We’re in the thick of birthday season. Somehow April through June are when 99% of my kids’ friends are born, or so it seems. Two of my three kiddos are born during these months, so we’re pretty much celebrating someone every weekend for months.

There are few gifts better than books, in my opinion. Some of the books on our shelves have been read thousands of times. Some have a well-loved spine and names written on the first page in giant letters with a shaky hand. My children have cuddled up in bed with certain books for the night. Many have come on vacation with us and gotten us through sick days. Over the years, I’ve fine tuned my book-gift list and now have my absolute favorites, year by year (always with room for additions). I learned the art of book reading from my mom, who always read with oomph and zest that helped me understand plot and character even if I didn’t fully understand all of the vocabulary. My mom still has a keen interest in children’s books and spends time previewing and approving books before inviting them into her home (or mine). My children continue to discover real gems at her house.

The list below is by no means exhaustive – there are just three books per year. But these books have been beloved in my home and hopefully will be in yours too. What are your favorites?

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The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

Here Are My Hands, by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

Open the Barn Door, by Christopher Santoro


1 Year Old

The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

Who’s Hiding?, by Santoru Onishi

The Mitten, by Jan Brett


2 Years Old

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry

Bunny Cakes, by Rosemary Wells

A Good Day, by Kevin Henkes


3 Years Old

My Friend Bear, by Jez Alborough

The Giant Jam Sandwich, by John Vernon Lord

Cupcake, by Cherise Mericle Harper


4 Years Old

Piggy Bunny, by Rachel Vail

The Frog and Toad Collection Box Set, by Arnold Lobel

The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka


5 Years Old

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo

Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk

Brave Irene, by William Steig


6 Years Old

My Book About Me, by Dr. Seuss

Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary

Duck for President, by Doreen Cronin


7 Years Old

The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart

Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl


8 Years Old

Justin Case: School, Drool and Other Daily Disasters, by Rachel Vail

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

Matilda, by Roald Dahl


Gillian Fein

Kidville Member

Gillian Fein


Founder of LaLa Lunchbox, a fun, easy-to-use iOS app that takes the stress out of lunch planning and helps families save money and time. Hailed by The New York Times, Parenting, Swiss-Miss and more, the app empowers kids to have a say in their meals, and makes a game out of what was once a frustrating chore. Gillian worked in the public health sector for nearly a decade after receiving her MBA from Columbia University and lives in New York City with her husband and three kids.