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Birthdays and Friendship: Books For Kids

Just like Lemony Snicket, we say, “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” This sage advice extends to everything we do, including birthdays! The party doesn’t start until the books arrive. If you’re looking to add a bookish element to your birthday⁠—a decision we couldn’t agree with more⁠—we’ve got the perfect suggestions.

Growing up, birthdays were always a very well celebrated event in our home. We looked forward to them for quite some time before the big day. We anticipated choosing our birthday breakfast, what kind of party and activities we wanted to do throughout the day, and we always knew there would be a special treat (birthday cake!) of our choice.

Children’s literature does a great job of showcasing some wonderful birthday parties. From Dr. Seuss’s well known “Happy Birthday to You!” to “A Birthday for Cow,” to “If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon,” the selection of books is out of this world. Children’s literature does so much for kids, and teaching them of their importance is no exception!

Whether you are looking for board books for your little one’s very first birthday, or your growing toddler on their second birthday, you are sure to find one that is personalized to their individual interests. If your child has a birthday during the school year, sometimes their kindergarten class will invite you to bring something in to share with classmates. This list of books is sure to give you some great ideas. We have also included picture books for their third birthday up to six years old. You can be sure that even when their birthdays mean they are growing up a little too much for your liking, we will still have books for them. For your middle school age kids, you can find chapter books with stories about birthdays that will be loads of fun for them . . . and you can feel good about being able to continue making them feel celebrated!

We’d love to hear which books are your favorites or which you’d add to the list.

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The Best Birthday Present Ever
Written & illustrated by Ben Mantle
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Squirrel is super excited: he’s been invited to Big Bear’s birthday party! Now he just has to find the perfect present for his friend—but what can you give a bear who already has EVERYTHING? Squirrel searches and searches and chooses . . . a stick! As Bear unwraps his stack of gifts Squirrel begins to worry: is it enough? But with a little imagination, and a good friend, even the simplest stick can become magical. This funny, heartwarming story of friendship is a great gift—and not just for bears!

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Happy Birthday, Cupcake!
Written & illustrated by Terry Border
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

From the creator of Peanut Butter & Cupcake comes a birthday book starring everyone’s favorite dessert!

What’s a cupcake to do when she needs to plan her birthday party? In this hilarious, kid-friendly homage to food and birthdays, Cupcake runs through tons of ideas while her best friend, Blueberry Muffin, finds reasons why they won’t work: Soup gets seasick; Donut melts in the sun; someome might get squashed during musical chairs; and Cupcake is not very good at limbo (her icing might get sliced off!). Just as Cupcake is ready to crumble, Blueberry Muffin has one last idea that just might save the day.

With laugh-out-loud visual gags (like a band made up of beans–the musical fruit, of course), this book is sure to put a birthday smile on any kid’s face (and on adult faces as well).

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Duck and Goose, a Gift for Goose
Written & illustrated by Tad Hills
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-6

Duck and Goose, the stars of #1 “New York Times”-bestselling Hills’ beloved picture book series, return in an all-new, easy-to-read book. Duck has a very nice gift for Goose, and the perfect box to put it in…maybe too perfect! Full color.

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Cavekid Birthday
Written by Cathy Breisacher & illustrated by Roland Garrigue
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends. They even share a birthday. Each wants to get the other something special for the big day so they go shopping at Caveman Collectibles for just the right thing. But neither has money enough to buy a present for the other. So Cavegirl trades her beloved tool collecti on for a box to give to Caveboy to store his rock collection. Likewise, Caveboy trades in his cherished rocks for a box to give to Cavegirl for her tools.

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Masha and the Bear: Reader #2
Written & illustrated by Lauren Forte
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

An exciting leveled reader featuring Masha and the Bear! After the Bear’s birthday, Masha gets excited about her own special day—and all of the presents she’ll get. But when her birthday finally arrives, she can’t find her friends. Where are they? Did they forget?!

Cupcake book
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A birthday for Bear book
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Nate the Great and the Missing Birthday Snake book
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Much Too Much Birthday book
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  • Cupcake - Poor Vanilla Cupcake. He’s feeling a bit drab next to his fancy brothers and sisters. But when his new pal, Candle, comes along with some fresh ideas, the two hatch a plan to become the snazziest duo ever found on a plate! With an undeniably adorable hero and eye-catching design, Cupcake is sure to appeal to the sweet tooth in young readers everywhere.

  • A birthday for Bear - “The winning stars of A Visitor for Bear make a return engagement.” — School Library Journal Bear does not like birthdays. He doesn’t like parties or balloons, cards or candles. In fact, Bear does not like anything to do with birthdays at all. He would much rather spend his birthday alone cleaning his house, but Mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed, has other ideas. With a perfectly paced story by Bonny Becker paired with Kady MacDonald Denton’s slapstick visual comedy, A Birthday for Bear welcomes young listeners to the party with artwork ideal for sharing.

  • Nate the Great and the Missing Birthday Snake - “Join the world’s greatest detective, Nate the Great, as he solves the mystery of his friend’s missing pet snake! Perfect for beginning readers and the Common Core, this long-running chapter book series will encourage children to problem-solve with Nate, using logical thinking to solve mysteries! WILL THIS CASE SLITHER AWAY? Rosamond is having a birthday party for her cousin Lizzy! Nate the Great and his dog, Sludge, are invited. So are Lizzy’s four pet snakes. Nate believes that a good detective knows his limits. Nate does not want to go to a birthday party filled with dangerous, slimy guests. But when one of these “guests” goes missing, Nate and Sludge must face their fears to save the day! “

  • Much Too Much Birthday - Maud the koala can’t wait for her birthday party–until everything starts to feel way too overwhelming. Maud is having a birthday party in her backyard, and she’s invited her friends–all fifty-six of them–to celebrate with her. She’s not worried, though. After all, you can never have too much birthday! But when the guests arrive and the party gets packed, she isn’t so sure. What will happen if Maud can’t bear her own birthday?

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The Importance of Being 3
Written & illustrated by Lindsay Ward
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

The perfect present for three-year-olds, this picture book is a celebration of all things three!

All the best things come in threes, not one, not two, but three, like the three-year-olds in this sweet picture book. As all parents know, three is a big year. Follow along as three friends learn new things in threes—from tricycles to triangles—take a dip in the pool, and play in the park with their friends! Of course, it’s not all fun and games. There’s a tantrum and then hugs all around as the three kids head to bed.

This adorable picture book celebrating important life events is the perfect gift for third birthdays. Kids will love pointing out all the activities they can do now that they are three years old.

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Amanda Panda and the Bigger, Better Birthday
Written by Candice Ransom & illustrated by Christine Grove
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Amanda Panda’s birthday is tomorrow. She’ll be the first kid in her class to turn six! But when she gets to the bus stop, her best friend/worst enemy Bitsy announces that today is HER birthday! And her party is planned for Saturday, the same day as Amanda’s!

Birthday dreams ruined, Amanda’s can’t keep her temper in check at school. By recess, it looks like Amanda’s birthday plans—and her friendship with Bitsy—is over. But when the girls stop arguing long enough to listen to each other, they come up wtih a birthday plan that is TWICE the fun.

Young children will learn about sharing, compromise, and conflict resolution, all the while laughing along with Amanda and Bitsy in this adorable, school-based story from a new favorite character.

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Big Brown Bear's Birthday Surprise
Written by David McPhail
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

It’s his birthday and Big Brown Bear doesn’t even know it until his friend Rat fills him in during a picnic by the river. Everything goes swimmingly until an empty boat passes by and Big Brown Bear jumps in! Beginning readers will enjoy the watery ride in this sweet story full of sunshine, splashes, cucumber sandwiches, and friendship.

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Bears and a Birthday
Written by Shirley Parenteau & illustrated by David Walker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

In their fourth endearing escapade, four small bears prepare a celebration for Big Brown Bear’s birthday.

Mmm, something smells good in the kitchen. Big Brown Bear is curious—what are those little bears up to? Are they making something special? No peeking, Big Brown Bear! Floppy and Fuzzy, Yellow and Calico have a cake to bake and a gift to wrap, then it’s finally time for the birthday surprise. Delightful rhymes and huggable bears are just the right ingredients for a cheerful birthday read-aloud.

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A Birthday for Cow!
Written & illustrated by Jan Thomas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Pig and Mouse are hard at work baking the best birthday cake EVER for Cow. But it would be a lot easier if Duck wasn’t hanging around, yammering on about turnips or some nonsense. (Sheesh!) With all this silliness going on, how will they manage to throw Cow a spectacular birthday party? Well, as it turns out, crazy Duck just might have had the right idea all along!

Featuring wacky humor, rowdy repetitions, irreverent dialogue, and a hilarious twist at the end, this book is now available in an accessible reader-size format and is sure to have young readers laughing out loud!

Marsha Is Magnetic book
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Birthday Cake book
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I Got You a Present! book
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A Letter to Amy book
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  • Marsha Is Magnetic - It turns out that the best way to draw others to you is by being yourself in this sweet, STEAM-minded picture book from New York Times bestselling author Beth Ferry. Marsha is a scientist who has never met a problem she couldn’t solve. But when it comes to making friends to invite to her birthday party, she is stumped. Luckily, Marsha knows the solution to being stumped: the scientific method. With equal parts creativity, determination, and humor, Marsha sets out to attract as many friends as she can—what could possibly go wrong? In this hilarious celebration of friendship and ingenuity, Beth Ferry and Lorena Alvarez show readers that the best way to attract friends is to simply be yourself.

  • Birthday Cake - HAPPYLAND introduces three friends Bink, Clyde, and Glub-Glub in a series of delightful adventures that illustrate issues including sharing, gratitude, and worry. “Birthday Cake” tackles the ever-important issue of sharing, as the hero Clyde learns it s as much fun to give as it is to receive. There s nothing more important for little kids entering preschool than to be emotionally ready ready to separate from their parents, to mix and play with new children, to broaden their sense of the world. HAPPYLAND, from award-winning children s author Dan Yaccarino, is the board book series that gives kids, and their parents, the language they need to take these emotional steps.”

  • I Got You a Present! - A quest for the perfect birthday present leads to ever grander (and ever more imperfect) gift ideas in this clever metafiction story that’s hilarious any day of the year. ?I wanted to get you the greatest present ever,? our narrator tells us. But somehow, none of the best ideas seemed to pan out. First, there was the pair of hand-knitted birthday socks (have you ever tried knitting birthday socks?). Then, the ten-scoop ice cream cone (a disaster to carry), the magic kit (it disappeared, just like magic!), the apple juice-fueled jet pack (still a few kinks to work out) and the dinosaur (I couldn’t find one anywhere). And now, time has run out, and our narrator still has nothing to give. Or, maybe there is something after all. Something that contains all those awesome gifts in one. Something that can be enjoyed again and again, just by turning the pages … In their debut picture book, Emmy Award-winning children’s television writers Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan have created a laugh-out-loud story filled with heart. The metafiction approach (speaking directly to ?you?) and fun story together with the antic exuberance of Cale Atkinson’s bold and colorful illustrations make this a lively read-aloud that will keep even the youngest children engaged. Though a book about finding the perfect birthday present is itself the perfect birthday present, it’s also simply a delightful read for any time of year. It also offers an excellent character education lesson on perseverance.

  • A Letter to Amy - Generations of children have read, re-read, and loved Ezra Jack Keats’s award-winning, classic stories about Peter and his neighborhood friends. Now, for the first time, Peter’s Chair, A Letter to Amy, and Goggles! are available in paperback exclusively from Puffin. “A master of ingenious collages, Keats has made brilliant variegated pictures.”—_The Horn Book _Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983) was the beloved author and/or illustrator of more than eighty-five books for children.

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Houndsley and Catina through the seasons
Written by James Howe & illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Follow two adorable friends all year long in this four-in-one collection of adventures featuring the sweet, endearing Houndsley and Catina.

Funny, friendly, and just right for emerging readers, the world of Houndsley and Catina is the perfect place to escape to at any time of year. Whether they’re watching fireflies, canoeing through the water, cheering each other up, or savoring the first snow of winter, these best buds will delight new readers and encourage them to keep turning the pages. This bind-up includes:

Houndsley and Catina Houndsley and Catina Plink and Plunk Houndsley and Catina and the Birthday Surprise Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time

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There's Something About Sam
Written by Hannah Barnaby & illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Select type book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Despite his initial hesitation to invite the new kid, Sam, to his sleepover birthday party, Max quickly discovers that what makes us different makes us special, and new friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species . . . Perfect as a birthday gift, and for fans of Vampirina Ballerina _and _Crankenstein. 

There’s something strange about the new kid, Sam—though Max can’t quite put his finger on it. But EVERYONE else in his class is invited to Max’s birthday sleepover, so his mom invites Sam too.

Sam is just as strange at the party as he is at school: he’s wary of the full moon, prefers his hamburgers rare, and can’t help but bite the other kids during an innocent game of Twister. But despite his initial hesitation, Max discovers that what makes us different is actually what makes us special, and that new friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species . . .

This charming and pitch-perfect story will teach young readers all about the excitement of making new friends, and learning from our differences.

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Starcrossed
Written by Julia Denos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A resonant story of two friends trying to maintain their relationship from afar with dazzling results, filled with wishes, curiosity, and bravery. From award-winning author-illustrator Julia Denos.

She was made of blood and bones, and he was made of space and stars. 

Back in a time when there were still students of the stars, there were two friends, Acamar and Eridani.

Eridani was a star pupil studying the night skies, and Acamar . . . well, he was made of the stuff she studied.

In a star-crossed twist of fate, these long-distance friends find they’ve wished themselves into unexpected new worlds.

Filled with stardust and moonglow, this cosmic adventure shows us how even the most brilliant wishes can have a mind of their own—and that true friendship can endure, despite time and space.

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Sleepover at the Museum
Written by Karen Lefrak & illustrated by David Bucs
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

During Mason’s birthday sleepover at the natural history museum, friends enjoy a scavenger hunt but Mason has a hard time choosing the gallery in which they will sleep. Includes facts about museums and a list of notable museums that allow sleepovers.

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Two Speckled Eggs
Written & illustrated by Jennifer K Mann
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Reluctantly inviting the class misfit to her birthday party, Ginger bonds with Lyla when the latter arrives early, supports her party choices and gives her a unique gift, an encounter that compels Ginger to reconsider earlier notions.

Going Up! book
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The Perfect Birthday Recipe book
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  • Going Up! - Today is Olive’s birthday party, and Sophie and her dad have baked cookies. Sophie’s dad holds the platter so Sophie can push the elevator button for the tenth floor. But on the way up, the elevator stops to let the Santucci brothers get on. Then on the next floor, Vicky, Babs and their dog, Norman, get in. And as the elevator ascends, it keeps stopping, and more neighbors squeeze in to the crowded space: the Habibs, the Flores family, Mr. Kwan, Vi Tweedle with her Chihuahua, Minx. Everyone is going to the party! Playfully combining the excitement and anticipation of a party with children’s universal love of riding in elevators, Sherry J. Lee’s picture book story is ultimately about community and a sense of belonging. With characters from many cultural backgrounds, it showcases the everyday diversity that many urban children experience. Charlene Chua’s illustrations provide loads of funny details and visual narratives that aren’t in the text, making for a multilayered reading experience. The book’s tall, narrow trim size adds to the effect of the rising elevator.

  • The Perfect Birthday Recipe - Summer birthdays can be lonely, but not when you have great friends like Beavers! This year Tortoise, Bird, Rabbit, and Squirrel insist on baking Beaver’s birthday cake, but Beaver isn’t so sure. He is the ultimate perfectionist and would rather do it himself, following the recipe exactly. Will Beaver’s nitpicky ways ruin his birthday and his friendships? The Perfect Birthday Recipe is the fourth and final story in Katy Hudson’s best-selling set of seasonal picture books, including Too Many Carrots, A Loud Winter’s Nap, and The Golden Acorn.

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