The 20 Best Children's Books of 2011

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Johnny Valiant

Librarians, teachers, and literacy experts nominated more than 150 of their favorite children's books from the thousands of titles published this year. Then a panel of kids and parents cast their votes. Read all about it! Also check out our best DVDs, CDs, and video games of the year too.

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Peter Ardito

Tops for Tots

The Night Night Book
By Marianne Richmond

It's a sweet bedtime tale. Says Jan Burkins, of literacyhood.com: "My 3-year-old smiles at the verse, 'Night night sky. Night night moon. Dear tomorrow, see you soon.'" (0 to 3, $8).

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Peter Ardito

Tops for Tots

Romeo & Juliet: A Counting Primer
By Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

One balcony, four roses, and eight love letters are among the odes to Shakespeare. "I adore introducing a famous playwright to my 17-month-old," says one mom panelist. (0 to 3, $10)

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Peter Ardito

Tops for Tots

Swing! Like a Monkey
By Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback

The holographic cover will catch your kid's attention. "But the rhythmic text and bold drawings will make him a big fan," says Philadelphia-based youth librarian Monica Scheliga Carnesi. (0 to 3, $9)

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Peter Ardito

Tops for Tots

Rocket Town
By Bob Logan

Retro illustrations make this board book a visual blast for kids and parents. Says one mom panelist: "It took me a minute to read the story, but my 2-year-old and I looked at the cool pictures in it for at least 15." (0 to 3, $8)

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Peter Ardito

Fab Fiction

A Call for a New Alphabet
By Jef Czekaj

This laugh-out-loud tale of letter X's attempt to alter alphabetical order teaches grammar rules. "I learned that 'Ks' are often silent before 'Ns,'" says an 8-year-old reviewer. (5 years+, $6 to $13)

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Peter Ardito

Fab Fiction

Carrot
By Vanita Oelschlager and Kristin Blackwood

Rhyming text and bright illustrations of a cute-as-can-be cat dazzled pint-size reviewers. "I couldn't read the book fast enough to find out what Carrot was up to next," says one second-grader. (4 to 8 years, $16)

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Peter Ardito

Fab Fiction

Little White Rabbit
By Kevin Henkes

Kids will hop on this story of a spirited bunny. "A rabbit wonders how it would feel to be as green as grass; ask your kid what he thinks," says Portland librarian Andrea Milano. (3 to 6 years, $17)

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Peter Ardito

Fab Fiction

Stars
By Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee

Ideal for bedtime, this dreamy story discusses all kinds of stars -- not just ones that come out at night. A favorite line: "Blow a ball of dandelion, and you blow a thousand stars into the sky." (4 to 8 years, $17)

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Peter Ardito

True Stories

How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food
By Chris Butterworth and Lucia Gaggiotti

Using kitschy illustrations, this book traces how carrots, cookies, and other kid-fave fare travels from the farm to school. (4 years+, $13)

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Peter Ardito

True Stories

Celebritrees: Historic & Famous Trees of the World
By Margi Preus and Rebecca Gibbon

It's a fun spin on a dull topic: old trees. "I loved seeing the Coast Redwood next to the Statue of Liberty," says a 9-year-old tester. (6 years+, $17)

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Peter Ardito

True Stories

A Butterfly Is Patient
By Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

The drawings rock. Kids can match up the illustrations of caterpillar varieties in the beginning of the book to the ones of butterflies at the end. Plus, it's swarming with interesting facts. (4 years+, $17)

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Peter Ardito

True Stories

Me...Jane
By Patrick McDonnell

Your kid probably has no clue who Jane Goodall is, but she'll be able to relate to the animal activist's childhood. "She took her stuffed chimpanzee everywhere," says one 8-year-old. (3 to 8 years, $16)

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Peter Ardito

First Reads

Should I Share My Ice Cream?
By Mo Willems

Here's the scoop: This early reader, the latest in the beloved Elephant & Piggie series, snagged the most votes of any book from our kid testers. "The happy ending completely took me by surprise," confesses one 6-year-old. (4 to 7 years, $9)

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Peter Ardito

First Reads

Nina in "That Makes Me Mad!"
By Hilary Knight and Steven

Your kid will find plenty to relate to in graphic-novelish vignettes about what bothers Nina. The judges' top scenes: "When I need to stay up late and you say it's bedtime" and "When you promise and then you forget." (5 to 7 years, $13)

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Peter Ardito

First Reads

Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems
By Lee Bennett Hopkins and Barry Gott

This collection of more than a dozen easy-to-read poems made the kid testers roar with laughter. "'Lunch Time, Crunchtime' was the funniest," says one 5-year-old prankster panelist. (4 to 7 years, $4 to $17)

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Peter Ardito

First Reads

Ducks Go Vroom

Although this story of three troublemaking ducks on the way to a relative's house has just three to six words per page, the plot is engaging. "Rhymes like bing-bong and ding-dong are clever too," says Scheliga Carnesi. (4 to 6 years, $4)

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Peter Ardito

Chapter Books

Wonderstruck
By Brian Selznick

Don't be scared off that it's 608 pages! Most third-graders can handle this story of Rose and Ben, who were born 50 years apart and suddenly find themselves connected. Rose tells her tale through 450 pages of drawings while Ben's is prose. (8 years+, $30)

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Peter Ardito

Chapter Books

Inside Out & Back Again
By Thanhha Lai

Written in narrative poetry, this account of a spirited 10-year-old fleeing Vietnam is "a great book to read with your kids because you'll enjoy it as much as they will," says Elizabeth Bird, a children's librarian in New York City. (8 years+, $16)

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Peter Ardito

Chapter Books

Grin and Bear It
By Leo Landry

This short story is a great transition from early readers to chapter books. Bear wants to be a comedian. The only snag: He has stage fright. But eventually he finds a way to get his jokes told. (5 to 7 years, $13)

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Peter Ardito

Chapter Books

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
By Julie Sternberg and Matthew Cordell

Kids will feel for Eleanor, who tries to come to terms with her favorite babysitter moving away. "When Eleanor said, 'My hand missed Bibi,' I knew exactly what she meant," says one of the 8-year-old panelists. (7 years+, $15)

Originally published in the December 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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