Sometimes that eighth reading of Little Blue Truck is just too much to contemplate—but finding another book your kid wants to read can be a challenge. So we asked the people who really know what books kids respond to: children’s librarians. They named 18 undersung titles that always work at story time.
Wish, by Emma Dodd
Recommended for: babies!
This is a cuddly book that makes for a wonderful read-aloud with babies and toddlers. Like Dodd’s other works (including Happy, Everything, and Forever), the illustrations are beautiful, featuring animal parents and babies. The text is a simple, sweet way to remind a child that you love her, and she makes you happy. —Lindsey Recka
Polar Bear’s Underwear, by Tupera Tupera
Recommended for: ages 2–5
Kids giggle all the way through this book as Polar Bear and his friend Mouse try to determine where Polar Bear’s underwear went. Then they have fun guessing which animal belongs to each pair. —Margaret Levine
Maple, by Lori Nichols
Recommended for: ages 3–5, especially kids expecting a new sibling
Maple is the rare “new baby” book that acknowledges the excitement of anticipating a new sibling and the difficulties of adjusting while also celebrating the joy that comes with helping a new person grow up. —Nikki Glassley
This Is My Rock, by David Lucas
Recommended for: ages 3–5
A great book for caregivers trying to teach sharing and goat enthusiasts alike! There are a lot of books about sharing, but the illustrations, and the subtlety of the message, make this one special. It gets laughs every time, but it also starts conversations. —N.G.
If I Had a Gryphon, by Vikki VanSickle, illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Recommended for: ages 3–7
When Sam gets bored by her pet hamster, she starts to imagine all kinds of possible pets. With great illustrations, this is a fun introduction to mythological creatures that reminds kids that hamsters have a lot of advantages. —M.L.
Oh No, George!, by Chris Haughton
Recommended for: ages 3–7, especially preschoolers learning to self-regulate and follow rules
George is a dog who tries so hard to be good, but he just can’t seem to get it right. George’s sincerity, and his owner’s patient reaction, are comforting for kids at an age where learning to do the right thing is frequently met with near misses. —N.G.
One Family, by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gomez
Recommended for: ages 3–7
Books about different kinds of families are nothing new, but the diversity in One Family makes it a standout. Large families, multiracial families, LGBTQ families, and other families that extend beyond the typical nuclear family are all represented. —N.G.
Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
Recommended for: ages 3–7, especially kids learning about diversity, accepting others, and friendship
Few books broach the subject of diversity as thoughtfully as Strictly No Elephants. Readers empathize with the boy and girl turned away from Pet Club for their unorthodox pets (a tiny elephant and a skunk) and come to understand the importance of a club that welcomes everyone. —N.G.
Interstellar Cinderella, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt
Recommended for: ages 3–7, especially fans of science fiction, robots, and outer space
Interstellar Cinderella is a retelling of the classic fairy tale with added robots and rocket ships. Interstellar Cinderella is a heroine that young children, especially girls interested in science, can look up to. Recommended for families that have worn out their copy of Rosie Revere, Engineer. —L.R.
Featuring a pink-haired heroine with a knack for mechanics and a robot mouse friend, Interstellar Cinderella has beautiful illustrations and a well-written rhyme scheme perfect for sharing out loud. —N.G.
Two Is Enough, by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
Recommended for: ages 3–7
A sweet look at four different two-person families, written in charming verse, through the seasons. Very satisfying for children who need a quiet cuddle. —M.L.
Hooray for Hat, by Brian Won
Recommended for: ages 4–7
Full of cheer and fun, this book is a great celebration of friendship. —M.L.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Recommended for: ages 4–7, especially boys who like playing dress-up and other kids who are a little outside the box
Not a lot of children’s books tackle the issue of gender identity. This one does it in such a subtle, gentle way. Morris is teased and bullied for his love of a tangerine dress-up dress, but he is a resilient child whose mother embraces him for who he is. It’s pretty special and wonderful. —L.R. (Read a discussion between the authors of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress and the LGBTQ classic Heather Has Two Mommies.)
Leo: a Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Recommended for: ages 4–8, especially kids who are a little afraid of ghosts
Leo is sweet, kind, and a ghost. His desire to find a friend will resonate with everyone. The illustrations are so charming, and Leo so earnest, that you can’t help but fall in love. —L.R.
Monster Trouble!, by Lane Fredrickson, illustrated by Michael Robertson
Recommended for: ages 4–8
Winifred Schnitzel is not afraid of the monsters that interrupt her bedtime, but she does need to catch up on her sleep! This any-time read is light-hearted and silly as families discover how Winifred prevents the monsters from bothering her any more. —M.L.
Sonya’s Chickens, by Phoebe Wahl
Recommended for: ages 5–7, especially kids grappling with understanding loss
Beautifully illustrated, this is the story of a young girl who loves caring for her chickens. When a fox gets into the hen house, Sonya’s dad thoughtfully explains what happened to her chicken, providing her and the reader with a gentle introduction to death. —M.L.
A gentle and compassionate explanation of the circle of life. It presents the fox as a mother caring for her family, just as Sonya cared for her chickens. —N.G.
The Three Ninja Pigs, by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat
Recommended for: ages 5–8
Great for older picture book readers, this retelling of the Three Little Pigs is full of excitement and action. The pigs learn the importance of finishing their martial-arts training—just in time to defend themselves from that notorious wolf. —M.L.
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety, by Dawn Huebner, illustrated by Bonnie Matthews
Recommended for: ages 5–12 (but I’ve found it useful too!)
This workbook explains anxiety to children using analogies they can understand, and helps them develop techniques to fight it. One of the best books out there to help kids with worry and fear—and it works for grown-ups, too. —L.R.
Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Gerard DuBois
Recommended for: ages 8–12
Rosenstock brings a lot of warmth to the story of how one of the pre-eminent photographers of the Great Depression started documenting the faces of America. —M.L.
Nikki Glassley is children’s services librarian at the Trafalgar Branch of the Johnson County Public Library in Trafalgar, Indiana. Margaret Levine is a children’s librarian in Boston. Lindsey Recka is a children’s and YA librarian at Topsfield Town Library in Topsfield, Massachusetts.