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There’s a new magic in reading to kids in this age group. They soak up the stories and possibilities, spellbound, and the second you close the book, the spell breaks just long enough for them to demand that you read it all over again. And again. And again. It’s entertaining when the group you’re reading to would otherwise be similar to a zoo gone wild but it’s also only fun for the reader if you have a collection of really awesome stories.
Gifting wonderful books may be mostly self-preservation but these are also stories that are well worth reading repeatedly.
The Best Books Gifts for Kids (Ages 4-8)
Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker
While Prince Sebastian’s parents are on the hunt for his bride, he’s secretly moonlighting as Lady Crystallia, ably assisted by his best friend and dressmaker Frances. But his secret means that she too is a secret.
Bao Phi and Thi Bui’s A Different Pond
Father and son fish together for generations, first as a way to feed the family, later as a way to connect to family and remember their culture in a new world.
Micheline Hess’s Malice in Ovenland
With a touch of Alice in Wonderland and a whiff of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, this story takes Lily Brown into the world behind her oven full of strange creatures that existed on the grease once found in their oven.
Gigi D.G’s Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom
Bunny siblings trying to save the world. Need you hear more? I sure don’t.
Grace Ellis’s Moonstruck
Collecting the first chapter (5 issues) of Moonstruck, this story follows a werewolf barista and her new girlfriend into magical chaos.
Michael Mahin’s The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
McKinley Morganfield (1913–83), aka Muddy Waters, an American blues legend, was born in Mississippi and fought through the opposition of his family, the music industry, the sharecropping world to develop his own “Chicago Blues” style.
Zetta Elliott and Purple Wong’s Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged
A young girl rhymes about her friend who is autistic, Benny, teaching young children that it’s ok to accept people as they are. Kids learn how to discriminate from adults, we need as many messages out there saying that people have to be like us to be worthy of friendship.
Jonah Winter and Stacy Innerst’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality
This true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life follows her through her journey as the Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court at a time when Jews, working mothers, and women were all discriminated against in the workplace. The combination of all three turned out to be an inspirational, hard-working powerhouse.
Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal’s La Madre Goose
Seeing our classic nursery rhymes in bilingual style is absolutely delightful. This helps us bridge the gaps when we’re learning a language new to both of us.
Ben Clanton’s Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea
Three stories of two friends, Jelly and Narwhal, as they explore the ocean together and learn about friendship, teamwork and imagination.
Nilah Magruder’s How to Find a Fox
The cuteness of this book’s illustrations is matched only by the adorable story of a little girl on a persistent quest to find the red fox. She shows us how to be creative and resilient even in the face of continued disappointment.
Lauren Tarshis’s I Survived Collection
This collection brings together the stories of kids who survive terrifying disasters in history. This is both comforting (because we want to encourage resilience) and horrifying (because we want to protect kids!) to a parent.
Jeanette Winter’s The World Is Not a Rectangle A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
Iraqi born Zaha Hadid grew up dreaming of urban design. As a Muslim woman, the odds were against her but after studying architecture in London, she opened her studio and worked at creating such creative and unconventional designs that she ultimately designed buildings all over the world.
Andrea Davis Pinkney and Stephen Alcorn’s Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters
This collects shares the more well-known stories of African-American activists like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, and Sojourner Truth, alongside women who were lesser known but no less critical in the fight for civil rights, women’s rights, and suffrage.
Useni Eugene Perkins and Bryan Collier’s Hey Black Child
Beautiful watercolor-and-collage illustrations bring this poem to life, drawing on historical images spanning decades to emphasize the inspirational message that contributions of black children will matter, now and when they grow up.
Marjane Satrapi’s Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon
A frightened little girl decides to drive off the three monsters who keep visiting her in the dark by cutting down the moon and hanging it in her room. This causes some problems.
Katherine Roy’s How to Be an Elephant
Life for elephants in the African savanna is not easy. Roy’s book captivates readers with the story of how a newborn elephant survives from birth to adulthood.
Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu’s Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code
Grace Hopper was a computer scientist, United States Navy rear admiral, and perhaps most notably, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Follow her remarkable journey.
Jonathan Fenske’s A Pig, a Fox, and a Box
If you’ve got a fan of Piggy and Elephant, this Willems-style book delivers three more stories of these two funny friends. This is simple yet engaging for a young reader.
Jeanne Walker Harvey and Dow Phumiruk’s Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines
Maya Lin was a 21-year-old college senior when she submitted her anonymous and winning design for The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Learn more about her and her journey in creating the iconic memorial.
What are your favorite books suitable for young kids in first and second grade?