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Top 20 Childrens Books of 2011

Looking for a book to read with the kids? Start with our new faves for kids of all ages, including the latest from Mo Willems and the Peanuts gang. — Melissa Taylor

  • Good Morning Toucan 1 of 20
    Good Morning Toucan
    A Lift-the-Flap Good Day Book from Dwell Studio | Ages Infant 4
    Wow, a board book with sturdy flaps to lift and illustrations worthy of an art gallery! I'm a huge fan of Dwell Studio's modern style and love this jungle book of morning salutations. Young children will delight in lifting the flaps to see which animal hides beneath.
    Get it from Amazon, $8.99
  • The Splendid Spotted Snake 2 of 20
    The Splendid Spotted Snake
    by Betty Ann Schwartz & Alexander Wilensky | Infant - 6
    Magic ribbons appear with each turn of the page, as the splendid snake grows longer with new colored dots. This is an enticing, hands-on book for learning and practicing colors. You'll love the thick, sturdy pages, perfect for even the littlest hands.
    Get it from Amazon, $11.16
  • Is Everyone Ready for Fun? 3 of 20
    Is Everyone Ready for Fun?
    by Jan Thomas | Ages 2 6
    Are you ready for some fun? Because these cows are! They'll jump and dance and wiggle … on Chicken's sofa! Chicken's not happy about all the fun — at least not until the cows finally decide to nap. This book will become a new bedtime favorite as it's silly, silly, silly. Plus, the predictable style makes it perfect for early readers. Young children will have no problem memorizing it!
    Get it from Amazon, $10.39
  • Press Here 4 of 20
    Press Here
    by Herve Tullet | Ages 2 and up
    Press, rub, shake, tilt, blow, clap, and watch what happens. After a few pages, you'll believe you actually possess magical powers. Rub the yellow dot, and it turns blue. Shake the book, and the dots scatter. Press Here epitomizes the interactive book for an addictive experience that will keep kids moving, shaking, and smiling.
    Get it from Amazon, $7.97
  • You Will Be My Friend 5 of 20
    You Will Be My Friend
    by Peter Brown | Ages 4 8
    This book is my favorite of the year! Lucy, a tutu-wearing bear, tries so hard to make a friend, whether she's diving with the fish, dressing up like a kangaroo, or even saying to an unhatched egg, "You WILL be my friend." But making friends is hard work! You and the kids will love Lucy's enthusiastic strategies — some successful, some not so much — and appreciate the big lessons she teaches about being true to yourself.
    Get it from Amazon, $11.08
  • King Hugos Huge Ego 6 of 20
    King Hugos Huge Ego
    by Chris Van Dusen | Ages 4 8
    Annoyed with King Hugo's huge ego, a sorceress jinxes Hugo so that whenever he boasts, his head bloats. The head's inflation is hilarious, and how Hugo manages to, er, deflate it proves to be a valuable lesson. I love the vocabulary in this story (how else is your child going to learn words like preposterous and buffoon?!) and think the ending is about as perfect as one can get.
    Get it from Amazon, $11.55
  • Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator 7 of 20
    Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator
    by Mo Willems | Ages 4 8
    Meet quirky, book-loving Amanda and her friend Alligator in these six-and-a-half stories of surprises and discoveries. (A half a story because a) it's Mo Willems, b) it's a very short story, and c) why not?) Alligator is shocked when he finds out he was bought from the sale bucket (gasp!), but the biggest surprise of all is discovering there is always room for a new friend — something young kids should learn as they're growing up. Reminiscent of James Marshall's classic George and Martha books, Hooray for Amanda is also great for new readers.
    Get it from Amazon, $10.97
  • Bumblebee Boy 8 of 20
    Bumblebee Boy
    by Jacky Davis and David Soman | Ages 4 8
    Sam is (bum ba bum bumm … ) Bumblebee Boy! He fights the pirate Greenbeard, a fire-breathing dragon, and a people-eating circus lion. But there's a slight problem: Sam's little brother, Owen, wants to play too. Bumblebee Boy captures the wonder of imaginative play while showing the complexities of sibling relationships. Sam realizes he could use Owen's help fighting aliens and invites him to play. His creativity is sure to inspire your kids to begin their own adventures.
    Get it from Amazon, $11.55
  • No Dogs Allowed 9 of 20
    No Dogs Allowed
    by Linda Ashman and Kristin Sorra | Ages 4 - 8
    With a sign that says "No Dogs Allowed," fancy bistro owner Alberto turns away a young boy and his dog in this sparsely worded picture book. More customers with animals of every kind — cats, kangaroos, and elephants — arrive at the bistro and are turned away as well. Soon realization dawns and Alberto accepts all customers and their pets in his newly named All Critters Bistro. I love the larger message of tolerance this story instills, while young animal lovers will love the idea of a place where they can bring any kind of pet.
    Get it from Amazon, $9.15
  • Edwin Speaks Up 10 of 20
    Edwin Speaks Up
    by April Stevens and Sophie Blackall | Ages 4 - 8
    Edwin's family doesn't understand a word he's saying — but we can, even during Edwin's harried experience of grocery shopping with his mom and siblings. (Obviously, "Fringle dee ROOFY plowck" means "Your pocketbook is on the roof of the car.") Not only do we speak baby, we happen to think babies like Edwin are geniuses. Get ready to reread this story a bazillion times. It's a very relatable book for young kids who can still remember not being understood by adults. (And being way smarter, to boot.)
    Get it from Amazon, $13.59
  • E-mergency 11 of 20
    by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Ezra Fields-Meyer | Ages 4 8
    Remember Shark vs. Train? Well, this pun-filled book by the same author is just as clever. When E crashes down the stairs and is hospitalized, O (who is so well-rounded) takes E's place until little E is better. Yes, you read it right: O takes E's place. AftOr all, O nOOds to hOal. But E doesn't heal because someone is still using the letter E! Could it be … THE NARRATOR!? This book is a hilarious way to appreciate the vowel E — and practice deciphering secret codes. I've never read such a wacky book that is so fun to read aloud with the kids!
    Get it from Amazon, $11.55
  • Doodleday 12 of 20
    by Ross Collins | Ages 4 - 8
    According to Harvey's mom, "No one draws on Doodleday!" But Harvey doubts it's true so he draws a fly … which becomes a gigantic, real doodle-fly! To get rid of the fly, Harvey draws a fly-eating spider. But the doodle-spider prefers Harvey's dad to the fly. The Doodleday dangers continue for our artistic hero, whose doodles, each one meant to stop the previous doodle, only make things worse. It's the best story for artists who would love if their drawings came to life — because surely, they wouldn't encounter any trouble. And mom, you'll find that the solution to all the troubles is you! Doodle-mom saves the day.
    Get it from Amazon, $13.06
  • The Jewel Fish of Karnak 13 of 20
    The Jewel Fish of Karnak
    by Graeme Base | Ages 4 —10
    To pay for their thieving ways, Jackal and Ibis must steal back the golden Jewel Fish for Cat Pharaoh but must not steal anything else or get the fish wet. Of course, they don't follow the directions, and a wild adventure ensues. Kids must work out what the Jewel Fish looks like based on the illustrations and hieroglyphic tablets found in the book, then log onto a website to complete the Pharaoh's quest. Both interactive and historically informative, this story can be a simple myth or a more complex mystery for the reader to solve.
    Get it from Amazon, $13.57
  • The Conductor 14 of 20
    The Conductor
    by Laetitia Devernay | Ages 4 and up
    Poetic illustrations in this wordless picture book from French illustrator Laetitia Devernay capture the music of nature. A symphony conductor climbs the tallest tree in the forest, raises his baton, and calls forth leafy birds that fill the skies with patterns and shapes in white, green, and yellow. No matter their age, the pictures allow readers to find their own meaning, whether it involves music, nature, chaos, or leadership.
    Get it from Amazon, $12.89
  • Happiness Is a Warm Blanket 15 of 20
    Happiness Is a Warm Blanket
    by Charles M. Schulz, adapted by his son, Craig Schulz, and Stephan Pastis | Ages 6 and up
    In this Charlie Brown story, Gramma wants Linus to give up his beloved blanket. All the Peanuts characters try to help him: Lucy buries the blanket, Charlie Brown suggests blanket substitutes, and Snoopy steals it. We feel Linus' angst and agree with his final conclusion: Happiness is a warm blanket. Especially after we listen to Linus arguing that our morning coffee is the same thing as his blanket (gulp). This book is great for both parent and child with its philosophical musings, entertaining story line, and familiar silliness from the Peanuts gang.
    Get it from Amazon, $9.99
  • Weird But True! 3: 300 Outrageous Facts 16 of 20
    Weird But True! 3: 300 Outrageous Facts
    by National Geographic Kids | Ages 7 and up
    Did you know that an astronaut's heartbeat slows down in space? Your kids will when they read this book on random, interesting facts. As is expected from a National Geographic publication, the photographs rock, which makes you want to read every engaging, gross, weird, and wild fact — like that rats can't burp. (Who knew?) So when you are looking for the best non-fiction book for kids, this is it.
    Get it from Amazon, $7.95
  • Rule the School 17 of 20
    Rule the School
    by Vordak the Incomprehensible | Ages 9 and up
    I laughed my way through this book, even though I am slightly over its target age group. Vordak's diabolical plan to rule Farding Middle School — yes, you can laugh at the name — while indeed very evil, contains a few flaws. (Sorry, Vordak, I know it's a sensitive subject, and you really are very dastardly.) Parents, your kids just might get some ideas on how to take over their own schools …
    Get it from Amazon, $11.19
  • Wonderstruck 18 of 20
    by Brian Selznick | Ages 9 and up
    Just as the film adaptation of his first book, Hugo, arrives on the big screen, Brian Selznick's new book graces bookshelves worldwide. In Wonderstruck, we discover two stories, one told in words about a 1970s teenage boy and the other told in pictures about a 1920s girl, both hearing-impaired. The black and white graphic story of the girl is like watching a silent film (which I'm sure was the author's intention). And as the stories meet and intertwine, readers start to consider deafness, sight, and human relationships. This book offers one of the most unusual reading experiences; I absolutely adored the two sweet stories as they wove into one.
    Get it from Amazon, $15.99
  • Midnight Zoo 19 of 20
    Midnight Zoo
    Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett | Ages 10 and up
    Midnight Zoo is a stunning fable set during WWII following three Gypsy siblings (two brothers and their baby sister), whose family and friends are captured by the Nazis. While searching for food, the brothers find a zoo with talking animals. Throughout the long night, the animals and brothers share stories. We learn what it means to be free and what humans can do to each other and to animals. Be warned: you may cry at the ending, but the life lessons and beautiful writing will be worth it.
    Get it from Amazon, $16.46
  • Inheritance 20 of 20
    by Christopher Paolini | Ages 10 and up
    The fourth book in the Eragon series concludes the captivating fantasy tale of adventure, dragon riders, and good versus evil. While I was a bit disappointed with the third book, I loved this last book, which showed us a mature Eragon who chooses the betterment of the world over his own personal desires. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fans will devour this action-packed final installment. Not to mention it's a million pages long, so you practically get three books in one.
    Get it from Amazon, $15.10

Recently awarded the Scholastic Best Book and Reading Blog Award for her playful learning blog, Imagination Soup, Melissa Taylor is a learning junkie, recovering teacher, freelance writer and mom of two — an introverted roller skater and an extroverted fairy princess.

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