Elmore is a young Hedgehog who can’t convince anyone to be his friend. The reason? His quills are too intimidating. Eventually, with the help of his uncle, Elmore eventually shows everyone why his quills are nothing to fear — and learns to appreciate himself, too. It’s a classic story of learning to love thyself, made all the better because Elmore is never a sadsack. Rather, he’s a plucky, problem-solver who takes matters into his own hand.
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Rare is the story that’s able to nimbly explain how children process difficult feelings. But Doerrfield sticks the landing. After a toy brick-stacking tragedy strikes Taylor, the young child is approached by a variety of animals each of whom has intentions to help. However, all they do is talk at Taylor. The bear yells and tells Taylor to yell. The snake hisses and tells Taylor to hiss. They all have good intentions but it’s not what Taylor requires. What Taylor really needs, however, is someone who will listen, which is exactly what the rabbit provides. This is a wonderful story on its own, and one that becomes all the more powerful when young children are confronted with and need to work through tragedy.

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Written by Fatherly editor-at-large Joshua David Stein, Brick follows a young Brick as she searches for her place in the world. Inspired by the idea that “Great things begin with small bricks,” she visits castles and churches and walls and apartments around the world, searching for places she might fit in. It’s a fun book with a heap of great illustrations by Julia Rothman and it’s about much more than architecture and fitting in. Yeah, we sort of had to mention it because Joshua works for us. But, if he didn’t, we would’ve included it on this list anyway.
This bilingual tale, written by Dragons love Tacos co-writer Adam Rubin and illustrator Mark “Crash” McCreery the Hollywood monster-creator who did the creature design for such films as Rango, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park, is a blast. A whimsical tale about the legendary Mexican goatsucker, its prose is a tangled form of English and Spanish (“This all happened a long time ago, en una granja de cabras.”) that is good fun, and the illustrations, particularly the goats, which are deflated, inflated, and grow to enormous proportions, will keep kids coming back for more.

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“Llama Llama Red Pajama from Anna Dewdney is my son’s favorite book. The baby llama wants his momma (he’s supposed to be going to sleep) and screams bloody murder when she doesn’t come back up right away. Good book for opening conversations about patience, anxiety, and nighttime fears! Ten years later, I can still recite it from memory. Also check out a recent rap version by Ludacris on YouTube.” ― Elizabeth Washburn Galbraith
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