Do you find it tricky to pick out just the right picture book to give a child? There are so many great selections out there, it can be overwhelming to choose! Luckily, there is a sure-fire way to find a book a child will love. Look to the child!
What is the child interested in? Dance? Art? Cooking? Dump trucks? Alternatively, you can look for a book based on a child's best trait. Do they like helping others? Perhaps they are very strong-willed! There's a picture book for everything and this list of picture books to give as gifts, sorted by interest, is exactly what you need to make things easy.
Oh! And If you still need ideas, don't forget you can find my more than 300 book lists for tons of themes in the index. Happy reading!
Note: this list contains Amazon and Bookshop affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may earn a commission for this blog. Bookshop also supports independent bookstores.
Picture book themes in this list (scroll down to see them all!):
- Funny books
- Being Yourself
Books For Kids Who Love to Laugh
Most of our picture book lists contain books that will make your kids laugh out loud. For more ideas follow this link to a list of funny books for kids.
WARNING: DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK! Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Both of these books are sure to delight. What do you do when you are told not to read a book? What about when you are supposed to read a book but someone has closed it? A group of monkeys will help you sort things out. But be warned, you may giggle. Ages 3 and up.
THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES by B.J. Novak
You've probably heard of this book by now, and if you haven't please get yourself to the nearest book supplier and pick it up. Unless you are a very serious person. Serious people should stay far away from this book. Although come to think of it, perhaps this book is the perfect antidote for seriousness. All ages.
BRIEF THIEF by Michaël Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
It is absolutely impossible not to laugh at this book! Especially the ending! Your kids will be rolling on the floor. Seriously. I don’t want to give it away so let’s just say it involves a chameleon, a wash tub, a rabbit, a conscience and hole-y briefs. If that’s not a recipe for hilarity I don’t know what is. Even my stoic husband cracked a smile and that’s all the evidence you need. Ages 4 and up.
MORE: Our favorite funny picture books
Books For Kids Who Love Things that Go
VROOM VROOM GARBAGE TRUCK by Asia Citro, illustrated by Troy Cummings
This absolutely delightful board book will have toddlers making their favorite garbage truck noises. The onomatopoeic and rhythmic text is so much fun to read aloud and the bold and colorful illustrations are spot on. Your tot will surely join in with their own sounds, too. Ages 1 and up.
MORE: Best books for 2 year olds
TWENTY BIG TRUCKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET by Mark Lee, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
This rhyming counting book starts out with a ice-cream truck that stalls in the middle of the street (every kid's dream). But then the different trucks start to pile up behind it, causing a rather large and entertaining traffic jam. How will the traffic be dispersed? My son kept offering various solutions to that problem during our reading. It turns out, one of the trucks provides the solution and the the ice cream truck (of course) provides the dessert. Ages 3 and up.
LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca
Oversized, with loads of detail, stunning illustrations and no shortage of addictive train noises, this book follows an 1869 transcontinental journey. It's one of the few books out there that is good for both preschoolers and older kids and is immensely satisfying for kids with a train obsession. Ages 4 and up.
MORE: Gifts for Kids Who Love Trains
Books That Counteract Commercialism
ZEN SHORTS (series) by Jon J. Muth
Stillwater the panda moves into the neighborhood and befriends three siblings. He spends his afternoons with each child and tells three Buddhist tales to his new friends, imparting wisdom about the nature of good and bad, frustration and materialism. I love this book, as well as its sequels, and reading them aloud always feels so very, very calming! Ages 4 and up.
GRANDFATHER GANDHI by Arun Gandhi andBethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
The story is narrated by then-12 year old Gandhi’s grandson, Arun. Arun goes to live with his grandfather, which was considered a great honor. One day his grandfather gets angry, a surprise to Arun. Gandhi explains to his grandson that anger is a normal human emotion, that people must work to conquer and transform so that it can be used for a good purpose. This is a marvelous, must-read book that will encourage your kids to think about the role emotions play in the choices we make. Ages 5 and up.
Books for Kids Who Enjoy Helping Others
TOGETHER WE GROW by Susan Vaught, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Together We Grow is an excellent choice for preschoolers. Vaught and Murphy's picture book reminds us that offering comfort to others is an important part of living in a community. During a storm, a fox family seeks shelter in a barn but the farm animals, fearful of their natural enemy, reject the pleas and turn the strangers away. However, a small duckling–perhaps the most vulnerable one of all–recognizes the needs of the fox family. Not only does the resolution offer comfort to both reader and fox, but it delivers the important message of inclusion and empathy for refugees. Ages 3 and up.
MORE: Picture books about kindness
STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS by Lisa Mantchevby, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
In this popular picture book about the rewards of standing up for one's friends, a boy brings his elephant to a Pet Club. When he arrives, he finds out that his pet friend is not welcome. However, he refuses to go along with the exclusionary group and remains loyal to his pet. Instead forms an alternative club with other children whose unusual pet friends have been similarly rejected. Ages 3 and up.
Books for Kids Who Love Food
BILAL COOKS DAAL by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed
I adore this picture book even more than I enjoy a delicious bowl of daal. Bilal is so excited to make daal with his dad! Food has a way of bringing people together, right? He explains to his diverse group of friends that the slow-cooked lentil dish takes lots of patience as well as lots of yummy ingredients. His friends have never tried it and they join him in the anticipation of eating the deliciousness. Ages 4 and up.
THANK YOU, OMU! by Oge Mora
I adore the wonderful cut-paper collage illustrations in this timeless tale about the community value of generosity and sharing. Omu is making stew and its delicious smell enchants the neighborhood. One by one, a diverse group of visitors, drawn in by the scent of Omu's stew, knock on her door and ask for a bowl. Omu generously shares with others but eventually realizes that she no longer has any left for herself. Not to worry! Her neighbors don't forget her kindness and they all join together to return the favor. Ages 3 and up.
Books for Little Inventors
THE FLOATING FIELD by Scott Riley, illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien
Here's a great addition to your STEM books reading list. Based on a true story, the book tells the story of Prasit and the other boys in Koh Panyee, a small Thai fishing village on stilts. The boys love to play soccer but can only do so at low tide. They want to form a team to play in tournaments but can't do so unless they have a permanent field. To solve the problem, the boys harness their ingenuity to build a floating soccer field. Endnotes include photos, maps and further information about the real individuals and events in the book. Ages 6 and up.
WHOOSH!: LONNIE JOHNSON'S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate.
Kids will love to learn how their favorite Super-Soaker toy was invented! Barton's narration follows Johnson's development as a creative mind from his time growing up with a big family and how he learned to persevere at problem solving. You kids may also be surprised it was invented by a man who had a career at NASA! Ages 5 and up.
MORE: Growth Mindset picture books
Books for Kids With Strong Opinions
NO GO SLEEP! by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
This picture book is great fun and perfect for gift giving. Fair warning, I can't be help responsible if your child echos "No Go Sleep!" when you have finished reading. Every child can relate to and every parent will recognize the protagonist of this book who announces at each turn that he is not interested in going to sleep. Until, that is, he just does. Ages 3 and up.
MORE: Our favorite bedtime books
ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Sophia’s one true desire is to get a giraffe for her birthday. She prepares elaborate, individualized presentations to argue her case before each family member: a judge, businessperson, lawyer and disciplinarian (grandma!). Can she win her case, and will she find just the right word to convince the jury? This book made us smile, especially since Sophia just would not give up! Ages 4 and up.
Books for Dancers
FINDING MY DANCE by Ria Thundercloud, illustrated by Kalila J. Fuller
Ria Thundercloud (Ho-Chunk Nation and Sandia Pueblo) narrates her autobiographical journey though the world of dance. As a young girl she enthusiastically joined in the jingle dance in the special dress her mother made. Thundercloud recalls the loneliness she felt as the only Indigenous girl in her class at school, as well as how others always mispronounced her name, Wakąja haja pįįwįga. Thundercloud goes on to learn multiple styles of dance, indigenous and western, forging a career path that also lifts up her culture. Vibrant illustrations make this a great Native American biography to read aloud. Ages 5 and up.
WHEN LANGSTON DANCES by Kaija Langley, illustrated by Keith Mallet
This is a delightful book about a boy who, after seeing the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform, longs to dance. He twirls through the streets and joins a dance class as the only boy in the room. Even though some tell him that boys don't dance the way he wants to, Langston stays true to himself and finds joy in dancing the way he wants to. Ages 4 and up.
Books for Young Artists
MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell
Mira wants to brighten up her grey neighborhood. She starts out small by handing out her colorful illustrations to neighbors. Inspired by Mira, the community gets together to transform their environment with colorful murals. This kind of community improvement activity is just the sort of thing that kids can participate in! I love the vibrant illustrations and the message that art makes life better. Ages 4 and up.
BEAUTIFUL OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg
This is a good choice to inspire kids who are worried about their artwork being perfect and planned out. Here the non-perfect, the mistake, the accident is just the encouragement a young artist needs to create. The pop-up, lift-the-flap, interactive nature of the book gets kids thinking outside the box. Ages 3 and up.
Books for Superheroes-in-Training
LADYBUG GIRL (series) by David Soman, illustrated by Jacky Davis
Soman's Ladybug Girl is the subject of a popular series of superhero-themed picture books, including a spin-off about her friend, Bumblebee Boy. It is the quintessential story of childhood imagination. A girl puts on a pair of wings and transforms, along with her dog, into hero and sidekick. Together, they engage in little acts of heroism around the neighborhood. Utterly delightful. Ages 4 and up.
MORE: List of superhero picture books
THE ADVENTURES OF SPARROWBOY by Brian Pinkney
One day while riding his bike Henry collides with a bird and becomes Sparrowboy! He uses his new found powers to save the neighborhood from bullies and runaway wagons - all while completing his newspaper route. Great fun. Ages 4 and up.
Books for Kids Who March to the Beat of Their Own Drum
MARISOL MCDONALD DOESN'T MATCH / MARISOL MCDONALD NO COMBINA by Monica Brown, illustraed by Sara Palacios
Red-headed, half-Scottish, half-Peruvian Marisol bounces off the page with great enthusiasm and loves her mismatched life. When her friend, Ollie, challenges her to “match”, Marisol finds she is unhappy with life as a conformist. This is a great story that emphasizes the importance of embracing and accepting one’s uniqueness. (Text is in both English and Spanish.) Ages 4 and up.
NIÑO WRESTLES THE WORLD by Yuyi Morales
Using his vivid imagination, Niño wrestles uses his stellar moves, like the “tickle tackle” and the “puzzle muzzle” to best alarming intergalactic opponents, but when it comes to his biggest challenge, “Las Hermanitas”, Niño pulls out his very special moves. Niño is imagining himself as a “Lucha Libre” wrestler. An endnote describes this type of theatrical wrestling popular in Spanish-speaking countries. Ages 3 and up.
MORE: Picture books about being unique
clara lauber says
You have Book Lists that are beyond all of the Book Lists that I have perused over the years for the many grade levels. Kudos to you!
I look around at Amazon and other Usual Suspects for book recs. You have some things that are great that I haven't heard of.
Thank you for being generous and sharing!!!!!!!
I love bringing a smile to a first grader or a chuckle to a hormonal teenager thanks to your book recs!