Best Children’s Books
A few weeks ago I was invited to a baby shower. The host asked each guest to bring a book to start baby’s bookshelf. Baby board books, kids books, classic books, anything to build a collection of the best children’s books for a new future reader.
I thought this was a brilliant idea…until I had to actually choose one. Just one?!? How on earth can you choose just one forever favourite!?!
Addicted to kids books
You see, I am a total sucker for beautiful kids books. Our “kids” bookshelf is full to overflowing, and I admit the collection started long before I had kids. Might have started when I worked at a magical bookshop after university graduation 25 years ago (Through the Looking Glass in Nelson, BC…still there, same owner, tell Sharon or Peggy I said hi!).
Nowadays, I have to strictly limit my Amazon browsing, and steer clear of the kids section at my local Chapters (where I am currently writing this blog post…). Gorgeous illustrations, a favourite author, or a cute storyline, the temptation is just too great!
Books That Last
Yes, my boys are growing up, now 10 and almost 15 years old. Our family reading time isn’t “out loud” as much anymore, and has spread to more age appropriate choices. Harry Potter has now migrated from “my” shelf to “their” shelf, and my oldest is reading the Hunger Games and Divergent series at school. My boys aren’t “readers” per se (much to mine and my mother’s dismay…sigh!). They do favour books that have been made into movies, but I delight in the special reading moments when they notice the differences (the book is always better than the movie, in my opinion).
But my youngest still indulges in bedtime stories (although sometimes my yawns and drooping eyelids will encourage him to read to me instead…I may or may not be faking sometimes…shhhh!). And sometimes he will sneak in what most would consider a “baby” book. Whether it’s the nostalgia, the comfort, or the ease of reading level, I don’t mind. It lets me hang on to their childhood just that little bit longer.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and decide to purchase, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you! I only post links to products I myself have used and would recommend to others. Thank you!
So here is a list of our 25 favourite books of all time, our best children’s books, sorted from baby to tween, and in between. I asked the boys opinion in what ones to include, and they whole-heartedly approved (well, except 23 and 24, but they agreed I got to have a few “girl” books…). These are ones that, no matter how often I cull the collection and donate the older, more baby-ish ones, will forever hold a revered place on the shelf.
And which book did I choose to buy for the new baby shower gift? Well, it’s my #1 pick, my forever favourite…
1. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
I read this to both my kids “in utero”, and almost every night of their newborn lives. I don’t know if it’s the origin of the quote, but I attribute “I love you to the moon and back” to this book!
2. “Little Critter” series by Mercer Mayer
My memories of these classic books go back to my childhood, and I even have some dog-eared originals of the series. “Just Me and My Little Brother”, “Just Go To Bed” and “I Was So Mad” are my top picks, but all of the books have great teaching, and touching, moments. Don’t miss the little spider, grasshopper, or mouse hidden on every page!
3. No, David by David Shannon
Howling laughter ensues every time we read any of the “David” books. Mischief, mayhem and misbehaving galore, but always with love in the end.
4. Too Many Toys by David Shannon
Another favourite by author David Shannon, this story echoes the sentiments of every parent and the struggle of toy overwhelm! His illustrations capture the torturous stepping on Lego (a rite of passage for every parent) or the inevitable favourite toy of all children, the box the toy came in!
5. “If You Give A…” series by Laura Numeroff
This series starts with a little mouse, and the circular adventures that ensue when you give him a seemingly innocent cookie. Follow up with the addtional books in the series “If You Gife a Pig a Pancake”, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” and more!
6. Red is Best by Kathy Stinson
I have a personal connection to this classic children’s book. Illustrator Robin Baird Lewis was my high school art teacher (and one of my all-time favourite teachers, second only to my grade 7/8 English teacher, Mrs. Case)!
7. Tub Boo Boo by Margie Palatini
This one was a “grandma’s house” favourite, that the boys insisted on reading only with her. Surprisingly, I haven’t read it that much, but I love that it brings back instant memories for them of bath time at grandma’s house!
8. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
I love this story for the humour, and originality, told from the perspective of the jilted crayons who have finally had it with their child owner. Apparently my rendition of Peach Crayon’s letter, complaining of being “naked”, may have had something to do with this book’s popularity in our house. Don’t miss the sequel “The Day the Crayons Came Home“.
9. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
It doesn’t look like much from the cover, but as per the cliche, be sure not to judge. A New York Time’s Best Illustrated Children’s Book (and it’s sequels This is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat) are STILL favourites in our house…all because of a little red hat!
10. Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood
While there are many “counting” books out there that teach toddlers their numbers, this one holds a special place in my heart, only because I have a video recording of my youngest, when he was just 2 years old, “reading” this book out loud when he didn’t think I was looking! (Say it with me…AWWWW!)
11. “Bad Kitty” series by Nick Bruel
We were introduced to Bad Kitty through this Christmas picture book, and fell in love with his antics. Luckily, the loveable character is actually part of a series of paperback books following his misadventures with Poor Puppy, Baby, Uncle Murray and more! For my youngest son, it was a perfect segue from picture book to chapter books!
12. Mister Got To Go by Lois Simmie
Maybe not as familiar to those outside of Canada, this book (and it’s sequels) tell the tale of the real life cat from the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver, Canada. A charming tale, beautiful water-colour images, and a cat that looks remarkably like my own childhood stray feline friend, seal this book as a favourite for our family.
13. “Creatrilogy” series by Peter H. Reynolds
It’s hard to pick just one favourite by famed author Peter H. Reynolds! This box set, including “Ish”, “The Dot” and “Sky Color” is a good introduction though, and we often read all three together. Inspirational tales, especially for the artist, or the artist within all of us, my youngest enjoys the creative message conveyed, that everyone can be an artist!
14. Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
For my “boy’s boys” who usually balk at any stories about girls or princesses, Julia has wormed her way into their hearts (which I secretly love). This book, the first in our growing collection of books by author Ben Hatke, draws the reader in with beautiful ink and watercolour illustrations of all manor of magical creatures, even Julia’s walking house!
15. How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
With illustrations instantly recognizable as the work of David Shannon, this book about pirates is both hilarious and touching. All manor of boy “grossness” makes for lots of laughs, and again, my rendition of pirate speak puts me right up there with the best of ’em! Aarrgh! Don’t miss the sequel “Pirates Don’t Change Diapers“.
16. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Another one from my childhood, my boys fell in love with this tale of a single day from Alexander’s life. Everything that could go wrong does, but in the end “some days are just like that…even in Australia”. A good lesson! And surprisingly, Disney’s movie based on the book cleverly captured many of the little nuances of the classic tale.
17. Stars by Mary Lyn Ray
With beautiful illustrations, and a touching message, this book is one of my favourite “feel good” books. Very appropriate, particularly if you add glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom ceiling!
18. The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
Arguments abound every time we read this book as to the pronunciation of the main character…is it Bee-KLEE or Bee-KLE? I change it up every time, just to throw them off and keep them guessing. Such a wonderful story about friends…real and imaginary…and the challenges of finding, and keeping, them!
19. The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear
Another unassuming book by it’s cover, this was an instant favourite in our house (thanks Grandma!), particularly for my reluctant reader boys who are often sent to their room to “think things over”.
20. Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise by William Kotzwinkle
While there are a whole series of “Walter the Farting Dog” books, this one is our favourite. But then again, what boy doesn’t love books about farts?!
21. Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed
I think I might like this book a little more than the boys, but they get the message behind it, and I get a little teary whenever I read this one. Gets ya right in the feels!
22. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Again, hard to pick just one Roald Dahl book, classics each and every one of them, but this one is a good place to start.
23. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
A classic that belongs in every little girl’s libary, it’s a modern re-telling of the classic fairytale, where the princess saves the prince, runs off and lives her own “happily ever after”! (And if you look closely, you’ll see the design of my next tattoo!)
24. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
What little girl can’t recite the famous words…”In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines…”?
25. “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling
This one is a given…and deserves to be read, and re-read, several times over! Pure magic!
Well, there you have it! Our family’s list of Forever Favourite Kids Books! I hope you found some new titles to explore! What are your best children’s books? I’d love to know!
Like this article? You might also enjoy these…
Want to save for later? Pin it to your favourite Pinterest board!