We LOVE reading. It is a great way to sneak in some extra cuddles, to wind down before bed, and even to make road trips pass by more quickly. After 3 years of reading countless amounts of children’s books, I have compiled a list of our top 25. Some are classics, some are newer, and there are many that you may not have heard about before. Read along to see what makes each of these books so special.
I have also linked each book to make adding them to your Amazon shopping cart a little easier. Books make great presents for any occasion. As you saw in my last post A 4 Gift Christmas, books are one of the 4 things I am getting my own girls for Christmas. But even when I shop for other kids, one of my favorite things to do is to pair a great book with a toy. For example, I will buy a toy garbage truck and pair it with Trashy Town. Or I will pair a unicorn Cabbage Patch doll with Never Let a Unicorn Scribble. It’s a great way to combine play and reading to expand kids’ imaginations and bring their books to life.
Note: these are listed in alphabetical order because I couldn’t possibly put them in a preference order. It was hard enough to narrow my list to 25. Let’s get started!
Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton
You can’t go wrong with books by Sandra Boynton, but this one is our favorite of hers. There is nothing sweeter than a baby lifting up their shirt to show off their ‘be-bo’ just like the hippos do at Belly Button Beach. While there isn’t much of a plot, Sandra Boynton’s books are short, charming and the perfect size (and durability) for kids to hold in their lap as they turn page after page.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault illustrated by Lois Ehlert
This is an old classic. I remember reading it when I was little, but I love reading it to the girls even more. I read it so much, I have it memorized. This is a great way to introduce the alphabet to young minds as each letter races for the top of the coconut tree before tumbling in a heap. Kids young and old enjoy the rhythmical verbiage of this book, even the nonsense words like skit-skat scoodle doot flip flop flee, everybody running to the coconut tree! I even like the subtle introduction of capital letters as the parents and lowercase letters as the kids climb the tree.
Cuddle Bear by Claire Freedman and Gavin Scott
‘The world needs hugs, says cuddle bear, to make each day feel bright.’ This sweet book talks about the importance of a hug as Cuddle Bear shows up to help his friends, penguin, lion and the rest of the crew. It is perfect for bedtime bonding and cuddling. Take one look at our book with some crinkled pages & pieces of tape and you will know it’s been well loved. I’ve been tempted to buy a new one, but I am so attached to the memories we made with our worn-in version, that I just can’t. This book is an Usborne book, so get it if you have a friend throwing a party this holiday season, but you can also get it via amazon.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli
We got this as a gift from my sister and it’s so wonderful. With 212 pages, it’s not your typical children’s book, but I love reading a story (or a few) to the girls at night before bed. They are always captivated as we learn about 100 different extraordinary women from the past and present, and what they did to leave a mark on this world. Also, since it is written at a higher reading level, they are exposed to a larger variety of vocabulary words, and they get to experience a variety of art from 60 different female artists. Pick up a copy today and I guarantee this book will continue to be read and continue to inspire your own girls (and even you) for years to come.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram
I would always play a game with my Grandma and my dad where I would say that I loved them more than they loved me. Whoever could then quickly say, ‘Wanna bet? Haha I win,’ would win. Laughing, protesting, or tickling would always ensue. But my mom would never play. She would just say, ‘Nope, not possible.’ This cute book about Little Nutbrown Hare trying to express his love for Big Nutbrown Hare reminds me of this. Time and time again, Little Nutbrown Hare tries to express to Big Nutbrown Hare just how much he loves him. Just as you think he wins, Big Nutbrown Hare one up’s him once more and tucks him into bed! It’s another great bedtime book to add to your home library.
Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper
Hedgehugs was a book I picked up for the girls for their very first Valentine’s day. This is a story about cute little hedgehog friends, Horace and Hattie, that are trying to give each other a hug. They try to solve their prickly hug problem with a variety of objects. Their cute journey to find a way also has a surprise ending that explains where all our missing socks go. Now anytime I can’t find a match, I get a little less annoyed and think of this cute and silly book.
I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak and illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
My friend and her twin boys got me this book because it was their favorite. I quickly realized why and it became one of our favorites too. It’s simple and short with the perfect amount of words on a page for young babies, but adorable enough to continue to read for years to come. This book is about all the sides and things a parent loves about their kid. Their happy side, sad side, silly side, mad side, and so much more. It also has an absolutely perfect ending to express your unwavering love and affection you will always have for them. This book is also the perfect middle ground between a board book and a paper book with thick cardstock pages.
I love illustrations in children’s books, but there is something extra special about books that Caroline Jayne Church illustrates. They are warm and bright and captivating, which is why we also love Ten Tiny Toes and How Do I Love You.
I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi and Kristyna Litten
I hadn’t heard of this book until we got it from a dear friend for the girls’ third birthday in September. After reading it only once, I knew it was going to be another bedtime favorite. I’m a sucker for any book that will make a child feel loved, but when it’s paired with charming illustrations that have the girls pointing, counting and asking questions, I love it even more. It’s a little nonsensical, but it’s lyrical and lovely. You can’t help but smile as you read, “I will love you till then, and again, and again, till my love makes a bed for the cows in their pens…’
I’m Not Just a Scribble by Diane Alber
We got this book from another friend and even though I’m not much of an artist, this book made me more passionate about risking the mess and letting the girls get out their crayons and markers to express themselves through art. What’s even more beautiful is that this book is about kindness, inclusion and teamwork as well. Follow along with the main character, Scribble, as he shows his friend about the power of a scribble.
I can’t wait to collect more of Diane Alber’s collections. We also love Never Let a Unicorn Scribble, which I mentioned at the top of this article. Outside of promoting art, Diane also creates a space for expressing emotions and teaching life lessons to your little ones by using objects like scribbles and dots as her main characters.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry
My sister got this book for my nephew and after hearing it, I knew we needed a copy of our own. It’s another book about kindness, teamwork and a change of heart. With nearly 4,000 reviews and a 4.9 star rating on Amazon, you definitely can’t go wrong with this one. Review animals and the sounds they make with your little one as everyone works together to help Little Blue Truck save the Dump Truck.
Mind your Monsters by Catherine Bailey and illustrated by Oriol Vidal
Parents are constantly reminding their little ones to say please and thank you, but with books like this, Wally can subtly preach the message instead. Wally’s town is in cahoots after monsters invade. They even try to leave but get trapped. Suddenly, Wally decides to use his magic words with the stinky and destructive monsters and not only saves the day but creates new and lasting friendships with these seemingly unlikeable beings.
Mr. Brown Can MOO Can You? By Dr. Seuss
This book doesn’t have a strong moral message, but it encourages your kids to parrot the sounds you say with everything from the ‘dibble dibble dopp’ that the rain makes to the ‘buzz buzz’ of a bee. My favorite line in this book is the ‘whisper, whisper’ of a butterfly because it’s the quietest I can get my kids to talk all day. Dr. Seuss has the perfectly sized board books for very young children to enjoy, which is how we ended up with 18 of them. I found that the bigger books were harder to handle so my girls were automatically drawn to these books. They can turn page after page of these books for hours but also enjoy stacking them and building with them as well.
One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl & Tom Lichtenheld
I bought this book at the girls’ book fair when they were just a few months old. With twin bears fighting over a pair of underwear on the cover I couldn’t resist. This book introduces counting up to 10 and the concept of sharing in a fun way with lots of animals and bustling activity to keep them fascinated as you read aloud. Get this book to figure out how greedy cats, goats, bears and more learn how fun sharing can be!
One, Two, Three! By Sandra Boynton
This is the second Sandra Boynton book on this list, but this one incorporates counting to 10. We have 9 of her books and this one is almost as well loved as the Belly Button Book. After counting all the way to 10 when the celebration is LOUD, LOUD, LOUD, Boynton brings it right back to one and speaks to the introvert in all of us with the line, ‘And one is wonderful after a crowd’. Like I said earlier my girls love her illustrations and I love that the size of her books promotes an early fascination with reading.
Pandamonia by Chris Owen and Chris Nixon
If you love a fun and rhyming book with many non-traditional children’s book vocabulary words then you will love this book. It talks about all the reason you don’t want to wake the Panda’s at the zoo and explains in detail the chain reaction of ruckus that would result. While this book is targeting a slightly older audience than a toddler, it is really entertaining. I believe that it is important to read a variety of books and reading levels to kids, even if the only benefit is to break things up for you as the reader. This is another one to add to your Usborne wish list if you have a friend with an upcoming party.
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin illustrated by James Dean
I had originally underestimated Pete the Cat, but once I heard it on the first day of the girls’ preschool this fall, I knew it was a keeper. With the girls’ birthday a week or so later, their preschool teachers gifted them each a Pete the Cat book of their own and we have read it a million times since. I love that so many concepts are rolled into one adorable book. It teaches subtraction as Pete loses one button after another, but also talks about how Pete feels after he loses a button. ‘Does Pete Cry? Goodness No, Buttons come and Buttons go!’ While it’s okay to cry, some material things just aren’t worth it and I think this can be a good message for all of us.
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
This book about 13 women who changed the world makes me tear up every time I read it. When I first bought it, I thought it was because I was hormonal, but it’s just THAT good! I still tear up every time I read ‘If anyone ever says your voice isn’t important or your dreams are too big, remember these women. They persisted and so should you’. This is like a shorter version of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls with a very obvious message to continue to pursue your dreams despite the obstacles that may be thrown in your way.
The Baby Biochemist DNA by Margo Alesund
This won’t make everyone’s top 25 list, but if you are a nerdy scientist like I am, it absolutely will. It’s such a fun way to start to teach your baby about your love of science. They will learn about DNA, where it’s stored, DNA’s building blocks (the nucelotides), and how it is the recipe to build your whole body. It even incorporates important messages like avoiding sun damage. While it’s definitely above their current not-yet-reading-level, I plan to keep reading it until they are learning about it in grade school.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
As a perfectionist myself, I related to the little girl in this book who is trying to invent the most magnificent thing and starts to become really frustrated with failed attempt after failed attempt. After taking a break she comes back to it and looks at different and wonderful aspects of these failed attempts to finally pull her idea completely together. This book is about creativity, ingenuity, invention, persistence, and even frustration. It’s okay to be frustrated, we all get there at various points, and I love reading this to my girls. I hope they can be as strong as she is.
The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Dan Hanna
I am clearly drawn to books that have a good rhyme and poetic flow, but when they are illustrated as well as this book is, then I’m ‘hooked’. (pun intended). The girls loved this even before they could talk, so some of their first words were ‘Blub, Blub, Blub’ and we still read it to this day. I will give a small disclaimer that in this book, the grumpy fish doesn’t consent to the kiss, so if you’re concerned, check it out at the library first. I am all about teaching the girls that they don’t owe anybody a hug or a kiss and that their body is their own, but I still adore this book and love giving them lots of kisses as they giggle each time we read it. Pout Pout Fish Goes to School is another good read.
Three Times the Fun by Michaela Lincoln
I heard about this book and couldn’t wait for my next friend to have triplets so I could buy them a copy. (I personally know 2 people with triplets already, but felt that they would be a little too old for it). Then after reading about the principles it teaches in an amazon review, I decided to buy a copy for us. I expected to enjoy it, but did not expect that I would have to read it every night for 3 weeks straight. The girls love their ‘triplet book’. The illustrations are simple but captivating and the girls love to point out the differences between each kid including their favorite colors and hobbies. Before they turned three they could recite the entire book and will often refer to the important principles it teaches such as helping one another. Usually when I say that they need to be nice or remind them that they love each other, they respond by exclaiming, ‘Just like the triplet book!’
Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett and illustrated by Kevan J Atteberry
We would read this book and tickle away with the silly tickle monster gloves until the girls were laughing so hard that they got the hiccups. Tickle Monster comes from planet tickle (or Amazon) to rhyme and tickle and laugh with your little one. There isn’t a big life message in this book, but sometimes you just need a good fun and engaging book that everyone will love.
Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha illustrated by Dan Yaccarinp
I already mentioned how this book makes the perfect gift either alone or paired with a garbage truck toy, but it is an absolute must have. We read it almost every garbage night and sometimes in between. The girls can’t wait to shout, ‘NOOOO’ every time I read, ‘Is the Trash Truck full yet?’ And every time we see a garbage truck the girls stop and wave as they squeal, ‘Hi Mr. Guille!’ It was written over 20 years ago, but hasn’t got the credit it deserves. Gift Trashy Town to a kid in your life. They will love it and it’s highly unlikely that they already have it.
Warthog: A Counting Adventure by Birdie Black and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
I’m generally not a huge fan of lift-the-flap books because with 4 quick hands they seem to quickly get torn. However, the cute animations in this book combined with counting fun made me and the girls instantly fall in love with it. Warthog is so cute and the pictures on the front of the flaps beautifully transform into another picture as you lift each one. With only 9 reviews on Amazon, this book hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, so pick up a copy for yourself and see how entranced your kid will be as they count along with you.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
I remember reading this book as a kid, but probably not until 2nd grade, so I wasn’t quite as entranced as some of my classmates. When we got it as a gift, I was appreciative but underestimated just how much the girls would love it. Add some motion with your hands as you go swishy swashy through the tall grass, or slap your legs for sound effects as you run from the bear and the book springs to life. It took them no time at all to start bringing me this book every time I sat down to read. My favorite part was seeing their eyes light up with glee as we read it and then quickly turn to a sad face as they pretended to pout with the bear as he walks away seemingly sad and hungry on the very last page.
What books are on your top 25 list? Comment below with your favorites.
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