During my one-year reign as an elementary school library assistant, I learned a lot about children. And books. And, of course, children’s books.
I was always charmed when they tittered up to check their books out, bouncing with excitement as they mustered up all their strength to heave the books onto the counter with gusto. As I entered their information into the computer, they gleefully tapped their hands on the covers of the books and earnestly explained why they were excited about these particular choices.
“My sister read this one, and it was sooo cute!”
“This dog looks just like my dog at home. He’s brown with black spots, too.”
“Ms. Bolen read this one on the morning news, and it was really funny!”
The reasons varied, but the reactions were always the same: bright eyes, wide smiles that stretched up to their ears, and mousy voices that oozed with the anticipation usually reserved for cupcakes at lunchtime.
After they left and the library was quiet, I abandoned my chair behind the counter and snaked in between the shelves, my fingertips brushing the spines as I searched for the duplicate copy of the book I had just heard amazing things about. If I was lucky enough to find one still on the shelf, I pulled it out and opened it so the covers and pages gently fell open like a bird’s wings.
I read it with excitement of my own. I knew that if a 7-year-old’s eyes gleamed when she recited the story within, that there was indeed something truly special about that book.
So, with the help of Ms. Bolen, the school librarian (a veteran of over a decade who frequently went on Amazon shopping sprees buying the most recent and popular children’s books to add to the library), we compiled a list of what we felt were eight of the greatest children’s books. Some are tummy-tickling silly, and some will make your eyes leak. But they all have a valuable message to take away. We hope you will enjoy reading these with your beloved little ones snuggled up close.
This one is certainly a bit heart-wrenching, so it might be a good idea to have a tissue on hand. The Giving Tree follows the friendship and adventure between a little boy and his big, beautiful tree. But as the boy grows older, he starts to crave what the world deems valuable—the attention of others, money, constant busyness, and a life free of pain. He continually returns to the tree for help, and she, still unmoved by the societal demands that plague the boy, tries to help in any way she possibly can.
Author Shel Silverstein explored beyond the horizons of the average children’s book and delivered a moving story about the value of sacrifice for those you love.
Luckily for your little ones, Don’t Push the Button! gives them that chance. Geared toward the younger ones (think 6-year-olds and smaller), Larry the monster owns the book and initially warns them that the only rule is to not touch the button. Eventually, Larry gets a little curious himself and lets the reader push the button, but only to turn the page and realize that pushing the button has unleashed chaos!
This book is fun and interactive, so your little one is guaranteed to be completely intrigued.
Miss Rumphius is an old lady who used to be known as Alice. When Alice was a little girl, she used to spend time with her grandfather, who carved figureheads for ships and painted and traveled to faraway places. Alice longs to be adventurous just like him, but he tells her that she must make sure to do one more thing: add something to the world to make it more beautiful.
The book follows Alice as she grows older and embarks on remarkable adventures. But she still holds on to her grandfather’s words and searches for just the right way to add her own touch of beauty to the world.
Although Miss Rumphius holds a more serious tone than the other books on this list, it serves as a gentle reminder that we are each here to make the world a touch more beautiful than it would have ever been without us in it.
This book has been a children’s classic for decades, and rightfully so. Author Eric Carle chose a very innovative technique for this book, one that was uncommon in the 1960s when it was published. The book follows the life of a baby caterpillar who was—you guessed it—very hungry. As he finds food, he takes a bite out of each. Carle here inserts an illustration of each food on a small portion of a page … and each page has a hole in the middle of the food where the caterpillar has “eaten.” For younger kids, this makes for a very humorous and engaging read. After all, it seems that the caterpillar has chewed his way through the book!
It is still educational too, as (sorry, spoiler alert!) the caterpillar eventually wraps himself up in a cocoon and turns into a gorgeous butterfly at the end. It’s a great book to have a little fun learning about the life cycle together.
You’ll likely see some of your own child in Ada Twist, who is curious about anything and everything. She asks a lot of “Whys?” and “Whats?” and “Hows?” and gets into all sorts of mischief in her quest to discover how things work. Then one day, there is a big stink. That is, a horrible, awful stench that isn’t her dad’s cabbage stew. Ada Twist must go to great lengths to stop the pungent smell, and that includes conducting scientific experiments that may be just a tad too superfluous.
Author Andrea Beaty was just as crafty as Miss Twist: her rollercoaster of rhymes and imaginative illustrations became a children’s book that celebrates inquisitive minds. No questions are too serious or too silly!
Safety is usually no laughing matter, but this book might make you think otherwise. Officer Buckle, a mustachioed police officer who takes his job quite seriously, travels to schools with his deputy-dog, Gloria, to teach kids about safety. What Officer Buckle isn’t aware of, however, is that Gloria finds him to be a bit of a stickler who needs to loosen up. This whimsical book reaffirms the importance of safety, friendship, and, of course, a sense of humor.
Countless women throughout history have initiated monumental changes that completely impacted the world we live in today—for the better! (Read our article on some of these incredible women here.) Katharine Johnson is no exception. This remarkable lady was the catalyst for astronaut John Glenn’s famously successful Friendship 7 mission, after calculating difficult, yet crucial equations for the trajectory of the shuttle. She continued working numbers for NASA for 33 years, with astounding accuracy.
Counting on Katherine follows the life of the mathematician, revealing the struggles she faced, as well as the numerous contributions she made to the fields of science and astronomy. While entirely nonfiction, the book reads like a story and is guaranteed to motivate your little ones to achieve great things they never dreamed possible.
The message of this book will stand the test of time. Chrysanthemum is about a young mouse who loved her name. She thought it was unique and beautiful, and she would write it out with her fat orange crayon. But when she started school, the other children made fun of her name. They teased Chrysanthemum and told her that she looked like a flower and that they wanted to “pick” her. As expected, Chrysanthemum comes home in tears, hating the name that she once loved so much. But her parents and a very thoughtful teacher teach her what may be the most important lesson she’s ever learned: to be proud of herself and love herself for who she is, no matter what others say.
Chrysanthemum cheers for those who feel different, and reminds them that they are so incredibly special! This is a book that should be read over and over again to every child.
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