Motherhood

Toby Reviews 5 New Children’s Books

What children’s books have you been loving lately? We read five this weekend, and nine-year-old Toby shared his thoughts…

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, Sofia Valdez, Future Prez is the newest picture book from the authors of Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist. Sofia, a plucky young community leader, lives with her grandfather and helps build a neighborhood park.

Says Toby: “This one is good! I like all the books like this — Iggy Peck, Ada Twist… I think they’re really cool series books.”

High Five — written by the authors of Dragons Love Tacos — invites readers to join a high-five competition by slapping the book pages and coming up with creative versions (double handed! through the legs!)

Says Toby: “This was very fun! I won the competition. I’ve been doing high fives for, like, 20 years.”

Straw, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is the final book in her three-part series about utensils. (Remember Spoon and Chopsticks?) Straw is always racing around but he learns to slow down and savor each moment. Side note: Amy Krouse Rosenthal died in 2017, so this book was published posthumously.

Says Toby: “I recommend Straw. It’s a good book. He learns that being first doesn’t always matter. I like the drawings — there are twisty straws, thin straws, big straws, fat straws and straight straws. That’s what I have to say about straws!”

In Freedom Soup, a girl’s grandmother teaches her how to make a traditional New Year’s soup together — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.

Says Toby: “Freedom Soup is a great book. It talks about slavery, which is important to talk about. It also tells you how to cook the soup at the end. The soup looks really good! This was my favorite book of them all.”

Cowie features a donkey who wishes he were a grass-eating, fly-swatting cow. His friends help him realize his dream.

Toby’s review: “I understand him because I always wanted to be a Power Ranger when I was little. I liked his friends Duckie and Mousie.”

Thoughts? Have you read any of these? Children’s books can be such masterpieces!

P.S. Toby and Anton in conversation, and what are your favorite children’s books? Also, how to raise race-conscious children.

Note: If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We recommend only products we genuinely like. Thank you so much.

  1. shade says...

    My 6 year old loves all the Magic Treehouse books. Also, anything by Enid Blyton is a win in our house – I’m actually excited to read those at night time.

  2. Cynthia Miller says...

    Thanks, Toby. You have some really good insights on these books and this helps us to see them in different ways and appreciate them more.

  3. This is the most adorable thing ever! Question, do you think you or any of your kids are highly sensitive?

  4. Charity says...

    We really love the Little Tim series by Edward Ardizzone. My 4 year old and 2.5 year old are enthralled with Tim’s adventures at sea, despite them probably being written for slightly older readers (Tim is 7ish). The illustrations are amazing! I think they’re out of print but are relatively easy to track down via online used book sellers.

  5. Regina says...

    Try the Isadora Moon series by Harriet Muncaster. It’s about a girl who is half fairy and half vampire. All of them are fun and adorable and teach great lessons.

    • Sara says...

      Thank you for this recommendation! My girls and I have read all the Princess in Black books, and this looks right up our alley. I have already put a hold on the first book at the library.

  6. Hannah says...

    This made me laugh-cry. I love you, Toby.

  7. Meg says...

    Some alternatives to DM/CU…

    1) Bad Guys (a comic about animals who are usually the bad guys – a wolf, shark, spider, snake, and piranha – who want to do good).

    2) The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Returns – these are amazing

    3) Little Legends series by Tom Pervical (a good warm up to Harry Potter and others – definitely for the younger crowd, but my 1st grader loves them)

    4) The Hobbit

    5) Mr. Popper’s Penguins (also noted above). we randomly got the audio book from the library and my 1st grader loved it.

  8. Rusty says...

    Breathe Like a Bear.
    It’s sooo good. I bought it for my great nieces.
    It provides strategies, through the stories, on how little kids can use breath to calm down and avoid (or quickly recover from) meltdowns.

  9. Rusty says...

    What great books!
    Fantabulous reviews, Toby! Thanx.

    But, …..straws?!? We’re supposed to NOT be using straws and I’m afraid that book would encourage kids to WANT to use straws, so as a matter of urgency for our planet and our future….I’m against this book. Period.
    What turtle wants to live with a straw stuck up its nose for the rest of its life?? This happens, for real.
    Sea birds eat them and feed the bits of them as they break down, to their babies… Albatross!?!? Critically endangered. The list goes on.

    We. Do. Not. Need. Straws. Or balloons, or ….. sooooo many other supposedly “fun” things that are directly and indirectly killing our wildlife.
    Pleeeeeease?! 🙄

  10. txilibrin says...

    Are the straws made of paper? Asking for a friend ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      no, of metal!

  11. Michele says...

    Help! I’m reading to my son’s first grade class on Friday and I need some hilarious book recommendations. My son likes “The Book with No Pictures” and “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors.” Any recommendations? Thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a fun question! curious to hear what people say!

    • Julie says...

      Doctor DeSoto is a fun one with some fun vocabulary choices for little ears. (tasty morsel, a particle of pain, etc.) I also read Mr. Bump to my son’s class once…little ones love the constant BUMP sound (and I brought in apples as an after book snack as Mr. Bump finds he is most useful working in an apple orchard bumping into the trees to help the apples fall) My personal favorite is A Bargain for Frances, makes us laugh out loud every time!

    • Sophia says...

      I read to my daughter’s kindergarten class last week. I picked books with rhyme and repetition to keep them engaged and I wanted a story that introduced them to a different culture (she’s the only brown kid in her class of 13). Also I wanted stories that championed the underdog. I went with The Gurffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child (both by Julia Donaldson) and Bringing Rain to Kapiti Plain (Verna Aardema). All were very well received and in the last one I had them moo along when I read the parts about the cows mooing. Everyone loved it. However that evening at dinner I was informed by my 6yr old that the mooing was a bit much so she refused to moo 🤣

    • Lindsay says...

      “Are You Scared, Darth Vader?” by Adam Rex! probably better around Halloween though. “We Are in a Book!” by Mo Willems.

    • Nissa says...

      We love “Do not lick this book”!

    • Jacqueline says...

      I read “Count the Monkeys” by Mac Barnett to my son’s kindergarten class and it was a huge it! It’s really fun and interactive.
      “Be Quiet!” by Ryan T. Higgins and “If I built a School” by Chris Van Dusen are also fun classroom read-alouds.
      Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

    • Noreen says...

      Book with no pictures is GREAT! The humor is actually kind of subtle (words vs. narrator “asides”) but also tons of silly words….good combo for 1st graders!

    • Lauren says...

      My 1st grader loves “Dragons Loves Taco”, anything Mo Willems and anything from the “Pig the Pug” series. I hope it went well! What did you end up choosing?

  12. Jaclyn K Elwell says...

    My little one is currently loving “Creepy Underwear” and “Creepy Carrots” by Aaron Reynolds. They are ridiculous and make her giggle. Also we really like “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

  13. MB says...

    My 3yo is loving the You Choose books – so much that each time you find something new. Also, I really love Journey by Aaron Beckett – although there aren’t any words, the illustrations are so gorgeous and I like varying the story a bit each time with my daughter’s input.
    My 1 yo prefers to chew on older books from my childhood rather than newer prints. Perhaps the cardboard quality was better?

  14. Emma says...

    “That’s all I have to say about straws!” Hahaha. Great reviews, Toby!!

  15. Jane says...

    Thank you Toby and COJ! As a retired teacher and grandmother I would recommend any book by Patricia Polacco. Her beautifully illustrated books celebrate human connection, cultural diversity and family love. Many feature characters from her own family and childhood friends. In particular, I love Chicken Sunday, a beautiful book about friendship and overcoming the heartbreak caused by racial and religious differences; Thundercake, a sweet tale of how Patricia’s “Babushka” (grandma) helped her overcome her fear of thunderstorms; Thank You Mr. Falker, an important book dealing with the feelings of inadequacy and the heartbreak of bullying while Patricia struggles to learn to read…and the teacher who helps her find joy; Mrs. Katz and Tush, as Mrs. Katz shares her Jewish culture and experiences in Warsaw and America with Larnel, her young African American neighbor, they form a deep friendship, realizing how their cultures were similar in their suffering; and finally The Butterfly, a sensitive and true story of two young girls who become friends during the Nazi occupation of France. Enjoy!

    • Melkorka says...

      Mrs. Katz and Tush always makes me cry it is so sweet – thank you for sharing these other titles!

    • Thank you, Jane for the mention of Patricia Polacco’s books. I had read of them with my grandchildren, and it is great to read about the other books in her oeuvre.

  16. Alice says...

    I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS LEVEL OF CUTENESS!!! “I understand him because I always wanted to be a Power Ranger when I was little.” has my heart exploding into a million pieces.

    Toby is such a wonderfully insightful young man! These reviews are so lovely on so many levels. Please could your boys review more things? Restaurants! Parks! A taste test like you did with salsa but with easter chocolate! RENTAL CARS!

  17. Lisa says...

    My son is just starting to read so he’s been getting tons of biff, chip and kipper books. I would NOT recommend. They’re just … just no. And inexplicably in one of them (kipper’s rhymes) there’s a creepy dude with a beard and glasses in the background of some pictures and I don’t understand why.

    • Kacey Greenwood says...

      Ha! Biff, Chip and Kipper are English institutions! I’m a reception teacher (the English version of Kindergarten but for 4 year olds) and everyone loves them!
      As a teacher I think they’re great because while the stories may seem simple, there is so much going on in the background for kids to explore, teaching them critical thinking and inference skills. The nosy neighbour is in every book, along with a pair of glasses hidden somewhere, and kids love finding them. Once you get a bit further along into the series, the kids discover a magic key and go on adventures.
      I honestly think the illustrator, Alex Brychta, is a genius.

  18. Julia says...

    So, Harry Potter! I’ve been reading this to my almost eight year old and he loves, loves it (and so do I, because I get to do all the voices, yay!)

  19. Katharine says...

    The wild robot by Peter Brown – my 7 year old has been reading it to me since Christmas and we can’t wait soon to start book 2: the wild robot escapes. Very lovely and fresh book, I was so tired trying to listen “wimpy kid.”

  20. Meep! I am currently MAKING a picture book. Its a baby’s book, though I think it is more of a parent’s book with counting prose with Wildflowers as the theme. I am hoping that it becomes a beautiful meditation for parent AND baby when its released later this year.

    Some Aussie pride: Davina Bell is kicking goals as a children’s author. The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade is about a small boy who has anxiety about performing at his parade. Things don’t go well. Spoiler alert: he stays home and he is sad, but his parents remind him that he can try again next year. It was a beautiful realistic book on social anxiety and a great reminder that even if we didn’t meet today’s challenge we can try again tomorrow.

    The other of Davina’s I LOVE is All the ways to be smart. EVERYONE GET ON IT! this book is so beautiful and fun and teaches kids that it’s not just academics that counts. Good joke teller? SMART. Good friend hugger? SMART!

    Smart is not just ticks and crosses,
    smart is building boats from boxes.
    Painting patterns, wheeling wagons,
    being mermaids, riding dragons …

    https://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/books/the-underwater-fancy-dress-parade
    https://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/books/all-the-ways-to-be-smart

    • Rusty says...

      YES!!! 😊

  21. Ann says...

    As a teacher I always tell my 7 and 8 year old students to get rid of that sentence ” That’s all I have to say about blank.” Now that I see it here, I feel I may have been wrong. It gives such child-like voice to writing that is endearing through and through.

    Thanks for the reviews, Toby! I’m filling up my cart!

  22. Sss says...

    Love this. Please do this again!

  23. Tovah says...

    You know what book is great? “Nothing Rhymes with Orange” by Adam Rex. Please just get it; otherwise you’ll never know how one person can fold werewolves, Friedrich Nietzsche, and a suit-wearing banana into one plausible narrative.

    • Sally Battle says...

      I work in the kids dept. of a public library, and I still learned about some new great titles from this thread. Thanks everyone! :) And, in case anyone is interested, I just wrote a blog post about why we need diversity in the books we read to our kids, and an idea of how to get the conversation started. I normally wouldn’t post something that I wrote like this (It feels very self-promoting), but it’s a topic I care about and it seems like your readers do too. Here’s the link if you’re interested! And thanks to all the great Cup of Jo writers, editors, photographers for all of the great content. I look forward to checking the site pretty much every day! https://dppl.org/blog/post/windows-doors-mirrors

  24. Cheryl says...

    I was so so sad to learn of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s passing, especially after reading those heartbreaking essays in the NYT, one by her regarding life and death and the other by her husband after her passing. She had such a gift. It’s so final to see Straw and realize that bright light has gone to burn in a new sky.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she really was such a gift. a beautiful person.

    • Kim says...

      So beautifully put, Cheryl. I used to read her book Cookies to my children when they were little. It had such a kind, thoughtful tone. I did not know about her personally until seeing her featured here much later- but it’s no surprise she wrote such beautiful books.

  25. Sarz says...

    Thank you, Toby! I’m still a picture book fan, even as a grownup without kids of my own. I tend to fixate on the ones that sold out when I was your age, but you’ve reminded me that there’s plenty great reads being published all the time. Please continue your series!

  26. Erin says...

    My kids are currently really into a picture book called “Next Stop, Grand Central” by Maria Kalman. It is both informative and very, very funny. You get to learn how Grand Central Station really works while giggling at an explanation of what would happen if, say, there was a giant chicken on the train tracks, and looking for the sign that says “Please do not tickle the engineer. Thank you.” Highly recommended.

  27. Kate the Great says...

    I just watched an episode of No Passport Required on the PBS app about Haitian cuisine, so your soup book is timely. Also, I haven’t ever heard of the Spoon, Straw, and… (whatever that other one was) books. I’ll have something specific to look for at the library!

    Speaking of library books, our recent favorites have been:

    -Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck/Anita Lobel

    -Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes: Wynne-Jones/Won

    -A Unicorn Named Sparkle: Amy Young

    -The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and Kerstin Meyer

    -Home is A Window: Ledyard/Sasaki

    -Princess in Training: Tammi Sauer/Joe Berger

    -Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine: Wortsche/Barton

    -Princess Pigsty: Cornelia Funke/ Kerstin Meyer/ Chantal Wright

  28. OM says...

    Such great reviews. I loved the diversity of the books. Thank you Toby!!

  29. China says...

    Just have to say how much I love this comments thread. I have a voracious, newly-chapter-book-reading 7-year-old, and I feel like I can’t keep her in books, and I’m already thinking ahead for my 4-year-old boy who loves being read to but has very different taste than his sister. So many great recommendations here! Will be cross-referencing these posts and my library wish-list shortly :)

  30. Maureen says...

    Rumpelstiltsken’s daughter by Diane Stanley was a gem!!! My daughter’s love how this girl thought her way out of a dire situation and also used it as an opportunity to help others.

  31. Sarah says...

    Toby,
    You and Anton might like The Lost Property Office by Emily Rand. Also, I would recommend Chapter Two is Missing by Josh Lieb. My kids got those for Christmas and like them. My daughter is just a bit older than you and she loves The Land of Stories series (for chapter books). Happy reading!

    • Teresa says...

      The Land of Stories series is one of my kids’ favorite. Also, Toby, have you read “Toys Go Out” and/ or “The One and Only Ivan”?

  32. anne says...

    “Don’t Push the Button!” is silly and interactive. Honestly, I can’t stand the illustrations but my sons LOVES it. I would say it’s good for around 18-24 mo or older? It was sitting out at an airbnb we rented and we had to read it about 5,000 times. (link to goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17586501-don-t-push-the-button)

    Also, my son turned 2 and friend gifted him “What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street?” If your kids like cooking, they will love it- it’s a gorgeously illustrated story and (very simple) cookbook. Such a genius idea! The book tours the kitchens throughout the apartment building where people cook dishes from around the world before meeting for a potluck. We’ve only had the book a few weeks and we’ve cooked a few things. I’m actually making a simple coconut dahl recipe from it tonight! And no, I don’t work for the publisher but I’ve been telling everyone about this freakin’ adorable book. I lived in the Middle East and Mr. Ibrahim and his baba ganoush recipe make me tear up every time. My son just started saying short sentences but says, “10 garden street” and has integrated “olive oil” into his kitchen play <3

    • Sara says...

      We got this book for our daughter for Christmas (and my sister got her the opinel kids chef knife) because she’s been into helping out in the kitchen. I honestly think that I love this book more than either of my kids (the green rice was delicious!) 10/10 would recommend!

      p.s. Toby cracks me up!

    • Hannah says...

      I just saw the 10 Garden Street book at the bookstore and put it on my library list! It is really beautiful!

    • K says...

      My son loves “don’t push the button!” We discovered it at his gym class (they have a pile of books to read while you wait) and he makes me read it every time we go and tells the other kids they must listen to it too. Cute seeing them interact with the book!

  33. Denise says...

    It’s not new at all, in fact it may be out of print, but I recently discovered “The Sea Serpent and Me” by Dashka Slater. It’s so lovely! The artwork also is dreamy and it’s so fun to think about finding creatures and making friends. I can’t recommend it enough.

  34. Katie says...

    The book One by Kathryn Otoshi is an excellent story about kindness and bullying. The story is so clever and she makes the concept very easy for kids to understand. Highly recommend.

  35. Ceridwen says...

    These are really insightful reviews, Toby. Thank you. I liked what you said about slavery being important to talk about. That’s true. I like how picture books can help people talk about different things. You are a good reviewer because you’re so thoughtful. Thanks Toby!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a sweet note, i’ll read this to toby! :)

  36. Jenna says...

    Thanks Toby! These are great recommendations. We just read “High Five” and it was so funny and colourful! I will also add the other books to our library cart! Have you read the Ada Twist chapter books? My daughter is just starting to read chapter books and these have been her favourite so far!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i didn’t realize there were chapter books! going to check those out for sure. thank you!

  37. celeste says...

    How beyond sweet: “I’ve been giving high fives for 20 years.” <3
    My 12 year old daughter is listening to Little Women on Audible and I'm brainstorming ideas for my son beyond Dog Man and Captain Underpants.

    • Ceridwen says...

      Danger is Everywhere is great. Very funny!

    • Sarah says...

      My son loved all of the old “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and “Super Fudge” books! They’re funny and it was fun for me to hear them again after so many years!

    • Rebecca says...

      For your son: the Hugh Pine series is very sweet (out of print, but used copies can be found online easily). I’d also recommend: Mr. Popper’s Penguins, All of a Kind Family series. I’d also recommend these authors: Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein. My son also loves Dog Man and Captain Underpants and these are all books/authors that he has really enjoyed :)

    • Akc says...

      I was here to say similarly — looking for an alternative from dog man/ diary of a wimpy kid for my first grader. He loves those books but me… Not so much.

  38. BB says...

    I have some older readers who love to get into series, and here are the ones my 8 & 10 year olds love: anything by Rick Riordan, Michael Vey series, Alex Rider (by the amazing Anthony Horowitz, of Foyle’s War and some amazing adult mysteries like Magpie Murders), Theodore Boone by John Grisham, the Land of Stories (by an actor who was in Glee), Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Green Ember, Chronicles of Prydain, and the Wingfeather Saga (I think this is the most underrated book series of all time – it’s simply amazing). I read aloud to them the meatier stuff that might be harder to speed thru but has great writing quality (for example, just read Princess and the Goblin).

    For my five year old who still loves picture books, the Mouse and Bear series by Bonnie Becker. And for our one year old it’s Dear Zoo all the way.

  39. Marcia says...

    Great job, Toby! I need to read “Straw” because I loved “Spoon”. Did you read it?

  40. JP says...

    These books look excellent! Have you read I Need a New Butt! and its sequel I Broke My Butt!, by Dawn McMillan? They are hilarious!

  41. Sam Fard says...

    Thank you for doing these types of posts. This is my first time commenting but wanted to make sure Toby knew his work is very much appreciated. Love the diversity presented in your book choices.

  42. Ally says...

    We read a lot of kid’s books in our house. My 7 yo is now reading chapter books and loves listening to audio books. I generally read him middle grade books aloud.

    His favorite chapter books at the moment are the “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis. He finished “I survived the Great Molasses Flood” over the weekend and is looking forward to starting “I Survived D-Day” when he gets home from school. He also likes the nonfiction “Who Was” series and “Horrible Histories.” We both love the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look about a 2nd grader in Concord Massachusetts who is afraid of everything. There are six books in the series and they are hilarious.

    Lately he’s been obsessed with Percy Jackson on audiobook. The series is really geared towards older kids and I’ve occasionally thought that parts were a little inappropriate for a 7 yo, but he loves the books and has developed a very deep interested in Greek mythology. It was also fun to see “The Lightening Thief” with him on Bway a couple of months ago.

    We’ve also enjoyed the following middle grade recently:
    The Vanderbeeker Series by Karina Yan Glaser–3 books so far about a large family living in a brownstone in Harlem. The books are set in the present-day but have a wonderful cozy, old-fashioned sensibility.

    The War That Save My Life and The War I finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley–Amazing book and sequel about a disabled and abused girl in war-time Britain.

    The Tale of Desperaux and Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo–Two totally different novels, but both wonderful.

    The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

    Coraline by Neil Gaiman

    All of a Kind Family Series by Sydney Taylor-Wonderful series about a family living on the Lower East Side in the early 1900’s. If you’re in NYC, Eldridge Street Synagogue does a wonderful All of a Kind Family walking tour.

    The Phantom Tollbooth

    A Wrinkle in Time

    We’re reading Rat Rule 79 right now by Rivka Galchen. My son likes it, but I’m a little on the fence. Fans of The Phantom Tollbooth might enjoy.

    • BB says...

      I Survived is so great!

  43. Erin Griffin says...

    Dear fellow readers (and Toby and team CoJ),

    Help! I need chapter book recommendations for my new (voracious) first grade reader. He has now burned through Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Space Taxi, and some other things like Zoey and Sassafras, some Magic Treehouse, Ivy & Bean, and a few others. The library is starting to run dry and I can only find so many series with content appropriate for a first grader. Any recommendations would be so very welcome! I’ll take single books for sure, but he prefer series, and I need the content to be ABSOLUTELY NO BAD SCARIES! We have a tender one over here.

    Thank you in advance!
    Erin

    • Ally says...

      The Alvin Ho series is wonderful. There’s also the My Weird School series. A lot of my son’s friends like The Boxcar Children. Horrid Henry and Horrible Harry are also good for beginning readers. The Horrid Henry series is British and Horrible Harry is American. My 7yo has also read some of the shorter Roald Dahl books.

    • Sadie says...

      The Ramoa and Beezus Series, The Boxcar Children, Amelia Bedelia, and The Frog and Toad collection are all books that my family loved in the 90s. I’ve heard great things about the Junie B. Jones Series.

    • Marcia says...

      How about the “Mercy Watkins” series by Kate DiCamillo?

    • Jess says...

      A few books in a series that my boys (8 and 6) like:
      The Fudge series by Judy Blume; Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary; Frannie K Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton; Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedosa; Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park (mom note: Junie can be a bit naughty, so we often read these together and use whatever is going on in the story to have family talks about what Junie could do differently). Happy reading!

    • Rae says...

      He’s off and running! Some favorites in our house at that age, (also tender and lovers of many of the series you listed):

      The My Father’ Dragon Series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. There are three in the series. They are adventurous but not scary.

      The Brambly Hedge Series by Jill Barklem. There are 8 in this series, though we have the “complete collection” in one big book set. The illustrations are a big part of the charm with these!

      Tow Truck Pluck by Annie M. G. Schmidt. This is also available as a collection in one big book. Don’t be fooled by the cover. It looks like a book aimed at younger children but these stories are long and comfort with a wider vocabulary. Very funny books!

      Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. Not a series but a gem of a book. If he enjoys it, there is a wonderful animated series based on the book available to stream.

    • Kara says...

      I can’t recommend the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series by Kate Dicamillo enough!

    • You could also try the Junie B Jones series!

    • Nancy says...

      My son loves the Danny Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon. Part graphic novel, part chapter book, it’s good for emerging readers. Danny’s a dragon, his best friend is a nerdy iguana, and they go on adventures together (battling ninja frogs, rescuing jack-a-lopes).
      The Mercy Watson books are also good for beginning readers. And nothing scary at all. Just a pig who loves to eat toast.

    • LucyG says...

      The Rosie Revere etc. family has a chapter book series: The Questioneers. There are only a few so far, but our second grader likes them. Dory Fantasmagory is hilarious (although there is an imaginary witch named Mrs. Gobble Gracker, so I guess review them before he reads them). And Ramona is a perennial favorite.

    • BB says...

      My child loved the Flat Stanley books in first grade!

    • Janey says...

      How about the Ramona and Beezus books by Beverly Cleary? My kids adored them. Also the Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy are well written and run stories. My boys also loved the Flat Stanley books, Tom Gates (similar vibe to Wimpy Kid) and the David Walliams books are fun.
      Congratulations on having an avid reader! :)

    • Kate says...

      There are so many wonderful suggestions here! My first grader loves the Dory Fantastamagory series. The books are so charming and funny—the author, Abby Hanlon, really “gets” kids that age!

    • Jenn says...

      The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West has been a hit with my 5.5 year old. There are about 15 so far so if your little guy likes them it will keep him going for a long time!

    • Rebecca says...

      My kids (now in second grade) love the Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles. They are about Lizzie and Charles, a brother and sister whose family fosters dogs — each book focuses on their efforts to find the perfect forever family for a new dog. The books are sweet and not too scary and there are dozens of them. (If you do not already have a dog, just be aware that if you let your child read these books, he will wage a relentless campaign for you to get a dog.)

    • Julie says...

      What about Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Roald Dahl has a diverse collection (would avoid The Witches but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a fun read and it has a sequel), The Complete Stories of Winnie the Pooh? If you haven’t read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, those are great too.

      I second the Boxcar Children, those were some of the first chapter books I read to myself!

    • Sarah says...

      Ditto on the Alvin Ho series and the Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing / Super Fudge books! Nate the Great short mystery books are fun!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this thread is so great!!!

    • Quinn says...

      This is such a great thread – I’m taking notes!
      My 8 year-old daughter has enjoyed these series over the past couple of years:

      – Magical Animal Adoption Agency series and Heartwood Hotel series, both by Kallie George (Canadian author)
      – Dory Fantasmagory
      – Ivy &Bean
      – Magic Treehouse
      – Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (the audiobook versions read by Stockard Channing are so great!)
      – Amulet series
      – Sophie Mouse series
      And last but not least, the Princess in Black books — smart and hilarious!

    • Tovah says...

      I’m here for three things:
      1) Giving a +1 to the Brambley Hedge series– I had them as a girl and my mom saved them! My 6yo loves them, they are totally sweet and simple.

      2) Adding the MOOMIN series by Tove Jansson. Vintage, Finnish, plucky and so sweet. There are adventures and ‘danger’ but nothing we find actually scary, and my kids are tender-hearted, too.

      3) Copying down everything else on this thread

    • Kiana says...

      Nobody else has mentioned Super Rabbit Boy books but they’re popular with all the first graders at my son’s school. My son also is finally into silly poems by Shel Silverstein. We just read A light in the attic and he loved it.

    • Erin G. says...

      I came back to check this thread and am literally in tears – YOU ALL ARE THE BEST! I am making a list and so incredibly happy for this helpful, smart, wonderful community!

      THANK YOU!
      Original Poster

    • Erin G. says...

      This is deduplicated and has a few notes to myself and does not include books my kiddo already read, but in case it’s helpful to anyone else, here it is! (And THANK YOU again sweet community, this was so helpful I can’t express my gratitude enough…)

      Alvin Ho (Allergic To series…)
      Mercy Watkins series by Kate DiCamillo
      Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary
      Frannie K Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton
      Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedosa
      The My Father’ Dragon Series by Ruth Stiles Gannett.
      The Brambly Hedge Series by Jill Barklem
      Tow Truck Pluck by Annie M. G. Schmidt
      Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
      Tales from Deckawoo Drive series by Kate Dicamillo
      Danny Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon
      The Mercy Watson books
      Rosie Revere – The Questioneers
      Dory Fantasmagory (but has a witch!)
      Flat Stanley
      Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy
      Tom Gates (multiple books)
      David Walliams (correct spelling of his name – multiple books)
      Dory Fantastamagory series by Abby Hanlon
      The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West
      Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles
      Boxcar Children
      Sophie Mouse series
      Amulet series
      Dory Fantasmagory
      Magical Animal Adoption Agency series and Heartwood Hotel series, both by Kallie George
      MOOMIN series by Tove Jansson
      Super Rabbit Boy

  44. florence says...

    Great reviews Toby! You could have a career in book reviews ;-)

  45. BB says...

    I haven’t read any of these to my children so I can’t comment specifically, but in general I find these new children’s books are more targeted to adults… the humor especially. They’re simultaneously dumbed down and too advanced somehow. I dislike dragons love tacos, the day the crayons quit and some of the Oliver Jeffreys books for these reasons. In my mind nothing is better than Miss Rumphius, Ferdinand, Blueberries for Sal, Roald Dahl etc. the writing quality is better, there’s a story children can really get lost in. A newer book that seems combine the best of these newer books with the elements of excellent writing is Extra Yarn.

    • Jill says...

      I could NOT agree more. My child does not get these new books at all! I love the sweet simplicity of older books. I would recommend two to you – The Treasure and The Ox-Cart Man.

    • Rae says...

      BB, I both heartily agree — all your listed favorites are such gems! — and disagree. My children, at home and my students, LOVE Dragons Love Tacos, the Ida Peck series, & The Day the Crayons Quit. I am an art teacher and use many children’s books as a jumping off point for art making. The quality of the illustrations in these children’s books is so high it is engaging the children on multiple levels. I do have preferences on which I like to read. Some books that my kids love just don’t flow for me as I read out loud but they are having a different experience being read to and looking closely at the illustrations.

    • BB says...

      Thanks Jill will check it out!

    • BB says...

      Rae I do agree with you that the art in these books is wonderful, and from that perspective I can see why you love them!

    • jane says...

      There used to be an amazing childrens book store in Old Town, Alexandria Virginia, back in the day (90’s) with an enormous floppy-ear’ed bunny that had free-roam of the store where you could get specialized recommendations from the owner. Check to see if you’ve got any independent bookstores around your area – people who work there will be actually knowledgeable instead of entirely useless as per the norm at chain bookstores.

    • Maria says...

      I wholeheartedly agree. There are a few new gems out there but the classics you mentioned are just so rich and wonderful. But – I did pick up Hello Lighthouse for my kids at the library. It is touching and beautiful. I absolutely loved it. Luckily, my kids did too ;)

  46. Ramya says...

    Does anyone have recommendations for good books (appropriate for a 6-yr old) on kindness, empathy, bullying and similar topics? Thanks!

    • Hi Ramya! I love the books Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld.

    • Jenna says...

      We have like Molly Lou Melon, A Very Big Bunny, and How Full is your Bucket.

    • Nicole says...

      I highly recommend Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids (by Carol McCloud) It really helps explain how we can bring people up or down with our words and actions, and how our own feelings can be affected by others either negatively or positively. A big hit for our family and my son’s kindergarden class.

    • Elizabeth says...

      The Invisible Boy by Tracy Ludwig

    • Kristen says...

      I agree with recommendations for How Full is Your Bucket! A few others my kids (5 & 7) have really responded to:

      The Invisible Boy by Tracy Ludwig. This is a beautifully illustrated book about a boy who feels invisible at school until the new kid befriends him. Neither of my kids are the “invisible” type, but after reading, both mentioned kids who play alone at recess who might want a friend.

      The Proudest Blue, by Ibtihaj Muhammad — the Olympic fencer who was the first American to compete in hijab. Also beautifully illustrated, this is from the perspective of a girl whose older sister wears hijab to school for the first time and how both girls react when other kids laugh or ask questions.

      How are you Peeling? This one basically just has funny pictures of fruits and vegetables looking elated or nervous or mad. A teacher recommended it as a way to help kids identify emotions, but it’s kind of remarkable that you can feel so sorry for a baby pepper being yelled at by a giant pepper!

    • Ramya says...

      Thank you for all the lovely recommendations! Have put them on hold at our local library. I look forward to reading them with my son!

    • Maria says...

      What does it mean to be kind? By Rana DiOrio. My daughter loved it.

    • Miriam says...

      My almost 6 year old loves the new biography of Fred Rogers called Fred’s Big Feelings. Another great book that shows kindness/empathy is Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. One by Kathryn Otoshi is about taking a stand against bullying.

    • Alli says...

      The Rabbit Listened – so so good!

  47. CB says...

    I wish “Toby reviews _____” was something I could read weekly. He’s so earnest! Great work Toby, thank you!

    • liz says...

      Yes, let’s have a regular segment with Toby Reviews but due to child work laws, I’d suggest once a month.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha i’m sure he’d love that!

  48. Nicole says...

    I am loving “Except When They Don’t” by Laura Gehl and “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love.

  49. jane says...

    I just watched Fran Lebovitz on Jimmy Fallon yesterday and apparently she wrote a childrens book called “mr chas and lisa sue meet the pandas”. No idea if it’s any good but imagine a childrens book by Fran Lebovitz could only be interesting.

    • LK says...

      OH my god! I had that book as a child (I’m 31 now) because I loved pandas SO much my dad got it for me. I never was interested in it but it’s still on my bookshelf. I’m going to pick it up the next time I’m home to see if its any good!

  50. Candice Cole says...

    Tee hee “when I was little”! Lol

  51. Sarah Beth says...

    What a sweet set of reviews! Ada Twist is my favorite in the Blue River Creek elementary series (I find myself tearing up throughout the book, and the random Sade posters in her bedroom made me LOL), though my 4yo prefers Ada Twist. I consider Miss Lila Greer a personal style icon.

    Our current favorite is Du Iz Tak, by Carson Ellis. We love trying to translate the nonsense language, and shout “Tata Icky!”, “Tata Ooky!” whenever one of us leaves the room. And my daughter is also getting into easy reader chapter books, and we are both in love with the Ling and Ting series.

    • Emily says...

      The fashion, architecture, and furniture in that series is amazing!

  52. Amanda says...

    Hearing your son say, “It talks about slavery, which is important to talk about,” honestly gives me so much hope for the both the present and the future. Kids are so smart and capable when the adults around them trust them with knowledge. Y’all are doing an amazing job, for real <3

  53. Jenn says...

    I just read “High Five” out loud to my five year-old 10 minutes ago. It was one of his birthday presents and when I saw the author/illustrator team, it went right into my cart. So fun!

    I love these reviews by Toby! As a former children’s book publicist, I remember how easy it could be to forget the target demographic in the whirl of trying to get reviews and accolades from respected review journals. But kids are the best judges! Keep ‘em coming, Toby!