Best Books for Giving

The Sproutling staff shares 21 favorite children's books in time for the holidays

The best gifts create lasting memories, and the holidays provide much-needed time to unplug and spend some time doing just that with the little ones.

One of our favorite ways to steal a snuggle is by gifting a new book, then cracking it open that night for a new literary adventure. Storytime puts kids on a path towards a lifetime love of reading, and—bonus—books take up almost zero space, a boon for any family living in a smaller footprint. So, just in time for the holidays, the Sproutling staff shares some of our favorite children’s books. Some are standbys from our childhood, while others are new classics that we love reading to our little ones today. Whichever you end up gifting, be sure to sign and date the book for its original recipient, as tracking the book’s journey among children within families keeps the gift alive over generations.

Ages 0 to 3

The Story of Ferdinand; $12
By Munro Leaf, 1936
Ferdinand taught me the value of being me. My approach to life has always been to be comfortable being myself, and I think it all started with that bull and his flowers. I read it to my son Carter because I want him to grow up being comfortable with who he is…whatever that will be. —Tim, director of operations 

Big Red Barn; $13
By Margaret Wise Brown, 1995
Told from the point of view of animals on a farm, this book offers a bit of fantasy through something that kids would see in real life. The spare, minimal composition of the illustrations belie their richness, and it’s a charming family read. —Mathew, co-founder

The Lorax; $9
By Dr. Seuss, 1971
Consumption might seem to be a way of life nowadays, but this classic provides a meaningful message about the costs of consumerism and greed. I love the lessons about respecting Earth’s bounty and about how wealth doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. My husband and I read this in voices—one of us is the bad guy and the other is the good guy. —Smeeta, photographer

Where the Wild Things Are; $6
By Maurice Sendak, 1964
What can we say that hasn’t been said about this celebrated and fantastical book, which has been inspiring kids and parents alike for half a century. Every kid should have this. —Nick, firmware engineer

How Are You Peeling?; $6
By Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers,
The authors, New York-based artists, use oddly shaped vegetables as proxy for exploring feelings. It’s great for toddlers learning to verbalize emotions because it introduces emotional concepts in approachable way. —Smeeta, photographer 

Blue Hat, Green Hat; $4
By Sandra Boynton, 1984
One every page of this board book, animals correctly wear different items of clothing. That is, until you get to the turkey, who just can’t get it together. My kids treat this like a call-and-response book and always said “oh, turkey” when we got to him wearing his pants on his head. —Mathew, co-founder 

Ages 3 and up

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever; $15
By Richard Scarry, 1963
As a kid, I loved the playful animals and everyday items on these richly illustrated pages. I also learned a ton of words (the book contains more than 1,400 entries). But my mom was clever and gave me the Swedish version, Allting Runt Omkring, which had the names of all the items in both languages—I boosted my language skills while enjoying my favorite book. —Sarah W., editor

Sophie; $7
By Mem Fox, 1989
A must read for any family dealing with a death of a beloved family member. The first time I heard this book was at my kid’s preschool and every single parent had tears in their eyes. Mem Fox beautifully illustrates the circle of life and loss through the eyes of a little girl and her love for her grandfather. —Smeeta, photographer

Officer Buckle and Gloria; $15
By Peggy Rathmann, 1995
I loved this book for the awesome dichotomy of silly Gloria, a dog, and grumpy Officer Buckle. The two become unlikely partners, and then friends as realize that they accomplish way more as a team than as two individuals. It’s heart-warming and hilarious, and also contains lots of safety tips (hint: don’t lick stop signs in wintertime). —Sarah A., software engineer 

The Paper Bag Princess; $2
Robert Munsch, 1980
I love reading this book to both my daughter and my sons. It’s all about girl power and teaches little girls that they don’t need a “prince” to outsmart dragons and save the kingdom. Princess Elizabeth is perfect role model for all little girls—and the illustrations by Martin Martchenko are so rich. —Smeeta, photographer

Harry on the Rocks: $7
By Susan Meddaugh, 2003
Harry is trapped on a desert island with nothing but an egg, which hatches into a baby lizard and quickly becomes a dragon that terrifies Harry and sends him into hiding. But the book takes us to a wonderful surprise ending that always gets my kids excited. —Mathew, co-founder

The Giving Tree; $10
By Shel Silverstein, 1964
My mom read this book to me as a child and it always left a deep impression on me—every time we read it, we discussed the boy and the tree, and it was one of my first messages about the perils of being selfish with those we love and who love us (Once you cut down a tree, you can never get it back). But it was also about the beauty and imperfection of human relationships. —Lauren, data scientist 

The Mitten; $15
By Jan Brett, 1989
Illustrator Jan Brett took inspiration from an old Ukrainian folk tale for this fantastic wintertime story, which is about a little boy who loses his white woolen mitten in the snowy woods. One after one, chilly woodland creatures pack themselves into the warm mitten as it expands to fit all of them, until a bear squishes in and they all burst out of the stretched-to-its-limits mitten. In addition to the richly textured illustrations, it’s a charming and funny tale—that warns kids to keep track of their mittens. —Sarah W., editor

Watch the Stars Come Out; $7
Riki Levinson and Diane Goode, 1995
My great-grandparents on both sides were immigrants, and this is a historical tale about coming to America as experienced generations ago—complete with the overcrowded ship and everything. Really lovely story about family and legacy. —Mathew, co-founder

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel; $14
Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
This is vintage gold: First publishedin the wake of the Great Depression, it’s the story of a steam-shover operator and his machine, Mary Anne, who face obsolesce as new diesel shovels come on the scene. It’s an interesting trip through the industrialization of cities, and emphasizes the value of friendship. community and hard work. —Smeeta, photographer

All Ages

Dragons Love Tacos; $10
By Adam Rubin, 2012
A great family read for all ages. I love the way my 9-year-old always sneaks into his 4-year-old brother’s bed when I read him this book. The illustratons by Daniel Salmieri are priceless! —Smeeta, photographer

A Bad Case of Stripes; $6
By David Shannon, 1998
This book has beautiful illustrations, an awesome message (“be yo’self!”) and is fun all around. It’s about a girl who loves lima bean, but stops eating them when other kids make fun of her. It turns out that they’re the cure for her mutating stripes, and it’s a playful message about being yourself. —Sarah A., software engineer 

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me; $16
By Maya Angelou, 1993
So many parents try to protect their kids from fear, but the late Maya Angelou’s book talks about how pushing past fears can lead to incredible discoveries. The illustrations by 90’s street artist Basquiat are absolutely breathtaking. —Smeeta, photographer 

The Missing Piece; $9
By Shel Silverstein, 1976
This story about a circular creature on the hunt for its missing piece made me think about the importance of the journey, rather than the destination. And the minimalist, black-and-white line drawings were different from any other picture book I was reading. —Kenyon, engineering program manager 

In the Night Kitchen; $8
By Maurice Sendak, 1970
Another classic from beloved author Maurice Sendak. In the Night Kitchen explores the beauty of dreams, and  I love the way my children come together and sing along with the cooks of the Night Kitchen. Extra points for naked babies wrapped in dough. —Nick, firmware engineer

Guji Guji; $24
By Chih-Yuan Chen, 2004
This tale is set in Japan and tells the story of a crocodile egg that rolls into a duck nest and hatches. I love this book because it is about unconditional love and family loyalty, even between ducks and crocodiles. And the art is gorgeous. —Smeeta, photographer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *