Opinion | Kids’ books recommendations span the culture war divide – The Washington Post

Opinion | Kids’ books recommendations span the culture war divide – The Washington Post

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This holiday season, let’s press pause on one of the culture wars.
Recent tussles over the “appropriateness” of kids’ books obscure the genius and joy of so much children’s literature. As a reset, we asked dozens of parents across the political spectrum to share the children’s books they love best. They did, and reaffirmed an essential principle: One of our most important jobs as adults is to help foster in children a love of reading, and the lifetime of wonder and wisdom that follow from it.
All our participants knew this list might include books they wouldn’t choose for their own families. But together, they’ve created a library in which everyone can find something to awe and delight young people.
Alyssa Rosenberg: We made a list of 99 great kids’ books. You told us what we missed.
And this is just a start! We asked readers which books we missed and used your responses to create this list you can print at home.
The 20th-Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud,” edited by Janet Schulman
For any parent on a tight budget, this is the book that will last for hours. — Bethany S. Mandel, editor of the Heroes of Liberty series
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” by Judith Viorst; illustrated by Ray Cruz
Kids’ books don’t have to be sugarplums and sunshine. This story takes us through the experience of a typical, difficult day in the life of a kid. We can all relate to its details and humor. And although it’s a terrible day, we feel better in the end, connected by the knowledge that we’re not alone. — Lisa Loeb, singer, songwriter and actress
All the World,” by Liz Garton Scanlon; illustrated by Marla Frazee
I’ve read this book 100 times or more to my kids, and every time, I find new meaning in it. — Leana S. Wen, Post Opinions columnist
The Ana & Andrew series, by Christine Platt; illustrated by Sharon Sordo
Platt’s wonderful series also does serious work: introducing important moments in Black history in a fun, accessible way. — Hannah Grieco, editor of “And If That Mockingbird Don’t Sing: Parenting Stories Gone Speculative
A Bargain for Frances,” by Russell Hoban; illustrated by Lillian Hoban
Frances the Badger is one of the funniest fictional children ever invented, never more so than when she’s running a counter-scam on her friend Thelma. — Alyssa Rosenberg
The Bear That Wasn’t,” by Frank Tashlin
A hilarious, absurd, pro-labor, pro-environment fable — intricately drawn by a Looney Tunes cartoonist — that satirizes the self-importance of stuffed-shirt capitalists while lamenting the destruction they blindly leave behind. — Anya Kamenetz, author of “The Stolen Year: How COVID Changed Children’s Lives, and Where We Go Now
Bee-Bim Bop!” by Linda Sue Park; illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
A delightful, grounded story about a girl who helps her mother make the classic Korean dish. Her excitement about shopping for groceries, cooking with her mom and serving up the meal to the entire family is a rhythmic delight. — Michael Thompson, co-author of “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook,” by Shirley Hughes
At a moment of anxiety about boys and boyhood, Alfie’s kindness and courage are a delight, and a balm. — Alyssa Rosenberg
The Book With No Pictures,” by B.J. Novak
Who knew that a book without pictures could be so much fun to read? — Nana Efua Mumford, manager of editorial talent and logistics, Post Opinions
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” by Richard Scarry
There are always new things to point out and to learn. It’s perfect for letting the imagination go wild. — Leana S. Wen
A Chair for My Mother,” by Vera B. Williams
When a single mother and her daughter lose their apartment and all their belongings in a fire, family and friends share what they have without hesitation. To replace their comfortable chair, however, the mother, a hard-working waitress, must slowly save the coins from her tips. — David Von Drehle, Post Opinions columnist
The Day the Crayons Quit,” by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The illustrations make you want to color — and to anthropomorphize everything in your life. The story lends itself to making up different voices for each crayon’s tale-telling. — Lisa Loeb
Du Iz Tak?” by Carson Ellis
Pure joy, with wildly imaginative yet accessible illustrations that reward both the detail-obsessed observer and the child with limited vision who might see the vivid pages in their broadest outlines. — Rachael Brown, a partner at TNTP, a national education nonprofit
Frog and Toad Are Friends,” by Arnold Lobel
My mother is a retired elementary school librarian, and this is her go-to recommendation for beautiful stories crafted with limited and simple vocabulary. — Mary Katharine Ham, host of the podcast “Getting Hammered”
Go, Dog. Go!” by P.D. Eastman
This book turns a limited set of words into a fantasia of brightly colored dogs running through mazes, suffering car accidents, drinking cold drinks in the shade, playing baseball and insulting each other’s hats. — Amanda Katz, assignment editor, Post Opinions
Good Night, Gorilla,” by Peggy Rathmann
You can set your own pace, either breezing through if you just can’t handle one more minute of the bedtime routine, or reveling in the pictures and dreaming up longer, more complex stories about the zoo animals’ great escape. — Helena Andrews-Dyer, author of “The Mamas: What I Learned About Kids, Class, and Race From Moms Not Like Me
Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd
It’s soothing, which helps a young child sleep. It helps them confront fears of the night in a pleasant, non-threatening way. Henry Olsen, Post Opinions columnist
Harold and the Purple Crayon,” by Crockett Johnson
This book feels like a low-key inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”: It’s about a boy who drifts off to sleep and in his dreams uses his purple crayon to reshape reality, building huge cities and getting lost within them. — Sonny Bunch, Post Opinions contributing columnist
Hattie Peck,” by Emma Levey
Motherhood doesn’t come easy to Hattie, so she adopts animals from all different species. Simple and quick to read, the book holds little ones’ attention while sharing an important message about parenthood. — Susie Allison, creator of Busy Toddler and author of “Playing Preschool
The Hello, Goodbye Window,” by Norton Juster; illustrated by Chris Raschka
No book captures the joy and excitement of time away from home, or the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren, quite like this one. — Susie Allison
The House in the Night,” by Susan Marie Swanson; illustrated by Beth Krommes
Krommes won a Caldecott Medal for her intricate, high-contrast scratchboard illustrations of a child readying for bed and picking up a book “all about the starry dark.” There’s a literal “key” to the titular house, but it’s an exquisite metaphor, too, for the song and the love that make “a home full of light.” — Jen Balderama, associate editor, Post Opinions
I Want My Hat Back,” by Jon Klassen
This book is unique in my mind for having no wasted space. The text is short, but incredible nuance is conveyed by the pictures, leaving even adults wondering whether there is a hidden message. — Emily Oster, author of “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong — and What You Really Need to Know,” “Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool” and “The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years
If You Come to Earth,” by Sophie Blackall
This beautifully illustrated, meditative read alludes, lightly, to some of the travails of life on Earth — such as losing one’s home in a war or escaping a flood — while reminding us what brings us together. — Anya Kamenetz
In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak
As a psychologist, I have always loved the dreamlike, fantastical quality of “In the Night Kitchen.” Kids love it, too, because it is a story of a boy triumphing over the ridiculous, threatening adults who try to cook him in their cake. — Michael Thompson
It’s Mine!” by Leo Lionni
This tale of three arguing frogs is a great book to read to siblings and might spark a few conversations to help with their family battles. — Susie Allison
Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion,” by Mo Willems
I love the mix of photography and illustration. And the theme of letting go — for adults and kids — resonates, transcending age and circumstance. — Sofia Chang, chief executive, Girl Scouts of the USA
Little Blue and Little Yellow,” by Leo Lionni
The abstract shapes and solid backgrounds of this book’s illustrations made it an early favorite for our son, who has cortical visual impairment, a neurological condition in which the brain struggles to process complex visual information. — Rachael Brown
Mae Among the Stars,” by Roda Ahmed; illustrated by Stasia Burrington
This book’s lesson about believing in yourself, even when adults and children laugh at your aspirations, is a great one. — Stacia L. Brown, author and podcaster
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” by Virginia Lee Burton
Having kids and finding books to read to them has been a delight for the subversive part of my brain that loves rejiggering the messages in perverse ways. “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” is less about finding ways to remain useful in an evolving world and more a work of Cronenbergian body horror that ends with a sentient steam shovel chained to a building, bound like Prometheus to eternal employment/torment. — Sonny Bunch
Milo Imagines the World,” by Matt de la Peña; illustrated by Christian Robinson
On his subway ride to visit his mother, Milo looks at the people on the train and draws what he thinks their lives are like. But he ends up redrawing his pictures, this time relying on imagination instead of easy-to-reach-for stereotypes. — Amber Noelle Sparks, author of “And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges
Miss Rumphius,” by Barbara Cooney
We can see the many people whose lives are shaped by the Lupine Lady, all because she committed to “do something to make the world more beautiful.” It’s a gift to be refreshed by the beauty of the illustrations and to get to keep reminding myself and my daughter of this charge. — Leah Libresco Sargeant, author of “Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer” and “Building the Benedict Option: A Guide to Gathering Two or Three Together in His Name
My Friends,” by Taro Gomi
A young girl encounters many unlikely sources of knowledge in the natural and human world around her. “I learned to nap from my friend the crocodile” is my son’s favorite line. — Rachael Brown
Nutshell Library,” by Maurice Sendak
Kids feel small, and they like small things. This tiny, classic set in its own little slipcase includes a delightful alphabet book; a counting book with a plot of sorts; a savory book of months; and, best of all, a teeny moral tale involving a child so apathetic he gets eaten by a polite but hungry lion. — Amanda Katz
Oh, Were They Ever Happy!” by Peter Spier
Every Spier book is a prize, especially this mischievous chronicle of a trio of helpful siblings and their adventures after a babysitter fails to show. — Alyssa Rosenberg
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm,” by Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen
Lively, unforgettable sketches of animals including Old Eleven, a wise sheep; and Evil Murdoch, a gander. — Alyssa Rosenberg
Outside Over There,” by Maurice Sendak
Sendak at his best: unsentimental, prankish, funny and full of the absolute strangeness of childhood. — Amber Noelle Sparks
The Runaway Bunny,” by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd
My 2-year-old has an independent spirit and is the runaway bunny; I’m the mommy bunny who will follow her to the end of the earth. — Leana S. Wen
A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin Stead
In an era of influencers and self-branding, this book is a delightful reminder about the importance of quiet service to others, and the genuine friendships and returned kindness it can generate. — Sonny Bunch and his wife, Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats
This was the first kids’ book I can remember reading with a Black main character. But it is very much about how the world around us, no matter where you live, can be magical with even the tiniest shift of perspective. And it’s never too early to teach White kids that Black kids are kids, too. — Marc Bernardin, podcaster and writer of comics and graphic novels, including “Adora and the Distance
Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues with Autism,” by Jen Malia
Such a loving, accessible story about understanding sensory needs in children. I wish “Too Sticky” had been around when my autistic child was younger. I cried the first time I read it! — Hannah Grieco
Triangle,” by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the last line is the best cliffhanger ever! — Nana Efua Mumford
What Pete Ate from A-Z,” by Maira Kalman
This list of an innocent-looking dog’s incredible ingestion (beginning with “He ate cousin Rocky’s accordion. All of it.”) has verbal treats on every page — Kate Cohen, Post Opinions contributing columnist
The Whispering Rabbit,” by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Annie Won
Forget “Goodnight Moon” and “The Runaway Bunny”; this is the Margaret Wise Brown book I’ve happily read hundreds of times. A sleepy rabbit opens his mouth to yawn and accidentally swallows … a bee! To expel it, he must emit the quietest possible sound — quieter than snow melting, a fly sneezing, a flower growing. Written in sleep-inducing cadences. — Jen Balderama
Amos & Boris,” by William Steig
A mouse is rescued by a whale, and, years later, the whale is rescued by the mouse. That’s it — and somehow it’s an entire novel in 32 pages. — Kate Cohen
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” by Barbara Robinson
One of very few books that literally makes me laugh and cry, which is great fun for my kids, who enjoy making fun of me for it. — Mary Katharine Ham
Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds,” by David A. Adler
The voluminous Cam Jansen series develops a habit of reading. It introduces story form and tropes from a history of literature. — Mary Katharine Ham
Carla’s Sandwich,” by Debbie Herman; illustrated by Sheila Bailey
A story that’s told lightly but captures the serious themes of bullying and appreciation of difference. — Sofia Chang
Chicken Sunday,” by Patricia Polacco
A young girl and her neighborhood friends do something special for the friends’ grandmother. In the process, they get into an accidental conflict with a neighbor who thinks they’ve vandalized his store — and readers learn about Ukrainian culture, and African American culture and food. — Lisa Loeb
The Children’s Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett; illustrated by Michael Hague
We would gather all the kids on our bed at night and read one of the stories or poems — each focused on a particular virtue, such as courage, perseverance or responsibility — and then talk about what it meant and how they could apply it to their lives. — Marc A. Thiessen, Post Opinions columnist
The Chronicles of Prydain series, by Lloyd Alexander
The serial escapades of young Taran, the assistant pig-keeper, and his companions — strong-willed Princess Eilonwy, mercurial Fflewddur Fflam and loyal Gurgi, among others — eventually coalesce into a mythic coming-of-age tale. — Steven D. Greydanus, founder of Decent Films
The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen,” Taschen edition
After a few years of the usual happy endings, every child needs to be introduced to the destabilizing force of Hans Christian Andersen. This volume is gorgeously illustrated, including images by a variety of Golden Age illustrators, so it’s a visual feast as well as a language one. — Amber Noelle Sparks
Half Magic” and other novels, by Edward Eager
In “Half Magic,” siblings find a magic coin that half-grants wishes, which forces the family to be creative about how and what they wish for. Eager has a series of linked stories of magic adventures, each strikingly original. — Leah Libresco Sargeant
Hiking Day,” by Anne Rockwell; illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
We picked up “Hiking Day” at a nature center gift shop in the middle of the pandemic when “outside” was still a loaded word. I love it because it not only centers a Black family simply living but also celebrates curiosity and the radical notion that the world is everyone’s to explore. — Helena Andrews-Dyer
Little House in the Big Woods” and its sequels, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I somehow avoided these books as a kid, probably from associating them with the often treacly Michael Landon show, until I started reading them aloud to our daughter as bedtime stories. Big mistake on my part! Wilder’s vivid, lightly fictionalized retelling of her frontier childhood is far richer, more complex and more morally ambiguous about the settling of the American West than I ever could have imagined. — Zack Stentz, creator of “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” and co-author of “Colin Fischer
The Monster at the End of This Book,” by Jon Stone; illustrated by Michael Smollin
How young is too young to introduce a kid to the concept of “meta”? Of “breaking the fourth wall”? Of “narrative realities”? — Marc Bernardin
My Mind is a Mountain / Mi mente es una montaña,” by Cindy Montenegro; illustrated by Nqobile Adigun
This beautiful book, which we publish, allows parents and their little ones to begin having conversations about mental health very early on, helping to destigmatize it and encourage resilience in children. — Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein, founders of Lil’ Libros
Roxaboxen,” by Alice McLerran; illustrated by Barbara Cooney
A sparkling example of a true imaginative tale and the magical quality of make-believe within the heart and soul of a child. A grand adventure for young and old (but have a tissue handy). — Rachel Reeves, co-host of the RightBooks4Kids Instagram account
Sábado / Saturday,” by Jorge Garza
This almost textless picture book is inspired by Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts and celebrates the first accomplishments of many immigrant families — in this case, the graduation of a school-age child. — Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein
The Skin You Live In,” by Michael Tyler; illustrated by David Lee Csicsko
Tyler’s rhyming prose and Csicsko’s bright, joyful illustrations deliver a vital message: The skin you live in, whether “butterscotch gold skin,” “marshmallow treat skin” or “warm cocoa dream skin,” is beautiful — as is “the ‘you’ who’s within.” — Jen Balderama
Small Sister,” by Jessica Meserve
This gets at so many of the big emotions involved in sibling relationships: admiration, competition, jealousy, rage, courage, but mostly love. — Helena Andrews-Dyer
Stories for Children,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer
These moving stories shine a light into the lives of Jews in Europe and the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Singer is one of the best children’s writers in history. A great bedtime read-aloud for older kids. — Bethany S. Mandel
A Story About Afiya,” by James Berry; illustrated by Anna Cunha
Written by Jamaican poet James Berry, this is a sweet ode to childhood full of gorgeous illustrations that bring Afiya’s bright personality and dazzling dress to life on every page. — Amber O’Neal Johnston, author of “A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond
Weasels,” by Elys Dolan
A James Bond movie if it were only about the villains and if the villains were coffee-addicted weasels trying to achieve total world domination — a phrase I had to apologize to my brother for teaching his kid. — Amanda Katz
The Wreck of the Zephyr,” by Chris Van Allsburg
Van Allsburg’s books are great stories, but more important, they are haunting stories. They have a beautiful weight to them, even darkness and danger, in the tradition of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. — Mary Katharine Ham
Blended,” by Sharon M. Draper
“Blended” explores themes of biracial identity, divorce and remarriage, and police brutality. A good book to read and discuss along with your child, especially if your family is dealing with any of the book’s social themes. — Stacia L. Brown
Bridge to Terabithia,” by Katherine Paterson
It appears as though it’s going to be an innocent book about two kids creating an adventure world, but it has a sad twist. I still loved it when I was younger, because it was relatable to me at that age. — Flora Saucier, child of Post Opinions contributing columnist Fernanda Santos
Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams
The first book that ever made me cry was “Charlotte’s Web”; I think I was about 8 years old. It is a book of such wisdom, and sorrow, and joy, so much of it encapsulated in Wilbur’s summary of the barn in which he lives: “It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.” — Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of the Falcon Quinn series
The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis
While the seven-book series weaves understated theological symbolism throughout, its powerful strength is its great appeal even to readers who don’t have a strong religious bent. — Rachel Reeves
Echo,” by Pam Muñoz Ryan
I loved this book for its complicated plot, for its connections across time and for the conversations it sparked. It’s a perfect read-aloud.— Emily Oster
El Deafo,” by Cece Bell
When Bell loses her hearing after an early childhood illness, she develops a fearless alter ego named El Deafo — to sweet, poignant and comedic effect. — Stacia L. Brown
Farah Rocks Fifth Grade,” by Susan Muaddi Darraj; illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa
The first book in an incredible middle-grade series about a young detective, and it introduces a young Arab American girl as the protagonist! — Hannah Grieco
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” by E.L. Konigsburg
This is such a lovely book in its respect for children’s intelligence and discernment, and for its portrait of friendship between kids and adults. — Alyssa Rosenberg
Front Desk,” by Kelly Yang
This story about a Chinese immigrant family gave my daughter perspective on what my childhood was like while also touching on themes of racism, socioeconomic exclusion and inclusion. — Sofia Chang
The Great Brain,” by John D. Fitzgerald; illustrated by Mercer Mayer
A classic about the merciless but harmless manipulations of a younger brother by his older, in a mixed Catholic-Mormon family on the Utah frontier. Full of gentle moral lessons and diversity of the religious sort; it also imparts a lot of American history without forcing it. — Charles Lane, Post Opinions columnist and editorial board member
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans,” by Kadir Nelson
Narrated in the voice of a fictionalized African American elder, this book offers an engaging overview of the trials and triumphs of African Americans. It’s filled with Nelson’s jaw-dropping, full-page portraits, and the narrative writing draws each reader into a personal story. — Amber O’Neal Johnston
The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Warmer, funnier and lighter on its feet than the author’s more celebrated Lord of the Rings trilogy, “The Hobbit” is still a perfect introduction to the world of high fantasy. — Zack Stentz
The Lives of Christopher Chant,” by Diana Wynne Jones
A much funnier, more imaginative, more nuanced and less formulaic J.K. Rowling novel. — Amanda Katz
My Side of the Mountain,” by Jean Craighead George
On the pier between childhood and stormy adolescence, this novel meets readers ready to imagine independence, self-reliance and life without parents. Part adventure story, part naturalist handbook, George’s story awakens a love for the outdoors even as she prepares preteens for what comes next. — David Von Drehle
Out of My Mind,” by Sharon M. Draper
This book and its sequel, “Out of My Heart,” are compelling stories that teach bravery and compassion while giving a bold view into what life is like for some people with disabilities. — Amber O’Neal Johnston
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan; illustrated by John Rocco
A good way to introduce early teens to their own situations while teaching them about Greek mythology. Plus, any story that says the gods live in New York and the entrance to hell is in Los Angeles gets huge props from me! — Henry Olsen
The Phantom Tollbooth,” by Norton Juster; illustrated by Jules Feiffer
This classic is a magic trick: a fantasy adventure that fuses an overtly allegorical, “Pilgrim’s Progress”-esque ode to the importance of learning and education with anarchic Lewis Carroll-like whimsy and nonsense. — Steven D. Greydanus
The Pushcart War,” by Jean Merrill; illustrated by Ronni Solbert
Simply the best book about politics ever written for children, and vastly more fun than that description makes it sound. — Alyssa Rosenberg
Ramona and Her Father,” by Beverly Cleary; illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
No other author has rendered ordinary childhood in such windowpane prose or with such unpatronizing dignity and deft humor. — David Von Drehle
A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Brett Helquist
The books in this series are unlike anything we’ve read before: Though each is about an “unfortunate” event, the writer still finds a way to be funny. — Fernanda Santos and Flora Saucier
Sisters,” by Raina Telgemeier
For many kids, I think graphic novels are a key to opening up a love of reading. There are many great ones, but in my house this book is distinguished by being the most coated in food crumbs, as it’s the top choice for reading while eating dessert. — Emily Oster
So You Want to Be a Wizard” and its sequels, by Diane Duane
While movies about magic are dominated by third-act CGI-fests, Duane’s wizards are attentive to small things, and their adventures turn on small risks of generosity and trust. — Leah Libresco Sargeant
Treasure Island,” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Pirates! Pretty much every buccaneer trope (maps to buried treasure, peg legs and eye patches, parrots who yell “Pieces of eight!”) comes straight from this tale of a boy swept into a high-seas adventure. “Treasure Island” is particularly fun to read aloud, since you can do all the pirate voices as you move through the chapters. Just don’t act out the sword fights unless you want your kids to stay awake long past bedtime. — Zack Stentz
Watership Down,” by Richard Adams
Adams is the Homer of the hedgerow, the Malory of the warren — or, a bit more precisely, the Tolkien of rabbitry, complete with rabbit myths and folk tales, poetry, spirituality, even a sketch of a rabbit language. This is an epic saga, brimming with philosophical depth, about a special group of rabbits pursuing a better life, facing seemingly insurmountable difficulties with creativity, loyalty and hope. — Steven D. Greydanus
Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein
If Dr. Seuss’s work feels like cartoons on mushrooms, then Silverstein’s illustrations vibe like they favor single malt. — Marc Bernardin
Alanna: The First Adventure,” by Tamora Pierce
The 22 books and novellas set in Pierce’s fictional kingdom of Tortall range from “The Wire,” with magic, to “Game of Thrones”-style social chronicle minus the grotesque violence. And without being explicit, the books are a wonderful starting place for conversations about healthy romantic and sexual relationships. — Alyssa Rosenberg
Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card
A story of courage, doubt, and sibling love and rivalry. If your child ever thinks “that’s unfair!,” reflecting on Ender’s plight might put things in perspective. — Timothy P. Carney, a senior political columnist at the Washington Examiner and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Katie Carney
The Fellowship of the Ring” and its sequels, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Not a children’s book, but it teaches about honor, courage and duty at an age when it’s essential to inculcate those concepts in teens. — Henry Olsen
Fifteen,” by Beverly Cleary
This story about starting to date is perfection, worth it alone for the chapter in which protagonist Jane Purdy deals with the heartache of not being asked to a dance. — Alyssa Rosenberg
The Kane Chronicles trilogy, by Rick Riordan; illustrated by Matt Griffin
This series, couched in a strong coming-of-age framing, doesn’t shy away from questions of identity, loss and sacrifice. — Rebecca Cokley, disability rights program officer at the Ford Foundation
The Legendborn Cycle series, by Tracy Deonn
An update to the Arthurian saga, centered on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the tensions between two communities with histories in magic. This series is unapologetic in its approach to race, gender and class. — Rebecca Cokley
Northanger Abbey,” by Jane Austen
For teenagers who like dark classic novels. It’s one of Austen’s lesser-known works, but it has a great mixture of romance and mystery. — Fernanda Santos and Flora Saucier
The Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan
This book’s roots are firmly and deeply planted in truth found in scripture. It is infused with hope. — Rachel Reeves
Right Ho, Jeeves,” by P.G. Wodehouse
Some of our happiest family reading moments came with Jeeves and the Woosters, starting with this volume. Words explode. Names pop. Harebrained schemes somehow stick the landing. All these fire the pre-adolescent brain. But the biggest draw, especially for young minds coming to the realization that their parents might be idiots? The welcome surprise that power dynamics are not what they appear. Bertie owns the cards, but Jeeves calls the plays, sir. — David Shipley, The Post’s opinion editor
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4” and its sequels, by Sue Townsend
Funny, gross, touching — and an opportunity for teenagers to see their own self-absorption from the outside. — Alyssa Rosenberg
Children’s books recommended by parents across the political spectrum


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