Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to childhood. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about childhood.
Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about childhood, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life to popular sellers like Boy to some of our favorite hidden gems like Me . . . Jane.
We hope this list of kids books about childhood can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
Presents an illustrated biography of Abraham Lincoln, describing how his lifelong love for reading helped him to become the sixteenth president of the United States.
Olympic dreams come true in this inspiring picture book from Michael Jordan’s mother, author of the New York Times bestselling Salt in His Shoes. Long before he became a professional All-Star basketball player, Michael Jordan had dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal—and with dedication and perseverance, that’s exactly what he did. This heartwarming picture book, written by Michael’s mother and illustrated by Barry Root, gives a rare glimpse into a sports hero’s childhood and emphasizes the role that good values play in success. An ideal companion to the New York Times bestselling Salt in His Shoes and releasing in time for the 2012 Olympics, Dream Big is an inspiration to all.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman justice to serve on the Supreme Court. But do you know what she was like as a child? Strong role models and encouragement to be herself led Ruth to speak her mind and to stand up for equality. This playful story of her childhood will help young readers connect with a historic figure and will inspire them to want to achieve greatness.
Young Frida Kahlo’s imaginary friend comes to life in a touching story by Anthony Browne enhanced by exquisite surreal illustrations.
Following a bout with polio at the age of six, Frida Kahlo’s life was marked by pain and loneliness. In real life she walked with a limp, but in her dreams she flew. One day her imagination took her on a journey to a girl in white who could dance without pain and hold her secrets, an indelible figure who would find her way into Frida’s art in years to come. Inspired by Frida Kahlo’s diary, Anthony Browne captures the essence of the artist’s early flights of fancy and depicts both Frida and her imaginary friend in vivid illustrations evoking Kahlo’s iconic style. A note at the end offers a brief biography of the artist who has intrigued art lovers the world over.
An imagined and evocative picture book account of Emily Dickinson’s childhood poetic beginnings. As a young girl, Emily Dickinson loved to scribble curlicues and circles, imagine new rhymes, and connect with the natural world around her. The sounds, sights, and smells of home swirled through her mind, and Emily began to explore writing and rhyming her thoughts and impressions. She things about the real and the unreal. Perhaps poems are the in-between. This thoughtful spotlight on Emily’s early experimentations with poetry offers a unique window into one of the world’s most famous and influential poets. Christy Ottaviano Books
Words Set Me Free - “Words Set Me Free is the inspiring story of young Frederick Douglass’s path to freedom through reading”—
I Dreamed I was a Ballerina - Every girl remembers her first trip to the ballet: the anticipation beforehand, the orchestra’s first notes, the ethereal beauty of the ballerinas. This is a tale of one such girl who was caught up in ballet’s mesmerizing spell and became one of the greatest ballerinas of all time. In a story drawn from her memoirs, Anna Pavlova describes her first visit to the ballet to see the Sleeping Beauty. With simple, childlike language, she captures her love for her mother, the splendor of the ballet, and the moments that changed her life. The words are matched with paintings, pastels, and drawings of the French Impressionist Edgar Degas, to give this story all the magic of a fairytale. Complete with short biographies of Pavlova and Degas, I Dreamed I Was a Ballerina will delight any child with ballerina dreams.
Me . . . Jane - In his characteristic heartwarming style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of “a life living with and helping all animals,” until one day she finds that her dream has come true. One of the world’s most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young—and young at heart.
Dusk Explorers - It’s that special time of evening, when the hours and the possibilities seem endless: Light is fading. A buzz of excitement and wonder takes over the neighborhood….What outdoor adventures await? Join a diverse group of suburban kids as they dash and dodge in classic street games like tag and kick-the-can and reconnect with nature’s simple pleasures catching frogs, hunting fireflies, and climbing trees. These explorers play, laugh, and make the most of their own front yards right up until their parents call out that “It’s time to come home!” But when the sun begins to set tomorrow, they’ll be back for more evening excitement! This ode to the timeless magic of summer evenings spent outside will remind kids of the fun and friends that wait just outside their doors and leave adults smiling with nostalgia for their own dusk explorations.
It may never be clear why adults pretend to be busy or stressed, but truths about love, life, and living in the moment are humorously recounted in this cautionary tale for all ages —FOREWORD REVIEW
An observation of human behaviour that resonates with the stresses of the modern age. Dear Kids, Did you know that all adults have a child inside them? They try to hide them by pretending to be busy and stressed all the time, but as you know, it’s impossible to keep children hidden. Sometimes they just have to come out and PLAY! This is a delightful little book that will appeal to adults and children equally, explaining why adults behave in the strange ways that they do, and how important it is to preserve the place of playfulness and joy inside all of us.
A rousing biography from Michael J. Rosen and Matt Tavares reveals how Benjamin Franklin’s boyhood shaped his amazingly multifaceted life.
Young Benjamin Franklin wants to be a sailor, but his father won’t hear of it. The other trades he tries — candle maker, joiner, boot closer, turner — bore him through and through. Curious and inventive, Ben prefers to read, swim, fly his kite, and fly his kite while swimming. But each time he fails to find a profession, he takes some important bit of knowledge with him. That tendency is exactly what leads him to become the astonishingly versatile genius we remember today. Inspired by The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Michael J. Rosen’s wry tale captures Ben’s spirit in evocative yet playful language, while illustrations by Matt Tavares follow Ben from the workbench to the water in vivid detail. A love story to the value of variety, A Ben of All Trades sheds light on an unconventional path to greatness and humanizes a towering figure in American history.
Norman John Gillies was one of the last children ever born on St Kilda, five years before the whole population was evacuated forever to the British mainland. People had lived on these islands for over four thousand years, developing a thriving, tightly-knit society that knew nothing of crime or money, and took care of its weakest members without hesitation. At the mercy of the seasons and the elements, a unique lifestyle evolved, based around resilience, mutual trust and caring. What was it like to grow up in such harsh conditions? Why and how did this ancient way of life suddenly cease in 1930? Where did the islanders go, and what became of them? And what became of Norman John, child of St Kilda?
In the sixth book in the New York Times bestselling middle grade series inspired by the life of iconic New York Yankee Derek Jeter, young Derek bites off more than he can chew when he decides to enter the school talent show and try out for the basketball team.
Between promising Vijay that he’ll compete in the school talent show and promising Dave that he’ll try out for the basketball team, Derek Jeter has a lot he’s trying to juggle. A commitment is a commitment, and Derek is determined to work hard and try his best, but he worries he might be in over his head and fears he’s going to let his friends or himself down. How can Derek do it all?
Inspired by Derek Jeter’s childhood, Fast Break is the sixth book in Jeter Publishing’s New York Times bestselling middle grade baseball series that focuses on key life lessons from Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation.
Looks at the experiences of a strong-willed young Inuit girl who receives permission from her father to travel to a residential religious school run by non-Inuit outsiders, where she struggles to adapt to the new way of living.
Where Are You, Agnes? - Agnes Martin was born on the Canadian prairies in the early twentieth century. In this imagining of her childhood from acclaimed author Tessa McWatt, Agnes spends her days surrounded by wheat fields, where her grandfather encourages her to draw what she sees and feels around her: the straight horizon, the feeling of the sun, the movement of birds’ wings and the shapes she sees in the wheat. One day, Agnes’s family moves to a house in a big city. The straight horizon and wheat fields are gone, but Agnes continues to draw what she sees and feels around her. No one except her grandfather understands what she is trying to capture — not her mother, who asks, “Where are you, Agnes?” when she sees her daughter engrossed in her drawing; nor her siblings, who think her art is ugly. Still, Agnes keeps trying to capture what she sees inside her mind. Agnes Martin grew up to become a famous abstract expressionist artist. Tessa McWatt has written a beautiful story of Agnes’s childhood and how it might have shaped her adult work. Zuzanna Celej’s watercolors adeptly capture Agnes’s world, including hints of the grid paintings that she was later known for, against the backdrop of prairie and city landscapes. Includes an author’s note with more information about Agnes Martin’s life and the inspiration behind this story.
When Stars Are Scattered - Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl. Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.
Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln - Based on a little-known tale from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, this charming picture book written by debut author Shari Swanson and illustrated by acclaimed artist Chuck Groenink tells a classic story of a boy, his dog, and a daring rescue. Deeply researched and charmingly told, this is the true story of one extra-special childhood rescue—a dog named Honey. Long before Abraham Lincoln led the nation or signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he was just a barefoot kid running around Knob Creek, Kentucky, setting animals free from traps and snatching frogs out of the jaws of snakes. One day, young Abe found a stray dog with a broken leg and named him Honey. He had no idea that the scruffy pup would find his way into Abe’s heart, become his best friend, and—one fateful day—save his life.
When Bill Gates Memorized an Encyclopedia - Bill Gates is known as the richest man in the world. But do you know what he was like as a child? From selling peanuts to memorizing entire encyclopedias, Bill used his brain. This playful story of his childhood will help young readers connect with a historic figure and will inspire them to want to achieve greatness.
As the oldest of ten kids, Ralph was often cast as another parent to his siblings rather than an older brother. Teetering between these two conflicting roles, Ralph longed to be home alone on a sick day, but hated the emptiness of feeling left behind. He loved to play marbles with the neighborhood boys but resented the skillful victories of his little brother Jimmy. Thrust into the expectations of impending adolescence, Ralph was curious about girls, but repelled by the improper kissing advances of his first cousin. This satisfying memoir offers a snapshot of the pivotal moments between boyhood and adolescence, all while further tracing the roots of Ralph Fletcher’s acclaimed storytelling.
The colorful boyhood of a popular author comes to life in this personal account Imagine learning from a nosy classmate that your mother is having yet another baby. To Ralph’s classmates, news of one more Fletcher baby is just “scuttlebutt.” But for Ralph, the oldest of nine, being part of a large family means more kids to join in the fun—from making tripods in the woods and “snicking” up the rug to raising chicks and even discovering a meteor (well, maybe). It doesn’t feel like there’s life beyond Marshfield, Massachusetts. Then one day Dad’s new job moves the family to Chicago, and there’s so much Ralph has to leave behind. In this humorous and captivating memoir, Ralph Fletcher traces the roots of his storytelling.
The author recounts in graphic novel format her experiences with hearing loss at a young age, including using a bulky hearing aid, learning how to lip read, and determining her “superpower.”
Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it’s worth the journey. When best friends are not forever . . . Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others. Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?
Find out where the bestselling author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG got all his wonderful story ideas in this autobiographical account of his childhood!
From his own life, of course! As full of excitement and the unexpected as his world-famous, best-selling books, Roald Dahl’s tales of his own childhood are completely fascinating and fiendishly funny. Did you know that Roald Dahl nearly lost his nose in a car accident? Or that he was once a chocolate candy tester for Cadbury’s? Have you heard about his involvement in the Great Mouse Plot of 1924? If not, you don’t yet know all there is to know about Roald Dahl. Sure to captivate and delight you, the boyhood antics of this master storyteller are not to be missed!
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams - 2009 Caldecott Honor Book An ALA Notable Book A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book A Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book NCTE Notable Children’s Book When he wrote poems, he felt as free as the Passaic River as it rushed to the falls. Willie’s notebooks filled up, one after another. Willie’s words gave him freedom and peace, but he also knew he needed to earn a living. So he went off to medical school and became a doctor — one of the busiest men in town! Yet he never stopped writing poetry. In this picture book biography of William Carlos Williams, Jen Bryant’s engaging prose and Melissa Sweet’s stunning mixed-media illustrations celebrate the amazing man who found a way to earn a living and to honor his calling to be a poet.
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life - A repackaged edition of the revered author’s spiritual memoir, in which he recounts the story of his divine journey and eventual conversion to Christianity. C. S. Lewis—the great British writer, scholar, lay theologian, broadcaster, Christian apologist, and bestselling author of Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many other beloved classics—takes readers on a spiritual journey through his early life and eventual embrace of the Christian faith. Lewis begins with his childhood in Belfast, surveys his boarding school years and his youthful atheism in England, reflects on his experience in World War I, and ends at Oxford, where he became “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” As he recounts his lifelong search for joy, Lewis demonstrates its role in guiding him to find God.
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain - “I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side―the Communist side―of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities―creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed. By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art. This title has Common Core connections. The Wall is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and a nominee for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King III was one of those four little children mentioned in Martin Luther King’s groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech. In this memoir, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son gives an intimate look at the man and the father behind the civil rights leader. Mr. King’s remembrances show both his warm, loving family and a momentous time in American history. AG Ford is the illustrator of several other books for children, including the New York Times bestselling Barack. He is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award.
Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.
John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice.
Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story, featuring Jabari Asim’s stirring prose and E. B. Lewis’s stunning, light-filled impressionistic watercolor paintings, includes an author’s note about John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. John Lewis is now a Georgia congressman, who is still an activist today, recently holding a sit-in on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol to try to force a vote on gun violence. His March: Book Three recently won the National Book Award, as well as the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Author Award, Printz Award, and Sibert Award.
In a true tale of a young girl in Iran and her grandmother, this beautiful ode to family celebrates small moments of love that become lifelong memories. In this big universe full of many moons, I have traveled and seen many wonders, but I have never loved anything or anyone the way I love my grandma. While Mina is growing up in Iran, the center of her world is her grandmother. Whether visiting friends next door, going to the mosque for midnight prayers during Ramadan, or taking an imaginary trip around the planets, Mina and her grandma are never far apart. At once deeply personal and utterly universal, Mina Javaherbin’s words make up a love letter of the rarest sort: the kind that shares a bit of its warmth with every reader. Soft, colorful, and full of intricate patterns, Lindsey Yankey’s illustrations feel like a personal invitation into the coziest home, and the adoration between Mina and her grandma is evident on every page.
From the whippoorwill’s call on the first day of spring through the first snowfall, Edna Lewis and members of her family gather fruits, berries, and vegetables from the fields, garden, and orchard on their Virginia farm and turn them into wonderful meals, a wonderful beginning for a woman who would become an award-winning African-American chef.
Discover the childhood story of Carlos Santana in Gary Golio’s “”Sound of the Heart, Song of the World””, featuring illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez, the internationally celebrated artist who created the iconic Santana “”Shaman”” CD cover.
Carlos Santana grew up surrounded by music. His father, a beloved mariachi performer, teaches his son how to play the violin when he is only six years old. But when Carlos discovers American blues, he is captivated by the raw honesty of the music. Unable to think of anything else, he loses all interest in the violin. When Carlos finally receives his first guitar, his whole life begins to change.
From his early exposure to mariachi to his successful fusing of rock, blues, jazz, and Latin influences, here is the childhood story of a legendary musician.
Now that the twins have begun to settle into their new lives at Elm Medona, they delve deeper into The Treasure Chest and uncover more about the Pickworth family, including the disappearance of their great-uncle Thorne and the theft of priceless family artifacts.
In this adventure, The Treasure Chest transports Felix and Maisie to tropical St. Croix in 1772. There they meet a young man named Alexander Hamilton who is about to embark on a journey to New York. Felix and Maisie aren’t sure why The Treasure Chest has brought them to meet Alexander, but they are determined to not let him out of their sights . . .even if that means stowing away on the very ship he is sailing off on!
Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña - Valentina was born on an island formed by fire, surrounded by blue-green sea. As a Galapagueña, Valentina spends her days observing the natural world around her. She greets sea lions splashing on the shore, scampers over lava rocks with Sally-lightfoot crabs, and swims with manta rays. But Valentina also understands the fragility of this wondrous world, and she makes a solemn promise to protect the islands and her animal friends. This delightful bilingual story was inspired by the childhood of Valentina Cruz, whose family was one of the first permanent inhabitants of the Galápagos. Valentina is now a biologist and naturalist guide who has dedicated her life to the conservation of the islands. Whimsical illustrations by Pura Belpré Honor recipient Angela Dominguez transport readers to these unique islands, which shelter a diverse number of plant and animal species, many found of which can be found nowhere else on the planet. Come discover this beautiful world with Valentina and her animal friends!
Elvis Is King! - Here’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to introduce rock ‘n’ roll and its king to the child in their lives. In single- page “chapters” with titles like “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis” and “Shazam! A Blond Boy Turns into a Black-Haired Teenager,” readers can follow key moments in Presley’s life, from his birth on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the Deep South, to playing his first guitar in grade school, to being so nervous during a performance as a teenager that he starts shaking . . . and changes the world! Jonah Winter and Red Nose Studio have created a tour-de-force that captures a boy’s loneliness and longing, along with the energy and excitement, passion, and raw talent that was Elvis Presley.
Ben's Revolution - History comes alive in this gripping account of a young boy caught up in the start of the Revolutionary War. Based on an episode in National Book Award–winning author Nathaniel Philbrick’s New York Times bestseller Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, this engrossing story allows readers to experience history from a child’s perspective, and Wendell Minor’s stunning paintings will transport readers back to the early days of the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Russell is in school on the morning of April 19th, 1775, when his teacher announces, “The war’s begun, and you may run!” Ben knew this day was coming; after all, tensions had been mounting between the colonists and the British troops ever since the Boston Tea Party. And now they have finally reached the breaking point. Ben and his friends excitedly rush out of their classroom to bear witness, and follow the throngs of redcoats marching out of Boston toward Concord. Much to Ben’s surprise, Boston is sealed off later that day—leaving the boys stuck outside the city, in the middle of a war, with no way to reach their families. But Ben isn’t worried—he’s eager to help the Patriots! He soon becomes a clerk to the jovial Israel Putnam, a general in the provincial army. For months he watches the militia grow into an organized army, and when the Battle of Bunker Hill erupts, Ben is awed by the bravery of the Patriots, although saddened by the toll war takes. He later goes on to become an apprentice at a Revolutionary newspaper, and it’s a happy day when they get to report on the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
When Everybody Wore a Hat - This is the story of when I was a boy, almost 100 years ago, when fire engines were pulled by horses, boys did not play with girls, kids went to libraries for books, there was no TV, you could see a movie for a nickel, and everybody wore a hat.
Meet young Melvin (the future Mel Blanc of Looney Tunes fame) as he drives everyone a little nuts with the noisy soundtrack to his day-to-day life.
Melvin is an imaginative and noisy little boy who grows up to be Mel Blanc, Looney Tunes cartoon character pioneer and the voice behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker, the Tasmanian Devil, and so many more familiar personalities. Readers are treated to a typical day for young Melvin, when ordinary tasks like getting ready for school, riding the bus, and completing his chores are charged with sound effects and accompanied by his own personal soundtrack. His knack for making funny noises and using the versatility of his voice was like no other–much to the relief of his teachers. Penned by Blanc’s daughter-in-law, this first-person fiction-based-in-reality story is a fun romp and is sure to inspire young readers to turn trouble into triumph!
Martin Luther King Jr. led the American Civil Rights Movement. But do you know what he was like as a child? From roller skating to playing football and basketbal, Martin was a fun-loving child. This playful story of his childhood will help young readers connect with a historic figure and will inspire them to want to achieve greatness.
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