In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Best Children's Books

Reading is a wonderful way to connect with your child, and in this review we share our absolute favorite children's books, from classics to books you may never have heard of.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
By Molly Bradac ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday July 19, 2021
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Check out the best 11 children's books of 2021 that are quality literature and bookshelf-worthy. To determine the best, we've researched the market before purchasing well-loved and most popular options to send through hands-on testing (a.k.a lots and lots of reading). We evaluated each one for elements that support developmental milestones in this age range, interactive features, book format, and much more. Let our recommendations guide you to the perfect book and help build a solid home library for your child.


Overall Best Book

Room on the Broom

Interactive: No | Author: Julia Donaldson
Rhyming lines
Board book on the smaller size

Room on the Broom is hands-down a winner. This spellbinding story of a friendly witch and her black cat on a magical broomstick ride is entertaining for younger audiences. Gusty winds blow away the witch's hat, bow, and wand, and each time she flies to the ground to search, she meets a new friend who joins the broomstick ride. Eventually, the added weight snaps the broom (eek!), causing everyone to fall to the ground where a dragon awaits. Read the book to see what happens next. This book offers poetry in a rhyming style. It is a delight to read, and it catches the attention of young and old listeners. The story also provides repetitive elements, and you may find your toddler memorizing the lines to "read" along. You can never go wrong reading any book by Julia Donaldson, and we suggest checking out The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child.

As a board book, it is more pint-size, which is fitting for little hands to hold. But, if you're planning to read this book with multiple children, you'll likely need to pass it around so everyone can see the pages. Beyond that, we cannot find any drawbacks to this book. It is hands-down a bookshelf must-have, and we recommend it to friends and family.

Room on the Broom is one of our favorite books for its catchy...
Room on the Broom is one of our favorite books for its catchy, rhyming lines, and fun story.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Book about Self-Care

The Good Egg

Interactive: No | Author: Jory John
Best for an older child

"Oh, hello! I was just rescuing this cat. Know why? Because I'm a good egg. A verrrrrry good egg." The Good Egg is a delightful story about the good egg living in an egg carton with 11 other not-so-good eggs, who seem to create trouble. Eventually, the good egg cracks under pressure and decides to leave the carton and stress behind. See if the good egg returns. We think this book is simply adorable, and the humor is funny for children and adults alike. Also, we appreciate this story's message about self-care, and even adults can take a note from it. If you like this book, check out other Jory John books, such as The Cool Bean and The Bad Seed

This book is a hit and does not have any significant downsides. We highly recommend this book and think the humor is egg-cellent.

The Good Egg provides fun illustrations and humor to teach about...
The Good Egg provides fun illustrations and humor to teach about self-care.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Bang for the Buck

Are You My Mother?

Interactive: No | Author: P.D. Eastman
Good for young children or beginner readers
Illustrations minimal

Are You My Mother? is a classic and still a favorite years later (fun fact, it was published in 1960). It's an oldie but a goodie and budget-friendly. This sweet story is about a baby bird who hatches from its egg while his mother is away, looking for food. Although he has no idea what his mother looks like, he decides to leave the nest and search. However, he finds himself in peculiar positions. Will the baby bird find his true mother? We think you'll enjoy the ending. The plot is simple and offers repetitive elements that appeal to young listeners and beginner readers. If you like this book, we think you will also enjoy Go, Dog, Go!

We think the illustrations are minimalistic but charming. We recommend this classic, budget-friendly book to families with children within the 3-5 age range.

"Are You My Mother?" is a classic and timeless book with a simple...
"Are You My Mother?" is a classic and timeless book with a simple storyline, making it great for young listeners and early readers.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Our Favorite "Power to Choose" Book

What Should Danny Do?

Interactive: Yes | Author: Ganit & Adir Levy
Choose your adventure style
longer story

Danny is a superhero in training, learning, and exercising the "power to choose." What Should Danny Do? is an innovative and powerful book that drives home the important lesson that our decisions have positive and negative consequences, and each one can reshape our day. We appreciate that this book teaches children the power of their choices, and as an interactive book, it allows children to make choices for Danny and how he reacts.

This book is longer, and there are nine possible endings. We believe this story is most suitable for older children, perhaps from 4-years-old and up.

"What Should Danny Do?" is a choose your adventure style book, an...
"What Should Danny Do?" is a choose your adventure style book, an interactive feature that children enjoy.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Humor

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Format: Hardcover Book | Author: Mo Willems
No rhyming text

We love any book by Mo Willems, and we think Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is a great read-aloud. It is comical, fun, and we are sure it will leave you and your child laughing. But, seriously, will the pigeon drive the bus? You'll have to find out.

Despite being funny, this picture book does not offer rhyming text, and if you're all about rhyming, you may want to look elsewhere. Besides that, we think this book is fantastic, and we recommend it to friends and family looking for humor. Also, maybe your early reader would like to try reading it.

In the book "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" the pigeon is...
In the book "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" the pigeon is determined and spunky, making it a great book to read-aloud.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Book for Determination


Format: Hardcover Book | Author: Oliver Jeffers

"It all began when Floyd got his kite stuck in a tree…" The picture book Stuck is well-loved, not only for its illustrations but also for its comical storyline about Floyd's determination to problem-solve. Also, the last picture of the book will make you smile.

The book's font has a handwritten style which can be slightly challenging to read. Besides this factor, we think this book is a hit. So, if you're looking for a funny picture book about a boy who is determined to problem-solve, consider Stuck.

The book "Stuck" has some cartoon illustrations that are lively and...
The book "Stuck" has some cartoon illustrations that are lively and funny.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Timeless Mouse Book

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Interactive: No | Author: Laura Numeroff
Includes a game
No rhyming lines

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is a silly book about cause and effect. So, what happens when you give a mouse a cookie? Well, the mouse will be thirsty and request milk. After that, he will need a straw. However, the cycle of requests does not stop there, and eventually, the mouse will come back to a glass of milk and another cookie.

The story does not offer rhyming lines, but we don't mind. The book's last page provides a game called "The Great Cookie Game," which is fun to play, plus it reinforces reading comprehension. We recommend this timeless book to any child within this age range.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a funny book about a mouse that...
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a funny book about a mouse that keeps making requests.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Book about Feeling Emotions

Grumpy Monkey

Interactive: No | Author: Suzanne Lang
Validate emotions
No rhyming words

Grumpy Monkey offers excellent illustrations and a tale about grumpiness. Jim Panzee (what a brilliant name) is in a terrible mood for no apparent reason. His friends have a few ideas on how to improve Jim's attitude, but, ultimately, nothing works, and Jim finally explodes with emotions. Perhaps it is a good day to feel grumpy.

This book is a great conversation starter to name and validate emotions, along with body language. Let's face it, sometimes we all feel like a grumpy monkey, and that is okay; the feeling will pass. It does not use rhyming words, which would have been a fun addition, but the story has a dash of humor. The illustrations are expressive and comical. We think this book is suitable for a 3-year-old and up.

The Grumpy Monkey sparks the conversation of emotions and emotional...
The Grumpy Monkey sparks the conversation of emotions and emotional acceptance.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Book with No Pictures

The Book with No Pictures

Interactive: Yes | Author: B.J. Novak
No illustrations may be a turn off for children

No pictures? No problem. The Book With No Pictures will indeed cause a fit of giggles. This interactive book requires the reader to say unusual words, nonsense phrases and perform outrageous things. If you find yourself in the reader's hot seat, be prepared to act goofy, be expressive, and give it your best effort.

Despite the lack of illustrations, we think this book is genius, creative, and fun for all. However, your little one may judge this book by its cover at first. Also, it may take a few reads to get the hang of it. But, this book is entertaining, and we recommend it to older children.

Can you have fun with a picture-less book? The answer is "Yes!", but...
Can you have fun with a picture-less book? The answer is "Yes!", but the real effort is on the reader who must say silly, nonsense words and phrases.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Good Classic Book

Love You Forever

Interactive: No | Author: Robert Munsch
Parent and child relationship
Story slightly odd

"I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be!" Ok, grab the tissues; Love You Forever is likely to make you teary-eyed. This sentimental story is loved by many and shares the message that no matter the age of your child, you'll love them forever.

Sure, we think parts of the story can be silly and odd at times. For instance, the Mom driving to rock her adult son to sleep is rather silly. However, for children, believing mom will rock you no matter how old you are and the concept that parents will always be there to comfort them is the take-away theme. Plus, it solidifies the point that you love them immensely no matter your child's age, and they will always be your baby.

Love You Forever is a classic book that encompasses a parents' love...
Love You Forever is a classic book that encompasses a parents' love and how it crosses generations.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Not Recommended Book

The Wonky Donkey

Format: Paperback Book | Author: Craig Smith
Silly wordplay
Best for older toddler or preschooler
Paperback not as durable

The Wonky Donkey is a quirky and silly book about a donkey, and as the story unfolds with silly wordplay and pictures, you learn more details about the donkey.

We understand why this book is popular. The silly, tongue-twister rhymes are a selling point of this book, and they are funny-sounding when you read them aloud. However, we feel the content isn't inclusive. The donkey is essentially being ridiculed for its differences, and we think the message encourages bullying behaviors and name-calling. Words are powerful. Since we believe inclusiveness, compassion, and love start early through actions and words, we think you should pass on this book, especially as there are better rhyming books on the market that do not alienate people or animals for the things that make them individuals.

If you are looking for a book about the inclusiveness of differently-abled individuals, perhaps for an older child, check out We're All Wonders. Based on the true story of Auggie Pullman, this book explores why being different isn't a bad thing.

The Wonky Donkey is not a book we recommend, especially as there are...
The Wonky Donkey is not a book we recommend, especially as there are better options.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Tip: Have fun! Get lost in a story with humor and expression, and this will show your child that reading is enjoyable.

Each book in our review was purchased and tested to see how it...
Each book in our review was purchased and tested to see how it performs and stands against the competition.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why You Should Trust Us

At BabyGearLab, we have been testing baby gear for nearly a decade, and by this point, we have developed extensive testing methods to rate and rank baby gear. Guiding this review is Senior Review Editor, Molly Bradac, who is also a Nanny with over 14 years of experience. Molly has read countless children's books over the years and can quickly identify which books are top-notch. Also, Molly was an Early Learning Specialist for AmeriCorps, where she helped developed curriculum plans and promoted school readiness by teaching in a preschool and kindergarten classroom. There is no doubt that Molly has the experience to help provide expert recommendations for children's books. For this review, BabyGearLab purchased each product and hands-on tested it to evaluate performance.

We suggest creating a reading space that is inviting and comfortable.

Analysis and Test Results

Indeed, endless reading and page-turning went into our review to determine which books offered appealing features and which ones were bookshelf must-haves.

It can be helpful to find a book to speaks to your child's age and...
It can be helpful to find a book to speaks to your child's age and stage in development.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Developmental Milestones

Children dramatically change within the preschool years (roughly ages 3-5), and it can be helpful to find books that support various developmental milestones during this time. During this age range, emotions can be a roller coaster, and your child may experience a wide range of feelings. Sometimes, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and the Grumpy Monkey is a great book to remind us that it is important to feel our feelings. If your child enjoys rhymes and repetitiveness, the Room on the Broom is the perfect book with catchy lines to recite. To help your little one practice their "power to choose" (a super-hero ability), What Should Danny Do? is an excellent book that teaches that each choice has a positive or negative consequence. For children who seek humor and laughter, The Book With No Pictures fits this bill perfectly (as long as the reader is willing to be silly), along with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Stuck. Regardless of your child's age and stage, reading itself is beneficial for your little one, but it can also help to find a book that speaks to your little one's developmental milestones.

Interactive Features

You may have noticed that some books offer interactive features, slightly unorthodox from traditional books, yet full of fun. A few books in our review offer this style, such as What Should Danny Do? and The Book With No Pictures. Books with interactive features can be a dash of sugar and spice to your little one's library.

Each book is available in various book formats, such as board books...
Each book is available in various book formats, such as board books, hardcover, and paperback, and it will be up to you to choose the format that works best for your needs and goals.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Book Format

Board books, hardcover books, and paperback books, oh my! Yes, there are many options out there, and the book format you choose may depend on your budget, needs, and bookshelf space. Hardcover books provide durability. So, if you plan on passing down a book as an heirloom, selecting a hardcover book is the way to go. Another option is paperback books. This format is cost-effective and less heavy yet susceptible to damage. Board books still appear in this age group and offer thick pages that provide durability but tend to be smaller in size, such as Room on the Broom. Books often offer multiple printing options, and it will be up to you to select what format feels right based on your intentions.

Reading to your child every day, even 20 minutes,  holds endless...
Reading to your child every day, even 20 minutes, holds endless benefits.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Benefits of Reading

A child's brain experiences significant development within the first five years of their life. It is essential to establish a solid foundation of skills, supporting and enhancing your child's overall development. Reading to your child plays a crucial part in this journey, and it is never too early to start reading to your child. Before your child can read, they must learn pre-literacy skills. Read to your child daily to establish the habit, and take the time to point to pictures, letters, and numbers. Ask your child questions, discuss what's happening in the book, and allow them to turn pages. All of these acts of engagement will help your child build those emerging literary skills. Also, as you search for books, you may notice the option of electronic books (e-books). Although this alternative may be less expensive, the benefits are not equal. Science shows that e-books limit educational benefits and do not compare to books. We encourage books to be your main form of reading in your home.

Tip: Create a cozy and inviting space to read books, free of toys and distractions. Your child may show interest in creating this space, too.

Fill your child's library with a variety of books.
Fill your child's library with a variety of books.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Reading is a core skill that sets your child up for academic and life success. Growing a lifelong reader starts with you; you are your child's first teacher. Keep in mind, reading daily (even 20 minutes) is a small investment with a significant impact. It builds and strengthens many skills within your child's development, plus the science reveals the bonding experience holds benefits, too. Therefore, be a role model, pick up a book yourself, and approach reading with enthusiasm, positivity, and, most importantly, fun. Children are wonderful observers, and they will notice. Nonetheless, positive reading experiences will spark and motivate your child's desire to explore books and read. We are confident that our lineup of top-notch children's books will be great additions to your child's library.

Molly Bradac