Parents' 15 Best Children's Books 2018

parents best books 2018
Priscilla Gragg
Selected by literacy experts and 75 kid testers, the new children's books on Parents' 10th annual best-of list will be favorites for years to come.
Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Board Book

Hi-Five Animals!

Written and illustrated by Ross Burach

This interactive rhyming story with cartoon-like illustrations held the attention of our toddler testers. They pushed their tiny hands against moose antlers, elephant trunks, and lion paws to give the animals a high five, just as the story encouraged. The favorite spread came near the end: “Hi-five an octopus, I say. But only if you have ALL day!” Ages 1 to 4

“My toddler likes to ‘read’ it herself by saying the names of the animals as she high-fives them.”—Amanda Gallup Philadelphia, PA

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Alphabet Book

Mr. Bear’s ABC

Written and illustrated by Virginie Aracil

Thoughtfully designed spreads show capitalized and lowercase versions of each letter along with clever illustrations of animals, objects, and even concepts that match. Kid testers loved pointing out how bears were “hiding” behind the curl on a Q and in the middle of a V. “I appreciated that the book mixed familiar words like panda and unicorn with new vocabulary like quartz and village,” says a mom who read it with her 3-year-old son. Ages 2 to 6

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Bedtime Story

Star in the Jar

Written by Sam Hay, illustrated by Sarah Massini

The charming plot about helping a lost star get home enchanted our little readers. “The story reminded me of E.T.,” says 5-year-old Savannah. Parents reported that the book’s one or two sentences per page put it in the zone of being satisfying without going on seemingly forever. Plus, the magical ending makes for sweet dreams. Ages 3 to 8

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Book for a Birthday Gift

Happy Birthday to You!

Written by Nosy Crow, illustrated by Nicola Slater

Make this sweet book your go-to party present because all our preschool testers just adored it. “My 3-year-old liked pressing the buttons on each right-hand page to hear an animal play a different instrument,” says Catherine McCord, the Los Angeles–based founder of Weelicious.com. And the testers practically lost their minds on the final page when they saw a candle light up on the layer cake and heard the animals play “Happy Birthday” for Little Otter, their friend. Ages 2 to 6

“Some books that play sounds get old fast, but this one is classy, and each page sings for just a few seconds.”—Heather Herriges, Cary, IL

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best First Picture Book

Hungry Bunny

Written and illustrated by Claudia Rueda

A smaller format, a simple story line, and interactive features make this title a great bridge between board and picture books. Toddler testers liked how Bunny asked for their help picking apples throughout, requesting that readers shake the book so apples fall down and leaves blow away. “My son thought it was fun to use the attached red ribbon—Bunny’s scarf—to help climb the tree and even turn the book upside down when the wagon filled with apples toppled over,” says one mom. Ages 3 to 6

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best First Nonfiction Book

Do Not Lick This Book*

Written by Idan Ben-Barak, illustrated by Julian Frost

With a sense of humor, this book teaches preschoolers about microbes through a combination of witty text, cool “oh, wow” illustrations, and amazing microscopic photos. “When my son saw the pictures, he said, ‘Eww,’ but the ick factor is a big reason why he asks me to read it over and over,” says one mom. Ages 3 to 7+

“This book makes the practically inconceivable easy for little kids to understand.”—Betsy Bird, children’s librarian and mom of two

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Animal Facts Book

The Big Book of the Blue

Written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer

While kid readers were enthralled by the variety of sea creatures—”Whoa, dragonets!”—parents appreciated the book’s clear organization. Each of 25+ spreads starts with a question that sounds like one a kid might ask, such as “Does a flying fish really fly?” and “Why is a whale so big?” A scavenger hunt for 15 sardines scattered throughout the book adds another layer. “I loved the challenge of finding them,” says Jackson, 7. Heads-up to parents: There’s an answer key at the end of the book in case you need to give hints. Ages 4 to 10

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Picture Book

My Pet Wants a Pet

Written by Elise Broach, illustrated by Eric Barclay

A fresh twist on a kid-begs-for-a-pet story, this book had school-age testers and their parents cracking up by the halfway point. “It’s pure fun,” says Amy Sears, head of youth services at the Teaneck Library, in New Jersey. “After a boy gets the puppy he wants, the puppy wants a kitten, and the kitten wants a bird, and so on.” Your heart might flutter at the end, but we won’t spoil the surprise. Ages 5 to 9

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Book That Champions Kindness

I Walk With Vanessa

Illustrated by Kerascoët

The detailed facial expressions of the characters in this wordless picture book helped our school-age readers follow the plot, with just a little help from their parents. The main character observes a new student who has no one to play with and is bullied walking home from school. What happens after she sees the girl go home crying “shows how much better you feel taking action rather than being an observer,” says Terrell Young, Ed.D., professor of children’s literature at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. Families used the book as a starting point for conversations about bullying and the power of kindness. “I asked my 7-year-old to make up a sentence for each page so we could talk through the story,” says one mom. Ages 5 to 10

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Biography

Mae Among the Stars

Written by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

This story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, appealed to our kid testers because it focused on her childhood. “My kids wondered, for instance, why Mae’s teacher didn’t support her dream of being an astronaut,” says one mom, who read the book to her 4- and 5-year-old. Ages 4 to 8

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Early Reader

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

Written by Brian Selznick and David Serlin, illustrated by Brian Selznick

This monkey detective’s adventures inspired most of our kid readers to finish the book in one night—even at 186 pages. Jules Danielson, founder of the book blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, credits the humor, the black-and-white pencil drawings, and the visual word clues for keeping kids delighted for all five chapters. Ages 5 to 7

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Beginning Chapter Book Series

Polly Diamond

Written by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Diana Toledano

Polly’s magic book makes everything she writes down come true—a concept that appealed to kid testers. “My second-grader thought it was hilarious when Polly turned her sister into a banana,” says one mom. “I liked when Polly changed her house into a castle,” says Asher, 8. The next book will follow Polly at the school fair. Ages 6 to 10

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Graphic Novel

Be Prepared

Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol

Kid readers couldn’t put down this graphic novel that’s loosely based on the author’s experience at a Russian summer camp. “The readers in my class hung on every panel, hopeful that things would turn around for Vera,” says fifth-grade teacher Colby Sharp, cofounder of the Nerdy Book Club and a Parents contributing editor. Many kids got wrapped up in the story because they related to it. “Just like Vera, I’ve been the new person on my soccer teams and dance squad,” says Aly, 12. “I kept reading to find out what would happen to her.” Ages 8+

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Chapter Book To Read On Their Own

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

Written by Stacy McAnulty

Kid readers picked up on an important message—embrace your differences—in this breezy read about 12-year-old Lucy, who pretends to be so-so at math, even though a lightning strike has made her a whiz. “It was interesting to see how her life changed when her classmates found out,” says Veronica, 8. Besides cool math facts woven into the text (Veronica memorized pi to the 14th decimal point!), the book sprinkles in a few fun references for theater kids. Ages 8+

“Whether your kids like or loathe math, it’s hard to resist this heroine.”—Betsy Bird

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Best Chapter Book To Read With Your Kid

The Parker Inheritance

Written by Varian Johnson

Almost all of our book judges nominated this title. “It offers mystery, adventure, and even humor, while also telling the truth about racism in the past and present,” says Sarah Stone, acting youth-collections specialist at the San Francisco Public Library. Since the fast-paced story of two friends trying to solve the puzzle in a letter written decades ago is told in flashbacks and has complex character connections, contextual racial slurs, and weighty secondary themes, plan to read it with your child. “I liked that the characters don’t give up,” says Matthew, 10. Ages 8+

Priscilla Gragg
Priscilla Gragg

More Great Books for Kids

Part of what makes our annual best children's book list so great is that any story that makes the cut will never go out of style. If you're looking for more inspiration to stock up a special little one's bookshelf, we have you covered.

Browse more best children's book winners here:

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