Growing Readers Review: Fifteen Years of Growing Readers

Two kindergarten boys on bean bags reading together
In 2001 we began to sort through the thousands of children’s books published to bring to you the titles that offered the best, the funniest, the prettiest, the most engaging reading experiences for you and your children. Here’s how it happens. Each year six readers who are passionate about children’s literature read over 100 books recommended by our friends at The Book Vine. We meet and discuss (and sometimes argue about) our favorites and narrow it down to four issues which each have three Books of Excellence and six or seven Notables. It is a labor of love.

For this issue, we looked through the Books of Excellence and Notables from the past 15 years – well over 500 titles – and chose our favorites, the best of the best for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-agers. We hope that you and your children will delight in these old favorites or perhaps discover a new treasure. What is the best children’s book? Of course it is the one that you and your child come back to over and over again.

By Susan C. Brenner, EdD.

What is your child's favorite book? We'd like to know. Please send title and author to Growing Readers


Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury team up to bring us this charming picture book highlighting babies from around the world with one thing in common: finding delight with their fingers and toes!The text is simple with rhyme and repetition which toddlers will love.

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant, written by April Pulley Sayre: Vibrant pictures and clever alliteration bring new panache to vegetables..The rhyming text allows young readers opportunities to join in
the fun, because “Cucumber's cool. Kohlrabi’s queen,” and “Veggies rock!”

Who Said Moo?, written by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Simms Taback: Red Rooster asks the question of each of his animal friends in this entertaining and interactive lift-the-flap book. The bold illustrations will have children asking for this to be read again and again.

Me Baby, You Baby, written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff: “Stretch, baby. Yawn, baby. Here comes the dawn, baby,” begins this tale of two moms and their babies visiting animal babies at the zoo.The lilting rhymes will make this a read over favorite.

Tap the Magic Tree, written by Christie Matheson: This picture book tells the story of the seasons through the life cycle of a tree. Each page encourages the reader to use his or her magic and tap, pat, shake, blow, and wiggle to help the tree transform through its phases.


A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead: Amos McGee, a faithful zookeeper who always makes time to visit with his animal friends at the zoo, does not show up for work one day, his friends board the bus to check on their beloved zookeeper. In a sweet turn of events, each animal gives Amos a little bit of the kindness that he has shown to them.

Too Tall Houses, written and illustrated by Gianna Marino:Owl and Rabbit are good friends until they compete with each other over whose house is taller which almost causes their friendship to come tumbling down. This story explores concepts of competition, problem-solving, and compromise as two friends learn to work together.

Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle:Flora loves to dance and wants somuch to imitate the beautiful moves of the graceful flamingo who is not interested in her attempts.The book's enjoyable construction invites youngsters to put their own wordsinto this beautifully illustrated story.

Amber was Brave, Essie was Smart, written by Vera B. Williams: Sisters and best friends, Amber and Essie use their unique skills to get through life in hard times. One brave, one smart, they show their
resilience in a struggling but loving family.

Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes: Lions are not a common sight in a library; however when a lion wanders into the library, there are no rules to govern this unexpected event.The lion endears himself to the patrons and librarian through his daily visits. An unfortunate mishap takes place and the lion breaks the rules. Read this heart-warming story to find out if certain circumstances can warrant “not following the rules.”


Wabi Sabi, written by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young: In one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books, Wabi Sabi, a brown cat wants to know the meaning of her name. She travels far and wide to learn the answer and finds beauty in simplicity.

Wonder, written by R.J. Palacio: In this moving story, we walk with Auggie, a 10-year-old boy born with severe facial anomalies, through the many challenges of building friendships in the pre-teen years -- challenges magnified when you look different from everyone else. Ultimately, this story reminds us of the goodness of people.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny -- Detectives Extraordinaire! Translated from The Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall:When Madeline's parents (humans) are kidnapped by a fox, she hires the Bunny couple to
find them. Readers are in for a funny, unpredictable story with many silly turns of events, complemented by comical illustrations in this madcap adventure.

Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, written by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr Paula Kahumbu: This true story is about an unlikely friendship between a baby hippopotamus and a tortoise from Africa. After losing his mother in the tsunami, the baby hippo is saved by a group of caring villagers and brought to a refuge where he meets a tortoise named Mzee. Children will learn a very important lesson about friendship.

Great Estimations, written by Bruce Goldstone:At first glance, how many jelly beans do you see? This book takes the reader through a series of photographs to develop the skill of estimating. Page after page, the book progressively trains the eye to recognize numerous groupings of objects. Perhaps refining this skill willmake you a "prize winner".

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About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Two kindergarten boys on bean bags reading together