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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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From picture books to graphic novels, fantasy to family fun, these must-read books have the power to hook both boys and girls. Some are cultural touchstones that belong in every kid's library. Others open kids' minds to cultures beyond their own. And some are modern releases that have the timeless quality of classics -- the kinds that get handed down to siblings and passed around classrooms. Whether you have a reluctant reader or budding bookworm, check out these surefire, kid-tested titles. (We've included a few rated best for 12 and up for the precocious readers out there!)
“Grandma” Gatewood is finally getting her due. Just this summer, the New York Times gave a long overdue obituary of Emma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself in one season (at the ripe old age of 67). Gatewood was a mother of 11, a grandmother, and great-grandmother when she first hiked the trail. By the time she died 16 years after her first hike in 1973, she had completed the AT three times — setting the record as the first person to ever complete the trail more than once. Her story has also, finally, made it’s way to a children’s book this year, one whose clear, sparkling prose and beautiful illustrations by Jennifer Thermes give this real-life tale the inspirational platform it deserves.

“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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