Local librarians share their favorite books for kids

Since 1967, International Children’s Book Day has been observed on April 2, Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. In honor of the occasion, we asked children’s librarians from around Chicago to share some of their favorite children’s books.

Their favorite titles, and why they enjoy those books so very much, are listed below. Perhaps they will give you some ideas of books that may be new to your family, or reminders of old friends you’d like to revisit.

Elizabeth McChensey

Director of Children’s Services for the Chicago Public Library system

“The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf

I love this classic, rendered in pen and ink, for its timeless message of peace and nonviolence. For more than 50 years this story has charmed children and adults alike and not only is it a wonderful story, but a very lovely and engaging read-aloud.

“Library Lion” by Michelle Knudsen

A lion in the library would seem to break all the rules in Miss Merriweather’s library, but when one appears, it seems he’s just what everyone needs. This warm story of friendship and helping a friend leaves an enduring message.

“Frog Scientist” (Scientist in the Field Series) by Pamela Turner

Readers meet Tyrone Hayes, a frog scientist, who has taken his passion for catching frogs and turned it into a career that focuses on the environmental changes seen in frogs and the lasting and important messages they bring for us all. Environmental science and gorgeous illustrations make this hard to put down.

“True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi

A swashbuckler for girls! Charlotte sets off for her family in America on a ship with mounting mutiny. Her charm, strength and wit all are needed and help celebrate strong girls everywhere.

Mary G. Adamowski

Head of Youth Services Orland Park Public Library

“Ask Mr. Bear” by Marjorie Flack

Trying to find the perfect birthday present for his mother isn’t easy for Danny. He asks all of his animal friends, but it is Mr. Bear who gives the best answer of all! This story was first published in 1932 and its loving message rings true today. I loved reading this book with my boys. It is best shared one-on-one with your loved ones.

“Counting by 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Twelve-year-old genius and outsider Willow Chance must figure out how to connect with other people and find a surrogate family for herself after a family tragedy. At times poignant and witty, Willow offers her readers some simple truths about how to get along in life. This book resonated with me in that you sometimes need to count on others to help us overcome sadness and face another day. Intended for readers in grades 5-8.

Amanda Blau

Children’s Librarian at Naperville Public Library

“I Don’t Want to Be A Frog” by Dev Petty

A young frog explains all the reasons he’d prefer to be different animals to an older frog who acquaints him with the truth that we are what we are. Funny and endearing – great for readers who enjoy Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books.

“Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise” by Sean Taylor

Hoot Owl dresses himself up to try to get close to his prey only to be thwarted time and again. Until, he dresses as a waiter and begins to stalk – a pepperoni pizza! The bold illustrations make this funny story of an underdog owl shine.

“Princess in Black” by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Princess Magnolia and her proper unicorn transform themselves into a rough and tumble monster-fighting duo to protect the kingdom. Charming full color illustrations help new chapter book readers make the jump from picture books. There are three books in the series so far and I’m hoping for more. (Great for first and second graders)

“Lulu and The Hamster in the Night” by Hilary McKay

Lulu isn’t supposed to take her hamster along on her sleepover to her nan’s house, but she does. When the hamster gets loose, Lulu rushes to find him before he is discovered. This chapter book series about a sweet, animal-loving girl is strong on appeal and kindness.

Jennifer Norberg

Assistant Manager of Children’s Services at the Oak Park Public Library

“Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh and “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren

Both Harriet and Pippi Longstocking are/were strong, creative and sassy girl characters I always admired and wanted to emulate. As a young reader, I really identified with girls that wanted to challenge the status quo and who weren’t proverbial “good girls.”

Maria Papanastassiou

Early Literacy Services Supervisor at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library

“City Dog, Country Frog” by Mo Willems

This poignant book is a stark departure from Willem’s hilarious books like “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” Illustrated by John Muth in soothing watercolors that move the reader through the seasons, the story follows the unlikely blossoming friendship of a city dog visiting the countryside where he befriends a grinning frog. Although different, they frolic together teaching each other froggy and doggy games, and then in time, enjoy quiet companionship as they remember all of their good times together. This book allows for great discussions with children about friendship, loss and hope in a gentle and comforting way.

“The Princess and the Pony” by Kate Beaton

This is a nontraditional princess tale with a rare appeal to girls and boys. It has it all; the most adorable flatulent pony, a pint-sized and determined warrior princess, biting humor, colorful cartoonish illustrations and fierce warriors who, as it turns out, are no match for a secret weapon of maximum cuteness. A hilarious lesson illustrating that you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a warrior by their size!

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