by Abby, Bookseller

I basically grew up in a bookstore. My dad was a bookseller, and when I would visit him at work I would take a book into the small wooden house in the children’s section, curl up, and read for what felt like hours. Sometimes I would poke my head out to ask customers if they would like help picking out a book, because I could give them very good recommendations for a six year old, considering I was six myself.

As I grew older, I became intent on reading as advanced books as I could manage. When I was seven, I wanted to read a book meant for an eight year old. When I was eight, I wanted to read books meant for a ten year old. I thought that a book was categorically better if it challenged my reading abilities, if I was accomplishing something by reading it. I’m ashamed to admit that I only picked up Gone With the Wind because it was the longest book in my middle school library and I wanted the hallway cred. I didn’t even like it that much, and I definitely didn’t understand a lot of the themes.

Starting around the time that I graduated college and became a full-time bookseller, though, I started to venture back into the world of children’s books, at first because it was my job and then because they just made me happy. I realized that they don’t stop being relevant when you “age out,” and a book is not inherently better because it’s more challenging to read. There are books that are meant for and often only able to be appreciated by those who are older (I’m looking at you, Gone with the Wind) - but I think kids books are almost always accessible and enjoyable to all.

This list is a mix of my favorites now and my favorites growing up, because they are a comfort now just like they were when I was younger. Please take a look - for a kid in your life, of course, but also for you.

Guess How Much I Love You

Guess How Much I Love You

Board Books, THEN: So no, I can’t remember much of my board book days—but I asked my mom, and she reminded me what my favorite read-alouds were. My number one was Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. It’s about Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare and how much they love each other—as high as they can reach, as high as they can jump, and right up to the moon and back. Knowing that it was a childhood favorite explains why I get this warm fuzzy feeling every time I look at it.
Where Is the Green Sheep?

Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, Judy Horacek

Board Books, NOW: You open this book and are immediately asked a question: where is the green sheep? You see near sheep and far sheep, moon sheep and star sheep, but where is the green sheep? (Spoiler alert: it fell asleep under a bush). This has everything I look for in a board book; it’s colorful, simple, rhythmic, and sweet. When someone comes into the store looking for a baby shower gift that everyone else won’t bring to the party, I hand them this.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Picture Books, THEN: The cows have found a typewriter, and they have a demand for Farmer Brown: if you want milk, we’re going to need some heated blankets for the cold nights in the barn first. Farmer Brown refuses, so the hens join the strike: no heated blankets for the coop, no eggs. This is a laugh-out-loud funny book that I loved when I was younger and still love now. Just know that if you read this to a kid, you might have to explain what a typewriter is - and maybe what a strike is, too. It’s so very worth it.
Little Beaver and the Echo

Little Beaver and the Echo

Picture Books, NOW: I would like to introduce you to my absolute favorite, definitely overlooked picture book. This one is from the 90s but I didn’t know it when it came out—I found it at my first bookstore and I’ve loved it ever since.
  Little Beaver is lonely. When he calls across the pond and hears his echo, he thinks it is his friend and goes on an adventure to find it. He picks up lots of new friends along the way, each of them looking for someone just like him. Filled to the brim with beautiful illustrations and happiness, this book is a joy.
My Father's Dragon

My Father's Dragon

First Chapter Books, THEN: This one is a true classic, one that I reread obsessively and would recommend to anyone looking for a heroic and crafty main character. It’s about a boy who goes to a place called Wild Island to save a dragon who’s being mistreated. He has to trick his way through the island with his wits and the assorted items he brought in his rucksack—the most memorable to me being a bag of lollipops, bubble gum, and some colorful ribbons.
Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1)

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1)

First Chapter Books, NOW: My brother and I had so much fun reading this series when we were younger—it’s about a brother and a sister and their magical treehouse that lets them travel through time to different historical events and places. For a couple of semesters in college I visited a local school to read with the second-graders, and the kids I worked with would always pick up one of these for me to read! They’re fun, they’re educational yet adventurous, and despite the fact that I only linked to the first one (because you do want to start with the first one, if only to set up the premise), there is such a variety of topics in the series that there’s something for everyone.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Middle Grade, THEN: This book gets a place of honor (despite the fact that it doesn’t need a recommendation), because it has transcended age boundaries more than any other book I’ve read. My parents started reading it aloud to my brother and I when we were in elementary school, all clustered together on a couch or spread out across the living room. They did voices, they did gestures, they passed the book back and forth so the other could drink some coffee.
  I don’t have a particularly strong memory, but that is one that has stuck with me to this day. My family continued to read or listen to the series together until the end. So if you’re looking for a story that functions perfectly as a read aloud, this may be your pick—both the books and the audiobooks are lovely (check out Libro.fm for the audio).
Inkheart

Inkheart

Middle Grade, NOW: Okay maybe this is cheating since I’ve loved this since I was in its intended age category, but it’s one book that I’ve returned to again and again throughout my life. It’s weird and wonderful; the story of a girl whose father can write storybook characters off the page and into life. One day, he accidentally writes the villain into life as well, and fantastic adventure ensues trying to return him to his storybook world.
Six of Crows

Six of Crows

Young Adult, THEN: Six teenagers, all outcasts and thieves with their own distinct voices, are pushed together to complete an impossible heist. They don’t know each other, and they don’t trust each other, but the stakes are too high and none of them can accomplish the task alone. Leigh Bardugo has written some of my favorite young adult novels of all time. She writes complicated characters and fast and intricate plots, and I usually can’t put down one of her books once I’ve picked it up—even if it’s a reread.
Truly Devious

Truly Devious

Young Adult, NOW: I love young adult mystery—it’s mystery without all the gore, with protagonists that aren’t hardened detectives. It won’t keep me up all night in fear, but it will keep me intrigued and intent on solving the puzzle myself - and sometimes that’s much preferable.
Truly Devious is one of my favorites from recent memory. In it, two crimes that happened 80 years apart are linked by the same prestigious boarding school, and the same signature at the scene: “Truly, Devious.” Stevie Bell is a true crime aficionado who goes to the school for the sole purpose of solving the cold case that occurred there almost a century ago. But when someone kills one of her classmates and links it to the original crime, she finds that she might be the most qualified person to solve both cases once and for all. Everything becomes a lot more real, and much more dangerous.
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