The Best Children's Books to Give in 2017

Dec 4, 2017

Finding just the right book for a child in your life and can be wonderful and challenging! Talk of Iowa is here to help. Host Charity Nebbe talks with Barb Stein of Prairie Lights Books and Sue Davis of River Lights Bookstore about the best new books to give children and teens this year. 
Barb's List


  • I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense by Chris Harris - A new collection of hilarious poetry. “Put this on the kitchen table. Start the day with a rhyme. If you like Shel Silverstein this will be a great addition to your collection.”


  • Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke -A mother and baby journey through a Nigerian market. “This book is so fun, and it’s also a counting book.”
  • A Christmas for Bear by Bonnie Becker - Curmudgeonly Bear celebrates his first real Christmas with help from his good friend Mouse.  “This is part of a series. We have sold so many of this series, and this is really one to own.”
  • I Wrote You a Note by Lizi Boyd - A little girl writes a note to a friend on a piece of birch bark. The note takes a long and delightful journey before it reaches its destination. “This is a gentle book. The little girl on the front is lying on her stomach in a meadow and she’s writing on a piece of birch bark. A little journey and beautiful pictures. I think for the gentler souls in the world, there’s a lot to look at.”
  • Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg A sweet and funny book that follows a multi-cultural family as they prepare to celebrate Hanukkah with Indian dosas instead of traditional latkes.  
  • Stay: A Girl, A Dog, A Bucket List by Kate Klise - Eli the dog is getting older, so his girl, Astrid, makes a bucket less to make the most of the time they have together. “The cover is Astrid sitting across the table from her dog Eli. This thing is, Eli is aging. [Astrid] has made a little bucket list for him.”
  • His Royal Highness King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones - A funny take on what happens when a new baby joins the family with a sweet ending that comes when big sister saves the day. “We get requests almost every day for sibling books and what to do when a new baby enters the family. This is really darling.”
  • Robinson by Peter Sis - Peter Sis brings to life a true story from his childhood celebrating his love for adventure and Robinson Crusoe “[Sis] is an American treasure, and this is no exception. Here he’s added much more color to his palate. This is an unusual book and the illustrations are just worth pouring over, as his usual talent.”
  • Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems - A follow up to Willems's wonderful Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Sam is still the most scaredy cat kid in the whole world, except for maybe a girl named Kerry. Sam, Kerry and their monsters meet in this new book. “It’s a large, oversized tall book. Mo Willems is another American genius. Everything he touches turns to gold. This is a hilarious way of people solving problems.”


  • Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies - A loving and beautifully illustrated book about the diversity of life on our planet. “This is [an author] who often writes science books for young kids, and who makes the concepts so accessible, besides beautiful. Not too much text, but so much to look at and think about."
  • Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers - A brand new way to look at the Statue of Liberty that is full of information even parents probably don't know. “One of the things that really is the point of this book? [The Statue of Liberty] is not a statue in place. Shes walking to greet the people who come into the country. I think a timely and beautiful book.
  • Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh A beautiful illustrated biography of Amalia Hernández and the work of the dance company she founded. 

 BIOGRAPHY- "Three great illustrated biographies!"

  • A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herker 
  • Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin
  • American Gothic: The Life of Grant Wood by Susan Wood


  • Who Gives a Hoot? Calpurnia Tate Girl Vet by Jacqueline Kelly Another follow up to the award winning The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. This is a book for younger readers featuring the beloved characters from earlier novels. In this book Calpurnia and her granddaddy rescue an owl. 


  • Wishtree by Katherine Applegate - Told from the perspective of a very old oak tree this book is about a girl who doesn't fit in who wishes for a friend and a boy who is suspicious of newcomers. “This is a small book, but it’s mighty. I love the subtlety; there’s humor. When I first picked it up I thought, oh no, I don’t want to listen to a tree talking. But he’s wonderful. I must say of all the books, this is a family book. I think it’s going to win some prizes.”
  • All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson - An unusual girl with an unusual background who has been home-schooled her whole life transitions into a public middle school. “This is graphic novel. And this is an unusual family. They work in the Renaissance fair. It’s really a powerful book. I know it’s going to have a great following.”
  • The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy - A fast paced novel about a band of child pick-pockets for middle grade readers. “This is a very unusual book. This is very exciting and a very interesting look at the underworld. It has kids being the thieves and the bad guys."
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds - Patina is a strong runner and new to the track team. She needs to learn to be a member of a team and how to support and lean on her teammates. “This is the second in his series that is a sports series about running track. This is about Patina learning to deal with her own anger and her own disappointments in life. Jason Reynolds is just really prolific and wonderful to read. This has two more in the series to follow.
  • The Explorer by Katherine Rundell - Four children must survive on their own in the jungle. They discover a map that leads them to a ruined city and an amazing secret. “This is for a little younger crowd. Four kids who don’t really know each other crash in the Amazon jungle, and of course they learn all kinds of things.”


  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo A riveting coming of age story about Wonder Woman. 
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman The much anticipated prequel to Pullman's iconic The Golden Compass.

Sue's List


  • Noisy Farm: My First Sound Book by Marion Billet
  • Big Red Barn by Carrie Love, Claire Patane, and Elaine Hewson
  • Good Night Iowa by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper -  “It mentions many cities in Iowa, including Dubuque, and it’s just a fun gift for those who are not familiar with our state.”
  • Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-By-Pose Wake Up Story by Mariam Gates and Sarah Jane Hinder - “A really wonderful way to introduce kids to calming and energizing.”
  • Good Night Yoga: A Pose-By-Pose Bedtime Story by Mariam Gates and Sarah Jane Hinder
  • Yoga Bug: Simple Poses for Little Ones by Sarah Jane Hinder -  “It has ten little poses that are named after insects that little ones can imitate and start their journey.”
  • Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer and Susi Schaefer - “This is rhyming and counting to learn, with parents, some yoga poses.”


  • World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal - “The illustrations are beautiful, bright, and intriguing. And recipes in the back.”
  • A Christmas for Bear by Bonnie Becker


  • Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown and Loren Long - “They have chosen our adored illustrator Lauren Long to illustrate this story. With its minimal pictures, this is a wonderful companion.”
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low? by Jenny Cooper
  • Big Words for Little Geniuses by Susan Patterson, James Patterson, and Hsinping Pan -  “It has simple but whimsical artwork. It is an alphabet book that uses great big words for every letter of the alphabet. A good big sibling book.”
  • The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen - “Believe me, nothing goes as expected.”
  • Here We Are by Judy Schachner - “A new one out we can hardly keep on the shelves. I would be surprised if it didn’t win at least an honorable mention. It’s an instruction book for becoming a responsible earthling.This is a beautiful story that every earthling needs to have.”


  • Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker - “These are photographs celebrating kindergarten to high school girls, and they are being fearless, silly wild, stubborn, and proud."
  • Pop, Sizzle, Boom!: 101 Science Experiments for the Mad Scientist in Every Kid by Amy Oyler and Amanda Brack
  • Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake! by Deanna F. Cook - “This breaks it down so that [kids] are capable of making really fun things. It goes through the baking vocabulary, talks about proper measuring, and kitchen safety.”


  • The Magic Misfits  by Neil Patrick Harris - “This is a story of six misfit magicians using teamwork and magic to save their small town. This will be a series. We’re looking at ages eight to 12 with this, but I always say in Iowa we can extend to younger because of our wonderful school system.”
  • Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling - “This just broke my heart open. It’s about a young teen with a disability having to adjust to a new school. It’s one of the most honest portrayals that I’ve read in a long time of young teens. Also, they solve a mystery along the way.”
  • Wishtree by Katherine Applegate - “It has an important message about racism, and everyone should read this book.”
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend


  • Warcross by Marie Lu -  “This is high-tech sci-fi thriller. It is one of those situations where you don’t know ‘til the end who the good guys are.”
  • Far From the Tree by Robin Benway - “This is so well written. Any adult would love this book.”
  • Speaker by Traci Chee - “These teens have a way of getting into our hearts. We are cheering for them as they face a lot of obstacles and have to accept dark truths from their past.”