The Best 100 Hidden Gem Books

Outside of the standard children’s books you might already know and love, there are many, many incredible titles created by wonderfully talented authors and illustrators. At Bookroo, we love highlighting the best children’s books, whether they’re already familiar favorites or titles you haven’t yet heard of! This list of the Best 100 Hidden Gem Children’s Books introduces you to some of our favorite “hidden gems”: clever, fun, and inspiring children’s books that are not yet as well known as others. Browse on to discover new titles you’ll love sharing with your young reader. If you’re looking for a list of familiar favorites, check out our list of the Best 100 Classic Children’s Books.

The Bear Who Shared book
#1
The Bear Who Shared
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Norris the bear has been waiting patiently for the last ripe fruit to fall from the tree. But Tulip the raccoon and Violet the mouse have too . . . although maybe not so patiently. In fact, Tulip and Violet sniff, listen to, and even hug the fruit. Norris catches the fruit when it finally falls, and because he is a wise bear, he shares it and makes two new friends.

A lovely simplicity of language and gorgeous artwork make this story of one of life’s first lessons perfect for the youngest listeners.

The Book of Mistakes book
#2
The Book of Mistakes
Written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this memorable picture book debut about the creative process, and the way in which “mistakes” can blossom into inspiration

One eye was bigger than the other. That was a mistake. The weird frog-cat-cow thing? It made an excellent bush. And the inky smudges… they look as if they were always meant to be leaves floating gently across the sky.

As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this story shows readers that even the biggest “mistakes” can be the source of the brightest ideas—and that, at the end of the day, we are all works in progress, too.

Fans of Peter Reynolds’s Ish and Patrick McDonnell’s A Perfectly Messed-Up Story will love the funny, poignant, completely unique storytelling of The Book of Mistakes. And, like Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, it makes the perfect graduation gift, encouraging readers to have a positive outlook as they learn to face life’s obstacles.

My Heart Is Like a Zoo book
#3
My Heart Is Like a Zoo
Written and illustrated by Michael Hall
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

The New York Times bestseller My Heart Is Like a Zoo features bright colors, simple sentences, playful animals, and more than 300 hearts for children to count and enjoy. Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick says, “Starting with one simple shape, Michael Hall shows us a nearly infinite number of ways to make a menagerie of love.”

This board book edition of the award-winning picture book is perfect for little hands and the very youngest readers, who will learn that a heart can be hopeful, silly, happy, rugged, snappy, or lonely. A heart holds every different feeling, and author-artist Michael Hall captures each one with his bold, graphic artwork. An ideal springboard for conversations about emotions, and for introducing concepts, math, and art projects in the classroom and at home. School Library Journal called it an “outstanding choice for one-on-one sharing.”

The Treasure (Rip Squeak and Friends) book
#4
The Treasure (Rip Squeak and Friends)
Written by Susan Yost-Filgate and illustrated by Leonard Filgate
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Rip Squeak the mouse, his sister Jesse, Abbey the kitten, and Euripedes the frog set out on an adventure after they find a mysterious map marked with a large black “X.”

Baby Bear Sees Blue book
#5
Baby Bear Sees Blue
Written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Explore the world of color with Baby Bear in this clever and adorable story now available as a Classic Board Book!

Baby Bear has so much to learn about the world! From the moment he wakes until it’s time to curl up and go to sleep, he explores outside with his mama. They see green leaves, blue jays, brown trout, and—best of all—a patch of yummy red strawberries.

From bestselling author-illustrator Ashley Wolff, here is a clever concept book that combines engaging and intricate linocut illustrations with a story that enthusiastically encourages children to identify a variety of vibrant colors. Young readers will delight in this chance to join Baby Bear as he discovers the colorful wonders of his lively, leafy forest home.

  1. Room for Bear - A huggable picture-book debut about a bear who doesn’t quite fit—perfect for fans of Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On and Philip C. Snead & Erin Stead’s Bear Has a Story to Tell. When Bear wakes up one spring, he goes in search of a new home. And he thinks he’s found the perfect place. Unfortunately, things are a bit . . . snug. Can five little ducks find room for one big bear in their home—and in their hearts? Ciara Gavin’s luminous picture-book debut explores the unconditional love of families in all their colors, shapes, and sizes.

  2. There's No Such Thing As a Dragon - Billy Bixbee’s mother won’t admit that dragons exist until it is nearly too late.

  3. Always Neverland - Move over, Wendy Darling. There’s a new girl in Neverland! Swimming with mermaids, fighting off pirates, and befriending Tiger Lily is all Ashley can think about when she finds Peter Pan in her room one night. With a pinch of fairy dust and a few happy thoughts, she follows him all the way to Neverland. But Ashley’s plans for adventure are thwarted when Peter and the Lost Boys expect her to be the new “Wendy girl” and help with the spring cleaning. Spring cleaning? This is not what Ashley has in mind! Will Ashley win them over?

  4. Dough Knights and Dragons - In a mythical kingdom, a knight and a dragon cook up a delicious plan to save their friendship! In Dough Knights and Dragons, a curious knight and an amiable dragon meet serendipitously, and instantly bond over their shared love of baking. But the friends are filled with sadness when, according to the law, the two must duel one another. Can the unlikely pair find a way to evade the law, save their friendship, and spread good throughout the land? Kids will devour this scrumptiously clever tale!

Dinosaurs and All that Rubbish book
#10
Dinosaurs and All that Rubbish
Written and illustrated by Michael Foreman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

After ruining Earth and soaring off to a star in his rocket, the man returns to find that ancient creatures have beautified the Earth and it is where he wants to live after all.

What To Do With a Box book
#11
What To Do With a Box
Written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure, a feature imaginatively captured in cardboardesque art by Chris Sheban and rhythmically celebrated in this poetic tribute by renowned children’s author Jane Yolen.

Special Delivery book
#12
Special Delivery
Written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Sadie is on her way to deliver an elephant to her Great-Aunt Josephine, who lives completely alone and can really use the company.

She tries everything from mailing the elephant to boarding a plane, a train, and an alligator to get to her aunt’s home. Along the way she meets an array of interesting characters, including an odd postal worker and a gang of bandit monkeys, who all help her get where she is going.

This eccentric and hilarious story from Philip C. Stead, the author of the Caldecott-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee and illustrator Matthew Cordell will surprise and entertain from beginning to end.

This title has Common Core connections.

To the Sea book
#13
To the Sea
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn’t just any new friend: he’s a blue whale, and he can’t find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it’s not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

A Girl and Her Gator book
#14
A Girl and Her Gator
Written by Sean Bryan and illustrated by Tom Murphy
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

One day, a girl discovers an alligator on her head and, although she is afraid her friends will laugh, the ‘gator soon convinces her that she can still give her brother a scare, eat an eclair, and choose anything to wear as long as he is there.

  1. Ike's Incredible Ink - Cleaning his room and talking to his best friend while preparing to write what he knows will be an incredible story, little Ike discovers that he is missing just the right ink to get his project underway, a need that requires extraordinary effort to fulfill.

  2. The Secret Garden - BabyLit® is a fashionable way to introduce your toddler to the world of classic literature. With clever, simple text by Jennifer Adams, paired with stylish design and illustrations by Sugar’s Alison Oliver, these books are a must for every savvy parent’s nursery library. This book introduces your toddler to Burnett’s, The Secret Garden.

  3. Blue Chicken - An enterprising chicken attempts to help an artist paint the barnyard and accidentally turns the whole picture blue.

  4. Bernice Gets Carried Away - Perfect for a new generation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day readers, this charming story about a grumpy cat gently shows how far a little sharing can go. Bernice is having a truly rotten time at her friend’s birthday party. First, everyone else gets a piece of cake with a frosting rose. But not Bernice. Then, everyone else gets strawberry-melon soda. Bernice gets the prune-grapefruit juice. And it’s warm. The last straw is the one lousy (squished) candy she gets from the piñata. So when the balloons arrive, Bernice knows just what she has to do: grab them all. And then, poor cross Bernice gets carried up, up, and away. Luckily, she figures out just how to make her way back down to the party…and she brightens lots of other animals’ days on her way. Hannah Harrison’s gorgeous animal paintings come alive in her second picture book. Her “exceptionally polished” debut, Extraordinary Jane, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.

And Tango Makes Three book
#19
And Tango Makes Three
Written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
board book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The heartwarming true story of two penguins who create a nontraditional family is now available in a sturdy board book edition.

At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others. But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo got the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear book
#20
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Written and illustrated by Don Wood and Audrey Wood
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

First published in 1984, a picture book in which the Little Mouse will do all he can to save his strawberry from the Big, Hungry Bear, even if it means sharing it with the reader. The Little Mouse and the Big Hungry Bear are known and loved by millions of children around the world. Little Mouse loves strawberries, but so does the bear…How will Little Mouse stop the bear from eating his freshly picked, red, ripe strawberry.

Papillon: The Very Fluffy Kitty book
#21
Papillon: The Very Fluffy Kitty
Written and illustrated by Anna Kang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-6

Papillon is a very fluffy kitty. So fluffy that he’s lighter than air! His owner tries to weigh him down, but Papillon just wants to fly. One particularly sunny day, he floats right out the window! Exploring the wide world is exhilarating, but it’s also a little scary. Will his new friend, a bird, be able to help him find his way home? Whimsical art and airy text come together seamlessly in this delightful debut by A. N. Kang.

Animal Patterns book
#22
Animal Patterns
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-3

Introduce little ones to all sorts of different patterns seen on animals! In Animal Patterns, little ones will be asked which patterns belong to which animals. The pages of this book are filled with familiar, kid-friendly animals, such as giraffes, zebras, tortoises, leopards, and more, rendered in a soft colors that make this an even more enjoyable experience for babies. Each page includes embossed animal patterns, creating a tactile experience for tiny hands. And on the last spread, all the animals appear with their correct patterns!

Little Hoot book
#23
Little Hoot
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

It’s not fair! All Little Owl wants is to go to bed at a reasonable hour, like his friends do. But Mama and Papa say little owls have to stay up late and play. So Little Owl spends all night jumping on his bed, playing on the jungle gym, and doing tricks on his skateboard—but he’s hooting mad about it! Children who have a hard time going to bed will love this fun twist on the universal dilemma.

  1. Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends - Here’s a puppy, there’s a kitten . . . a yawning fawn and chuckling ducklings The perfect introduction to animal names and animal groups, Chuckling Ducklings features baby animals of every variety. The bouncing text and adorable illustrations will become a favorite with kids as they learn the special baby names that match all the grown-up animals they know and love.

  2. The Wish Tree - Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways. The poetic text and heartwarming illustrations evoke the true essence of the holiday season and will inspire wishers everywhere. This gem of a book deserves center stage year round.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!