The Best Preschool and Family Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well


Welcome to the seventh annual best “books to give to kids you don’t know” round-up [links to the previous six years  are available here].

If you don’t recall how we play this game, let me give you a refresher.

Every year librarians and booksellers are challenged with requests such as:

“I need a book for my five-year-old niece who I only see once a year.”

“I always like to give books but now that the kids are voracious readers, I can’t keep up with what they have already read.”

“I want to give a book but this kid isn’t really a reader.”

We accept this challenge, nay we welcome the opportunity to show off our expertise and vast reading insight. Let the games begin.

Please join in. Tell us your favorite recommendations in the comments section below. Remember, titles should meet the criteria of being sure-fire for reluctant as well as voracious readers. To avoid books that are already owned by kids in the latter category, they should be published this year and be less well-known or sleepers (it kills us, but that requirement means we did not include Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous new picture book, The Tortoise & the Hare).

This post contains titles for the youngest; see the next post for more picture books.

For Families with Toddlers or New Babies

Giggle!Giggle , Caroline Jayne Church (Scholastic)

This interactive board book is complete with a giggle button that is sure to cascade little ones and their grown ups into fits of delight.



Hush Little Polar BearHush Little Polar Bear, Jeff Mack, (Macmillan/Roaring Brook)

A board book reissue of the perfect bedtime story told in gentle rhythm and rhyme. “Hush little polar bear, sleep in the snow, dream of the places where sleeping bears go” will remind readers of the lullaby “Hush Little Baby.” It is irrisistably singable too.

For Twos, Threes, and Fours

Charley Harper's ABCsKnow any hipsters with preschoolers? Ammo Press has produced the lovely Charley Harper’s ABCs by Gloria Fowler with striking graphic mid-century modern images of birds, insects and mammals created by one of the fathers of modern design. (NOTE: Harper’s work was the inspiration for our EarlyWord bird. We wanted to ask him to design our bird, but he passed away a few months before EarlyWord began. In tribute, we named our bird Charley).

Below is a video of Charley Harper talking about his silk screen technique.

Animal OppositesAnimal Opposites, Petr Horacek, (Candlewick, ages 3 and up)
This pop-up concept book by award winning illustrator Horacek contrasts big/ little, slow/fast, heavy/light as well as more complicated opposites like smooth/prickly with lift-the-flap surprises and pop-up wonders.

Turn the pages, lift the flaps and see animals of all shapes and sizes bring to life the world of opposites. From slow snail to fast cheetah, heavy hippo to light butterfly, smooth frog to prickly porcupine, Petr Horacek’s pop-up animals encourage early literacy, language and communication. With its amusing illustrations and interactive pages – learning has never been so much fun!

See how it works here:

.Frog Trouble

Frog Trouble: . . . And Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs, Sandra Boynton, (Workman)

Taking advantage of the rule that rules are made to be broken, I’m including this title, even though Sandra Boynton hardly fits the “sleeper” criteria. There will never be enough awards for this rockstar of rhythm, rhyme and repetition. This  joyous, toe-tapping collection of original songs includes a CD sung by Mark Lanegan (yes, of Queens of the Stone Age) Josh Turner, Fountains of Wayne, Ryan Adams, Linda Eder, and quickly rising country star Kacey Musgraves — all accompanied by Nashville’s finest instrumentalists.

Here is Dwight Yoakam singing, I’ve Got a Dog:

Continues on next post

One Response to “The Best Preschool and Family Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well”

  1. Preschools in O'Fallon MO Says:

    Thanks for sharing these books with us. I am pretty sure that these books will help many people who want to give books to kids. And I also think that all kids who get these books will enjoy reading them.