In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Best Children's Books

By Molly Bradac ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday August 31, 2020
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Our list of the best 10 children's books of 2020 are bookshelf worthy. To reach our lineup, we researched, purchased, and tested the most popular and well-loved books on the market before assessing 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.

1

Overall Best Book


Room on the Broom


Editors' Choice Award
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$5.00
(38% off)
at Amazon
See It

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. 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, with the added weight, the broom snaps into two (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. Also, the story offers repetitive elements, you may find your toddler memorizing the lines to "read" along. We highly recommend this book, and we think you will be happy you added it to your bookshelf.

You can never go wrong reading a book by Julia Donaldson, and we suggest checking out The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child.

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

2

Best Book about Self-Care


The Good Egg


Editors' Choice Award
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$15.80
(17% off)
at Amazon
See It

Interactive: No | Author: Jory John
Humor
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. We highly recommend this book and think it is a must-have.

If you think this book is egg-cellent, check out other Jory John books, such as The Cool Bean and The Bad Seed.

The Good Egg provides fun illustrations and humor to teach about self-care.
The Good Egg provides fun illustrations and humor to teach about self-care.

3

Best Bang for the Buck


Are You My Mother?


Best Value Award
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$5.00
(50% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

There's a good reason why the classic story, Are You My Mother?, is still a favorite, years later (fun fact, it was first published in 1960). It's an oldie but a goodie plus budget-friendly. This sweet story is about a baby bird who hatches from its egg while his mother is off 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.

With a simple plot, this story offers repetitive elements that appeal to young listeners and beginner readers. 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.

If you like this book, we think you will also enjoy Go, Dog, Go!

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

4

Our Favorite "Power to Choose" Book


What Should Danny Do?


Top Pick Award
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$13.88
(37% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

Danny is a super-hero 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. It is an interactive book, allowing children to make choices for Danny and how he reacts. It offers nine possible endings, and you can read this book over again and play them out. We do find this book to be slightly longer, and parents will need to help read the story. We think 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 interactive feature that children enjoy.
"What Should Danny Do?" is a choose your adventure style book, an interactive feature that children enjoy.

5

Our Favorite Elephant and Piggie Book


Waiting Is Not Easy!


Top Pick Award
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$8.99
(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Interactive: No | Author: Mo Willems
Humor
Good for eager early reader
Smaller in size

Featuring Mo Willems's famous duo, Gerald and Piggie, Waiting Is Not Easy! is a comical success and one of many books in the Elephant and Piggie series. In this story, Piggie wants to surprise Gerald with something special, but Gerald (who is struggling to be patient) must wait, and wait, and… wait. But what is he waiting for?

This book is all about patience, a "muscle" that children (adults, too) need to exercise, and it is not always easy. Also, with large font, simplistic pictures, and simple sentence structure, we think eager early readers may enjoy this book. Nonetheless, if you are after simplistic humor, we believe this book terrific for this age-group.

We enjoy this book for its famous duo  Elephant and Piggie  and it is one of many books in the series.
We enjoy this book for its famous duo, Elephant and Piggie, and it is one of many books in the series.

6

Best Timeless Mouse Book


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie


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$8.99
(50% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is a silly book that will make you and your little giggle. 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 circle back to a glass of milk and another cookie.

The lesson in this story is that each action causes a reaction, or, in other words, cause, and effect. The story does not offer rhyming lines, but we don't find this to be a deal-breaker. The last page of the book offers 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 keeps making requests.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a funny book about a mouse that keeps making requests.

7

Best Book about Feeling Emotions


Grumpy Monkey


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$10.62
(41% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

Grumpy Monkey provides 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 mood. 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 add, 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 acceptance.
The Grumpy Monkey sparks the conversation of emotions and emotional acceptance.

8

Best Engineering Book


Rosie Revere, Engineer


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$8.39
(56% off)
at Amazon
See It

Interactive: No | Author: Andrea Beaty
Rhyming lines
Hardcover book larger in size
Slightly longer story

Rosie Revere, Engineer is a captivating story about Rosie, a budding inventor of gadgets and gizmos, who dreams of being a great engineer. However, will her next invention be successful? What happens if you fail? This story promotes resilience, perseverance, and creative thinking with fun rhyming lines, making it enjoyable for adults and children alike.

Although the story is slightly longer than other books in our review, the cadence and flow make it feel shorter. We appreciate the story's multi-generations of girl power and its overall lesson of essential life skills. We recommend it for families with children of any age and believe the story's message is one to hear.

Dream big and creatively with Rosie Revere  Engineer  a fantastic book about resilience and perseverance.
Dream big and creatively with Rosie Revere, Engineer, a fantastic book about resilience and perseverance.

9

Best Book with No Pictures


The Book with No Pictures


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$8.64
(52% off)
at Amazon
See It

Interactive: Yes | Author: B.J. Novak
Silly
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 the real effort is on the reader who must say silly  nonsense words and phrases.
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.

10

Good Classic Book


Love You Forever


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$5.00
(17% off)
at Amazon
See It

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!" 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 well… 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 no matter your child's age, you love them immensely, and they will always be your baby.

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

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

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 Molly Bradac, Research Analyst, and professional 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 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.
Find ways to invite and engage your child to be involved with a book  perhaps by asking questions or having them turn pages  as this will help develop pre-literacy skills.

Analysis and Test Results


Lots of 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 stage in development.
It can be helpful to find a book to speaks to your child's age and stage in development.

Developmental Milestones


Children dramatically change within the preschool years (roughly ages 3-5), and it can be helpful to find books that support different developmental milestones during this time. Let's start with year 3 of life, coupled with emotional development. Emotions can be a roller coaster, and your little one may experience a wide range of feelings, and sometimes, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. The Grumpy Monkey is a great book to remind us that it is important to feel our feelings. Cognitively, 3-year-olds can recite rhymes from memory, and Room on the Broom is the perfect book with catchy lines to recite. To help your little one practice their "power to choose" super-hero ability, What Should Danny Do? is an excellent book that teaches that each choice has a positive or negative consequence. Around 4 years of age, children love to make up nonsense words and sayings, and The Book With No Pictures fits this bill perfectly. It is flat-out hilarious, but it will only work if the reader is willing to be silly. Of all the books in our review, Rosie Revere, Engineer is slightly more advanced, and we feel it is a good fit for children around age 5 as they are seeking new experiences. 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  hardcover  and paperback  and it will be up to you to choose the format that works best for your needs and goals.
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.

Book Format


Board books, hardcover books, and paperback books, oh my! Yes, there are options, 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. Most often, books 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 benefits.
Reading to your child every day, even 20 minutes, holds endless benefits.

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, which supports and enhances 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.

Conclusion


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