Everyone has spent more time reading the last year than ever before, so why not update your bookshelf with a few fresh finds? This year is off to a great start with plenty of gorgeous picture books, historical tales and feel-good reads for audiences of all ages. Keep reading to see our picks for the best kids’ book of 2021 so far.
Baby & Toddler (Board Books)
Little Observers On the Farm & In the Park
Claire Beaton's two board books introduce baby to the big world around them. Simple narratives take readers through the farm and park, pointing out the beauty along the way. Each story ends with two pages dedicated to search and find, where everyone can make sure they caught all the details. Ages: Baby+
B is for Bison
Greg Paprocki's introduces young readers to 26 National Parks. Each letter of the alphabet shares something that can be found in each park, with beyond adorable illustrations. Ages: Baby+
Get it here, $9.99
Trees- A Count & Find Primer
Count to 10 and learn all about trees along the way with Greg Paprocki's new primer. This book ends with plenty of fun facts about each tree and a search and find component. Ages: Baby+
Get it here, $9.99
Words of the World: Ocean Animals & Birds
Beautifully simplistic collages by Motomitsu Maehara come together in these multilingual board books. Each one comes with over a dozen animals, each one translated into seven languages that include English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French, Arabic and Esperanto. Ages: Baby+
The duo from Curls is here with a new board book for baby. Ruth Forman and Geneva Bowers bring Glow, which highlights the beauty of Black Joy and tells the story of a little boy who uses the moon to celebrate his lovely skin. Ages: Baby+
Get it here, $8.72
Rise and Shine
From legendary children's musician, Raffi comes a new board book with the lyrics of his song, "Rise and Shine." Accompanied by adorable illustrations, your youngest reader will love this addition to the Songs to Read collection that encourages kids to wake up and start the day with a smile. Ages: Baby+
Get it here, $7.99
The Perfect Plan
Maya is headed to the forest to build her dream fort! Leah Gilbert's beautifully illustrated and written tale shares the adventures of her protagonist as she relies on her forest friends to work together, share creativity and exhibit perseverance. Ages: 3-6
Get it here, $17.99
Dozens of Doughnuts
LouAnn is prepping for winter by whipping up dozens of doughnuts. But, uh oh! Tons of friends are stopping by and she gives out all her food! In this sweet story by Carrie Finison, kids will learn the basics of counting, sharing and being a good friend. Ages: 3-7
Get it here, $15.49
Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter
Tiny mouse Dakota is on a mission. Late at night, she scurries through the museum with her treasure map on the hunt for artifacts she can share at later at the Mousehole Museum. Young readers will love the followup activity that has them flipping back through the pages to find their own treasures in Jamie Michalak's book. Ages: 3-7
Get it here, $17.99
Latin Grammy winner Lucky Diaz brings a bright and colorful story that follows our young narrator on the hunt for his friend Paletero José. Only the sweet treat will cool everyone off on such a hot day. With Spanish throughout, the story is a celebration of kindness and the Latin culture in Los Angeles. Ages: 4-8
Get it here, $14.48
Dozens of Dachshunds
Is there a cuter pup than a Dachshund? How about when there's a dozen of them? Stephanie Calmenson explores the whimsical and adorable nature of the famed "wiener dog," with sweet illustrations by Zoe Persico. Count along in this fun poetic tale that will have you woofing and wagging. Ages: 3-6
Get it here, $15.49
Andy Harkness’ artistic skills come alive in his second book, Wolfboy. When Wolfboy gets hungry, he gets growly and drooly and just wants rabbits! With unique images that were made by clay and then photographed, this taunting tale is delightful for the whole family. Ages: 2-5
Get it here, $15.39
How to Apologize
Do you know how to apologize? David LaRochelle takes a rather humorous approach in explaining not only the importance of apologizing, but how to do it sincerely. With whimsical illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka, even adults will learn a thing or two about the art of the apology. Ages: 3-7
Get it here, $14.49
That’s Cool, Tallulah!
Stella Bella has a special doll and they have a magical friendship. Tallulah causes her share of mischief and one day Stella Bella hears a voice in her head that tells her to do the right thing. Written by the voice of Rugrats Angelica Pickles, Cheryl Chase and illustrated by Giulia Iacopini, this sweet story demonstrates the importance of listening to rules. Ages: 2-5
Get it here, $11.99
Inspired by actual events in the life of author, Muon Thi Van, Wishes is the story of one Vietnamese family’s search for a new home. Victo Ngai’s beautiful illustrations further the gentle approach taken to make a story of fear and the unknown approachable and relatable to the youngest of readers. Ages: 4-8
Get it here, $15.99
Send a Girl!
Jessica M. Rinker and Meg Hunt join forces in this true story about how women joined the Fire Department of New York. Brenda wanted to become a firefighter more than anything, but the FDNY made it near impossible. When she refused to give up, Brenda ended up changing the course of female firefighters forever. Ages: 3-6
Get it here, $15.99
School Age/Picture Books (5-8)
Late governor of Texas Ann Richards inspired women everywhere and she's back in Meghan P. Browne's book to encourage young readers. The Carlynn Whitt-illustrated book follows Richards early life and rise to political prowess where she went on to inspire the likes of Hilary Clinton and take on the "boys club" of politics. Ages: 4-8
Get it here, $17.99
Todd Sturgell's debut children's book is hilarious and educational for young and old alike. What would happen if animals didn't like what the narrator had to say? That's where this sweet book kicks off, as Turtle decides he wants a visit to the coldest spot on the planet! Ages: 4-8
Get it here, $14.99
Little Lala doesn't like to stay inside––she loves to escape to her garden where her kind words help plants grow! Though her mother doesn't understand her, Lala knows that the power of kindness can cause everything around her to flourish. Ages: 4-8
Get it here, $15.99
A Most Clever Girl
The ultimate tale of girl power, Jasmine A. Stirling’s A Most Clever Girl is a must for every children’s bookshelf. Beautiful illustrations by Vesper Stemper accompany this inspiring story about how Jane Austen used her love of words to define her life, becoming one of the most celebrated authors of all time. Ages: 5-9
Get it here, $16.80
Kindness is a Kite String
It’s easy to spread kindness, you just have to try! With illustrations by Claire Laforte, Michelle Schaub pens a lyrical approach to starting the day off with kindness and demonstrates how it ripples throughout the day to everyone around you. Ages: 5-7
Get it here, $15.54
They were called faraway things, the things that Lucien would find washed up on the shore below his home with the lighthouse. Written by award-winning novelist Dave Eggers and accompanied by Kelly Murphy's detailed illustrations, this lovely picture book tells the story of a young boy who finds a cutlass after a storm. He takes it home, and for a short time, calls it his own. When he meets the cutlass's owner, he must make a trade for another treasure, and when he does, what he gets in return is even more important. Ages: 5-8
Pre-order it here, $15.49.
The Great Whipplethorp Bug Collection
This adorable book by author Ben Brashares is a story about a boy named Chuck, who, while insisting he's bored and his stay-at-home-dad is "boring," comes to learn about his ancestors and their great contributions to the world. Determined to make his own mark, Chuck looks for a mountain to climb, an ocean to explore, bugs to collect. When things don't turn out as he'd hoped, Chuck ends up doing something completely new and cool. A wonderful addition to your kids' book collection. Ages: 4-8
Get it here, $17.31.
Jenny Mei Is Sad
This sweet story by Tracy Subisak just might hit you deep down with its profound yet simplistic exploration of friendship when one friend is sad. It's not our place to always cheer up our friends. Being there is what is important. Ages 4-8.
Get it here, $17.99.
Dad, the Man, the Myth, the Legend
He can wrestle pythons to the ground, he can fly to the hardware store, he's a certified genius: he's dad! Written by Mifflin Lowe with stunning illustrations by Dani Torrent, this all about dad tale praises the amazingness of fathers and even has a special place in the back to brag about your own padre. Ages 4-8.
Get it here, $17.99.
Sharky is a bully. All the fish in the sea swim furiously away when she approaches. But when a tiny crab enters her world, all things change. You'll love this story from Alison Murray that delves into themes of bullying, vulnerability and the importance of friendship. Ages 4-8.
Get it here, $13.49.
Follow along on a day of adventure with Dragonboy in this colorful story by Fabio Napoleoni. You'll love how Dragonboy treasures the differences of his friends and has empathy for their struggles. Ages 4-8.
Pre-order it here, $14.99. Release date: Sept. 14, 2021.
Jonah's Adventures in the Enchanted Garden
You'll love diving into this delicately illustrated story of a boy who spends the summer with his grandparents and discovers a land beyond the confines of their garden. Author Rodica Niculescu penned this lovely story for her grandsons and you'll be immersed in the story from page one. Ages 1-11.
Get it here, $16.99.
Sharp Eye the Eagle Series
If you are looking to impart some lessons into your reading time, this series is perfect for you. Each of the seven stories in the series has Sharp Eye the eagle imparting wisdom like why too much screen time is not a good idea, or why sharing benefits us all.
Get yours here, $12.64.
Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal
This clever story by Admiral William H. McRaven shares the story of how Skipper goes from being a seal to becoming a Navy SEAL (and why making the bed is always important!). Ages 4-8.
Get yours here, $15.49.
Little Messy Marcy Su
Author Cherie Fu brings us this lovely tale of a tired mom and her exuberant child who come together to get their house ready for the grandparents' visit. Lovely rhyming with Chinese words interspersed gives us a glimpse into this family's everyday life. Ages 4-8.
Pre-order yours here, $17.99. Release date: Nov. 9, 2021.
I Am an American, the Wong Kim Ark Story
This story by Marth Brockenbrough is an important picture book that introduces young readers to the young man who challenged the Supreme Court for his right to be an American citizen and won, confirming birthright citizenship for all Americans. Ages 4-8.
Pre-order yours, here, $17.99. Release date: Nov. 2, 2021.
Young readers will enjoy the story of Anjali as she struggles with friendship and owning her exceptional talent in the tabla world where she is the only girl. A follow-up story to Always Anjali, this story inspires young readers to never dim their light and to never let anyone make her feel bad for being good at something.
Get it here, $19.95.
Middle Grade/Chapter Books
Mightier Than the Sword
Rochelle Melander's collection is a must for budding writers. With illustrations by Melina Ontiveros, Mightier Than the Sword shares the stories of writers from diverse cultural backgrounds who changed the world with the pen. Not only does this new book details stories like Frederick Douglas and Helen Keller, but it includes robust writing tips and activities, too. Ages 8-13.
Get it here, $22.99.
Lisa Fipps debut novel faces off against the world of fat shaming with her lead character Ellie. Follow along as the young protagonist finds new friendship that will take her from wanting to blend in, to becoming comfortable with who she is––no matter her size. Ages 10-13.
Get it here, $15.49.
A Total Waste of Space-Time!
Book two of the Space-Time series is here! Get back on the potato with Jide and Petra as they travel to the planets of their friends. Jeffrey Brown's graphic novel is the perfect, can't-put-down read for middle graders. Ages 8-12.
Get it here, $12.49.
How to Win a Slime War
Author Mae Respicio is back again with a darling story that middle grade readers will love. Twelve-year-old Alex Manalo and his dad have recently moved back to Sacramento to help with the family's Filipino market. In his free time, Alex loves to make slime and a friend at his new school encourages him to sell his concoction, sparking a battle with a girl who previously enjoyed a slime-opoly on campus. To make matters worse, Alex's dad thinks Alex should be focused on more traditional "boy" pastimes, like sports, which Alex hates. How to Win a Slime War is filled with heart and hope as it explores the fun and hard work of being an entrepreneur, navigating family and boyhood expectations, and discovering what it means to win. Ages 8-12.
Get it here, $16.99.
What happens when two kitties who need cash team up to become monster slayers? They head out on a Kitty Quest! This debut graphic novel by Phil Corbett follows Woolfrick and Perigold as they awaken ghosts and battle monsters––without any experience! Ages: 8-12.
Get it here, $11.99.
Mellybean & the Giant Monster, Mellybean & the Wicked Wizard
Meet Melly, a lovable pup who just wants to play with her feline friends. When a prank goes awry, Melly finds herself falling down a magical hole in the backyard! Join her as she takes on monsters and witches in the first two graphic novels by Mike White which are equally fun for kids and adults. Ages: 8-12.
Themes of environmentalism and conservation permeate this debut middle grade novel for author Mary Alice Monroe. When Jake is forced to spend a screen-free summer with his grandmother on an island nature sanctuary, he befriends two other kids and they bond together to save loggerhead turtles from predation. Ages: 9-12.
Get it here, $14.61.
Unforgotten: The Wild Life of Dian Fossey and Her Relentless Quest to Save Mountain Gorillas
Without any formal training, young Dian Fossey embarks on a journey to Africa to study and protect the few mountain gorillas left on Earth. This book creatively tells Dian's story, inspiring young readers to follow their dreams. Ages: 8-12.
Get it here, $18.99.
Ways to Grow Love
Ryan Hart is back in Renée Watson’s second installment of her series. The young heroine is headed off to sleepaway camp, where she’ll meet a new camper that requires her to share her best friend. Follow along as our leading lady navigates tons of changes, including the birth of her baby sister. Ages: 7-10
Get it here, $9.60
EINSTEIN – The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time
You'll love Torben Kuhlmann’s brilliant new picture book that bends time and imagination through the adventures of a clever mouse. When this mouse misses the world's largest cheese festival by only one day, he is determined to travel back in time to experience all the Emmental and Gruyere he desires. He enlists the help of a mouse clockmaker and together they delve into Albert Einstein's notes as they set about on their adventure. Ages: 8-12
Get it here, $22
The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast
This sequel to the Eisner Award-nominated The Cardboard Kingdom follows the kids as they solve the mystery of a new neighborhood monster. Through a unique collaboration of 10 authors, each character is given an individual and authentic voice that makes this vibrant, profound, and utterly moving children’s graphic novel series truly shine. Ages 9-12
Get it here, $11.99.
Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms
Author Mackenzi Lee is back with the second installment of this highly-popular series that's full of the Marvel Universe characters you love. Find out what happens when Gamora arrives on Torndune―a once-lush planet that has been strip-mined for the power source beneath its surface―with a mission to collect the heart of the planet. Ages: 12+
Get it here, $14.39.
She Persisted: Sally Ride
Award-winning author Atia Abawi brings young readers the story of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. As she broke barriers in space, this amazing woman went on to change the face of NASA and developed engineering programs that would enable women of the future to follow their dreams. Ages: 6-9
Get it here, $5.99.
The Firebird Song
Fans of Shannon Hale will thoroughly enjoy this new novel by Arnée Flores. Travel to the Kingdom of Lyrica, where the Firebird has vanished. Once the protector by its song and feather, its absence is felt strongly as the evil Spectress reigns. Can Young Prewitt and Princess Calliope solve the mysterious message found on the castle wall and bring back the Firebird for good? Ages: 8-11
Get it here, $13.90.
It was anything but a typical school day when Worm Tarnauer hopped out of bed on "Dead Wednesday." It was the day he'd been looking forward to his whole school career, when eighth graders were assigned a teen who had died over the past year, donned their black shirts and became invisible. Worm didn't anticipate that his journey with Becca Finch (age 17, car crash) would take him where it did. This book by Jerry Spinelli will have you thinking about what it means to truly live.
Get it here, $14.56.
The Wild Ones
This one's all about feminist power when a group of teenage girls must band together and use their special powers to save the life of the magical boy who saved them all. This is the second novel from author Nafiza Azad and the deep character development will have you reading well past bedtime. Age 14+.
Get it here, $15.99.
Dust & Grim
Bestselling author Chuck Wendig comes through again with this charming tale of two rival siblings who must bond together to save their family business, a mortuary for monsters. Ages 8-12.
Pre-order it here, $14.49. Release date: Oct. 5, 2021.
The Hawthorne Legacy
In Book 2 of the Inheritance Games series, you'll find heiress Avery Grambs sorting out the pieces that come after Tobias Hawthorne left his entire fortune to her, a complete stranger. With nonstop action, aspirational jet-setting, Knives Out-like family intrigue, swoonworthy romance, and billions of dollars hanging in the balance, The Hawthorne Legacy will thrill Jennifer Lynn Barnes fans and new readers alike. Ages 12+.
Pre-order it here, $14.39. Release date: Sept. 7, 2021.
The Land of the Pines
In her debut novel, author Summer Pines teaches readers about the gift of empathy and how friendship can help us through trials. Lush illustrations capture the magic found in the Piney Woods of Nilsson’s East Texas hometown and bring the cast of creatures vividly to life.
Get it here, $20.95.
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood
From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.
Get it here, $14.99.
Susan L. Read’s debut novel helps young readers understand struggles with their mental health and provide essential resources to help them. Sarah is a hard-working student, a good friend, a kind daughter, and a creative soul. Lately however, maintaining her grades and friendships has become harder than usual, and nothing brings her much joy anymore. With the help of her family, friends, trusted teacher and mental health professionals, Sarah learns that there is a name for what she is dealing with. She develops tools, not only for coping, but for thriving. In learning about her condition and gaining the support she needs for managing it, she begins the long journey back to her life. Ages 8-12.
Get it here, $17.95.
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar
This story by Payal Doshi chronicles the journey of Rea as she goes on a quest with her friend Leela to find her missing twin brother Rohan after a fight on their 12th birthday. Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan while experiencing many hurdles, challenges and unexpected encounters along the way. Ages 8-12.
Get it here, $17.99.
Little Jagadish and the Great Experiment
This book by Ajali Joshi chronicles the journey of a young boy named Jagadish who sets out to find solutions to unanswered questions using the scientific method. Inspired by the life and work of Indian physicist, botanist, and author Jagadish Chandra Bose, this story encourages young readers to embrace their curiosity and unleash their inner scientist.
Get it here, $9.95.
The Girl from the Attic
When a mysterious black cat leads Maddy Rose into an unknown attic, she meets Clare and his very sick sister Eva. Together Maddy and Clare jump into a money-making scheme in his uncle’s dangerous soap factory to buy a cure for Eva. But an unexpected tragedy befalls them before Maddy is pulled back into her own time to confront the premature birth of her own sister. Will the skills she learned in the past help her solve the problems of the present? Can the strange shape of the house make a difference? Age 11+.
Get it here, $12.99.
Book for Families
Wild Child: Adventure Cooking with Kids
Sarah Glover, the James Beard Award-nominated author of Wild: Adventure Cooking, brings us this lovely book that will definitely motivate you and your kids to get cooking outdoors. From campfire bananas to food cooked in coconut, this book will definitely up your camping food game.
Get yours here, $16.49.
Guide to the National Parks of the United States, 9th Edition
If your family is planning a National Parks visit this year, you need to pick up a copy of this great reference book. It gives you road trip routes, hiking suggestions and lots more.
Get yours here, $14.99.
Birds: Explore Their Extraordinary World
Stunning illustrations by Angela Harding abound in this nonfiction compendium by Miranda Krestovnikoff. Young learners will explore the vast world of birds, from the coldest regions and beyond. Perfect for a coffee table or a keepsake, this gorgeous book has something to teach everyone.
Get it here, $19.76
––Karly Wood with Kate Loweth & Gabby Cullen
Feature photo: Courtesy of iStock