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14 Children's Book Recommendations From Independent Booksellers

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The fate of independent book stores has been precarious since the dawn of the internet. And now, in our current climate, they need our support more than ever. The good news? You can help. With many libraries across the country closed, now is a great time to support small book shops and their children's book sections. And naturally, the proprietors of these local stores are experts on the best kid lit out there, so these children’s book recommendations from independent booksellers are pretty perfect.

When you purchase books from these stores you won't just be supporting your child's growing imagination — you'll be supporting independent sellers and providing a vital service to each of their communities. Some of the selections shared by owners and staffers reflect the regions of the booksellers, others are about emotions or life skills, while others teach important lessons about sharing and kindness. What do they have in common? They’d all be great additions to your child’s library and serve as a gift that keeps on giving. As Dr. Seuss once said, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book!”

"My Rainy Day Rocket Ship" & "How to Read a Book"

Kendra McNeil, owner of Grand Rapids, Michigan's We Are LIT bookstore, is on a mission to create culture around books, so it's no wonder she recommends this great picture book about a little boy who builds a rocket for an indoor space adventure to another galaxy. This book officially releases May 5, but you can place your order now with We Are LIT.

McNeil is also a fan of the latest from Newberry Medalist Kwame Alexander and Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet, How to Read a Book.

"Hank the Cowdog: The Frozen Rodeo" & "There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight"

It seems only fitting that Carol Dromgoole of Texas Star Trading Co. bookstore would recommend a story about cowboys, or should I say, cowdogs. "Hank the Cowdog is a well-loved series of books for early readers — mostly geared toward grades 2 and 3," she says. "However, all ages love this series, which now numbers 74! It was originally written as a series of stories for adults in a newspaper. John Erickson, the author, lives in the Texas Panhandle and usually turns out one to two books in this series each year." This one about a rodeo is his most recent.

"For younger children, the board book version of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight is a lovely, colorful book that came out this year, following the successful launch several years ago of the hardcover children's picture book by the same title," adds Dromgoole. "Wording in both books is the same."

"Fred's Big Feelings" & "Peanut Goes For the Gold"

No one understood how to talk to kids about their emotions better than television host Fred Rogers. That's why Ollie Walker, Children’s Specialist at Writer’s Block Bookstore in Winter Park, Florida, recommends Fred's Big Feelings. "This book is great for reading together and story times," says Walker. If you like what you see, check out this store's Facebook page where "we also do a virtual story time every Friday at 11 a.m."

Walker also couldn't resist suggesting Peanut Goes for the Gold written by Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness. Filled with Van Ness's signature charm and humor, readers follow Peanut, a non-binary guinea pig, as they follow their heart to become a rhythmic gymnast.

"Llama Llama Mess Mess Mess" & "How Artists See Animals"

Struggling with a kiddo who doesn't like cleaning up? "Whether homeschooling or just the normal course of toys out of the toy box and art supply spread, somehow these things have to be put back or there won’t be any place to function in the house, which now more than ever could spell unhappy," says Connie Griffin, the head of story time, kids and YA book buying, and clubs and groups at BookWorks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But with a little help from Llama Llama, you can teach your child an important lesson about keeping tidy.

Griffin is also a big fan of the How the Artist Sees series from Colleen Carroll at Abbeville Press. The books encourage children to view the world through artists' eyes and "they're beautiful and bright," says Griffin.

"One Earth" & "Sorry (Really Sorry)"

"There are so many great books!" says Jean Fennacy of Petunia's Place bookstore in Fresno, California. "I recommend One Earth by Eileen Spinelli. It is a lovely counting book (counting up and then down) that celebrates some of the amazing things in our world and lists simple steps we can do to take care of our earth."

"Sorry (Really Sorry) by Joanna Colter is the story of a grumpy cow whose bad mood is passed on to others," says Fennacy of her second recommendation. "But a good-hearted dog turns things around by showing kindness. It has a nice message of the importance of kindness and love and the text invites children to chime in on predictable phrases that are fun to read aloud."

"Life Doesn't Frighten Me" & "Free Lunch"

"We're particularly fond of the 25th anniversary edition of Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, which includes wonderful illustrations by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat," says Dan Graham, Assistant Promotional Director of Los Angeles's Book Soup. "It's a wonderful articulation of a child approaching and addressing fear."

"We also like Free Lunch by Rex Ogle," says Graham. "It's a middle-grade memoir about a young man struggling with poverty and anxiety. It's written from the child's perspective and is quite insightful. It has moments of humor and an uplifting ending."

"Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark" & "The Keeper of Wild Words"

Shannon Jones, the manager and children's buyer at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, North Carolina, says that Tiny T.Rex and the Very Dark Dark is a big hit with her bookstore readers. "Tiny and his friend Pointy (a stegosaurus) are having their first backyard campout and have some hilarious plans to keep the grumbles and nom-bies away," she says. "My 2-year-old wants this one every day at both nap and bedtime."

"Another we are loving," says Jones, "is The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith. This is a gorgeous book about a young girl outside with her grandmother learning all the words for wild things that she never learned inside school. This is a great one for right now when so many parents are looking for school-at-home ideas and talking kids on neighborhood walks."

We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.