Children's Literature

2019 Picture Books Gift Guide

Another year wraps up and I’ve got some great gift suggestions for every young child on your list. Happy hunting!

Infant Board Books (ages 0-2)

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Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld. This one’s for all the active, run-away children out there (mine included). The baby monkey experiences many emotions including joy, excitement, fear, and shame, but we also see Mama’s emotions–worry, being protective, and anger. Both experiences offer a great way to discuss what may be a common problem with your child. An apology and a warm embrace show the love a mama will always have for her child. I became an instant Doerrfeld fan after The Rabbit Listened and I look forward to her illustrious career.

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Feel Better, Daddy by Nancy Loewen and Hazel Quintanilla. Uncluttered artwork draw a child’s focus to a sweet tale about a sick daddy and a concerned daughter.  Other social-emotional skills in the series include gratitude, perseverance, and sharing. All books serve as important discussion tools for growing children.

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Scratchie by Maria Putri. Feline fanatics will chuckle at this cat’s incessant desire to scratch everything in the house. A diverse array of textures make this touch-and-feel book stand out over others.


Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson. The colors of the traditional pride flag (red/life, orange /healing, yellow/sunlight, green/nature, blue/peace & harmony, and violet/spirit) are paired with photographs of loving, snuggly parents and their children. Although some new pride colors have been left out of this board book, this still is a great gift to add much-needed family diversity to young children’s bookshelves.

Toddler (ages 1-3)


B is for Baby by Atinuke. Baby secretly travels across a Nigerian town in a basket of bananas on her brother’s bike. A mother’s warm embrace at the beginning and the end give comfort to the readers as Baby goes on a wild, unexpected adventure.

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Peekity Boo–What You Can Do! by Heidi Bee Roemer. A mom and a dad proudly watch their son perform common bedtime routines in a celebration of independence.

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Good Night Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. Loud, stormy weather keeps many animals up and searching for comfort in the truck bed of Little Blue Truck. Since 2009, this series has captivated younger readers with it’s rollicking rhymes and shiny blue truck. A great bookshelf addition for children that love things that go, that may be nervous about stormy weather, and fans of the series.

Preschool (ages 3-6)

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Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo. A brave and adventurous maiden is romantically paired with her friend, the prince, much to her dismay. At the castle ball, the Maiden meets her true love: the Princess. This story is best for fans of brave nights and any child that doesn’t quite fit in to society’s binary.

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How Do You Dance by Thyra Heder. From popping to dropping, stretching to swaying, readers will be given an open invitation to demonstrate all of the dance moves described, much to the delight of their listeners. An energetic and fun time for everyone involved.

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Saturday by Oge Mora. Mom works everyday except Saturday making it the best day of the week for her and her daughter, Ava. When all of their activities start going wrong, both Ava and her mom use deep breathes to keep their spirits up. When Ava’s mom shows vulnerability and defeat (an experience not often shown in adults in picture books) Ava is there to let her mother know that being together is the most important part. An extremely relatable and important book for working moms and dads.

Early Elementary (Kindergarten-2nd grade)

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I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton. Nip that arithmophobia in the bud with this nerve-soothing primer on our math-filled world. Spoiler alert: it’s everywhere–even in your cookies! I love that Barton has created a series of books that seek to “decriminalize” things that our culture may collectively dislike, include spidersbees, and, now, math. Great for math fanatics to gift to their loved ones.

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The Great Santa Stakeout by Betsy Bird. Santa’s number one fan, Freddy Melchner, is determined to get a Santa selfie. Freddy’s sleuthing leads to an elaborate and hilarious plot to get Santa, paired with rich, cartoon-like illustrations. A sure win that keeps the mystery alive for an age where children may start to hear rumors about the big, bearded man.

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Bodega Cat by Louie Chin. Chip, a confident, endearing cat, tells readers all about what his family-owned Bodega sells, its customers, and his family. The vibrant, comic-style illustrations will reach a wide audience and animal fans will fall in love with this friendly feline.

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The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar. Harpreet has a hard time adjusting to his new home and its cold climate. Aligning his emotions with the colors of his beloved patkas (a style of Sikh turban often worn by young boys), he wears muted blues and grays until he makes a new friend. A perfect gift for a child that has just moved or that finds their personality changing with a new environment or experience.

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Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o. Sulwe tries everything to lighten her skin after she receives teasing remarks from her classmates. Her mother tells Sulwe a legend about Day and Night to show her daughter that her skin color is a necessary beauty in our diverse world. Incredibly uplifting and relatable for many dark-skinned children, this book is an essential purchase.

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Why by Adam RexA supervillian blasts into a mall, striking fear in the population as everyone runs for their lives. Except for one child how wants to know why: why no one can withstand the power of Doctor X-Ray; why is his battle suit indestructible; why is it his destiny to rule the world? With each explanation and each simple rebuttal (Why?), Doctor X-Ray delves deeper into the reasons behind his treacherous ways. A sneaky origin story for a villain, enjoyable for both listener and reader.


M is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child by Tiffany Rose. From A-Z, black children will find themselves infused with inspiration, pride, and empowerment to be their best selves. An incredible array of diverse skin tones, hair styles, and personal interests provide incredible inclusivity for the black community.

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It Feels Good to Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn. A simplified approach to explaining gender identity to the little ones (including transgender, cisgendered, non-binary, gender-fluid, and gender identities that cannot be captured in words). There is a lot of information to digest but Thorn is reassuring and repetitive. A great step forward for a new generation of introspective, self-loving, open-minded people. Perfect for children with emerging gender identities.

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If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen. Having finished with his blueprints for his car and house, Jack is back to update his “pitifully plain” school. Children will drool over all the amazing features: puppies and zoo animals at the entrance! Books that come to life! A three story slide at recess! And adults will appreciate that the school holds its educational value instead of just shooting candy from the ceiling all day. Children with wild imaginations and any child that has had vivid daydreams of a cooler school will be apt to jump aboard this fun read.

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Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang. Amy cannot manage the perfection of her mom, dad, and grandmother’s perfect baos. Amy’s determination to find a solution–a perfect Amy-sized Bao!–and her ability to adapt will have foodie fans falling in love with her tenacity.

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