By Lela Nargi
There was probably a fair amount of kicking and screaming earlier this month at your house, as the whole family headed back to work and school after the winter holidays. Dramatic as that transition can be, you can extend the bygone cozy feelings of home—and reaffirm that fun times will surely come again—with these nine lovely read-alouds for kids (and parents!) of all ages.
by Mike Curato | Ages 2-6, $17
The familiarity of your hometown can provide little comfort if you’re too small to be noticed. In this vehemently New York-centric book, Little Elliot the polka-dotted elephant (you’d think even jaded Manhattanites would notice one of those wandering around) can’t even get himself served a cupcake. But when he meets a creature even smaller than himself, he discovers that 1 + 1 equals much more than 2. Detailed drawings with a retro feel will keep kids lingering on each page long after you’ve uttered the words.
by Sophie Henn | Ages 3-5, $17
A young boy’s bear cub grows to a size that’s unsupportable in his human-size house. And so begins the search for a new home for bear, through zoo, circus, and forest. What will become of bear if the right home can’t be found—and to the lonely boy if it can? It’s a simple and touching tale, warmly illustrated, that shows that true friendship can overcome any constrictions of distance.
by Jonathan Bean | Ages 3-6, $18
Part homage to a loving family’s pioneer spirit, part manual for constructing a house from scratch, this picture book based on the author’s childhood is a builder-kid’s dream come true. It’s got backhoes, cement mixing, and timber-frame-raising. Best of all, it’s got the subtle assurance that while moving (let alone moving to a house that hasn’t even been built yet) can be a scary prospect, home is wherever your family measures, saws, hammers, and eats dinner—together.
by Marianne Dubuc | Ages 4-8, $18
Some of the most touching illustrations of 2014 grace the pages of this book about a lion who rescues a bird that’s been injured while migrating south—and finds himself gifted with a sweet friend with whom to pass the winter. Although the bird is none too sure he’ll enjoy cold and snow, he, too, finds comfort in unexpected companionship, and warmth inside the lion’s mane, slipper, and ski hat. This book has a bittersweet lilt to it, but it’s the sweet that will keep your tykes demanding endless re-reads.
by Lauren Castillo | Ages 4-8, $17
What if a person who’s dear to you lives in a place that fills you with dread? That’s the premise of this urban tale in which a young boy who lives in the country visits his beloved grandmother in what he perceives to be the busy, loud, scary city. Will he survive without tears until the end of his visit? Or better yet, come around to his Nana’s vision of her hometown as a locale that’s bustling, vibrant, and extraordinary?
by William McCleery & Warren Chappell | Ages 5-7, $15
Over 11 years ago, the New York Review of Books began reprinting forgotten classics of children’s literature, introducing a new generation of booklovers to a slower, more meticulous pace of storytelling. In Wolf Story, originally published in 1947, modern-day parents will nevertheless recognize the beleaguered tone of the father, put-upon to spin an endless story for his son. This one’s especially appealing to the bellicose members of your brood, who might think that blood and guts are the stuff of a good yarn but when the denouement is nigh, are relieved for a peaceable solution.
Catharine O’Neill | Ages 5-9, $16
Sometimes, home is where your sibling is. Whether or not you consider that a fortuitous circumstance depends very much on your mood and the day. In this early chapter book, the eponymous Simon, who looks like a teen, could very easily give in to total annoyance with his little sister, Annie, who looks like a 3 year old. Instead, time after time he puts aside whatever task he’s got at hand and gently guides her, listens to her, and offers her the most patient of brotherly affection.
by Andrea de la Barre de Nanteuil & Lovisa Burfitt | Ages 7-10, $25 available for pre-order
What you think of as a drab and uninteresting home reveals itself to be a house of wonders. This picture book for older readers was translated from Swedish but features the most intriguing of residences in Paris. It’s presided over by a woman possessed of magical powers—most particularly, a power that allows a friendless girl who’s low on self-esteem to see her own worth. The accompanying pen and ink drawings are as quirky and fresh as the story itself.
Illustration by Lovisa Burfitt from The Story of Mademoiselle Oiseau, Copyright Little Gestalten 2015
by Kirkpatrick Hill & LeUyen Pham | Ages 8-12, $8
A frontier story along the lines of the Little House series—only set up north in Alaska during the Klondike years, just after the end of the gold rush. This tale’s got an unexpected twist: A young girl on her way to a life of certain misery in an orphanage is adopted instead by two burly miners. As she grows and thrives in the arms of her unorthodox family, Bo learns to speak Eskimo, pan for gold, run from bears, whistle, wear mukluks—and finally, to know the meaning of the joy that comes along with becoming a big sister.