“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” – Dr. Seuss
International Children’s Book Day is celebrated every year on April 2, the birthday of esteemed Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. To celebrate, the Iowa Reading Research Center took a trip down memory lane and compiled a list of our favorite children’s books, appropriate for ages 2 and up. Plus, we have included photos of participating staff members as children to complete this literary blast from the past!
Recommended by Grace Cacini, Student Assistive Technology Coordinator
In this tactile counting book, young readers learn to count to ten as they feel their way through several colorful pages. With rhyming text and vibrant illustrations, this book is a fantastic hands-on way to introduce early readers to the sounds of language and the concept of counting.
“This book was memorable because of the way the ladybugs pop through the book as you count your way to ten,” said Cacini. “I remember the great visual contributing to the counting of the ladybugs as they were added into the picture.”
Recommended by Grace Cacini
In this collaboration between two beloved children’s book writers, various characters are encouraged to name the objects that they see in a rhythmic, rhyming picture book that is great for pre- and early readers.
“I enjoyed this book a lot because of the vibrant colors and association with animals,” said Cacini. “It allows for an interactive way of reading.”
Recommended by Kate Will, Program Coordinator
A creature with four furry feet goes on a series of exciting adventures in this poetic children’s story. It features beautiful watercolor illustrations and repetitive, rhythmic text.
“This book is written like a song,” said Will. “The same chorus repeats on every page, with a new verse that introduces the place where the animal is traveling. I liked this book when I was little because my mom would sing the story to me as she read it.”
Recommended by Kate Will
One, day three spotted animals—a duck, a frog, and a moose—bond over donuts and decide to form a band. But when one of the band’s members starts to become more famous than the others, the strength of their friendship is tested.
“I thought this book was funny when I was little because there were a lot of pop culture references that were relevant at the time,” said Will. “At one point, the band appears on various talk shows, which were clearly inspired by Oprah and The Tonight Show. I thought it was fun to see a fictional storyline that also overlapped with real life.”
Recommended by Kate Will
In this fairytale retelling, the three javelinas are living happily in handmade houses in the American southwest. However, if the javelinas are not careful, they might get caught by the hungry coyote, who can’t wait to eat them with red chile sauce.
“When I was little, I really enjoyed books that were part of the ‘fractured fairy tale’ genre,” said Will. “For example, in this version of the story, the javelinas' houses are built of tumbleweeds and cactus ribs instead of straw and sticks. Because I was familiar with the original story, I thought these deviations were hilarious.”
Recommended by Ben Walizer, Interim Director of Operations and Project Management
In this rhyming book, the 26 letters of the alphabet make plans to meet one another at the top of the coconut tree. But the tree is only so big. Will there be enough room for the whole alphabet to join the party?
“This book has a catchy rhythm that makes it engaging and interactive for young children,” said Walizer. “But what I like most is that as kids start to learn their alphabet, the book is a fun and engaging way for them to see their letters and find them throughout the book.”
Recommended by Ben Walizer
Gerald the giraffe wants nothing more than to dance. All the other animals bully Gerald and tell him he is way too clumsy to ever be successful. Join Gerald as he learns to dance to the beat of his own music in this sweet story.
“This is the story of following your dreams even if others are mean to you,” said Walizer. “It’s a great story for kids about being different and finding who you are, not who others think you are.”
Recommended by Cara Sullivan, Student Graphic Storyteller
A baby caterpillar munches his way through seven days of vibrantly illustrated foods in this familiar favorite from author and illustrator Eric Carle.
“I really love Eric Carle's illustrations in his books,” said Sullivan. “Also, I’ve always loved little bugs and critters, so this book was of particular interest.”
Recommended by Cara Sullivan
This ladybug is very grouchy, and he is determined to fight someone about it. Follow this persnickety pest as he attempts to find another creature that is willing to fight him, and ultimately learns the importance of kindness and good manners.
“This book gets funnier and funnier as I get older,” said Sullivan. “I just think the Grouchy Ladybug going around and trying to fight all these huge animals, and then basically saying ‘never mind, you're too small, I want to fight someone bigger’ is so silly!”
Recommended by Lindsay Seydel, Education and Outreach Coordinator
This fractured fairy tale changes the point of view on the age-old story of the Three Little Pigs. This time the wolf gives his side of the story in a humorous and clever tale from John Scieszka.
“This book makes for a great conversation starter with kids and provides an opportunity to debate which side is true,” said Seydel. “It also offers children opportunities to compare and contrast with the original version and talk about cause and effect.”
Recommended by Lindsay Seydel
Duncan's crayons have quit! Each color has left him a letter stating the reasons why it has decided to leave. Will Duncan be able to make amends with the crayons and bring them back to the box? Find out in this silly and colorful storybook from author Drew Daywalt and illustrator Oliver Jeffers.
“This is a creative story that brings a lot of laughter, especially with the peach crayon,” said Seydel. “This book offers a connection to writing letters and also opinion writing. There is a sequel—The Day the Crayons Came Home—which is equally as great!”
Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Communications Assistant
When Lily’s baby brother Julius is born, her parents lavish him with love and affection. However, Lily is not convinced that baby Julius is as great as people seem to think he is. Will Lily be able to overcome her jealous feelings, or is she doomed to despise baby Julius for the rest of both their lives? Find out in this classic tale of sibling rivalry from the author of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse and Chrysanthemum.
“I think my love of Kevin Henkes’s books has actually grown as I’ve gotten older,” said Mechelke. “His stories are incredibly funny and full of heart, and I think the escapades of characters like Lily and her friends are endlessly relatable for both kids and caregivers.”
Recommended by Meg Mechelke
Frances has decided that bread and jam is the only food she is going to eat, and no one is going to change her mind. To her surprise, her parents accept her decision and agree to let her eat jam sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But soon, Frances begins to wonder whether it really is possible to have too much of a good thing.
“I remember sitting at the kitchen table and reading this book over and over when I was little,” said Mechelke. “The illustrations are so charming, and as a famously stubborn child myself, I definitely resonated with Frances’ story.”
Recommended by Meg Mechelke
Alexander is having a terrible day, and it just keeps getting worse! He dropped his sweater in the sink, got gum in his hair, and, worst of all, had to eat lima beans for dinner. If this day doesn’t get better soon, Alexander knows he’ll have no choice but to move to Australia once and for all!
“I thought this book was hilarious as a kid, and it still makes me laugh today,” said Mechelke. “I also appreciate that it validates all of the feelings that come along with having a bad day, while also showing that things will get better eventually.”
Recommended by Ben Walizer and Lindsay Seydel
This book happens to be a favorite of two staff members! The barn animals are on strike in this cleverly comedic classic from Doreen Cronin. Will they be able to convince Farmer Brown to give in to their demands? With fun, rhythmic text and engaging illustrations, this book is sure to delight readers young and old.
“I like this book because it tells a story about how when workers organize together and fight for what they want and believe in, they have the power to get it,” said Walizer. “The animals on the farm use the power of their production to fight for what they need.”
“I love this book because it's just a fun little story about the trouble a farmer is having with his animals, but also because of the many literary devices used—alliteration, onomatopoeia, anthropomorphism, to name a few,” said Seydel. “It also provides children with opportunities to make predictions and inferences.”
Recommended by Taylor Miller, Online Learning Specialist
Siblings X and Y are hungry for pie, and they dream of baking a treat that will last them the rest of their lives. With the help of their Aunt Z, the two learn how to create the tastiest treat of all, with only flour, butter, and a little bit of math! From mathematician and children’s book author Eugenia Cheng, this book introduces young readers to various math concepts and also includes a recipe for banana butterscotch pie.
“I recently got my nephew this book, and he loved it,” said Miller. “My brother (his dad) teaches math, so I thought it would be cute for us to read together.”
Recommended by Karah Kluck, Education and Outreach Assistant
In this series of eclectic mystery novels, the students of Bailey School encounter a kooky cast of school staff members with supernatural secret identities. With over 80 installments in the series, these early chapter books have been a fan favorite of young readers for decades!
“These were fun chapter books with a little mystery element to them,” said Kluck. “I read almost every single one that my library carried.”