Gift Guide – 100 Best Books for Kids of All Ages

Books are the BEST gifts! I love giving books and I love when my kids receive books. The hardest part about giving books as a gift is choosing something that the child hasn’t already read or received. There are the beloved classics, like Good Night, Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are for young kids. And so many kids have already read through the Harry Potter or Little House on the Prairie series. Nobody giving a book as a gift wants to hear, “Oh, I already have this one!” I’ve created a list of the 100 best books for kids that might be off your radar. Perhaps you’ve heard of these titles or maybe even read them as a child yourself but it will be a new discovery for the little ones in your life!

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Gift guide to the best books for kids, including a bunch you've never heard of!

Choosing the “Best Books for Kids”

A few years ago my eldest son got stuck on reading a comic book series. Again. And again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the series. There are some that will say to let kids read whatever interests them because at least they’re reading. However, I liken some books to “junk food”.  Sure, they’re light and easy to read. They go down easy. But then, where’s the substance? What are you reading that’s making you learn or grow? We all enjoy a little junk food but if that’s all your diet is, you’ll need to round it out with MORE.

Not every book has to be life-changing but finding books that literally move your child and make them think, those are the diamonds in the rough!

I took my son to the bookstore and showed him a few of my favorite books that I knew he’d enjoy. He started on the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen and was completely absorbed with the story. I was able to say, “Told you so!!” As a result he’s been taking bigger stretches on his book choices.

Each of the books suggested are my family favorites. They have been read and owned by my own children, stand the test of time and are age-appropriate. I’ve also included BONUS BOOKS that were suggested by friends as their family favorites!

Gift guide to the best books for kids, including a bunch you've never heard of!

Best Books for Babies and Toddlers

I’ve been reading to my kids since they were newborns. Text can be minimal to allow you to riff off the pictures and simply talk to your little one and make up your own story. Or choose a book with a fun rhyme that will help your toddler pick up words and rhythm. I always choose sturdy board books for babies and toddlers.
Look, Look! – The black and white contrasts with minimal text, making this perfect for newborns.

Jamberry – One of my very favorites, with tons of detail and wonderful read-aloud rhyme.

 

Time for Bed -A bedtime book (or two, or three!) is a baby and toddler must. This one is gentle and sweet.

More Great Books for Babies & Toddlers

Good Night, Gorilla

The Napping House

Dinosaurumpus!

First 100 Board Book Box Set

A Porcupine Named Fluffy

Say Goodnight

Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book

Bonus Books for Babies and Toddlers

Corduroy

Giraffes Can’t Dance

God Gave Us You

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean!

On the Night You Were Born

My Heart Is Like a Zoo

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Bear’s Busy Family

Big Red Barn

Snuggle Puppy!

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

Cheep! Cheep!


Read-Aloud Books for Preschoolers

Preschoolers love to cuddle up and read together. They are looking for “more to the story” at this age though a fun read-aloud with fantastic pictures and rhyme is always welcome too!

When The Wind Stops – For that preschooler who wants to know, “Why?”, this book about days and seasons and beginnings and endings is gorgeous and perfect.

“The Way I Feel” Library – My mother-in-law bought these for my eldest son when he was young. They were such a Godsend when he was struggling with emotions. We’d snuggle together, read and discuss. I’ve kept them in our library for the other kids too, they are such important books.

Beatrix Potter the Complete Tales – So you may have read Peter Rabbit before, but what about Jeremy Fisher, The Tailor of Gloucester and my favorite, the Tale of Two Bad Mice? These soft illustrations and story lines are ideal for preschoolers (Wow, do those little animals get into mischief, kids LOVE that!)

Other Books We Love for Preschoolers

The Book with No Pictures

My Book About Me

Miss Suzy

Read With Dick and Jane – Jump & Run

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Quick As a Cricket

Mix It Up!

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business

Llama Llama’s Little Library

Mother Mother I Want Another

Bonus Books for Preschoolers (suggested by family & friends)

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Good Night, Little Dragons

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Madeline

Dragons Love Tacos

I Love You, Stinky Face

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!

Press Here

Thelma the Unicorn

The Prince Won’t Go to Bed!

The Day the Crayons Quit

Skippyjon Jones


Great Books for Beginning Readers

Beginning readers tend to waffle between wanting to read a little and still wanting to be read to. I’m suggesting a mix of beginning chapter books, longer read-together chapter books and picture books. Many beginning readers still find pictures very important to the story experience.

Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon – This was the first read-aloud chapter book I read to my boys. It’s a fantastic story of imagination, wit and creativity. My kids have read it alone to themselves again when they were solid readers.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch – My youngest son pulled this off the shelf recently and his teenage brother gushed, “I LOVE that book!” The sentiment about seeing & caring for others is sweet (even when it’s not Valentine’s Day).

 

 

 

Mr. Putter & Tabby series – I can admit it. Whenever we get a new Mr. Putter and Tabby book I’m on the edge of my seat with excitement about what silliness will happen with this creaky old man and his elderly cat. They are so fun to read (and how many books for little kids celebrate the elderly?!)

Other Wonderful Books for Beginning Readers

Miss Twiggley’s Tree

Badger’s Parting Gifts

Johnny Appleseed

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury

Good Night, Good Knight

Wolf Story

The Little House

When Dinosaurs Came with Everything

Henry and Mudge Ready-to-Read Collection

 

Bonus Books for Beginning Readers (suggested by family & friends)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Complete Series

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Iggy Peck, Architect

The Lorax

Leo the Late Bloomer

How I Became a Pirate

In the Night Kitchen

The Stranger

Junkyard Wonders

Galactic Hot Dogs Collection

The Last Kids on Earth


Engaging Books for Elementary

Elementary aged kids enjoy a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction must to have engaging photos and interesting text that’s easy to comprehend.

All-of-a-Kind Family – One of my most favorite book series as a child, I devoured these stories about 5 diverse sisters living in NYC at the turn of the century. So much charm and spunk, you’ll love each character (it also is a fantastic series about Jewish culture and holidays).

 

DK Eyewitness Books – There’s a DK Eyewitness book for just about every topic on Earth!! Seriously, if your child has an interest in something whether it be Castles in Ireland, Sportfishing, Elephanits, Astronomy or the American Revolution, you can find it. And they’ll love these amazingly detailed books with tons of images.

 

 

My Side of the Mountain Trilogy- I never knew there was more than one book after My Side of the Mountain, but my son found them and was so absorbed by the continued story line. My Side of the Mountain is followed up by On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain.

More Great Books for Beginning Readers

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

The Disney Book

Ella Enchanted

The Way Things Work Now

Barefoot Books World Atlas

Look-Alikes: The More You Look, the More You See!

A Street Through Time

Bunnicula in a Box

Bonus Books for Elementary (suggested by family & friends)

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done

Smile and Sisters: The Box Set

Nancy Drew Diaries Supersleuth Collection: Curse of the Arctic Star; Strangers on a Train; Mystery of the Midnight Rider; Once Upon a Thriller; … Clue at Black Creek Farm; A Script for Danger

Absolutely Almost

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog (Hank the Cowdog (Quality))

Peter and the Starcatchers


Upper Ages

Kids reading in the upper age category crave compelling story lines that transport them to a different part of the world, an old (or future) era or a completely new realm. I tried to choose titles that my own tween/teens didn’t read with their class at school.

The Cay – I read and reread this book a dozen times growing up. I just loved the story of this castaway boy and the man he’s been lost at sea with.

The Gary Paulsen Collection – I’d read Hatchet (the first in this collection) and had recommended it to my son. He’s since read the entire collection in the series as well as many other Gary Paulsen stories.

 

 

 

Rebecca – This is a classic but unlikely that your teen has ever read or even heard of it. Filled with intrigue, mystery and secrets, it’s a page-turner!

 

Other Must-Read Books for Upper Ages

Cabin on Trouble Creek

Warriors Box Set: Volumes 1 to 6: The Complete First Series

Julie of the Wolves

The Ranger’s Apprentice Collection

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

Kingdom Keepers Boxed Set

Bonus Books for Upper Ages (suggested by family & friends)

 

Brotherband Chronicles (7 Book Series)

Inheritance Cycle 4-Book Paperback Boxed Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, In)

I Survived Collector’s Toolbox

Masterminds

The Lunar Chronicles Boxed Set: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter