We have four children between us and each and every one has their own vision of what their “perfect” book would be. Some days, they’re avid readers – gobbling down pages as fast as they can. But other days, we can barely get them to read anything.
This is where our idea for this list came from – we all like different things, so our at-home libraries should be full of diversity. From non-fiction to fiction, from animals to fairies, if we open their eyes to a little bit of everything, they will eventually find their niche.
Just so you know, most of these books are already in our home library, but a few titles were sent to us to review.
Best Books For Reluctant Readers
These books are best suited for the 7-9 crowd. Some are familiar favorites, whereas others are a little more unknown...and that's why we like them.
My daughter has always been intrigued by anything having to do with France. She dreams of visiting The Eiffel Tower, learning to speak French and someday living in Paris. When I heard about The Valentine Children’s Summer Adventures by Dianne Sibéal Donahoe, I knew this would be the perfect book for her. The author magically tells a tale about a family and their pets and artfully introduces readers to a variety of French words throughout the book. I cannot wait to see the look on my daughter's face when she finds this under the tree this year! (Daniele)
About this book: Learning a new language can be such a difficult process that many parents and educators wouldn't attempt teaching a child. Dianne Sibéal Donahoe seeks to change this, using a group of siblings and their pets. In this book, Dianne Sibéal Donahoe introduces more than 120 French words to young readers through a story of exploration, imagination and friendship. In this beautifully illustrated story, the Valentine children learn about the importance of being kind to animals of all types.
Every evening when my husband returns from work, my children ask him about his adventures in the Big City. For as long as they remember, their father has been telling them very tall tales about life and work in New York City. I knew both my son and daughter would love The Central Park tales the second I picked it up. My kids love hearing about the adventurous group of animals living together in the middle of Central Park. (Daniele)
About this book: Marcus Meesters captures this magic in his newest children’s book, The Central Park Tales. Reminiscent of the classic books of another era and with beautiful illustrations depicting real places throughout the park, Meesters expertly narrates the adventurous tales of the animals who live in Central Park. Containing ten short stories, young readers (and adults, alike!) are introduced to Squirrel, Duck, Frog, Mousekin, and lovable dog brothers, Doctor Beggar and Mister Pup, among others, and follow along as they navigate their marvelous world – a lush, green oasis in the midst of one of the most bustling, famous cities in the world.
If your kids take better pictures and videos than you do, you might want to buy this book for them...and then borrow it when they're not looking! National Geographic Kids Guide to Photography: Tips & Tricks on How to Be a Great Photographer From the Pros by legendary National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths and children’s author Nancy Honovich is chock full of kid-friendly information covering every part of photography and photo equipment. (Denine & Daniele)
About this book: In the age of smartphones and selfies, why not learn from the pros how to take great photos to share with friends and family! Here's a fun, fact-filled, kid-friendly guide that is jam-packed with all the essentials for budding photographers. From how to set up a shot and stage the lighting and from the best software to short assignments, you'll learn all the important photographic concepts and basics of equipment, lighting aperture, lenses, depth of field, and more. This wide-ranging book also has sections devoted to composition and photographing different subjects (animals, people, sports, landscapes). Before and after shots offer visual explanations while tips and photographs from National Geographic photographers are featured throughout, making this the best photography guide out there today for children (and adult beginners too!).
We're always on the look out for new books and we came across Seaside by Wylde Scott, we knew we had found something special. Our Father was an avid fisherman and we have told our children so many glorified tales of him catching Makos, Hammerheads, and Tuna that he has become larger than life. With his penchant for flannel coats, jeans, skull caps and a crazy, white-speckled beard, our children have grown up thinking that he was something akin to Neptune and Captain Ahab, with a little bit of Blackbeard thrown in. (Denine & Daniele)
About this book: Every boy in Seaside wants to be one of Blackbeard's Boys. From the time ten year old Robert Grace O'Malley could hold his very first fishing pole, it was all he thought about. Every captain of every ship had been one, and now he was well on his way. That is, until he meets Walter, the young octopus who will change his life forever. In Seaside, Wylde Scott takes you on an exciting voyage through a fairly-tale fishing village and a pivotal moment in the life of two unexpected friends. An adventurous story perfect for young readers graduating into their first novels or parents reading their little ones to sleep, it's a book that's bound to be a staple in every family's library for years to come.
A few weeks ago, I was at the book store with my children helping them pick out books. My son had finished all of the series he had been flying through and was very indecisive about what to try next. I saw this book, Fortunately, the Milk Paperback, way high up on the shelf and brought it down for him to inspect. The cover looked good, but since Mom picked it out, he immediately boycotted it. Thinking that two can play that game, I sat on the floor and started reading it. As I burst out laughing, he quickly came over to see what was going on. I started reading aloud - and as I laughed my way through it - he started laughing - and so the book came home with us. (Denine)
About this book: Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious New York Times bestselling story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.
My husband and I grew up watching Star Wars movies and love anything having to do with them. So when our son came across this series at the book store, we were all for it. I have yet to read it myself, but he says that they're really, really funny. He also says the characters are awesome. If you have a child who loves Jedis, then pick up the Star Wars: Jedi Academy (Trilogy Box Set) and watch Roan grow as a person in this incredible, original story full of humor, frustrations and awesome illustrations. (Denine)
About this book: This set includes all three books from the NY TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES Star Wars: Jedi Academy. Created by award-winning author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown, this series is a hit for readers of all ages. Whether you're familiar with Star Wars or if you're new to the galaxy, this heartfelt and hilarious adventure follows middle grader Roan as he navigates being a Jedi and dealing with bullies, aliens, robots, and even school dances.
When we were asked to review The Princess and the Pony from web-comic superstar Kate Beaton, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the book arrived, I handed it to my daughter and she plopped down on the couch to check it out. Imagine my surprise when I heard her laughing her butt off and squealing to her brother, “Come here!! Come HEEERRREEE! Check out this fat, little pony and its crazy eyes – it’s sooooo cute. And it farts!” What? A fat pony? A farting pony? A fat, farting pony in a princess book for girls? Now this is my kind of book. If you haven't had a chance to read it yourself, you should -- The Princess and the Pony -- is a really fantastically funny addition to any home library! (Denine)
About this book: Introducing Kate Beaton, a major new picture book talent, and author/illustrator of #1 New York Times bestseller Hark! A Vagrant! Princess Pinecone knows exactly what she wants for her birthday this year. A BIG horse. A STRONG horse. A horse fit for a WARRIOR PRINCESS! But when the day arrives, she doesn't quite get the horse of her dreams. The Princess and the Pony is a laugh-out-loud story of brave warriors, big surprises, and falling in love with one unforgettable little pony.
Sometimes, your kids bring home a book and you think, "What IS that?" This is where our adventure with Rat and Pig began: a new book, found at the school's book fair. My son spied it hidden among many beautiful classics and common core goodies - he tossed them all aside and started reading. To say he's obsessed with this motley crew is an understatement. He loves them. Now, my younger daughter loves them too, although she's way more fond of the "baby" Croc who wants to be a vegetarian in The Croc Ate My Homework, which is also worth checking out! (Denine)
About this book: Now younger readers can enjoy the wit and outlandish puns in the world of Pearls Before Swine! Meet the always hilarious cast of Pearls Before Swine. Heading the cast is Rat, a mean-spirited rodent who lives with the trusting and simple-minded Pig. Their supporting cast includes the highly intellectual Goat; the meek and defenseless Zebra; and the hungry and incompetent Crocs. With cartoons specially chosen for young readers, Beginning Pearls retains the strip's signature dark humor and outlandish puns!
When my husband was a boy, he used to collect Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. He loved the little boy ad his beloved tiger so much that when we moved in together many years later, I found a whole collection of comic books hiding in a trunk in our closet. Being the bibliophile that I am, I made sure they were safely tucked away...and then forgot about them. That is until last year when our son came across his collection in our basement and eagerly took them for his own. If there is anything more enjoyable than hearing your son call out to your husband, "Dad, come quick! Do you remember when Calvin and Hobbes did this?" - I don't know what it is... (Denine)
About these books: They’re back! This eagerly awaited four-volume slipcased paperback edition of the original groundbreaking collection features the adventures of Calvin and his pet tiger, Hobbes. Calvin and Hobbes is unquestionably one of the most popular comic strips of all time. The imaginative world of a boy and his real-only-to-him tiger was first syndicated in 1985 and appeared in more than 2,400 newspapers when Bill Watterson retired on January 1, 1996. The entire body of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons published in a truly noteworthy tribute to this singular cartoon in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. Composed of three hardcover, four-color volumes in a sturdy slipcase, this New York Times best-selling edition includes all Calvin and Hobbes cartoons that ever appeared in syndication. This is the treasure that all Calvin and Hobbes fans seek.
Last year, this set made it onto our Best Books gift guide because of our two older kids. This year, it makes repeat appearance because of our two younger kids. We have all of the books in the series, including the Do-It-Yourself book, and whenever the kids are looking for something to read, they reach for on of these. Although we are not always a fan of how Greg Heffley treats his friends, we often use his actions as conversation starters about how a true friend should behave. The only one we're missing is #10: Old School - which Santa will definitely be putting under the tree this year! (Denine & Daniele)
About these books: The first eight books in the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series are now available together in a collectible boxed set. Included are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules, The Last Straw, Dog Days, The Ugly Truth, Cabin Fever, The Third Wheel, and Hard Luck,as well as the The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book, all in a specially designed package.
Right now, my son loves graphic novels and as long as he's reading, I'm happy. He came across Meet the Bigfeet (The Yeti Files #1) in the library one day and thought it was hilarious. I'm not sure if it's because the main character, Blizz, is a Yeti, or if its because Blizz surrounds himself with other cryptids like him. You know, hidden animals who have taken a powerful oath to never be seen by the outside world? Anyways, the writing is funny, the illustrations are great, and I love hearing him laugh out loud in his room while he's reading at bedtime! (Denine)
About this book: In Kevin Sherry's hilarious new illustrated series, you'll meet a wide array of weird and wacky cryptids, from goblins and Goatman to skunk apes and Sasquatch--animals that you don't believe exist. And it's up to Blizz to keep it that way!
Both of our daughters are huge fans of Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels: Smile, Sisters and, most recently, Drama. We think the girls connect with the realistic storytelling and beautifully colored pictures. Plus, these books are all about family - the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. When you're constantly being told that "family is forever" -- books like these just make sense. This special box set includes the #1 New York Times bestselling and Eisner award-winning Smile, and its companion, Sisters! Did we mentioned that it includes bonus stickers too?! (Denine & Daniele)
About these books: In Smile, Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. In Sisters, Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years. But when a baby brother enters the picture and later, when something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.
One day over the summer I decided to let my daughter explore the children's library at her own pace. I told her I was going to sit and read with her younger brother while she took the time to pick out books that she found interesting. Too often, I find myself picking out books that I "think" are perfect for her. (Ultimately, she finds them boring, babyish or just not that interesting.) As I sat at a children's table with my son watching her out of the corner of my eye, I knew instantly when she had found her idea of the "perfect" book. Her face lit up and she immediately took the book and sat down on a nearby stool to read. That perfect book was Just Grace. Little did we know that we would soon discover that there was an entire series of Just Grace books! (Daniele)
About this book: Triple the fun! The Just Grace Series Box Set includes the first three paperbacks in the popular series starring the lovable Grace Stewart and her third grade friends, together for the first time in a colorful boxed set. The collection includes: Just Grace, Still Just Grace, and Just Grace Walks the Dog. A great gift for girls just settling into chapter books! Charise Mericle Harper is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including the Just Grace series.
Many, many moons ago, I used to read The Baby-sitters Club chapter books. But back then, they weren't as cool as these new graphic novels. Adapted by Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of Smile, these modern versions are in full color and help girls get a taste of how much fun reading graphic novels can be. My daughter, at 7, is already an avid fan of anything that Raina Telgemeier puts together, so this series was an "awesome" find at the school's book fair this year. (Denine)
About this book: Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey are best friends and founding members of The Baby-sitters Club. Whatever comes up -- cranky toddlers, huge dogs, scary neighbors, prank calls -- you can count on them to save the day. Baby-sitting isn't always easy, and neither is dealing with strict parents, new families, fashion emergencies, and mysterious secrets. But no matter what, the BSC have what they need most: friendship. Raina Telgemeier, using the signature style featured in her acclaimed graphic novels Smile and Sisters, perfectly captures all the drama and humor of the original novel!
When we talk about different books for different kids, graphic novels are a great way to get kids excited about reading. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute is a ridiculously funny tale about a justice-serving lunch lady who isn't afraid to kick some butt. Our Grandmother was a lunch lady back in the day, so this book led to lots of laughs about Gramma's secret side job. If you have a child in your home who says reading isn't for them, try this one. (Denine)
About this book: Hector, Terrence, and Dee have always wondered about their school lunch lady. What does she do when she isn’t dishing out the daily special? Where does she live? Does she have a lot of cats at home? Little do they know, Lunch Lady doesn’t just serve sloppy joes—she serves justice! Whatever danger lies ahead, it’s no match for LUNCH LADY!
The Never Girls books are another series that is on heavy rotation at our house. This imaginative storyline tells about four friends that are able to travel to Neverland. I know as a child I always dreamed of going to Neverland, which is what makes this series so popular. My daughter can get lost for hours in these books. She loves reading about the adventures and mis-adventures of this seemingly ordinary group of girls.
About this book: In a blink of an eye, four best friends all get their biggest wish—they're whisked off to Never Land, home to Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. A great gift for readers ages 6-10, this attractive box contains the first four Never Girls adventures—In a Blink, The Space Between, A Dandelion Wish, and From the Mist. Kiki Thorpe spent much of her childhood reading, daydreaming, and searching for fairies in the forests of Idaho—pastimes that were good training for writing children's books. She is the author of several books for young readers, including the New York Times bestseller In a Blink, the first book in the Never Girls series. She lives with her husband, Greg, and their two children in San Francisco.
Ahhhh, to be the baby. I love my daughter to pieces, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I bought this book for her right after we had a bad case of the "gimmies" at our house! This charming illustrated chapter book, now available in paperback, is from industry legends Judith Viorst (a beloved children’s author) and Lane Smith (a Caldecott-winning illustrator)! As we read this story together, we found ourselves pausing throughout the book to discuss how Lulu was going to get out of her mess without throwing another fit. This funny tale had us smiling throughout. (Denine)
About this book: Lulu is so accustomed to getting what she wants that when her parents deny her birthday request for a brontosaurus, she throws a four-day temper tantrum and then storms off into the forest in search of the dinosaur she clearly deserves. Lulu isn’t particularly impressed with the snake, tiger, and bear she encounters, but then she finds him—a beautiful, long-necked, graceful brontosaurus. Mr. B completely agrees with Lulu that having a pet would be a wonderful thing, and Lulu thinks she’s gotten her birthday wish at last. Until she realizes that Mr. Brontosaurus thinks that she would make an ideal pet for him!
After returning home from a long business trip, my husband presented our son with this book. My son is an avid reader, and we can usually find him reading through his collection of animal books. No book is off limits, fiction, non-fiction, joke books as long as he is reading about animals he is a happy kid. Counting Lions was no exception, from the moment he opened up the book until the second he closed it, he was captivated by the amazing drawings of these endangered animals. If you have a child that loves animals as much as mine, this book is the perfect gift! (Daniele)
Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild
About this book: Exquisite charcoal drawings of ten endangered creatures—lions, elephants, giraffes, pandas, tigers, chimpanzees, penguins, turtles, macaws, and zebras—startle the viewer with their size and astonishing detail. A poetic text notes each creature’s particular qualities and behavior, while providing a quiet counting exercise and a reminder that these animals must be cherished and protected. The end pages expand upon the status of the animals, from the endangered to those less threatened. Their general habitat is noted along with information regarding the number of the species now left.
When your girls get something exquisite like The Fairy Tale Handbook and your boys don't, you better make up for it the next year. Thankfully, we came across Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs: The Definitive Pop-Up Hardcover from renowned pop-up masters Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. Full of fascinating facts and humor, this awe-inspiring books pays homage to the world's most popular dinosaurs as well as many lesser-known varieties. Each of the six spreads feature one spectacular, large pop-up as well as booklets of smaller pop-ups and text. This book will be a favorite on Christmas morning for sure! (Denine & Daniele)
About this book: Open this book and a massive T. REX springs out, flashing a startling jawful of jagged teeth. Turn the next spread and a ravishing raptor unfurls and appears to fly off the edge of the page. Inside the amazing ENCYCLOPEDIA PREHISTORICA: DINOSAURS are "shield bearers" in full-body armor, creatures with frilly headgear, and weighty, long-necked giants. There are even amusing tidbits on the history of paleontology itself — like a pop-up version of a Victorian New Year's dinner in the belly of a dinosaur model, or a pair of scientists locked in a literal tug-of-war over bones. ENCYCLOPEDIA PREHISTORICA: DINOSAURS is a magnificent display of paper engineering and creativity — an astonishing book that will be read, admired, and treasured forever.
The book Animalium made it into my animal loving son's collection last Christmas. I have to admit, it is one of my favorite books to read. From the moment you open this book it feels as if you are wandering through your own personal museum. The amazingly detailed illustrations are as beautiful as they are educational. Children of all ages will enjoy reading this unique book. (Daniele)
About this book: Welcome to the Museum is a series of books set on the "walls" of the printed page, showcasing the world’s finest collections of objects — from natural history to art. Open 365 days a year and unrestricted by the constraints of physical space, each title in this series is organized into galleries that display more than 200 full-color specimens accompanied by lively, informative text. Offering hours of learning, this first title within the series — Animalium — presents the animal kingdom in glorious detail with illustrations from Katie Scott, an unparalleled new talent.
Do you want something truly extraordinary to give to a little girl this year? Well then, buy this interactive book. The Fairy Take Handbook is one of the most beautiful books we have ever laid eyes on. With an Old World feel and all of the fairy-tale characters you can think of, this book is full of surprises at every turn of the page. It was such a hit last year, that even our boys were sitting beside their sisters eagerly turning the pages with them. (Denine & Daniele)
About this book: Explore the amazing world of favorite fairy tales in this novelty-packed guide. Includes lift-the-flap maps, miniature books, insider information on famous characters like Cinderella and the Gingerbread Man, and a closer look at more troublesome folk, including the Big Bad Wolf! With a wealth of amazing detail to pore over, fairy-tale fans will love to explore this guide again and again.
When you're the youngest, it can be hard not to develop a BIG personality (just so you can be heard), so I completely understand why my daughter gravitates to Dory Fantasmagory. As the babies, both Dory and my daughter have very energetic, lovable personalities that match their enormous imaginations. I often hear my daughter belly laughing from her room as she reads this book - over and over again. Full of plenty of pictures and charming characters, this is another great chapter-book for girls. (Denine)
About this book: As the youngest in her family, Dory really wants attention, and more than anything she wants her brother and sister to play with her. But she’s too much of a baby for them, so she’s left to her own devices—including her wild imagination and untiring energy. Her siblings may roll their eyes at her childish games, but Dory has lots of things to do: outsmarting the monsters all over the house, escaping from prison (aka time-out), and exacting revenge on her sister’s favorite doll. And when they really need her, daring Dory will prove her bravery, and finally get exactly what she has been looking for.
My daughter loves fairies, so when we stumbled across Sylva and the Fairy Ball in the library one day, she was hooked. This book features Tinker Bell’s little sisters and is a must-read for any young girl that still believes in the magic of fairies. This enchanting chapter-book series is super sweet and the fun illustrations make it a nice way to transition away from picture books. (Denine)
About this book: "Clara Bell, Golden Bell, Rosy Bell, Sylva Bell, and baby Squeak are fairy sisters who live on Sheepskerry Island. Usually Sylva and her sisters get along just fine—until the week of the Fairy Ball. Sylva has her heart set on going—she’ll get to wear magical diamond wings and walk on beautiful satin ribbons under the stars! But fairies must be at least eight years old to attend, and poor Sylva’s birthday is the day after the ball. But before the night is over, Sylva’s big sisters will need her to come to their rescue."
No they don't, cowsgo moo.
After hearing this joke for the bazillionth time, I knew we had to broaden our horizons when it came to animal jokes. This book is a family favorite, we always bring it along when we go out to dinner as a family. Telling funny animal jokes is a lot more fun that being begged for the iPad, iPhone etc. We always have a great time when we take turns asking each other jokes while we wait for our food. Once our food comes we find ourselves giggling over who had the best joke. I highly recommend this book! (Daniele)
About this book: "National Geographic Kids Just Joking Collector's Set is packed with three books of 900 silly jokes that kids love, paired with photos of laughing animals and funny people. Featuring National Geographic Kids' signature square trim size and candy-colored palette, each hilarious party-starter is perfect for tossing into a backpack to share with friends at school or camp. You can collect them all in this awesome set of three - Just Joking books from National Geographic Kids - or buy them individually. The set also includes a free poster that kids can hang in their room, locker, or anywhere they choose!"