To kick off the year, I’m sharing some of the best children’s books of 2017. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but these picture books are true gems! If you’re looking for more books that we’ve been reading, check out our monthly On Our Bookshelf series.
Some of our family’s favorite traditions revolve around cozying up together with a good book. Whether it’s bedtime reading every night (I still read to my tween!), our holiday book advent calendar tradition, or heading to the bookstore on ugly days to grab a treat in the cafe and a stack of new books to thumb through, we love a good book and we read a lot of them. Some are so-so and others are downright craptastic (this is usually the licensed character books my six-year-old gravitates toward gleefully), but every year there are a few that shine so brightly we can’t stop thinking about them.
I decided to take a break from my On Our Bookshelf series this month to do a roundup of some of the children’s books that shined the brightest for us this year. These are the books that make me gush and give me warm and fuzzy feelings that I just can’t shake.
8 of our absolute favorite children’s books of 2017
We have so much love for this book (and Rebel Girls #1) that I don’t even know where to start. Maybe the best place is the exclamation that came from my six-year-old when we started flipping through the second book for the first time: “Wow, Mommy! A lot of girls have done really good things!” I truly could have burst on the spot, in the middle of the bookstore.
The Rebel Girls books each contain one hundred narrative-style bios of extraordinary women, both contemporary and ancient (this one covers bad ass women from Nefertiti to Beyonce). Ellie is absolutely obsessed with their stories. So far, her favorite from this book is Yusra Mardini, a teenage Syrian refugee who helped save fellow passengers when the boat they were escaping on began to sink. She helped pull it for three hours before they got to safety. A year later, Yusra swam for the Refugee Olympic team and last year she became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. When Ellie realized Yusra is alive today (unlike her other favorite, Rosa Parks), she became obsessed with finding photos and videos of her.
These books are fantastic.
Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer
Olivia’s birthday is coming and the cheeky little pig just has to know the secret plans her mom is making—so she starts eavesdropping. When she hears her mom talking about her not-so-perfect behavior, her imagination goes into overdrive and she begins to think her mom is about to send her to military school. When her mom tells her she’s going to surprise her by taking her somewhere special, Olivia packs up her belongings before heading out.
I love that this story incorporates a precocious child’s imagination with a solid lesson (eavesdropping usually results in finding out partial truths). It’s fun to watch Olivia’s over-the-top antics and kids sit on the edge of their seats waiting to see what will happen.
Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani
This one isn’t a story book so much as a counting book, but Ellie completely fell in love with it. We found it in the library and were taken in by the cute and simple drawings. The book is just as cute and simple as you would expect. Adorable little kitties in all different shapes and colors sleep and play and pile on top of each other throughout the book. This was a great one for Ellie to read to herself and to me.
The Bad Seed by Jory John
I picked this one up in our local bookstore because I loved the cover so much. I would never have believed you if you told me I would be completely blown away by its positivity and uplifted by the warm and fuzzy message at its core. It’s about a little seed who turns bad after life hands him a whole lot of lemons. He goes out of his way to be bad… until one day he decides to be good. It’s not easy, and he has some slip-ups, but in the end, he’s accepted.
It is so freaking heartwarming. Ellie loved it too. When I asked her what she thought it was about, she said “people can change if they want to.” YES, my girl! Your past does not have to define you. I have so much love for this one.
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
This is a great book for perfectionists like my oldest, who feel like all is lost if they make a mistake. An artist takes readers along through her creative process, as she turns little splotches and mistakes into an unexpected masterpiece. The text is minimal, but the words that are there encourage readers to go with the flow—don’t obsess over mistakes, but think about what you can turn them into. I love the gorgeous illustrations and the message… which is a reminder that I can use myself from time to time.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
I’m a big Oliver Jeffers fan. His stories are generally touching and quirky and beautifully illustrated. This one is a little different in that I think it’s the perfect book to give to new parents—for them as much as for their baby. The book is Jeffers’ love note to his infant son; a guide to life filled with all of the things he hopes to teach him.
While Ellie adored the illustrations and the idea that humans are so tiny in the grand scheme of things, I was cut to the core and felt an immediate camaraderie with a new dad trying to make sense of the world for his baby. The messages of kindness and tolerance and empathy made me love it even more. You can read my full thoughts about the book on Brightly.
Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser
As I mentioned earlier, Ellie is a little bit obsessed with Rosa Parks. She’s fascinated by her story and by her strength and wants to read anything we can find about her. What I like about this particular book (and the whole Little People, Big Dreams series for that matter) is that it starts off with Rosa as a child, which gives little readers a chance to really connect with her before explaining how she refused to give up her seat and made a huge impact on civil rights. At the back, there are photos and more facts for kids who might be interested in learning more.
What I love about this book is that it doesn’t talk down to kids, but it also doesn’t give them more information than they can understand. It’s the perfect balance for a biography—and the cute illustrations are an added bonus.
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat
This book (from the author of The Adventures of Beekle) tackles what happened after Humpty Dumpty’s nursery rhyme ended. We learn that Humpty Dumpty loved to sit up high on the city’s wall watching birds. But, after his accident, heights are really scary for Humpty. He’s not sure he’ll ever have the courage to face his fear and enjoy the things he loves again.
Uplifting and surprising, this story is completely heartwarming. The words on the back of the book pretty much say it all: Life begins when you get back up.
What were your favorite children’s books this year? There were so many good ones—and so many we haven’t read yet!