2018 has been a great year for children’s books, with familiar authors and newcomers alike exploring topics and themes with style, wit, and sensibility that resonate far longer after the last page is reached. Below are our favorite children’s books of the year so far; aimed at kids from 2-7 years old. These are books that made us and our kids laugh, think, dream, wonder, feel calm, and forget about the real world for a time. Take a look.
“The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson. A really intricate story about travel, and family, and beauty, and awe, and carving your own path, and how even small things and people can make a big impact on the world and those they love, but it’s so accessible to even small kids, and so beautifully written. Sometimes I read it just for myself.” ― Meghan Hart Arbuckle
This second entry in Barnett and Klassen’s planned shape trilogy grapples with such topics as anxiety, the nature of art, friendship, and imposter syndrome. Heady stuff, to be sure, but in the hands of Barnett and Klassen, who are responsible for some of the best children’s books of the past decade, it’s charming, funny, and beautifully wrought. And Square, who tries everything to impress Circle and, in the process, experiences an existential doozy that would cause most to ask for a double scotch on the rocks, is a character any kid would love: fragile, but full of hope and energy.

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Amy Krause Rosenthal, a novelist, TED talker, radio host, and children’s book author, died in 2017 after battling ovarian cancer. She gave the world many gifts. Don’t Blink!, her latest children’s book, is a gift to parents at bedtime. A bedtime book that dares children to stay awake, it presents a plea bargain to kids who don’t want to go to bed: if you don’t blink, you don’t have to go to bed. The catch? Every time they do blink, they must turn a page. Reach the end and its night-night. A big-eyed owl acts as the guide, offering a variety of fun tactics for the postponement of blinking and therefore bedtime. It’s a cleverly constructed story, one that should always arrive at the same ending: with heavy eyelids and a head on the pillow.

“Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue. The art is gorgeous and it tells the story of a little girl going to bed so gently. In response to her assertion that she isn’t tired, her parents just say, ’We understand. Please brush your teeth. You can stay up as late as you like.′ It’s just lovely and presents an example of engaging with your child that isn’t adversarial. I think it’s a nice model and so pretty.” ― Allison Sook
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The best children’s books not only help young readers understand themselves and the world better, but make them giggle, think, worry, consider, and engage all their other feelings, too. These books also tug adult readers back towards childhood, reminding us of our youth and bigger things beyond our own lives. This is no easy trick, but it feels natural when a great book pulls it off with grace. And so far, there have been dozens of releases this year that do just that.
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“The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It’s hard to let your children go to preschool or kindergarten. This book has a Mama Raccoon who kisses her child’s palm before she leaves him at school. If he misses her he can place his palm with the kiss on his cheek, and he will know his mother loves him. Baby Raccoon also kisses his mother’s palm before he heads off to school. Real love endures even when we’re away from our loved ones. Sweet story. Beautiful artwork.” ― Donna Worthington Shiro
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