Extraordinary Children’s Books

Extraordinary Children's Books at Vibrant Wanderings

Sharing the love of books with newborn Elliot, by reading Everywhere Babies.

It has taken me an embarrassingly long time, but I have finally finished putting together a list of our favorite books. I would normally be posting my weekly family update, but a stomach bug for Elliot has meant gobs of lost sleep and extra laundry, so I’m a bit behind there. I also managed to give my phone/blog-reading-while-nursing-babies-to-sleep-device a bath this week, which means I’m way behind on reading all of your posts.

In any case, this post comes by request, as a follow-up to my recent post on choosing books for the absorbent mind. This list includes all of the books that I, and Annabelle, love most. It’s really a list of all of the favorites from our personal library of children’s books, plus a few gems we’ve borrowed during public library visits. I’ll add a separate post later on with a list of my favorite board books for infants and young toddlers, but today’s post will cover books that work well for the two-and-a-half to six age group. If you’re in the market for new books, and you don’t have a convenient local seller, I’d be thrilled to have you shop through the affiliate links within this post (much of the list can be found in its own category in my still-in-the-works astore: here, and I hope to get the rest added today), as this allows amazon to share some of their profits with me. These funds help me to cover the costs of keeping this site up and running, and if I suddenly find I’m rolling in the dough, any excess will end up going straight into our Montessori community program. But enough about that – on to the books!

These are in no particular order, though I have offered some loose categories. I couldn’t help but offer a bit of commentary here and there, but just did not feel there was enough time in the world to summarize each title. Amazon has done that anyway, and user reviewers are helpful, too!


All In a Day by Cynthia Rylant

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon - There are no words to explain how much I love this book.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

The Everything Seed: A Story of Beginnings by Carole Martignacco - This non denominational creation story was written by a UU minister and emphasizes our interconnectedness with all life. It is a such a special book in that it manages to explore the origins of life on Earth in a way that can complement any belief system’s views on creation, or the lack thereof. You can find the full text here, but the beautiful batik illustrations are well worth the rather high price of the book itself.

All The Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies - A gorgeous book of poetry for every season. If you haven’t already, you can see Annabelle reading some of them in this video.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney – Another extraordinary title. See a digital version of the story here.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

(The only thing I don’t love about this book is its use of the word “hate.” Does anyone have a three-year-old appropriate way to explain the definition of this word? I don’t want to minimize by simply saying it means you don’t like/really don’t like something, but then I’m not ready to go into the idea of disliking something so much that you want to do hateful things to it. It all feels too soon. I just switch the word.)

This is Ireland by Miroslav Simsek – This is just one of many others based on Simsek’s travels. We picked this one when we were exploring Ireland in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I was a bit surprised to see beer and whiskey discussed in a children’s book, but neither is entirely new to Annabelle anyway. The book is lovely even if you’d prefer to skip these bits, and I suspect the rest in the series are as well.

Artful Reading by Bob Raczka

Over the Green Hills by Rachel Isadora

Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman by Esme Raji Codell

Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw – In this story, a child in the US and a child in India write letters back and forth to one another describing the same aspects of their different countries. Through these letters and the drawings that accompany them, we see common threads, but also great contrast in the lives of both boys.

Everybody Needs a Rock  and The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor – These are a bit nebulous for the young three year old, but they are such special books.

Gabriella’s Song by Candace Fleming  - “Ah, Venice! The city of music…” This lovely book follows a girl named Gabriella through her home city of Venice. During Annabelle’s and my visit to Italy, I wrote that she had, “listened to it [the book] at least a hundred times. It was really neat to see her make connections between that and the actual city of Venice. Several times, she repeated lines from the book when she saw things that reminded her of it, and until she got too cold to care, didn’t cease asking to see the Piazza San Marco.”

Peek! –  a Thai Hide and Seek by Minfong Ho

Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson – This is a very simple book, suitable for younger children, but still appropriate for threes, fours, and beyond. Photographs of children accompany the text.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina – We also enjoy Se Venden Gorras, the Spanish version.

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner

On Monday When it Rained by Cherryl Kachenmeister – The only illustrations in this book are black and white photos. Nothing about it is visually appealing, really, but it seemed to speak to Annabelle in a deeper way than any other books about feelings, and she absolutely loves it.

Mama’s Milk (Mama me Alimenta) by Michael Elsohn Ross – This beautiful, bilingual book shows a number of different mammals nursing their young.

Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallett

Peace Begins With You by Katharine Scholes

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth by Eric Carle

The Gas We Pass by Shinta Cho is my favorite of the My Body Science series, which includes the slightly more silly Everyone Poops as well as All About Scabs and some others I have yet to check out, including Breasts, the Holes in Your Nose, and Contemplating Your Bellybutton. All appeal to young childrens’ silly side while presenting factual information about the body.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp

All My Relations: A Prayer by L.T. Sparrow

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers – This one is appropriate for the younger crowd up through three and beyond, but may not thrill the older preschooler as it does her three year old friends.

I Am The Desert by Anthony D. Fredericks and Jesse Reisch - This is a wonderful book, discovered thanks to a gift from relatives in the land of my birth: The Sonoran Desert. Contains facts, images, and beautiful descriptions of the Sonoran Desert in particular.

Frida by Jonah Winter and Ana Juan  - The link goes to the English edition, but the Spanish edition is what I have, and it’s wonderful. As part of the Spanish classes I taught some years back, I would always read the children both Frida and Diego at some point as a wonderful way of combining the Spanish language with an exploration of art from the Spanish-speaking world.

Diego by Jonah Winter – See above.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner - A wonderful book for winter, this one examines the “secret kingdom” of animal life that exists under the snow. Incredible information about the many animals that are alive in the winter, and busier than we know.

I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen - This book is a bit long for most three year olds, but serves as a great introductory look at Galileo, astronomy, and scientific thought in general, for the older preschooler. I love the illustrations, too.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story about Africa by Jeanette Winter

Mouse and Lion by Rand Burkert - This book does involve animism, of course, but is a lovely retelling of the classic fable. The illustrator does incredible work, and the author happens to be a Montessori teacher in Italy. A great find from some friends with impeccable taste!

Snowy and Chinook by Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman - The story here leaves something to be desired, but I absolutely adore this little book for the illustrations. The little characters are made of natural materials, with Snowy and Chinook, both children, made of what appears to be felted wool. As the story unfolds, they cross paths with a Beaver who is made from a potato, among other characters. The book is certainly a work of art that I love simply as something for children to look at.

Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Craig Hatkoff and Paula Kahumbu - The book documents the growth of a special friendship between two unlikely animals: a giant tortoise and a hippopotamus. If you enjoy this one, you may want to consider checking out my mentor teacher’s cd for an original song based on the story (not an affiliate link)!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Snow by Uri Shulevitz - Everything we’ve seen by Uri Shulevitz is wonderful, and this one is no exception.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen - This story is told from a child’s perspective, about a night out in the woods, hoping to spot owls with his or her father. I don’t find it to be particularly exciting, but Annabelle has loved it, and I consider her opinion to be much more valid than mine on the subject of best children’s books.

Dreams by Ezra Jack Keats – This is another that wouldn’t have stood out to me on its own, but Annabelle loved it. It’s the one that had her calling both her daddy and me “Roberto,” for a good while. Of course any book with Keats’ artwork is well worth the time, regardless of how thrilling the story may be.

Flashlight by Betsy James - Two sisters are sleeping over at Grandpa’s and, while one is sleeping peacefully, the other is awake and frightened by the darkness. After her grandfather comes in and gives her a flashlight, she’s suddenly empowered by her newfound ability to transform dark, and seemingly scary places into light ones.

Stellaluna by Janell Canon - This one involves talking animals, but it’s a lovely story all the same.

Over in the Meadow illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats – Keats’ illustrations add such beauty to this classic, which I didn’t even realize until recently was actually a popular one for singing with young children. Thanks, Courtney, for opening my eyes to that!

What Would You Do With a Kangaroo? by Mercer Mayer – This one is complete silliness, with talking animals making all manner of ridiculous requests, but it is so funny, and so very fun to read.


When Spring Comes by Natale Kinsey-Warnock

And then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer

Uncle Vova’s Tree by Patricia Polacco *a touch of animism

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski

Mama, Is it Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure

Multicultural Books

Hello, World by Manya Stojic

What Is Your Language by Debra Leventhal

People by Peter Spier

A Life Like Mine and A Faith Like Mine by DK Publishing


Bedtime in the Jungle by John Butler

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

Hush! a Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho

Sleepy Little Yoga by Rebecca Whitford

The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (and Kitten’s First Full Moon)

Sleepy Book by Charlotte Zolotow

Hula Lullaby by Erin Eitter Kono

Little Night by Yuyi Morales

It’s Time to Sleep My Love by Eric Metaxas

Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant


Sophia’s Jungle Adventure and Anna and Her Rainbow Colored Yoga Mats by Giselle Shardlow

Little Yoga by Rebecca Whitford

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle


Dover Books – I’m not huge on coloring sheets, but if you’re going to be coloring, you ought to be using pages from a Dover book. I am crazy about their realistic images, themed books on a wide variety of topics, and inexpensive offerings.

Homemade Books - When you can’t find an ideal book on a topic of importance to you, pull together some photos and make your own! Annabelle still asks to read the book we wrote about her infancy often.

To my fellow children’s book lovers: By no means is this an exhaustive list of all the great children’s books. If I attempted something like that, I would never be ready to hit publish! I know I’m missing some great books we’ve read, and others we haven’t. I’d love so much to see a list of your favorites, too. If anyone is up for it, I’d be happy to host a link-up of your books lists. Any interest? There has also been some interest in creating a page where we can discuss books and other resources we find enriching for our children. I created a page for us called Preparing the Environment: Books and Materials for the Absorbent Mind. There’s not much of anything there yet, but I’d love to have you “like” it and add links or share what you’ve been reading lately.

11 thoughts on “Extraordinary Children’s Books

    1. melissa Post author

      If I bought all of the books I wanted, I’d be broke :) This, I think is why I usually had 2-3 part time jobs in addition to my full time when I was childless and teaching. Had to bring in money for the books! Thank goodness for libraries, right!?

    1. melissa Post author

      You are so kind to suggest that, Jacqueline. I just applied for an account with bookdepository.co.uk, so hopefully I receive approval soon :)

  1. Christine @ African Babies Don't Cry

    I LOVE reading others’ favourite book lists. I am such a huge book lover, but find them so pricey here in South Africa that I spend most of my time searching our very limited local library. With a list in hand, its easier to order books through the inter-loan system, so thank you, I shall be searching for most of these :) xXx

    1. melissa Post author

      I hope you love the ones you find as much as we do! :) We had a pretty limited library when we lived on Guam, too, but I was always surprised at the gems we could find when we really combed through what was available. So grateful for books!

  2. Amy G

    Thanks for sharing! It’s amazing that there are so many of these books that I haven’t read before! That’s one of the most amazing things about books. Good luck with tummy virus recovery!

    1. melissa Post author

      Thanks, Amy! It really is amazing that no matter how much reading you do, there always seem to be more books out there. I love it! :)

  3. Rach

    Thanks so much! They all sound great. I didn’t know there was an Ireland version of those Simsek’s book though we have the London one. I’m from Ireland so must get it! As for the alcohol, well I can remember babies being given a drop of whiskey to sleep! Or Guinness for iron. terrible.

    http://www.amazon.com/Were-Going-Bear-Hunt-Anniversary/dp/1416987118/ref=la_B000AP9NHG_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366844621&sr=1-1 I like this one, especially if you watch him perform it on YouTube.

    We got this from Tassie cousins, a lovely book about everyday life http://www.amazon.com/Bumping-Bouncing-Alison-Lester/dp/1741755115

    A classic about kids being babysat for the day. Love it as so everyday, plus a male babysitter, a billboard about teachers strikes, and groovy 70s fashion http://www.amazon.com/Helpers-Red-Fox-Picture-Books/dp/0099926504/ref=sr_1_30?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366845107&sr=1-30&keywords=Shirley+Hughes

    Lots more…

    1. melissa Post author

      Yes, yes, we love Simsek’s Ireland book. I’m interested to see the others, too. Do you love the London one? I thought of you when we were buying This is Ireland, actually ;) It was part of our St. Patrick’s Day book basket this year, and went over quite well.

      I’ll pass your suggestions along on the page if you don’t mind! They look great!


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