23 of Our Favorite Children’s Books

Puffin Books/Little Simon/Amazon
Puffin Books/Little Simon/Amazon

Did you have that one book as a kid that you were absolutely obsessed with? One that you read over and over again, or maybe had your parents read to you every night before bed? Maybe it was a simple picture book or the first part in a long-running series of children’s adventures. Whatever it was, the memories of those childhood favorites tend to stay with us well into adulthood, so it’s only natural that you’d want to share them with others—which is exactly what happened when the Mental Floss staff came together to gush about some of our favorites growing up. Chances are, there’s something here for everyone, regardless of age, reading level, or sense of humor.

1. Magic Tree House Series // Mary Pope Osborne; $11 for the First Four Books

Random House Books for Young Readers/Amazon

Every time Jack and Annie set foot in their tree house, it whisks them off to another place and time. There’s a little magic, a little mystery, and many opportunities for kids to learn a lot without feeling like they’re “learning.” The series has 34 books—and counting—and there are also a bunch of corresponding “Fact Tracker” books that delve into the history and science behind the novels. —Ellen Gutoskey, Staff Writer

Buy it: Amazon

2. Strega Nona // Tomie dePaola; $7

Little Simon/Amazon

Strega Nona is a village witch doctor with a “magic pasta pot” and a special place in my heart as a carb-loving icon. In this story, Big Anthony disobeys Strega Nona’s orders to keep away from her pasta pot and ends up almost flooding the town in a sea of spaghetti. Parents could definitely use it as a cautionary tale about following directions and practicing moderation, or they could just let their kids fantasize about boogie-boarding along a wave of angel hair, like mine did. —E.G.

Buy it: Amazon

3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler // E.L. Konigsburg; $9

Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Amazon

Many an adult will fondly remember this classic, in which a sister and brother run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and determine the provenance of a mysterious statue along the way. Author E.L. Konigsburg was partially inspired by a trip to the Met, where she saw a single piece of popcorn on a roped-off chair. “How had that lonely piece of popcorn arrived on the seat of that blue silk chair?” she later wrote. “Had someone sneaked in one night—it could not have happened during the day—slipped behind the barrier, sat in that chair, and snacked on popcorn? For a long time after leaving the museum that day, I thought about that piece of popcorn on the blue silk chair and how it got there.” (A New York Times article and a picnic with her children also provided inspiration). The book won the Newbury Award in 1967 and was made into a movie—and it’s still a topic of conversation at the Met to this day. —Erin McCarthy, Editor-in-Chief

Buy it: Amazon

4. Anne of Green Gables // L.M. Montgomery; $26

Starfire/Amazon

Read the original (mis)adventures of spirited, red-haired orphan Anne (with an E, thank you very much), which launched a beloved ‘80s miniseries and gritty a Netflix reboot. This eight-book set, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, follows Anne as she grows from a child at Green Gables into adulthood, meaning there’s something for kids and adults to enjoy. —E.M.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gregory, the Terrible Eater // Mitchell Sharmat; $7

Scholastic/Amazon

Gregory is a young goat who prefers fresh fruits and veggies to what goats normally eat—things like shoeboxes and tin cans. But when his parents finally convince him to chow down on regular goat food, he can’t stop eating everything in sight. Mitchell Sharmat’s story, charmingly illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, is all about teaching kids to find a healthy balance—a good lesson for all of us. —E.M.

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Monster at the End of This Book // Jon Stone; $5

Golden Books/Amazon

A simple and effective suspense tale featuring Grover from Sesame Street, who guides readers through a tumultuous journey toward the reveal of a ferocious creature. Excellent twist ending. —Jake Rossen, Senior Staff Writer

Buy it: Amazon

7. Guinness World Records 2020; $21

Guinness World Records/Amazon

While not ostensibly a kid's book, the Guinness people have compiled a huge and photo-rich resource for some spectacular human feats that should spark conversation and alleviate boredom. —J.R.

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck // Don Rosa; $39

Fantagraphics Books/Amazon

This isn’t just a comic—Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is the all-ages comic if you’re looking to introduce a child to the art form. Here, Rosa writes and illustrates the complete story of Scrooge, from a wide-eyed, impressionable immigrant from Glasgow looking to make it on his own, to his eventual status as a miserly mallard worth "five multiplujillion, nine impossibidillion, seven fantasticatrillion dollars and sixteen cents." Throughout the journey, Rosa crafts an infinitely charming story of romance, adventure, and comedy that earned him an Eisner Award in 1995 for Best Serialized Story (basically the Academy Awards for comics).

The best way to enjoy this story is by getting the hardcover reprints of both volumes from Fantagraphics—the vivid colors of Rosa’s gorgeous artwork are perfectly preserved here, and the two books come in a fancy slipcase that gives the title the dignity it deserves. —Jay Serafino, Special Projects Editor

Buy it: Amazon

9. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs // Jon Scieszka; $10

Viking Kestrel Picture Books/Amazon

There’s something so delightfully subversive about The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. In it, we get the classic tale of "The Tree Little Pigs" told from the perspective of the Big, Bad Wolf, who, according to his own testimony, didn’t set out to murder his curly-tailed little neighbors on purpose—it was all just a big misunderstanding involving a cup of sugar and the wolf’s sneezy nose. (He even explains that it was his moral obligation to dine on two of the pigs after their houses collapse on them.)

For a book designed for ages 5 to 8, this is one edgy read from author Jon Scieszka that’s only heightened with the darkly humorous illustrations of Lane Smith. (The duo is also behind the beloved book The Stinky Cheese Man.) Aimed at any kid whose humor skews crass, this twisted little story is a welcome reprieve from all the other children’s books that treat kids like, well, kids. —J.S.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Batman Adventures Volume One // various; $14

DC Comics/Amazon

Unless you dangled a Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut in front of my face, you couldn’t get me to read anything resembling a book as a kid. But comics? I’d blow through them cover to cover so many times that the staples would fall out (and then I’d re-staple the book back together until those fell out, too.) And some of my favorites as a kid were the Batman Adventures comics, based on Batman: The Animated Series. These all-ages comics go back to basics, with colorful art and snappy plots that are set up and solved within 22 pages.

We’ve all seen Batman square off against his rogue’s gallery countless times—but here, it’s done with such energy, humor, and character that it all feels brand new. This collection features the first 10 issues of the series, and if you’re not buying for a Batman fan, you can find similar all-ages titles featuring Superman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. Any of these could easily become a young superhero fan’s next obsession. —J.S.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Bridge to Terabithia // Katherine Paterson; $10

HarperCollins/Amazon

Jesse Aarons is the fastest runner in the fifth grade … until tomboy Leslie Burke, the new kid at school, beats him in a race. But rather than be annoyed at losing his status, Jesse is impressed by Leslie, who is the bravest person he has ever met. They form a fast and very deep friendship that, as long as they’re together, allows them to escape the challenges of their home lives. One day, while playing in the woods, they decide to create their very own sanctuary in an isolated area over which they will rule and name it “Terabithia.” But eventually, the horrors of the real world find their way into the peacefulness of Terabithia in ways that Jesse is incapable of processing. The book, which is based partially on a real-life event that happened to author Katherine Paterson’s son, won the Newbery Medal in 1978—but has regularly been banned because of its morbid subject matter. Still, for older kids (say, 10 and up) who are curious about the world in all its facets, it’s a wonderful lesson in how to find strength, even in tragedy. —Jennifer Wood, Managing Editor

Buy it: Amazon

12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory // Roald Dahl; $12

Puffin Books/Amazon

Even if you've seen either (or both) versions of the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still makes for a delicious read—for kids and adults alike. Like any other book-turned-movie, there are plenty of plot points and characters you don't get to see in either big-screen version of the book (or at least not enough of). But more than that, skipping the book in favor of a film deprives you of reading Roald Dahl's splendiferous descriptions of the wild world of Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, the Oompa-Loompas, and all the other kids who were "lucky" enough to score a Golden Ticket tour of Wonka's chocolate factory. Plus, you could probably eat up a couple of hours discussing the many logistical challenges that having four immobile grandparents confined to one large bed might cause. —J.W.

Buy it: Amazon

13. The Giving Tree // Shel Silverstein; $14

HarperCollins/Amazon

Originally published in 1964, The Giving Tree has gone on to become one of Shel Silverstein's best-known titles—but getting it published was no easy task. Depending on who you ask, the book is either a beautiful parable about the natural cycle of give-and-take we experience in so many of our relationships throughout life, or a cautionary tale about the dangers of materialism. Which probably explains why Silverstein had trouble finding a publisher for the book, as many of them felt the themes were either too dark or mature for young children. While the themes are complex, it's exactly for that reason that The Giving Tree—which follows the lifelong relationship between a "boy" and the tree he loves—is just the kind of book you should be sure to read and discuss with your kids. —J.W.

Buy it: Amazon

14. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark // Debbie Levy; $12

Simon & Schuster/Amazon

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark isn't the only kid's book about the life of the beloved Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States—and that's a wonderful thing. While older generations often had to settle for fictional heroines at the center of the books they read, Ginsburg—a.k.a. The Notorious RBG—has become a real-life superhero for kids and adults, and young women in particular. What's fascinating about this book, which is the first picture book dedicated to Ginsburg, is that its main lesson is to teach kids that "that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable." The book tells of Ginsburg's lifelong fight for equality through her very public dissents. It's the kind of book that can easily open a child's eyes to the power of their own voices. —J.W.

Buy it: Amazon

15. Dragons Love Tacos // Adam Rubin; $10

Dial Books/Amazon

If you're hosting a taco party and invite all of your dragon friends, you should offer a wide selection of tacos. But do not, and I mean do not, offer salsa. You do not want to know what happens when a dragon eats salsa—or do you? This funny tale with whimsical illustrations was a New York Times bestseller among the kindergarten set, and even adults will enjoy its silliness. —Kat Long, Science Editor

Buy it: Amazon

16. The Story of Ferdinand // Munro Leaf; $5

Grosset & Dunlap/Amazon

Ferdinand is a gentle bull who would rather sit quietly under his favorite tree and smell the flowers than take part in bullfights like his friends. But when Ferdinand is seen stomping and snorting after being stung by a bee, men call him "Ferdinand the Fierce" and take him to the bullring—which doesn't work out the way they plan. Some critics have said the book promotes pacifism, while other believe the message is to be true to oneself. Whatever the real subtext, Ferdinand's endearing story has been delighting readers for more than 80 years. —K.L.

Buy it: Amazon

17. Little House in the Big Woods // Laura Ingalls Wilder; $4

HarperCollins/Amazon

Young readers will relate to our 4-year-old narrator Laura, who tells the story of her pioneer family's efforts to build a homestead in the dense forests of western Wisconsin in the 1870s. The book, based on the author's real-life experiences (though not entirely truthful), describes the challenges and joys of living in a log cabin with her Ma and Pa, older sister Mary, and baby sister Carrie—from harvesting crops in autumn to dancing to Pa's fiddle. Little House in the Big Woods is the first of Wilder's nine semi-autobiographical books for kids. —K.L.

Buy it: Amazon

18. Dazzle the Dinosaur // Marcus Pfister; Various Prices

Amazon

This book from the author of The Rainbow Fish has both a captivating story and eye-catching illustrations. In this adventurous tale, a brave, sparkly dinosaur and his friend set off on a mission—both hampered and aided by Dazzle’s unique spines—to defeat the dangerous Dragonsaurus.Kerry Wolfe, Staff Editor

Buy it: Barnes & Noble or Amazon

19. Mr. Putter and Tabby Collection // Cynthia Rylant; $118

HMH Books for Young Readers/Amazon

When Mr. Putter starts to feel a bit lonely, he decides he wants a cat. But rather than adopting a kitten, he comes home with Tabby who, like him, is a bit old and creaky. This charming series tells the story of their friendship and the gentle, at times delightfully humorous, experiences they share. —K.W.

Buy it: Amazon

20. Stellaluna // Janell Cannon; $14

HMH Books for Young Readers/Amazon

No matter your kid's feelings about bats, Stellaluna is hard not to love. The picture book from Janell Cannon tells the story of a young fruit bat who gets separated from her mother and finds herself adopted into a family of birds. Fun, informative, and filled with beautiful illustrations, Stellaluna is the perfect book for young nature lovers and their parents to read together. —Michele Debczak, Senior Staff Writer

Buy it: Amazon

21. My Father's Dragon Series // Ruth Stiles Gannett; $15

Random House Children's Books/Amazon

This was one of the first chapter book series I read as a kid. The first book in this series follows the character Elmer Elevator, who goes to rescue a baby dragon held captive on Wild Island. He packs the essentials: gum, lollipops, a hairbrush, and a few other items that all seem to somehow help him on his journey to find the dragon. —Kristen Richard, Associate Editor

Buy it: Barnes and Noble

22. The Phantom Tollbooth // Norton Juster; $15

Random House/Amazon

Despite this being a book intended for children, I made a point to read it every year into my teens and have even gifted it to some adults because I believe everyone can learn something from it. The story follows a boy named Milo, “who didn't know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always." One day, Milo comes home to find a magical tollbooth in his room that transports him to another world where he meets a ticking watchdog named Tok, and they set off to save two princesses, named Rhyme and Reason, locked in a tower. —K.R.

Buy it: Amazon

23. Wednesday is Spaghetti Day // Maryann Cocca-Leffler; Price Varies

Troll Communications/Amazon

Ever wonder what your cat does when you aren’t home? They throw a spaghetti party, of course—but only on Wednesdays. This book, which I used to insist my parents read to me over and over, follows house cats coming together and bringing different ingredients to throw the ultimate spaghetti party. While the story itself is entertaining, the brightly colored illustrations are also incredible. —K.R.

Buy it: Amazon

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14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Great Gifts for Teens

Fjallraven/Polaroid
Fjallraven/Polaroid

If it’s been a few years since you were a teenager, you might be feeling at a loss when it comes to finding the perfect gift for the teen in your life. But you don’t have to worry—we’ve culled the internet to figure out what’s cool these days, and we found 10 items to suit any teen (and any price point).

1. Fjällräven Kånken Mini Classic Backpack for Everyday; $70

Fjällräven/Amazon

Fjällräven’s Kånken backpack was originally introduced in 1978 as an affordable and comfortable bag for Swedish schoolchildren, but it recently took off as a trend among American high schoolers and college students. With 43 different color options, chances are you’ll be able to find the perfect trendy backpack for the teen in your life.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Hydro Flask Standard-Mouth Water Bottle; $30–$35

Hydro Flask/Amazon

Hydro Flasks aren’t only trendy, they’re sturdy and environmentally friendly. Plus, they keep hot drinks warm and icy drinks cool for an absurdly long amount of time. The standard-mouth water bottle is currently available on Amazon in 17 different colors, but the brand also offers tumbler cups and coffee mugs depending on your niece/nephew/cousin/friend/child’s preference.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Bluetooth-Connected Instant Film Camera; $140

Polaroid Originals/Amazon

Teens can kick it back old school with this Polaroid camera that hides some surprisingly contemporary features. Using a special app, users can fine-tune their camera settings to suit their personal tastes. Plus, this camera makes it possible to capture two scenes in a single frame, so it's that much easier to create uniquely artsy Polaroid pics.

Buy it: Amazon

4. 4th-Generation Echo Dot with Clock; $60

Amazon

Tech-wise, the fourth-generation Echo Dot is almost identical to its third-generation predecessor. But the updated spherical design seems poised to make the Echo Dot a worthy contender for traditional alarm clocks—the speaker face shows the time and it even includes a tap-to-snooze function for drowsy sleepers.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bubble Tea Kit; $38

Uncommon Goods

Part of the reason bubble tea is so popular is that it’s customizable—and what could be more customizable than making it yourself? This kit, made by an Atlanta-based couple, comes with two reusable straws and enough supplies to make up to eight servings.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

6. Mixtape Card Game; $20

Uncommon Goods

This party game challenges players to find the perfect songs to suit specific prompts. Some cards might prompt players to use Spotify or Youtube to search for the songs with the best guitar solos, while other cards call for participants to play their “favorite slow dance love jam from junior high.” This game is sure to be a hit at any high school sleepover or house party—or, in true 2020 style, at any digital hangout or Zoom meeting.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

7. Giant Flour Tortilla Throw Blanket; $18-$35

Mermaker/Amazon

This goofy double-sided blanket turns any human into a giant-size burrito, and it comes in four different sizes to suit any height. One reviewer even went so far as to say that “once you wrap yourself in it, you will be convinced that you are a burrito.”

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Cup of Destiny; $22

Shelter Harbor Press/Amazon

Here’s a prediction: Your hunt for the perfect gift is almost over. This kit is ideal for the teenager who is fascinated by the supernatural and loves exploring new ideas. Included, you’ll find a 96-page illustrated instruction book along with a cup and a saucer marked with patterns and symbols.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Wreck This Journal: Now in Color; $9

Penguin Books/Amazon

This journal is not intended to be pretty. It’s made for messiness and exploration and a little bit of chaos. Artistic-minded teens will love filling out pages that prompt them to catalog various stains or poke holes through the paper. Reviewers say it’s not only a source of creative inspiration, though—it’s also a stress reliever. And considering that the middle-school and high-school years aren’t exactly known for being relaxing, this journal could be a welcome reprieve from the daily pressure of managing homework and a social life.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Therapy Dough; $15

Uncommon Goods

Some teens focus better and relax more easily when they have something to fidget with. If the teen in your life fits that description, this therapy dough may be the perfect gift for them. Each 4.5-ounce container is infused with essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, orange, or pine, making relaxation smell delicious (and all natural!).

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

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