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Our Favorite Children's Books of 2021

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

At our house, we read A LOT of children's books. As a fun way to wrap-up 2021, we want to share some of our favorite books from the past 12 months with you. This year, we've listed a variety of categories and included everything from board books to chapter books, so feel free to skim the list and see if any appeal to your family. We hope you enjoy!

Our Favorite Board Books

Barnyard Boogie by Tim McCanna

Barnyard Boogie!

Author: Tim McCanna

Illustrator: Allison Black

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed (2017)

Recommended Ages: 0+

Book Description: The barnyard band is performing today, and each animal is bringing a different instrument to the performance...except cow. What can cow bring to the band?

Why We Love It:

  • Upbeat rhythm and rhyme

  • Introduces the youngest readers to farm animals and musical instruments

  • Great use of onomatopoeia to mimic the sounds of the instruments

Tap The Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap The Magic Tree

By: Christie Matheson

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (2013)

Recommended Ages: 0+

Book Description: There's magic in this bare brown tree. Tap it once. Turn the page to see. Simple reader actions help to transform a tree from one season to the next.

Why We Love It:

  • Introduces the concept of seasons

  • Covers every season, so it's a great year-round read

  • Short, rhyming text and brilliantly simple illustrations that are perfect for the youngest readers

  • Interactive text encourages participation in the story


Our Favorite Classic

Avery has been going through a Dr. Seuss phase lately, so we've been reading tons of his books. This one is hard to beat:

The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss

The Cat In The Hat

By: Dr. Seuss

Publisher: Random House (1957; 1985)

Recommended Ages: 3+

Book Description: A crazy cat in a tall, striped hat visits two kids on a dreary day and shows them how to have all sorts of wacky fun...and make a big mess!

Why We Love It:

  • Perfect mix of zany and realistic fun

  • Encourages kids to exercise their imaginations even when they're stuck inside

  • Despite its lengthy text, it's a relatively quick read and is less of a tongue-twister than many other Dr. Seuss books. Eric appreciates that! 😊


Our Favorite New Release

Except Antarctica!

By: Todd Sturgell

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore (2021)

Recommended Ages: 2+

Book Description: Turtles are found on every continent...except Antarctica. But not for long! In this silly nature documentary gone wrong, discover what happens when a ragtag group of determined animals forge ahead to a place unknown...and find out exactly what to do when they get there!

Why We Love It:

  • Informational, funny, and silly at the same time

  • Ending is very clever and fitting

  • Includes facts about each animal character, Antarctica, and even climate change


Our Favorite New Sibling Book

We read a lot of "new sibling" books this year in preparation for Nolan's arrival. This one was our favorite by far:

Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Little Miss, Big Sis

Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (2015)

Recommended Ages: 2+

Book Description: A young girl anticipates the momentous arrival of her sibling...and then experiences the wonders of being a big sis.

Why We Love It:

  • Simple, minimalistic text and illustrations

  • Perfectly captures the nerves and excitement associated with welcoming a new sibling

  • Realistically portrays both the positive and negative (but mostly positive) aspects of having a younger sibling


Our Favorite Dinosaur Book

Avery LOVES dinosaurs, so we have read tons of dinosaur books this year. This is one of our absolute favorites:

Let's Investigate with Nate: Dinosaurs by Nate Ball

Let's Investigate with Nate: Dinosaurs

Author: Nate Ball

Illustrator: Wes Hargis

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (2018)

Recommended Ages: 4+

Book Description: Every Saturday morning before the science museum opens to the public, it serves as a magical portal to other worlds and time periods. Each week, museum worker Nate Ball gets to explore these other worlds and time periods with four bright and curious students. In this book, they are exploring the Mesozoic Era and learning all about dinosaurs as they try to return a lost baby dinosaur to its rightful time period and habitat.

Why We Love It:

  • Packed with facts about dinosaurs and the time periods comprising the Mesozoic Era

  • Includes instructions for hands-on science experiments as well as discussion questions

  • Part of a series of books that puts a creative and fun spin on learning science topics, to include the water cycle, life cycle, and solar system

*Note: These books have a lot of text that is jam-packed with advanced information, so they are not for the faint of heart. 😃


Our Favorite Series

Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson

Too Many Carrots

By: Katy Hudson

Publisher: Capstone (2016-2020)

Recommended Ages: 2+

Series Description: Follow along with Rabbit, Beaver, Squirrel, Bird, and Tortoise as they learn how to share, let go of perfection, remain open-minded, maintain a positive attitude, and value friendship in this adorable series of seasonally-inspired books.

Other Books In The Series:

Why We Love It:

  • Each book features a different main character, and each main character has a unique personality, story, and lesson that they learn.

  • Every book emphasizes friendship over personal possessions or accomplishments.

  • There is a book for every season of the year.

  • The illustrations are stunning!


Jodi's Pick

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry

Swashby and the Sea

Author: Beth Ferry

Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal

Publisher: Clarion Books (2020)

Recommended Ages: 3+

Book Description: Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them. When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

Why We Love It:

  • Text is lovely and poetic even though it doesn't rhyme

  • Juxtaposition of the main characters creates great tension and drama

  • The way the sea comes to life and "fiddles" with Captain Swashby's sand messages is playful and fun

  • Reminds the reader to stay open-minded to new friendships


Avery's Pick / Our Favorite Early Readers

Dinosaur Train Early Reader Book: Buddy and Pals

Buddy and Pals

By: Maggie Testa

Publisher: Simon Spotlight (2017)

Recommended Ages: 2+

Book Description: This book introduces the main Dinosaur Train characters, where they live, and the adventures they take while riding on the train.

Why We Love It:

  • It's all about dinosaurs AND trains!

  • It gets Avery excited about reading!

  • Short, simple, repetitive text gives Avery confidence and a sense of accomplishment when reading

  • Includes bonus dinosaur data and discussion questions

***Bonus: Dinosaur Train is also a television show on PBS Kids, so there are TV episodes and movies to go with these books. The show is educational and appropriate for young kids.

Dinosaur Train Early Reader Book: Train Ride Fun!

Train Ride Fun!

By: Maggie Testa

Publisher: Simon Spotlight (2018)

Recommended Ages: 2+

Book Description: This book introduces two of the main Dinosaur Train characters and follows them on a short adventure on the train.

Why We Love It:

  • Did I mention that Avery loves Dinosaur Train? 😃

  • Includes bonus information about how steam engines work as well as discussion questions


Our Favorite Self-Published Book

A Day To Stay Home by Johanna Halley and Janae Seabloom

A Day To Stay Home

By: Johanna Halley & Janae Seabloom

Illustrated By: Hannah Grace Smith

Publisher: Hannah Bloom Books (2020)

Recommended Age: 2+

Book Description: Join a little girl and her family and discover the adventure of staying home together.

Why We Love It:

  • Reminds the reader of the simple joy of using their imagination

  • Includes a variety of scenarios that cater to many child's interests, including a tea party, rocket ship, castle, racecar, etc.

  • Perfect for winter days, bad weather days, or any day you're stuck at home (which can be a lot of days during a pandemic...)


Our Favorite Christmas Book

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Red & Lulu

By: Matt Tavares

Publisher: Candlewick Press (2017)

Recommended Age: 2+

Book Description: Red and Lulu are a pair of cardinals who make their nest in a particularly beautiful and cozy evergreen tree. But then one day, their tree is taken away, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it's just the season for miracles.

Why We Love It:

  • Heartfelt story full of touching moments and Christmas cheer

  • Spectacular illustrations and pacing

  • Avery has always been fond of cardinals. In fact, "cardinal" was one of the first words she ever said. (Amazing, right?!) So, we love reading books about cardinals, and this one is a winner!


Our Favorite Illustrated Chapter Book

We have only just begun to read chapter books. So far, we have read 2, and this was Avery's favorite. She liked it so much that we read it in about 3 days!

Detective Gordon: The First Case

Written By: Ulf Nilsson

Illustrated By: Gitte Spee

Publisher: Gecko Press (2015)

Recommended Age: 4+

Book Description: Someone's stealing nuts from the forest, and it's up to Detective Gordon to catch the thief! Unfortunately, solving this crime means standing in the snow and waiting for a long time.... If only he had an assistant―someone small, fast, and clever―to help solve this terrible case. A brilliant detective story by one of Sweden's top children's writers and illustrated in full color throughout. A book to read alone or aloud!

Why We Love It:

  • Short chapters and frequent, full-color illustrations make it an easy read for those just beginning chapter books

  • Element of mystery kept us coming back for more

***Bonus: It's part of a 4-book series. We'll definitely be checking the others out soon!


More Favorites

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor

Mel Fell

By: Corey R. Tabor

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (2021)

Recommended Age: 2+

Book Description: Turn the book sideways and upside down to follow Mel on her journey from downward fall to triumphant flight in this tale of self-confidence and taking a leap of faith.

Why We Love It:

  • Turning the book makes reading an interactive experience

  • Story is simple yet very creative

  • Details in the illustrations add humor to the story

  • Great message

Let's All Creep Through Crocodile Creek by Jonny Lambert

Let's All Creep Through Crocodile Creek

By: Jonny Lambert

Publisher: Tiger Tales (2019)

Recommended Age: 2+

Book Description: Mouse, Rabbit, and Shelly the tortoise are heading home when they decide to take a shortcut through the creepy, crooked creek. “Isn’t that where the crocodiles live?” asks Rabbit nervously. Mouse reassures Rabbit that he’s never seen a crocodile there. As the friends journey through the creek, they encounter a lumpy, bumpy "bridge," scritchy, scratchy "thorns," and swingy, springy "vines." Watch out for the hidden crocodiles at every turn!

Why We Love It:

  • Silly story with a perfect ending

  • Text has lyrical elements without actually rhyming

  • Finding the "hidden" crocodiles is fun for kids and makes them feel smarter than the book's characters

Boxitects by Kim Smith


By: Kim Smith

Publisher: Clarion Books (2020)

Recommended Age: 3+

Book Description: Meg is a boxitect. She loves building extraordinary things out of ordinary cardboard boxes and impressing her Maker School classmates with what she creates. But then...Simone comes to school. Simone is a boxitect too, and she is already creating things that even Meg has never dreamed of. Will Meg and Simone find a way to push past their rivalry and join creative forces?

Why We Love It:

  • Encourages kids to be "makers" and build things with their own hands

  • Promotes creativity, resourceful play, and teamwork

  • Emphasizes friendship over winning

  • Includes instructions for 3 "boxitect" activities


I'd love to keep going...really. There are so many good children's books out there. However, this cute little peanut has other plans for me today...😃

So, on that note, we sincerely hope that you enjoy these books as much as we have! To receive monthly book recommendations, you can always sign-up for my newsletter at the bottom of this page. Otherwise, if you have any children's book recommendations for us, please type them in the comments below. We are ALWAYS looking for fun new books to read! 😊

Happy holidays (and happy reading) from our family to yours!

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