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The 4 Best Books for Kids

Check out our favorite books for kids to help your child get hooked on a lifetime habit of reading
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Best Books for Kids
Each book in our review has been purchased and hands-on tested (well, read, over and over again).
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Our Top Picks

By Molly Bradac ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday March 8, 2023

Need some outstanding books for your kid? Our lineup includes today's top 11 books for kids. To determine our favorites, we extensively researched the market before purchasing the most popular and promising contenders for hands-on testing (a.k.a, lots and lots of reading!). We wanted to know which books are the most entertaining, leaving your kid excited to pick up and read repeatedly. We also examined each book's story and text for qualities and characteristics to match reading levels and broad interests. Whether your child is a beginner reader or more advanced, we believe there's a great chance a kids' book in our lineup will meet their needs.

Finding entertaining books can foster a lifelong love of reading. Check out our favorite books for children and toddlers. Also, we've reviewed other fun and entertaining gear for kids that might interest your child.

Editor's Note: We updated this review on March 8, 2023, to check product prices and availability.


Best Overall Kids Book

Waiting Is Not Easy!

Author: Mo Willems | Illustrator: Mo Willems
Comical and good for eager early readers
Simple for advanced readers

Featuring Mo Willems's famous duo, Gerald and Piggie, Waiting Is Not Easy! wins the popularity contest. Piggie wants to surprise Gerald with something special, but Gerald (struggling to be patient) must wait and wait. But what is he waiting for? This book is about patience, a "muscle" that children (and adults) need to exercise, which is not always easy. Thanks to the large font size, simplistic pictures, and simple sentence structure, we think this book is suitable for eager early readers. Plus, it is downright funny. This comical success is one of many books in the series, which means the fun doesn't stop here. Consider the Elephant & Piggie: The Complete Collection if you adore these two characters.

This book has little to dislike; however, if your child requires more complex literature, you might want to jump to chapter books. But, if your kid enjoys humor and is at the beginner reader level, we believe this book is terrific. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any books by Mo Willems.

kids books - best overall kids book
We love the famous duo, Elephant and Piggie, and if you like it too, there are plenty more books in the series.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Bang for the Buck

Henry and Mudge

Author: Cynthia Rylant | Illustrator: Sucie Stevenson
Set of six books
Level two books may be too difficult for young readers

Ready for some "tails" and "tales"? The Henry and Mudge books (a six-book set) are budget-friendly and adorable for dog lovers. These books are excellent for developing readers because they start simple and increase in difficulty as you progress in the series. The books also include cartoon-style illustrations that help cue the reader.

These books are level two, meaning they use slightly more complex sentences and vocabulary, which may be too advanced for beginners. However, remember that reading aloud is a delight and has many benefits, plus your child will eventually graduate to this level in time (maybe even faster than you think). If you like this book set and want more Henry and Mudge, there are plenty more books in the series to read.

kids books - best bang for the buck
The Henry and Mudge series is budget-friendly and great for beginner readers ready for slightly more complex sentences and vocabulary.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Graphic Novel

Narwhal and Jelly Box Set

Author: Ben Clanton | Illustrator: Ben Clanton
Some advanced vocabulary

Your child may be "hooked" on the Narwhal and Jelly Box Set, a fun series of graphic novels for new readers. Narwhal and Jelly, two unlikely friends, explore the ocean together and have funny conversations. This set includes the following books, "Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea," "Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt," as well as "Peanut Butter and Jelly." These books are filled with fun and will crack up your kiddos.

The books use some vocabulary that may be challenging for early readers to decode. However, we think they'll master the tricky vocab quickly with practice and coaching. Alternatively, you can overlook this factor if you're reading these books with your child. Graphic novels can be an excellent way to get your kid excited about reading, and we think this set is a must-have for young readers.

kids books - best for graphic novel
If your kid is ready to take on graphic novels, consider the Narwhal and Jelly books.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Chapter Book

Magic Tree House Boxed Set

Author: Mary Pope Osborne | Illustrator: Sal Murdocca
Four book set
Not for new readers

Chapter books are exciting for young readers, and we think the Magic Tree House Boxed Set is worthy of consideration. These books follow Jack and Annie (brother and sister) as they discover a treehouse in the woods, which takes them on a series of adventures. Where did they go, and who will they meet along the way? More importantly, how will they make it home? These books let children discover new things the more they read.

Naturally, chapter books offer longer text and fewer pictures. If your child still relies on images for context clues or enjoys illustrations, these books may be less engaging, despite being fun and adventurous stories. The amount of Magic Tree House books is vast, and this set is a great kick-off for your collection. We recommend this set to families ready to read chapter books with their kids or the advanced youth looking for easier reading.

kids books - best chapter book
Take off on an adventure with Jack and Annie in the Magic Tree House series, which are great introduction chapter books.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best Set of Dr. Seuss Books

Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection

Author: Dr. Seuss | Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Great for beginners
Includes five books
Slightly longer

The Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection is excellent for children who are beginner readers mastering phonics. These books use repetitive sounds and clever rhyming, making them fun to read aloud, perhaps even tongue-twisting at times. The set of five books includes "Green Eggs and Ham," Fox in Socks," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," "Hop on Pop," and "The Cat in the Hat." Dr. Seuss's books were likely part of your library growing up, and these classics offer creative illustrations and fun tales to unlock little imaginations.

The books can be slightly longer, testing a beginner reader's reading tolerance and attention span. But there's nothing wrong with you stepping in to finish reading the book. Once your child's reading confidence and fluency improve, reading longer books will also become more manageable. We highly recommend Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection to friends and family, and we have read them billions of times with our children, as the stories never get old.

kids books - the dr. seuss beginner book collection is great for beginner readers...
The Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection is great for beginner readers as it provides text to practice phonics.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Perseverance

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Author: Andrea Beaty | Illustrator: David Roberts
Rhyming lines
Hardcover book larger in size
Slightly longer story

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

If your child is easily restless during storytime, this one has a bit more text, but its cadence and flow make it zippier than some other longer stories. We appreciate the story's multi-generations of girl power and its ode to perseverance. We think it is most suitable for kids beginning elementary school or those who need the inspiration to keep going.

kids books - dream big and creatively with rosie revere, engineer, a fantastic...
Dream big and creatively with Rosie Revere, Engineer, a fantastic book about resilience and perseverance.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Jokes

The Big Book of Silly Jokes for Kids

Author: Carole P. Roman | Illustrator: Dylan Goldberger
Various types of jokes
Less fun to read alone

Who doesn't love a funny joke? Every kid can't wait to share their favorite hilarious one-liners. The Big Book of Silly Jokes for Kids includes over 800 knock-knocks, tongue twisters, puns, riddles, and more. It also offers some exciting and silly stats. We think this book provides a fun twist on reading, plus laughter creates positive relationships between parent and child, and, in our opinion, it is some good soul food.

We believe the art of joke-telling is learned and takes some adults' guidance to help younger children understand punchlines and puns. But there's no doubt that kids love jokes. Plus, they offer quick payoffs, especially for struggling readers. If you are willing to help your child understand some jokes and share the experience of joke-telling, we think this book may be a good fit. You may notice your child becoming quite the little jokester!

kids books - silly jokes for kids is all about the art of joke-telling, providing...
Silly Jokes for Kids is all about the art of joke-telling, providing countless jokes, puns, tongue-twisters, and more to make anyone giggle.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Self-Esteem

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Author: Patty Lovell | Illustrator: David Catrow
Filled with self-confidence and self-love
Brings up bullies
Best for kindergarten age

In the book Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, "Molly Lou Melon is short and clumsy, has buck teeth, and a voice that sounds like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor." Her grandmother's words are wise and offer encouragement, but will it be enough to stand up to the class bully? Read on to find out. This book is about self-confidence and self-love, despite the opinions of others. We appreciate that this book sparks conversations about bullies and your child's unique characteristics (you have to rock what you've got!).

We think this picture book is most suitable for kindergarten age and slightly above. If you want a book that touches on self-esteem, we believe Molly Lou Melon is one to read.

kids books - stand tall, molly lou melon is all about self-love and a great book...
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon is all about self-love and a great book to remind us to "stand tall" despite what others say or do.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Plot Twist

I Want My Hat Back

Author: Jon Klassen | Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Rhyming lines
Hardcover book larger in size
Some readers don't like the ending

The bear has misplaced his hat and wants it back, so he asks the animals he comes across if they have seen it. Will he find it? The story may not end the way you think. I Want My Hat Back is a great kids' book for beginner readers, thanks to its large font, simplicity, and repetitive text pattern. The story includes dialogue among the animals, making this book a great read-aloud. We even dare you to try out some fun voices for the characters. The illustrator's minimal visual style adds a dash of humor and differs from other books in our lineup.

Not everyone enjoys this story's ending (hint: the bear's revenge is tasty, literally). However, we think kindergartners don't mind the plot twist, plus it is subtle. If you feel your young reader may like this tale, we think it is worth consideration.

kids books - i want my hat back is an excellent option for beginner readers as it...
I Want My Hat Back is an excellent option for beginner readers as it offers large text and simplicity yet a plot twist you may not predict.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Picture Book Classic


Author: Ludwig Bemelmans | Illustrator: Ludwig Bemelmans
Old school

We can't think of Paris without thinking of Madeline, the smallest but most fearless among the twelve schoolgirls living in an old house covered with vines. First published in 1939, Madeline is undeniably a classic and a well-loved picture book for generations. The rhyming text and cadence make it fun to read aloud, and Bemelmans' illustrations of Paris are beautiful (can we book a ticket to Paris?). See if your family can spot some Paris scenes identified in the book for an additional challenge.

The book's story includes rhyming text with shorter sentences, making it an option for beginner readers to practice and master. However, if your kid needs more advanced text, you may want to look elsewhere. We believe this book has stood the test of time and think it is worth reading with your kindergarten-aged child or beginner reader. If you like this book, there are more in the Madeline series.

kids books - madeline is a picture book classic that has been well-loved for...
Madeline is a picture book classic that has been well-loved for generations.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Best for Creativity

The Day the Crayons Quit

Author: Drew Daywalt | Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Rhyming lines
Hardcover book larger in size
Slightly longer story

Why did the crayons quit? The Day the Crayons Quit is about Duncan's box of crayons, a kid who went to school and wanted nothing more than to color but found a stack of letters in the crayons' place. Through a collection of letters sent from the crayons, the story unfolds as the crayons explain their reasons. So, what is Duncan to do? This picture book is cute, comical, and creative.

The crayon's letters are handwritten, which may be tricky for new readers. However, with practice, like most things, it gets easier. The Day the Crayons Quit might be a good fit if you seek a clever and creative picture book.

kids books - the day the crayons quit is told through a series of letters from...
The Day the Crayons Quit is told through a series of letters from the crayons explaining why they have resigned.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

A Note on Repition
Reading books again and again strengthens and sharpens your child's reading skills and vocabulary. So, repetition is essential for your child's learning journey.

kids books
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team At BabyGearLab has been testing baby gear for nearly a decade, and by this point, we have developed extensive testing methods to rate and rank baby gear. BabyGearLab purchased each kids' book in our review at retail price and completed hands-on testing to evaluate performance.

Guiding this review is Senior Review Editor, Molly Bradac. Molly not only holds over 15 years of experience as a nanny (reading countless children's books over the years!), but she also held a position as an Early Learning Specialist for AmeriCorp, developing and promoting school readiness and reading among the community. There is no doubt that Molly has the experience to help provide book recommendations for children of all ages.

The Narwhal and Jelly books include a poster, for an added perk.
The Narwhal and Jelly books include a poster, for an added perk.
The illustrations of Rosie Revere, Engineer are detailed and fun.
The illustrations of Rosie Revere, Engineer are detailed and fun.

Analysis and Test Results

We spent lots and lots of time reading to determine which books are must-haves and have qualities that match various reading levels.

Easy Readers vs. Chapter Books

Our lineup includes books ranging in difficulty, and we suggest selecting books that match your child's skill level yet provide enough challenge to help them progress their skills. Easy reader books share common similarities, like larger font and simplicity through shorter sentences and vocabulary, repetition, and illustrations; these qualities collectively provide context clues for the reader. Your child will gain reading fluency and confidence as they strengthen their reading skills.

Some books that we consider easy readers in our lineup include Waiting Is Not Easy!, I Want My Hat Back, Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection, and Madeline. Following close behind are the Narwhal and Jelly Box Set and Henry and Mudge, which work for beginner readers but are slightly more complex. The Magic Tree House Boxed Set is a great place to start for kids ready for chapter books.

Don't forget that reading together still holds benefits in this age group. Our review includes picture books you and your child may enjoy reading together, such as Rosie Revere, Engineer, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, and The Day the Crayons Quit. Alternatively, try joke-telling with The Big Book of Silly Jokes for Kids.

It is important to remember that since every child's learning journey is unique, they will progress differently in reading confidently and independently. But, selecting a book for your child is a little like match-making. Follow their interests and passions. Also, provide books that meet their reading level. For children who can read independently, don't forget that reading together is a meaningful connection with benefits.

Make a Bookmark
Have your child make a bookmark! It's a fun and creative activity that can motivate kids to keep reading. A bookmark is also exciting for kids moving from easy readers to chapter books.

kids books
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Benefits of Reading

Reading, at any age, holds benefits, and for your child, the list of benefits is long. To name a few, it increases their cognitive, language, social, and emotional development. And while your child may be able to read independently, don't forget that reading aloud with your child creates a positive parent-child connection and bond.

Create a Book Club
Consider creating a book club with family or your child's friends, or join one already established. Reading is fun, and discussing books can deepen understanding and open different conversations.

kids books - we recommend following your child's interests when selecting a book...
We recommend following your child's interests when selecting a book and providing one that matches their reading level.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Creating a culture of regular reading in your home can inspire little ones to explore reading and foster a lifelong love of reading for enjoyment. Because the world of kids' books is huge, it can be challenging for a parent or gift giver to find a page-turner for children. Thankfully, our roundup makes the quest easier. Whether you are searching for an easy reader or a more involved chapter book, there is likely a bookshelf-worthy book in our review for your child. Happy reading!

Molly Bradac

Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.

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