The 20 Best Books for Children

Literati, the fastest-growing book club for kids, delivers five handpicked books right to your doorstep each month. These are the books Literati members loved the most.

Childhood isn’t just the time in life when you learn to read. It’s the time when you learn to reread. You don’t have to be Proust to figure out that it’s rereading that our kids remember—not flipping to the end of a book to find out what happens but lingering over every page with mom and dad for the millionth time, singing along, pulling book tabs to light up the stars in the sky. A favorite book becomes part of the family.

In 2016, a children’s bookseller based in Austin, Texas, had a revolutionary idea: If you want to find the best books for kids, give them books to read at home. See which ones they can’t live without and send the rest back. Only keep the books your kids love and read again and again. Read bedtime stories at bedtime, not in the aisle of a crowded store, and stories about bugs in your backyard, in the company of ants and dragonflies. Read stories about your mischievous pets in your favorite armchair with them curled docilely at your feet, waiting for the perfect chance to lick your toes.

For the first time, Literati is pulling back the curtain to share the twenty best children’s books it’s ever done. Based on three years of data, these are the books with the highest keep rates—the books kids were too busy reading to bother putting back in the box. Not coincidentally, each book that made the list consistently sparks conversation, imagination and creativity. Some are full of humor, some eye-popping illustrations. Some make you cry a little bit at the end. They’re the kinds of books you’ll be glad to welcome to the family.

The 5 Best Books for Babies

Never Touch a Dinosaur, by Make Believe Ideas, Ltd.                 

Dinosaurs pop off every page in one of the most inventive board books of all time. Full of silly rhymes and sillier textures, Never Touch a Dinosaur is a Choose Your Own Adventure for the infant senses, a book that proves reading is as much about playing and laughing as it is about sounding out words.

What a Wonderful World,by Bob Thiele, George David Weiss and Tim Hopgood

The bright mixed media collages of illustrator Tim Hopgood present a world of hopefulness set to Louis Armstrong’s iconic and beloved tune. With perfect pacing for little ones, we dare you not to sing along. Also, it’s sold over a million copies. Need we say more?

Light Up the Stars, by Gabriele Clima                               

What better way to end the day than to dream about tomorrow? With one finger, use the sliding pull-tabs to make a rainbow shimmer across the sky, and with another turn on every light in the city. When nighttime comes again, shut the eyes of the child on the last page, light the stars, and see what tomorrow brings.

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep,by Katrina Charman

The nursery  song Baa Baa Black Sheep gets a makeover with rollicking refrains about planes, trains, and automobiles. The familiar melody coupled with bold illustrations make for your little driver’s next favorite bedtime read. Buckle up. Next thing you know your that baby in your arms is going to be taking driver’s ed.

The Five Senses, by iKids

This may be a book aimed at very young children, but it’s advice we should all be heeding: “Taste a raindrop … feel the warm earth beneath your bare feet … splash in the water of bubbly creeks.” Made from recycled paper and eco-friendly ink, there are even tips for caring for the environment.

Five Best Books for Preschoolers

The Spiffiest Giant in Town, by Julia Donaldson

We all know not to judge a book by its cover. But would you judge a giant by how he dresses? When our giant friend George is transformed from the scruffiest to the spiffiest giant in town, he learns that clothes aren’t just for wearing. A nice shiny shoe could be a new mouse’s house! Or a white shirt could help Goat sail his boat! Follow Giant George as he discovers that being kind and helping your friends is more important than being spiffy.

All Better!, by Henning Löhlein

How do you heal a splinter or scratch? Join five animals on their misadventures and figure out how to make each of them feel better. Bring your own compassion, but the bandages (repositionable stickers) are included.

Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev

A boy has a one-of-a-kind pet: a tiny elephant! Although they’re the best of friends, the pet club says, “strictly NO elephants!” In a brilliant move of solidarity, the little boy hosts his own inclusive pet club, and attracts a menagerie of other outstanding pets.

Wipe-Clean Dinosaur Activities, by Kirsteen Robson

An interactive book of JURASSIC proportions. Using your special wipe-clean pen, fill in the blanks and connect the dots to learn about the many different kinds of dinosaurs and their habitats Bonus points for challenging young readers with proper species names! Once you’ve finished, wipe down the pages and the fun starts all over again—just watch out for the asteroid this time.

Peek Inside Nighttime, by Anna Milbourne & Simona Dimitri

In this nocturnal installment from Usborne, young readers get to lift flaps, peek through holes, and investigate for themselves what happens after night falls. Who’s asleep, and who’s just waking up? What do you know about glow worms, bats, and owls? Discover together the secrets of the night.

Five Best Books for Kindergartners

Do Onto Otters, by Laurie Keller

We follow a simple rule here at Literati: do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you. Using this simple play on words, author and illustrator Laurie Keller launches into a zany comedy of manners about treating others—otters, that is—as you would like to be treated. Keller’s playful illustrations pop off the page, and the humor will appeal to the young and the young at heart.

What’s So Funny? A Diary With 100 Jokes, by Peaceable Kingdom

What’s So Funny? is a diary with 100 killer jokes, but they’re secret! Have you heard the joke about a skunk? We can’t tell you. (It stinks.) The diary comes with a state-of-the-art lock and key, but only a magic pen light will reveal the punchlines. Keep your child laughing while giving them a private space to explore and create jokes of their own.

Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts

Jeremy dreams of owning a pair of expensive shoes that all the other boys in his class have, but his grandmother can’t afford to buy them for him. Poignant and probing, the refreshing realism offered by Those Shoesteaches young readers that the things you have are often worth far more than the things you want.

Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, by Stacy McAnulty

Beloved children’s author and former Daily Showcorrespondent Stacy McAnulty has outdone herself with this latest comic masterpiece for children: a lively, vibrant and hilariously illustrated story of Earth’s origins, as narrated by…you guessed it, planet Earth. A refreshing, surprising and genuinely hopeful take on the world we call home.

Circus Ship, by Chris Van Dusen

Literati favorite Chris Van Dusen weaves an endearing story of unexpected friendship and solidarity told entirely in alliterative rhyme. Winsome visuals and thoughtful storytelling will give the Ringling Bros. a run for its money.

Best Books for Second Graders

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab, by Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith

With their parents away, Nick and Tesla are left in the care of their mad scientist uncle. Inspired, they build a rocket to embark on a hair-raising adventure. With illustrations that echo graphic novels, High Voltageis designed to inspire children about science, and gives ‘interactive’ a new meaning as readers are invited to do DIY science projects.

The Infinite Ratsos, by Kara LaReau & Matt Myers

The Ratso brothers want to be tough like their father so they try their hand at “being mean” and spreading trouble—but each time it backfires and they inadvertently end up doing good deeds. A genuinely moving tribute to the importance of being kind.

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts, by Maja Säfström

Did you know that alligators swallow stones? Or that a group of flies is called a business? In these 100 artfully illustrated, carefully curated pages of animal fun facts, you’ll learn all this and more.

Heartwood Hotel, by Kallie George

They say home is where the heart is, but not so for Mona the mouse who has never had a home. So begins Heartwood Hotel, the story of an orphaned mouse who stumbles upon a hotel in a tree trunk. Will it be her home for long? Charming characters populate George’s tale of perseverance, courage, and the importance of friendship.

Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals, by Workman Publishing

If your Sage hasn’t tried the “Paint By Sticker” phenomenon, a stickering extravaganza awaits. Create ten different zoo animals with this edition. Easily tear out the pages to put completed artwork on display. Did we mention no mess? Try before you buy with the enclosed sample page and accompanying stickers.