Yaccarino.

  34. Amie Davidson says...

    Little Pea, Little Hoot and Little Oink by Amy Krause Rosenthal
    The illustrations are on point and absolutely love the cleverness.

  35. I love “Paper Bag Princess”!