The Best Children's Books of 2014

Children's librarians and families selected their fave titles from the thousands published this year. Put these on your gift list!

Everything in this slideshow

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Peter Ardito

Board Book

Snuggle the Baby, by Sara Gillingham

It's a modern version of Pat the Bunny. Your little one can pretend to feed, diaper, and tuck in the polka-dot-clad baby that pops out of the book. "My 2-year-old played with the book for half an hour, and she has a short attention span," says one mom tester. Ages 0 to 3, $13

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Peter Ardito

Number Book

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

Your child will have fun finding (and counting) up to 20 colorful objects within the black-and-white pencil illustrations that conceal a dragon. Says a mom of two toddlers: "The hide-and-seek aspect encouraged them to count higher than they ever have." Ages 2 to 5, $17

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Before Your Child Starts Reading...

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Peter Ardito

Fictional Picture Book

I'm My Own Dog, by David Ezra Stein

Kids and parents laughed together as they read this story about a confident bulldog who teaches a human a few tricks (like how to sit and throw) and puts up with his annoying habits (such as cleaning up ice-cream drips). Ages 4 to 8, $19

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Nonfiction Picture Book

Mama Built a Little Nest, by Jennifer Ward; illustrated by Steve Jenkins

It's two books in one: On the left-hand pages, you'll find adorable four-line rhyming verses ("Mama built a little nest, a cup so wee and snug, with walls of moss and roof of sky and silky, cobweb rug") while the facing sides supply short facts about different kinds of nests (for example, a falcon creates a nest called a scrape, on the edge of a high cliff). "The descriptions of the nests weren't too wordy or complicated for our 4-year-old," says one mom reviewer. Ages 3 to 7, $18

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Peter Ardito

Early Reader

My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems

Does your kid get upset if his friend plays with someone else? Using 12 or fewer words per page, Willems addresses that situation with his Piggie and Elephant characters. "Many kindergartners can read the book and understand the message on their own," says Ginny Collier, a children's librarian in Atlanta. Ages 4 to 6, $9

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Pop-Up Book

The Mitten: A Classic Pop-Up Folktale, by Jessica Southwick, Pippa Cornick, and Yevgeniya Yeretskaya

While this Ukrainian story packs plenty of action (woodland animals find a home in a boy's lost mitten), the tabs, wheels, and pop-ups throughout the book make it more exciting for kids listening to you read. Ages 4+, $20

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Peter Ardito

Graphic Novel

El Deafo, by Cece Bell

Our kid reviewers found it surprisingly easy to relate to Bell's memoir (El Deafo is what she called herself in childhood) about having to navigate the first grade with a bulky hearing aid. "I liked her attitude with the friends at school and how she ended up using her hearing aid in a funny way," says one 7-year-old reviewer. "I read it twice in one week." Ages 7+, $11 for paperback version

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Beginning Chapter Book

Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon

"Silly," "weird in a good way," and "strange, but with a big imagination" were the words some of our kid reviewers used to describe Dory. They couldn't get enough of the quirky 6-year-old who entices her older sibs to play with her -- and eventually wins their respect by retrieving a beach ball from an unexpected place. Ages 5 to 8, $11

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New Chapter Book Series

Space Taxi, by Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer; illustrated by Elise Gravel

It's out of this world! In the first book, Archie Takes Flight, the 8-year-old learns the family secret that his dad's big yellow cab shuttles aliens all over the universe. Then the adventure continues in Water Planet Rescue and Archie's Alien Disguise (due out in April). "The series ingeniously works in facts about outer space alongside a fun, fast-paced story," says Elizabeth Bird, a youth-materials specialist at the New York Public Library and mom of two. Ages 5 to 8, $6 for paperback

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Peter Ardito

Big-Kid Chapter Book

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd

Don't let the ice-cream cone on the cover fool you -- this isn't a sappy, straightforward story. Its intricate plots and subplots about a magical town hooked our kid reviewers and, through a character who collected words "serendipitously," taught them vocabulary. The kids described it as "spindiddly" -- the story's made-up word for better than awesome! Ages 8+, $17

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

Originally published in the December 2014 issue of Parents magazine.

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