Olivia the Pig. Corduroy the Bear. Fancy Nancy. Captain Underpants. These are just some of the colorful characters who have captured kids’ imaginations over the years. What are your children’s favorite books? We ask our listeners – especially our tiniest ones! – for suggestions on the best children’s books, from classics to the latest selection.

Amy Martin, children’s collection librarian, Oakland Public Library
Christian Robinson, children’s book illustrator
Lauren Savage, owner, The Reading Bug, a children’s bookstore in San Carlos
Sara Wigglesworth, children’s book buyer, Green Apple Books

Amy Martin’s Recommendations

  • “Accident” by Andrea Tsurami
  • “Amina’s Voice” by Hena Khan
  • “Brave” by Svetlana Chmakova
  • “Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World” by Reshma Saujani
  • “The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives” by Dashka Slater
  • “When’s My Birthday?” by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Christian Robinson’s Recommendations

  • “Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman
  • “The Book of Mistakes” by Corrina Luyken
  • “The Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Crockett Johnson
  • “The Elephants Wish” by Bruno Munari
  • “Life” by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
  • “Swimmmy” by Leo Lionni

Lauren Savage’s Recommendations

  • “All’s Faire in Middle School” by Victoria Jamieson
  • “Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth” by Oliver Jeffers
  • Hilde Cracks the Case” series by Hilde Lysiak
  • “The Koala Who Could” by Rachel Bright
  • “The Lion Inside” by Rachel Bright
  • “Wishtree” by Kathryn Applegate

Sara Wigglesworth’s Recommendations

  • “Life” by Cynthia Rylant
  • “On a Magical Do-Nothing Day” by Beatrice Alemagna
  • “The World’s Biggest Fart” by Rafael Ordóñez Cuadrado
  • “Zog and the Flying Doctors” by Harry Styles

Listener Recommendations (In Alphabetical Order)

  • “A Letter for Amy” by Ezra Jack Keats
  • “A Movie in My Pillow/Una pelicula en mi almohada” by Jorge Argueta and Elizabeth Gomez
  • “Above The Timberline” by Gregory Manchess
  • “Ada Twist, Scientist” and “Iggy Peck, Architect” by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
  • “Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst
  • “All-of-a-Kind Family” by Sydney Taylor
  • “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
  • “Amos and Boris” by William Steig
  • “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • “The Araboolies of Liberty Street” by Sam Swope and Barry Root
  • “Arlo Needs Glasses” by Barney Saltzberg
  • –B–

  • “Beautiful Oops” by Barney Saltzberg
  • “Best Lowly Worm Book Ever!” by Richard Scarry
  • “The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • –C–

  • “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • “Cat and Dog” series by Elizabeth Miller and Jane Cohen
  • “Charlie Brown’s Super Book of Questions and Answers” by Charles Schulz
  • “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett and Ronald Barrett
  • “Creatrilogy” series by Peter Reynolds
  • “Creepy Carrots!” by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown
  • –D–

  • “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?,” “Too Many Daves” and “What Was I Scared Of?” by Dr. Seuss
  • “Dinotopia” series by James Gurney
  • –E–

  • “The Enormous Crocodile” by Roald Dahl
  • –F–

  • “The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore,” “Mischievians,” “Man on the Moon,” and “Rise of the Guardians” by William Joyce
  • “The Favorite Daughter” by Allen Say
  • “Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear” by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall
  • “Firebird” by Misty Copeland and Christopher Meyers
  • –G–

  • “George and Martha” by James Marshall
  • “Gidappy” by Elsie Church
  • “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by Giles Andrae
  • “Go Dog Go” by P.D. Eastman
  • “The Golden Book of Poetry” by Jane Werner and Gertrude Elliott
  • “The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry
  • “The Gruffalo,” “The Gruffalo’s Child” and “The Snail and the Whale” by Julia Donaldson
  • –J–

  • “Jazz Baby” by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie
  • “Jerome” by Philip Ressner and Jerome Snyder
  • “Junkyard Wonders” by Patricia Polacco
  • “Junie B. Jones” series by Barbara Park
  • –H–

  • “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson
  • “Hasan and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie
  • “Happiness Is a Warm Puppy” by Charles Schulz
  • “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh
  • “Hilo” series by Judd Winick
  • “The How And Why Wonder Books” series
  • –I–

  • “I Am” series by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopolis
  • “I Love You, Stinky Face” by Lisa Mccourt and Cyd Moore
  • “In My Heart: A Book of Feelings” by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
  • “It’s Like This, Cat” by Emily Cheney Neville
  • –K–

  • “Keena Ford” series by Melissa Thomson
  • “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” by Mo Willems
  • –L–

  • “La Niña que Caminaba entre Aromas” by Ariel Andres Almada
  • “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
  • “The Learning Tree” by Gordon Parks
  • “Locomotive” by Brian Floca
  • “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
  • “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
  • “Lola at the Library” by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
  • “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton
  • “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • –M–

  • “The Mad Scientists’ Club” series by Bertrand R. Brinley and illustrated by Charles Geer
  • “The Magician’s Nephew” by C.S. Lewis
  • “Manners Can Be Fun” by Munro Leaf
  • “Max and Ruby” by Rosemary Wells
  • “Mercy Watson to the Rescue” by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen
  • “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” by Virginia Lee Burton
  • “Mi Tía es Verde” by Xosé Cermeño
  • “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gag
  • “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires
  • “My Father’s Dragon” series by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne
  • “Mystery of the Haunted Pool” by Phillis A. Whitney
  • –N–

  • The Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene
  • –O–

  • “Old Black Witch” by Wende Devlin
  • “Once I Was Very Very Scared” by Chandra Ghosh Ippen and Erich Peter Ippen Jr.
  • “One, Zero, Two” and “Beautiful Hands” by Katherine Otoshi
  • “Owen” by Kevin Henkes
  • “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear and Jan Brett
  • –P–

  • “Pantone: Box of Color” by Pantone
  • “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer
  • “Pickled-Chiffon Pie” and “The Flying Hockey Stick” by Jolly Roger Bradfield
  • “Pinkalicious” by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann
  • “The Pout-Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen
  • “President of the Whole Fifth Grade” by Sherri Winston
  • “The Princess and the Pony” by Kate Beaton
  • –Q–

  • “The Quiet Book by” Deborah Underwood
  • –R–

  • “Ranger Rick” magazine
  • “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease
  • –S–

  • “Scranimals” by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis
  • “The Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee
  • “Sleep Like a Tiger” by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
  • “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf
  • “Spooky Old Tree” by Jan and Stan Berenstein
  • “Spy School” series by Stuart Gibbs
  • “Still a Gorilla” by Kim Norman and illustrated by Chad Geran
  • “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig
  • –T–

  • “Tiffany Aching” by Terry Pratchett
  • “Tumble Tower” by Mitra Modaressi and Anne Tyler
  • –W–

  • “The Way Things Work” by David Macaulay
  • “We Are in a Book!” by Mo Willems
  • “What Do People Do All Day?” by Richard Scarry
  • “What Pet Should I Get?” by Dr. Seuss
  • “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” by Judith Kerr
  • “When the Sea Turned to Silver” by Grace Lin
  • “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak
  • “Why is Dad So Mad?” by Seth Kastle
  • “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale” by Verna Aardema and Leo Dillon
  • “The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse” by Mac Barnett
  • “The Wolf’s Chicken Stew” by Keiko Kasza
  • “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
Tell Us Your Favorite Children’s Books 3 November,2017Mina Kim


    Joseph and his coat of many colors, great story for kids, many books on line.

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      Don’t forget the Holy Bible!

  • Noelle

    Little House books. Recently, scholars believe Laura’s daughter Rose improved her mother’s writing, which is fine with me, she was a professional writer. Also a Libertarian activist.

  • Angela

    Laurel, age 9:

    I really like ‘Wonder’ (2012, RJ Palacio). It’s the story of a boy with a facial deformation and the story is told from his perspective and then from lots of other people’s perspective. I like it bc it is happy, it’s sad, it’s inspiring, and it’s funny. It’s a great book.

    Natalia, age 7:

    I love this book called the Boxcar Children (1942, Gertrude Chandler Warner). I really like the first book, especially. They are orphans and they live in an old boxcar. They have to live on what they find. I really love it bc it has a lot of suspense.

    Daniel, age 4:

    Locomotive (2013, Brian Floca) is my favorite book. It talks about trains.

    Gilly, age 2:

    I like Max and Ruby (1989, Rosemary Wells). From Mom: these sweet picture books show the many sides of a bunny sibling relationship. They are honest, funny, and endearing.

  • Genevieve Moore

    Dr. Seuss’ “The Sleep Book,” Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen.” When I was a geeky kid I read the “Children’s World Book Encyclopedia” volumes over and over.

  • Jessica

    I will forever love The Very Hungry Caterpillar

    • Tandem Bay Area

      Such a classic for the littlest of bookworms. 🙂

    • Iris

      That is a great book! But for kids who are looking for a more scientific approach to caterpillars and butterflies, try “Butterfly Papercrafts: 21 Indoor Projects for Outdoor Learning.”


      • Jessica

        Yeah, sometimes the”imaginative” nature of a lot of children’s media led to a lot of confusion in my childhood 🙂

  • Noelle

    “Harriet the Spy” was good too.

    • Whamadoodle

      I loved it when I was small!

  • Kate Stuart Stevenson

    I loved All of a Kind Family when I was young and read them all out loud to my daughters. Lovely simple stories of a devout Jewish family in New York City at the turn of the century. Also Mercy Watson! I remember her fondly every time I make toast with a great deal of butter on it!

  • Tandem Bay Area

    At Tandem, we love diverse books that are not only fun for families to share together, but also build specific early literacy skills that are necessary for children to have before they even learn to read! For example, we really enjoy sharing “One Word for Sophia” to boost vocabulary; “Furqan’s First Flat Top” is a fantastic bilingual book that builds social and emotions skills and features positive male role models; and “Ada Twist Scientist” is a great empowering STEM story for young girls. It’s also a rhyming book, which builds phonological awareness skills! You can learn more about the 6 Skills of Early Literacy and other free resources on our website at: http://www.tandembayarea.org.

  • John

    Phantom Tollbooth is my favorite.

    • Whamadoodle


  • Derek Gurney

    The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes. Poetic writing, cleverly self-referential, and beautiful wood-cut illustrations. A Caldecott award winner.

    And two by Mordicai Gerstein: The Man Who Walked Between The Towers (another Caldecott winner) and The First Drawing. Both are based on great, kid-friendly documentaries: Man on Wire and Cave of Forgotten Dreams

  • Whamadoodle

    When I was REALLY tiny, it was Richard Scarry’s “What Do People Do All Day?” I loved the fact that each character had its own little personalized car–the baker had a bread-shaped one, the worm had an apple-shaped one, etc.–and the way he drew the houses with a wall removed so that you could see into each room.

    “The Purple Crayon,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Go Dog Go,” Dr. Seuss, and “The Phantom Tollbooth” were other favorites. Also the Narnia Chronicles, especially “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and “A Horse and His Boy.” Great flights of fantasy.

    And don’t forget Charles M. Schulz! “Happiness Is a Warm Puppy” was another one I loved. He wasn’t afraid to teach us new words. It was really important to me that he never talked down to kids and assumed we were all idiots. He would teach us words like “myopia” or “ophthalmologist” instead, and assume that we were smart enough to get something if he taught it to us.

    • Robert Thomas

      My second grade teacher read it to us. Favorite characters? The Dodecahedron; King Azaz’s Undersecretary of Understanding.

      • Whamadoodle

        The Undersecretary of Understanding! Yes, one of my favorites from the book too.

        I remember watching the animated movie, and the only false note was when the kid returned to “real life” and was exultant and leaping for joy in the sunshine. I thought: “well, bulls— to THAT.”

  • Susan Bistebokeborn

    Cat and Dog series by Elizabeth Miller and Jane Cohen are hard to find but have a wonderful message about frienship and community.

    • Tandem Bay Area

      We LOVE sharing this title in preschool classrooms! This is one of our favorite titles to share to build children’s social and emotional skills. The kids can really understand the struggles represented in the story, and they love being asked to share their ideas on how Cat and Dog can work out their differences.

  • Jack gallant

    Somebody mentioned a book with a title of something like “What to do when a Bully leads the country” or something like that. Is that a real book? Does any one have the accurate title?

  • RuffNReddy

    My Father’s Dragon series – Ruth Stiles Gannett and Dominic – William Steig
    are my favorite introductions to chapter book reading aloud. I read them all every year to my own daughter starting at age 3 until she wanted to read them on her own. And continued the tradition with my pre-K students during rest time. Fabulous adventure stories that stimulate imagination!

  • Robert Thomas

    The How And Why Wonder Books were very important to me since at least the age of three:

    A few whose authors I can remember are

    The How and Why Wonder Book of Magnets and Magnetism, by Martin L. Keen
    The How and Why Wonder Book of Stars, by Norman Hoss
    The How and Why Wonder Book of Lost Cities, by Irving Robbin

    We had a twenty of these or more, along with many beloved story books and illustrated books, especially those with animals.

    My older sisters’ vast Nancy Drew collection introduced me to exotic locales and adventures.

    First “chapter book”: Mystery of the Haunted Pool, by Phillis A. Whitney

    The Mad Scientists’ Club Book series by Bertrand R. Brinley and illustrated by Charles Geer, including The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake (1960)

    First “serious book”: It’s Like This, Cat, by Emily Cheney Neville (Harper’s 1963; Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature in 1964).

    • Robert Thomas

      Looking it up just now, the wonderfully illustrated The How and Why Wonder Book of Magnets and Magnetism sold for 59¢.

      • Whamadoodle

        I seriously dug the How and Why Wonder Books, and I LOVED the Mad Scientists’ Club.

        • Robert Thomas

          I hope that some day there’ll be published or produced an appreciation of the Scholastic Corporation for the sake of its pre-Harry Potter era school-administered Book Clubs. I was NOT alone among my grade school classmates in anticipating the day when boxes of new paperback editions arrived at the classroom, fulfilling our requests for $1.25 editions of adventure and mystery and science fiction stories that our parents had allotted five or ten dollars for us to order, twice a year or so.

          All of them that I had, have gone to later generations of children. A couple of years ago I indulged myself with re-collecting a couple of juveniles that I had treasured – everything is available through the internet. I acquired a replacement for my lost copy of More Tales to Tremble By (that I mentioned here elsewhere; I guess I wouldn’t describe it as a juvenile) but also new hardback editions of Brinley’s Mad Scientist Club books in snazzy hardback from Jill Morgan’s Purple House Press. PHP’s “mission is to rescue long lost, but well loved children’s books. Today’s children deserve to read wholesome stories from a simpler time and we know grownups want to revisit with childhood friends too!”


          The Mad Scientists’ Club – 50th Anniversary Edition
          The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists’ Club

          Brinley, a theater enthusiast from a Northeastern family whose friends included John Cheever, attended Stanford as an English and History major and once worked at the Peninsula Creamery. Having heard Harry Bridges’s entreaties to join the Republicans in Spain, Brinley was about to depart for Europe when his father heard of the plan and had his son’s passport pulled. After working for Lockheed in Southern California during WWII, he had a long career in the army, directing entertainment units in Europe and seeing action in the Korean conflict. He was the Army’s press liaison for the induction of Elvis Presley. Brinley inaugurated a US Army program to promote amateur rocketry after the launch of Sputnik, which started his interest in writing on technical subjects and juvenile fiction.

  • Kelley Forden-Westling

    William Joyce, Moonbot Studios. Illustrator/storyteller. Brilliant stories and amazing artwork. The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, Mischievians, Man on the Moon, etc. He also wrote Rise of the Guardians.

  • Another Mike

    James Marshall: George and Martha
    And Daniel Pinkwater — why don’t I hear him on npr any more?

  • Tandem Bay Area

    More fun, scary books to share: “I Want My Hat Back,” by Jon Klassen; “The Dark” by Lemony Snicket; and “The Good Little Wolf” by Nadia Shireen. Recommended for ages: 4-7.

  • giulia

    My kids grew up in Italy, so, as an American mother, I read the classic children books of my generation to them: Jack and the Beanstalk was their very favorite.

  • cecdkc

    Did anyone get the name of the Tree book about the man falling asleep beneath the tree?

    • Another Mike

      Was that the easy chapter book?

      • cecdkc

        A man plans to cut down a tree for his economic gain, he falls asleep and while sleeping, the animals come to tell him why they need the tree. I heard it as “The Capon Tree,” but that wasn’t the correct name.

        • Another Mike

          I wonder if this is the book. It has the word cap, a man falling asleep under a tree, and animals.


          • cecdkc

            No, but thank you for forwarding. We have this one (and I recall it from when I was a child, too); I believe the setting was Africa, though I may have confused that with another book described in the interview. I’ll wait to see if it’s in the list of books mentioned, when it becomes available.

          • Another Mike

            I started listening to the recorded show and heard one tot actually talk about the caps book. He left out that the cap seller fell asleep under a tree.

      • cecdkc

        Thank you!

  • Robert Thomas

    Someone called in to ask about scary stories. Two that I can think of that I received as a gift from my great aunt when I was about ten were the collections

    Tales to Tremble By; a Collection of Famous Stories of Haunting and Suspense (1966 Whitman)
    Stephen P. Sutton (Editor), Shannon Stirnweis (Illustrator). Included are

    “The Middle Toe of the Right Foot”, by Ambrose Bierce
    “Adventure of the German Student”, by Washington Irving
    “The Judge’s House”, by Bram Stoker

    and for me especially
    More Tales to Tremble By; a Second Collection of Great Stories of Haunting and Suspense (1968 Whitman)
    Stephen P. Sutton (Editor), Gordon Laite (Illustrator). Included:

    “God Grante that She Lye Stille”, by Cynthia Asquith
    “Sredni Vashtar”, by Saki
    “The extra passenger”, by August Derleth
    “Casting the Runes”, by M. R. James

    The 1911 Montague R. James story was adapted into the wonderful 1957 Jacques Tourneur film Curse of the Demon [UK: Night of the Demon] staring Dana Andrews and Niall MacGinnis.

    Cherry ripe cherry ripe
    Ripe I cry
    Full and fair ones
    Come and buy

    – Mrs Karswell and friends, calling the spirits at her seance.

  • Sar Wash

    The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. All of the Hardy Boys books.

  • Sar Wash

    Uncle Remus Stories

  • Kletus VanDamme

    I have a 3.5 year old girl.
    Over the last year, we have read over 1000 books.
    There is so much magic out there, but you have to do some digging!

    Here is my spreadsheet where I categorize and review them all.

    My favorites evolve as my daughter grows, but here are some stellar picks:
    The Water Princess
    All the World
    E-I-E-I-O : how Old MacDonald got his farm
    When a Dragon Moves In Again
    Your Alien Returns
    Nobody likes a goblin
    Little Blue Truck
    Too Much Glue


Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

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