30 Best Children’s Books of 2011

There were many quality books published this year, spanning many genres and topics. We’ve compiled the 30 best children’s books 2011 that are exciting the minds and imaginations of kids of all ages. With whimsical illustrations, fascinating story lines, and wonderful narratives, these books are the best of the bunch.

2011′s Best Children’s Books

press here Press Here: This interactive and compelling masterpiece is one of the best picture books of the year. The book begins with a single yellow dot on the cover. Readers follow the simple instructions and begin a magical journey that will have them gasping with surprise and delight. In some cases, they simply press the dots as indicated. In others, they shake and swirl the book. When they turn the page, they see the result of their interactive fun. Dots multiply, change direction, and even grow in size. This is a book that’s especially recommended for kids who have yet to develop a love for reading. The interactive qualities help to engage their minds, while the changing twists and turns help them see how much fun and excitement can be held in books. The simple instructions, fun interactions, and colorful dots help to make this one of the best books of the year. And it all happens on simple, flat, pages.
the artist who painted a blue horse The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse: Some of the best children’s books of 2011 offer new innovations, and a look into the future of children’s literature. In other cases, as with The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, classic books can become beloved even though they are simply drawn and elegant. This is a book that celebrates in the inner artist in us all. Kids of all ages will find their creativity sparked when they page through this book by the well known and respected Eric Carle. The artist and author still remembers being inspired in his own childhood, by the expressionist artist Franz Marc. This book is a celebration of Marc’s work, which featured brilliant and unusual color pairings, like a polka-dotted donkey, a red crocodile, and more. Young budding artists will appreciate this legacy, which is a look into the past and future of classic books.
goodnight, goodnight construction site Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: The perfect book for construction loving little ones, this bedtime book features all their favorite truck characters. As the sun sets behind them and the construction site, each construction truck falls off to sleep, one by one. The book features Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Crane Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator. As they finish their chores and jobs for the day, these tuckered out trucks get themselves ready for a long night of rest before getting back to their duties the next day. The artwork in this book is bright, adorable, beautifully textured, and very detailed, and was done by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. The rhyming text is melodic and sweet – the perfect choice to help kids get to bed. Many of the bedtime books are full of cute, cuddly creatures, but this book is made especially for kids who prefer the rough and tumble world of hardworking trucks.
i want my hat back I want my hat back: The poor bear has lost his hat – and he wants it back! He sets off on a journey to get help with his lost hat, and patiently, kindly and politely asks every animal he finds if they have seen his hat. Each of the animals answers that they have not seen his hat. Some of them answer simply and shortly, while others offer elaborate explanations for why they have not seen his hat. After asking numerous animals, the bear begins to give up hope – and that’s just when the lovely deer comes bounding by. When the bear is asked a simple question, his memory is sparked and he renews his search with more hope and excitement than before. This book is told completely through dialogue, and is a cute twist on many other classic books. Full of compelling wording, adorable illustrations, and sly jokes, this book will have kids giggling while they follow the tribulations of the little bear.
perfect square Perfect Square: A single square but with unlimited possibilities! This book begins by focusing on a bright red square who is perfectly happy – until something terrible happens! The square is cut up and punched through with holes, and is no longer a perfect square. Initially distraught, it soon becomes clear that will the square may not be perfect anymore, he’s something else entirely – a beautiful, babbling fountain. The next day, the square gets torn into pieces, but once again he becomes something even more special – a garden. The book continues with each day turning the square into something else entirely. This book would serve as an excellent companion to an art project, because it really gets a child’s imaginations going when they see how many things can become of a simple, single square. It’s also a great book for kids who are going through changes of any kinds, as it shows that change can often lead to something even greater than what you started with.
the man in the moon The Man in The Moon: This is an example of just how extraordinary the top picture books 2011 can be. Bursting with color, visual appeal, and truly awe-inspiring illustrations, this book was 20 years in the making – but well worth the wait. The premise of the book is the Earth’s moon as a shipwreck during the space age. It is a result of the bad dreams caused by Pitch, King of the Nightmares. This book is chock full of fun, adorable, and really unique characters, including a toymaker, rabbit, and a fairy. Kids of all ages and all interests will find something they love in this completely unique, visually astounding book.
grandpa green Grandpa Green: A celebration of history and love, Grandpa Green is a book about a man who is a gardener – but he wasn’t always so. Long ago he started out as a farm boy, he got chickenpox pox, he became a solder, and eventually an artist. These memories are handed down from Grandpa Green to his great-grandson, as the boy discovers the richness of family history. At times touching, at times completely whimsical, this deals with themes that not many books for kids touch on: memory, aging, and the strength of family history. This is a great book to get kids interested in their own family legacy.
every thing on it Every Thing On It: No list of the best children’s books of 2011 would be complete without a book by Shel Silverstein. Author of the acclaimed and beloved Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein is widely recognized as one of the most compelling poets and illustrators of children’s literature. This book is certainly worthy of praise, as it’s chock full of poems and drawings that encourage kids to dream, and dare, and to think about the world a little differently. This is a truly timeless work that will be as appreciated 50 years from now as it will be by kids of today.
tumford the terrible Tumford the Terrible: Tumford the cat seems to find trouble no matter where he goes or what he does. From tracking dirt into the house, knocking over precious, breakable things, and causing trouble during fancy parties, it seems that Tumford can do nothing right. He feels bad about his accidental mishaps, but he just can’t seem to say those two words his owners so need to hear: “I’m sorry.” But once he realizes the unconditional love his parents have for him, will he begin singing a different tune? Kids will giggle with delight as they watch Tumford bumble his way toward an apology.
llama llama home with mama Llama Llama Home with Mama: Poor Llama Llama. He’s feeling got the sneezes, he’s achy, his head is stuffy and he’s just generally feeling crummy. Llama Llama certainly can’t go to school this way, so he’s staying in with his red pajamas in this classic example of whimsical storytelling. Over the course of the day, the littlest llama starts to feel better, but then the boredom kicks in! Things are even worse when Mama Llama starts her own sneezing and coughing. Luckily, Llama Llama has learned how to take care of those he loves. He brings tissues, pillows, and books for her to read. This is an adorable, uplifting book that shows kids how important it is that we take care of each other.
if you give a dog a donut If You Give a Dog a Donut: The floppy, loveable dog who stars in this book is quite boisterous, and looks to find as much joy as possible in every day life. In fact, all it takes is the offer of a cup of apple juice and a single donut, and his day is filled with joy. This book combines many devices used in children’s books, including fables, animals, plants, and nature, to show kids how magical the outside world can be. From pirates, to kite flying, to dancing through the pages of the book, this book is packed full of action, adventure, and silly fun. This fun, frolicking book has an emphasis on playful dialogue and bright colors.
swirl by swirl: spirals in nature Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature: A great introduction to the world of nature, this book really celebrates the shapes, animals and plants all around us. With simple text, a single line per page, and bold, colorful illustrations, this book is highly recommended for beginning readers. One of the best aspects of this book is the fact that it’s also a great choice for older kids, as the swirling, spiraling lessons help to initiate a love of science and nature. While the text of the book is simple and short, the back includes short paragraphs that detail each of the swirls and spirals featured in the book.
stuck Stuck: Floyd is out flying his kite, when it gets stuck in a tree. He’s determined to get it out, but isn’t sure how. He gets the bright idea to knock it out with his shoe – and then his shoe gets stuck! The only thing he can think of is to throw his other shoe…which gets stuck as well. Floyd remains determined to get his shoe out of the tree, and he throws a series of objects into it – each one more absurd than the other. Everything from an orangutan, to a boat, to his front door! This is a unique story that will bring a smile to a child’s face.
stars Stars: Some of children’s books focus on the plot, while others are most well known for their stunning illustrations. This book is the latter category. While it does have a sweet, charming plot, the real eye opener is the drawings. These are not simply pictures that were put together to accompany the story. These are beautiful, mixed media illustrations that are worthy of framing in their own right. This is an excellent book for children who are exceptionally visually, creative, or who have an interest in the arts – or those who love to get lost in the beauty and majesty of the stars.
the bippolo seed and other lost stories The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories: When many people think of books for kids, the first thing they think of is Dr. Suess. These classic Suess tales have everything you’d expect from this master of children’s literature. It’s chock full of rhyming, goofy characters, and whimsical illustrations. This is actually a collection of several stories, each first published in magazines in the ’40s and ’50s. Avid collector and Suess expert Charles D. Cohen has brought them all together for future generations to enjoy. The collection features an introduction by Cohen, in which he discusses the history of each of these magnificent, almost forgotten stories.
neville Neville: Making friends can be tough, and this inspired story puts a twist on the challenge of finding and keeping new friends. While the text is minimal, it is used wisely and to great effect. It blends seamlessly with the mixed media illustrations that are equally important to telling the story. The book begins as a boy moves to a new neighborhood and is sent out by his mother to find new friends. He’s not initially happy about it, but he is struck with a stroke of genius, and soon all the kids in the neighborhood rally around. A surprise ending will leave kids giggling with glee.
twinkle, twinkle, little star Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: One of the most beloved children’s nursery rhyme is now one of the most popular new books for kids. Written and illustrated by one of the most award-winning illustrators of children’s books, it utilizes the bold strokes of watercolors to show a twinkling twilight and glittering night sky. The story follows an inquisitive chipmunk, as he leaves home for the first time to discover the world around him. This is a wonderful story to get the little ones off to their own dreamland, as they wonder what secrets and adventures surrounds them in their own little world.
say hello to zorro! Say Hello to Zorro!: Simple and to the point, this book will be a resounding success amongst the littlest dog lovers. The story line focuses on a family who’s just brought home a new puppy, Zorro. The family focuses on introducing him to everyone, and immediately setting up routines for him to follow. Not only is it a cute, fun story, but it’s a great choice for a family who’s about to get a pup of their own. It teaches the importance of training, and shows that it’s not just important for the family, but for the dog’s well-being as well. The impressive illustrations really capture the adorableness of pups.
bumble-ardy Bumble-Ardy : This is a perfect example of a book that will be a hit for their parents too. It’s based on the most beloved animated segment that originally aired on Sesame Street in the early ’70s, and many parents remember this segment fondly. The story follows a mischievous pig who has somehow managed to make it to his 9th birthday without ever having a birthday party. He decides it’s time to finally have one, and so he throws a masquerade party for himself – which gets quite out of hand! Luckily, Bumble’s aunt sweeps down to the rescue and all is well again.
you will be my friend You Will Be My Friend: Kids with a quirky sense of humor will love this fun filled tale of Lucy, the little bear who wakes up one morning and decides that today is the day to make a new friend. Of course, Lucy soon comes to find that making a new friend isn’t quite as easy as she’d thought! She tries and tries again, but each time something stands in her way. From her mishaps with the ostrich, to her startling attempts with the flamingos, she strikes out again and again. Eventually she does find what she’s looking for, and she learns an important lesson long the way.
creepy monsters, sleepy monsters Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters: These aren’t your typical scary monsters found in many kids’ books – they’re having too much time to be scary! They attend school, they play ball with their friends, and they chow down on their afternoon snack. When their day is done, they aren’t quite ready for bed yet – and they get up to some hilarious hijinks. This book is told through gentle rhymes, which are on a background of wild, colorful illustrations. Parents and children alike will both relate to this tale of bedtime routines, and never quite being ready to say goodbye to the day. The story is illustrated by Kelly Murphy, and written by Jane Yolen, a well-respected author of many children’s books.
jonathan and the big blue boat Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat: Jonathan has a best friend – a stuffed bear whose name is Frederick. When Frederick becomes lost, Jonathan must do whatever it takes to get him back. And so, he sets sail on the Big Blue Boat and searches the high seas for his friend. During his journey he runs across a motley crew of characters, and assemblies a rather entertaining crew. From a mountain goat, to a sad, lonely circus elephant, and even a helpful, friendly whale, Jonathan’s new friends help him on his journey. This is a book that’s chock full of adventure, intrigue – and even pirates!
e-mergency E-Mergency: Uh-oh, there’s an E-mergency! The letter “E” has had an accident and is in the hospital. The only way she can heal is to rest – which means we have to stop using her! Of course, we must find a substitute for “E.” But who? The rest of the letters in the alphabet get together to make a decision. It’s decided that Z is simply too sleepy, P spends too much time in the bathroom, and Y is way too inquisitive. Finally, O pops up and is ready to save the day – after all, he’s very well-rounded! This alphabet book is smack-dab full of fun verbal and visual puns.
where’s walrus? Where’s Walrus?: Not all of the top picture books 2011 are wordless, but this adorable book is. It’s full of look-and-find puzzles, where the child starts off looking for the zookeeper – only to find the gate wide open and the ‘keeper asleep. Which of course leads to the walrus escaping from his little pool, and heading outside. Finally, the gatekeeper awakes and runs off in search of the walrus, who simply can’t be found. Kids will giggle and gasp as they realize the walrus is really hiding in plain sight the whole time. This is a great book to teach kids about understanding actions without verbal cues.
along a long road Along a Long Road: This may be the first picture book from Frank Viva, but it’s destined to be remembered as one of the classics. Mr. Viva is new to the children’s book scene, but he’s won more than 300 awards as an illustrator and graphic designer, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, and other publications. This is a book that tells the tale of a speedy and quite eventful bicycle ride along a bright yellow road. Kids can follow along on a journey that takes them through town, by the sea, and through the countryside. The infectious rhyming story will be a favorite of many children.
the night night book The Night Night Book: Another of the best children’s books 2011 that focuses on the nighttime ritual, this is the perfect book to end a child’s day. It is a truly adorable bedtime story that helps kids learn to say goodbye to the day, to settle in for their slumber, and to rest up for their exciting day tomorrow. This is an emotional and thoughtful story that will give kids a sense of well-being, safety, and comfort as they drift off to dreamland. The illustrations are whimsical, exaggerated cartoons that remind the reader of many of the other classic books for years gone by.
blackout Blackout: A unique book that uses a combination illustrations often found in many books for kids (panel illustrations and full bleed illustrations), the book moves back and forth between full color to black-and-white. This works effectively with the story line, which focuses on a sweltering summer night in the city, when a blackout renders everyone without power. The TV’s down and a boy is mad, the phone won’t work and the sister complains, mom can’t peak around on her computer, and dad isn’t able to finish cooking dinner. A journey to the roof shows them that all it takes to enjoy a wonderful evening is a beautiful sky, your family, and some wonderful neighbors.
sea of dreams Sea of Dreams: A lonely little girl builds a fantastic sandcastle on a gorgeous, sunlit beach. Night comes upon her, and the girl begins her journey home. The sandcastle, left without protection, is ever closer to being swept away by the rising tide and waves. Magnificently, one of the sandcastle windows becomes bright with light. Where will this story of magic and intrigue take us next? Kids love this story of perseverance, magic, and adventure. The beautiful, understated illustrations help to make this a wonderful story that will be treasured. It was also chosen as one of Publishers Weekly best children’s picture books for 2011.
hooray for amanda and her alligator! Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator!: This is actually 6 ½ stories in one lovely book. Each one tells the tale of 2 friends who might surprise you – a girl and her stuffed alligator. The friends surprise one another constantly – Amanda brings her friend a stack of books, which the alligator in turn makes a quick lunch of! This is a story of friendship that is both tender and funny, and which kids can relate to. They’ll love seeing these two long-time friends deal with the trials and tribulations of friendship, only to come out stronger than ever before at the end.

From beloved classics to bold contemporary stories, there is something on this list to please every child. Some stories are whimsical and light, others will have kids and parents alike laughing with joy, while others will bring upon a calm, thoughtfulness. These are stories that are beautifully illustrated and meant to be treasured.

What Do You Think? Were these your favorite children’s books of 2011?

One Response to “30 Best Children’s Books of 2011”

  1. Blanca says:

    Thank you for this great list! One suggestion: can you please include author’s names along with the book title? Thanks!

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