Children’s Books

Reading helps shape how a child views the world. When kids read books with realistic, positive, older characters and inspiring intergenerational relationships, they’re more likely to see older adults and aging in a favorable light. With this in mind, our recommended reads have something for everyone, from babies to early readers to teens. Our library often features older characters who vary widely in culture and personality. We see them as role models for younger protagonists, introducing new experiences, sharing a sense of history and guiding them through the complications of life with honesty and a sense of humor.

  • The Orphan Boy Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    This Maasai tale from Africa is about a magical secret that will be ruined if found out—and the consuming curiosity to discover it anyway. An old man knows the stars so well that he notices when one is missing. That same night, a young boy appears before him, saying he’s an orphan named Kileken who has traveled very far, searching for a home. The childless old man is delighted to adopt him. Read more…

  • Bread and Roses, Too Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    This absorbing novel takes place during the infamous 1912 “Bread and Roses” strike in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts. When the authorities resort to violence, some of the mill workers’ children are sent to volunteer hosts in Vermont to protect them until the strike is over. The two protagonists, Rosa and Jake, stay with a memorable older Italian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Gerbati. Read more…

  • The Old Man and His Door Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    This entertaining story is based on a Mexican song claiming that, to an old man, there’s no difference between la puerta (the door) and el puerco (the pig). This plump, white-haired man in his farmer’s overalls is a fine gardener who doesn’t listen carefully enough to his wife. (One can see why not; she’s rather bossy.) When she leaves for a neighbor’s barbecue, she tells him not to be late and to bring the pig. However, he’s in the middle of washing the dog, so she leaves first. Later he’s puzzled by why she wants him to bring a door, but he unscrews the front door and brings it anyway. The grinning pig watches him leave and looks happy not to be on the menu. Read more…

  • Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    Two young, African American sisters love to visit their great-great-aunt Flossie and her hundreds of hats. Each hat holds a vivid Baltimore memory—the 1904 fire, the parade at the end of World War I—and the girls are fascinated as Aunt Flossie tells the stories. Read more…

  • Gus and Grandpa series Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    This endearing large-print series for beginning readers celebrates the special relationship between Gus and his grandfather. In the first book, Gus turns 7 and Grandpa turns 70. Grandpa’s thick white hair and mustache are snowy white, and he wears glasses. He loves listening to opera, and he has a lively dog. He’s good with his hands and can make wooden mailboxes and delicious Christmas cookies. Grandpa has a shed full of fascinating old junk, which Gus loves, but his parents don’t. Read more…

  • A Time of Angels Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    It is September 1918, near the end of World War I, and the life of a 14-year-old Jewish girl in Boston is about to be turned upside down. Hannah and her two younger sisters, Libbie and Eve, live in a basement tenement with their great-aunt Tanta Rose and her stern roommate Vashti, who practices herbal medicine. The girls’ parents are in Russia and have not been heard from in months. Read more…

  • Grandpa Green Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    In his second Caldecott Honor book, Smith tells an intergenerational tale of a young boy traveling through the garden that is his great-grandfather’s life. The boy winds through the topiaries, picking up forgetful Grandpa Green’s dropped tools, and his memories, too. The simplicity of the child’s understanding of Grandpa Green’s multilayered life is deepened by poignant illustrations, simultaneously whimsical and realistic in black, white and many shades of green. Read more…

  • Darcy and Gran Don’t Like Babies Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    Young Darcy doesn’t like her new baby brother, especially the way he monopolizes her parents’ time and attention. She confides in several adults, but nobody takes her seriously—until Gran comes to visit and matter-of-factly tells Darcy that she has never liked babies either. Read more…

  • The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    The Rose brothers, Morris and Alexander, are Jewish immigrants from Hungary who share a jewelry business and a house. They have also collaborated for 45 years on building three towers of scrap steel in their backyard. Now taller than any of the surrounding houses, the towers are decorated with thousands of pendants—gears from old clocks, shards of colored glass, bits of porcelain—that sparkle in the light and sing softly in the wind. Read more…

  • The Raft Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    Nicky, who looks about 8 or 9, thinks he will be bored and lonely when he must spend the summer alone with his grandmother in her rustic cottage in the woods. He gradually changes his mind, though, when she introduces him to rafting on the river and appreciating the wildlife that seems mysteriously attracted to the raft. Read more…

  • Vet Volunteers series Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    Five preteen kids—Maggie, Sunita, Brenna, Zoe and David—tell their stories of volunteering at a veterinary clinic in Pennsylvania. The clinic is owned by Dr. J. J. MacKenzie, better known as Dr. Mac, the grandmother of first cousins Maggie and Zoe. The series offers a peek into what veterinary work is really like. Read more…

  • Tsunami! Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    An old Japanese farmer from long ago is the wealthiest man in his seaside village because he has the largest rice fields. His thatched cottage is high up the mountainside, above the rest of the village. Yet he doesn’t flaunt his wealth. The 400 other villagers respect him and have nicknamed him Ojiisan (Japanese for grandfather); they often seek his advice. Read more…

  • Seedfolks Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    Neighbors in a run-down, multiethnic area of Cleveland gradually transform a junk-filled vacant lot into a community garden. Thirteen fictional characters—linked by the garden and the neighborhood—tell their stories with voices spanning a variety of backgrounds, personalities and poignant personal situations. The youngest character is 9, the oldest is over 90, and there are plenty of appealing children, teens and adults in between. Read more…

  • The Old Woman and the Wave Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    An old woman has lived all her life in a cottage with a huge wave curled over it. Her roof is covered with a cluster of umbrellas to stop the drips. The wave actually loves the old woman, but she only bellows at it, scolding it for clumsiness when it splatters her or tosses fish to her. A passing traveler suggests that the wave could carry someone a long distance, but the old woman ignores this until her dog swims to the top of the wave. When she rows her little boat up to rescue the dog, she realizes how foolish she has been and learns to ride the wave instead of resenting it. Read more…

  • The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    In this retelling of a Cherokee creation story, an old couple discovers that someone has stolen cornmeal from the storage basket behind their house. Cornmeal keeps the people from starving during the winter, so this is not a trivial loss. The next night, their young grandson spies to catch the thief and is astonished to see a huge, eerily glowing dog push aside the lid with its nose, eat more cornmeal and dash away. Read more…

  • Sea Swan Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    Elzibah Swan is a very proper widow who has lived in the same Boston house all her life, with a cook and a chauffeur. She has a well-established routine: library, book club, garden club, symphony. Then, shortly after a visit from her Chicago grandchildren, she discovers a spirit of independence on her 75th birthday. Read more…

  • The Old Woman Who Named Things Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    Now that all her friends have died, an old woman likes to name only those things that she knows will outlive her, such as her house, her car and her big red chair. However, she doesn’t name the stray dog that she feeds at her gate every day, until he doesn’t show up, and she realizes how much she misses him. She goes to find him, names him and brings him home for keeps. Read more…

  • The Chicken Salad Club Posted in: Ages 3 to 7

    Third-grader Nathaniel has a great-grandfather, Greatpaw, who is a century old. Greatpaw enjoys making chicken salad sandwiches and telling exciting stories about his past, which Nathaniel loves to hear. When Greatpaw becomes discouraged because he can’t find other storytellers his age with whom to swap stories, Nathaniel helps him find one—a 99-year-old woman named Sadie with an equally adventurous past—and the pair entertain not only each other but also Nathaniel and the rest of the neighborhood children. Read more…

  • Steal Away Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    This historical novel depicts a lifelong friendship between two 13-year-old girls who meet in 1855. Susannah is a white orphan uprooted from Vermont to her coldhearted uncle’s Virginia farm; Bethlehem is a slave there. Each miserable for her own reasons, they escape together and flee north. Their perilous journey is described in flashbacks as they take turns narrating it 41 years later in Toronto, where Bethlehem is dying of tuberculosis. Susannah has come from New York at her old friend’s request, and she has brought her granddaughter, Mary. Read more…

  • A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories Posted in: Ages 8 to 12

    In this historical novel of the Great Depression, Joe recalls how he and his sister, Mary Alice, traveled from Chicago to spend a week with their widowed grandmother in rural Illinois every August from 1929 (when Joey was 9 and Mary Alice was 7) through 1935. Grandma Dowdel is one tough cookie. She’s not intimidated by anyone or anything, from the local teen hoodlums to the sheriff or the rich banker and his high-society wife. “Tough as an old boot, or so we thought,” says Joey. A large, energetic woman with her hair in a bun at the back of her head, Grandma does her own baking, cans her own tomatoes and makes her own soap. She can grab a snake and break its neck with one quick snap. Read more…