26 Children's Literature Recommendations across 13 genres/categories
Something for everyone here... thanks to a class assignment I had to do!
For my Children’s & Youth Services library tech class last semester, I had to do some collection development projects, and this one was recommending books across many genres & categories. I thought I’d share it here! It’s obviously not exhaustive in any way, but it gives a little insight into my (and my family’s) taste in children’s books. In each category, I had to choose at least one award-winning book.
1. Picture books (Young children/4-6)
· The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
· Award: 2017-2018 California Young Readers Medal Winner
· Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstanley*—This was my favorite picture book to read with my youngest child. It’s a sweet, magical story with whimsical pictures—I almost feel like I can small and taste the cinn[amon bread in it. I had a baby who cried a lot too, so maybe that’s why I connected with it, but my daughter also loved it.
2. Wordless books (Young children/4-6)
· Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
· Award: 2014 Caldecott Honor Book
· Rain by Peter Spier*—This is the wordless picture book that I most remember “reading” to my kids. It has intricate, enthralling pictures!
3. Poetry (Young children/intermediate 7-9)
· Gone Fishing: A novel in verse by Tamera Will Wissinger
· Award: Triple Crown Awards’ 2017-2018 Gallery Honor
· Julie Andrews’ Treasury for All Seasons*—This is a beautiful poetry anthology! I loved reading these poems with my kids when they were young; we even memorized some of them. The pictures are delightful and I love how the poems are arranged by season.
4. Traditional literature (Young Children 4-6 & Older children/intermediate 7-9)
· The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
· Award: 1993 Caldecott Medal Winner
· Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe—I read this with my kids when we were studying African history. It’s a beautiful book that feels somewhat familiar to American kids because it is a Cinderella retelling, but also completely new as it introduces the culture of Zimbabwe.
5. Fantasy (Young Adult/early YA 12-15)
· The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
· Award: 2012 Printz Honor Book
· Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, book 1) by Marisa Meyer—This is technically sci-fi but I’m including it here since that isn’t a category. This book (and series) is a fabulous futuristic fairy-tale retelling that is a perfect entry point for a reading beginning to jump into YA books.
6. Contemporary Realistic fiction (Young Adult/intermediate 15-18)
· The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
· Award: 2017 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent, 2016 National Book Award Finalist
· A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro—This is the first in a series that is a retelling of Sherlock Holmes set at a boarding school where Sherlock and Watson’s supposed descendants meet in modern day. The series deals with some tough themes amidst expertly crafted mysteries.
7. Historical fiction (Older children/tweens 10-12 & possibly intermediate 7-9)
· Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
· 1943 John Newbery Medal Winner
· The Black Stallion by Walter Farley—This was written as a contemporary in 1941 but is now a historical novel. I read this with my 5th grade daughter and was surprised by how much I loved it. It was compelling and exciting, and explores friendship in a unique way.
8. Graphic novels (Older children/tweens 10-12)
· New Kid by Jerry Craft
· Award: 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner
· When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed- This is also an award winner, but it’s my personal choice because it’s such a moving, enlightening story. My kids all loved this book. It’s a tough story but told in an easy way, and I think kids can find ways to connect to characters unlike them through this genre because it’s so visual and casual.
9. Informational books (Older children/intermediate 7-9 & tweens 10-12)
· Castle by David Macaulay
· Award: 1978 Caldecott Honor Book
· Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Boyd—We read this book when studying the Renaissance; it’s an intricately designed book full of information, diagrams, drawings, and quotes all about Da Vinci’s life, inventions, and ideas.
10. Diverse Books (Young Adult/intermediate 15-18)
· Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
· Award: 2018 Walter Award Winner
· You Bring the Distance Near by Mitali Perkins—This intergenerational story of the girls & women in an Bengali-American family showed me a culture I didn’t know much about along with the universality of figuring out family dynamics, and I really enjoyed it.
11. Many languages literature (Older children 7-9/10-12)
· The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, translated from the German by Oliver Latsch (this is one that I have not yet read)
· Award: 2003 Batchelder Award Winner
· Papelucho by Mariana Paz*—I picked up the first in this series when I was studying abroad in Chile. It’s a funny, diary-style book of an 8-year old Chilean boy.
12. Classics for Young Adults (13-18)
· The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
· Award: 1988 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner
· Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—This book is a timeless classic, about love, sisterhood, and finding your place in the world. I loved it as a young girl and again when I re-read it.
13. Books in a Series (Young Children 4-6/Older children 7-9)
· Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo—These books are so cute and funny, with delightful illustrations and full cast of characters, including a pet pig who loves hot buttered toast. These are like a crossover from picture books into chapter books. They still have glossy, colorful pages, but have chapters.
· The Adventures Sophie Mouse by Poppy Green—A darling series (up to 19 books currently) about adorable woodland creatures. A great early chapter book series.
14. Digital resources (all ages)
· Playaways— A Playaway is a digital audiobook that is self-contained in the device. The listener just needs to plug in a pair of headphones and can start listening to the audiobook! Kids love them because they feel really cool and grown-up to use. They have a picture of the book on them and are easy to use and don’t require any other device to use (like a CD player or an app on a smartphone).
· Kahoot—This is a website to create quiz games. A teacher (or anyone) can set up a quiz (could be used for book trivia, study/review, etc) and then kids can play the game together with the class/group from their own device, such as a class ipad or chromebook, or a smartphone.
*Books marked with an asterisk: Sadly, Bookshop.org does not appear to have these books, so I’ve linked to them with an Amazon Associates affiliate link.
All book links are otherwise Bookshop.org affiliate links, which support indie bookstores!
Hope you find a favorite or something new for your kids or yourself to try on this list!