Northeast Ohio Parent Reading Room for 2020: Book Picks for Kids

Northeast Ohio Parent Reading Room for 2020: Book Picks for Kids

Looking for some great reads for your kids? Check out the list below for books recommended by local libraries, Northeast Ohio Parent editors and more. Be sure to check back as we add more books each month. 


Click here to view last year’s list.



by Jeannie Fleming-Gifford of Willoughby and Anna J. Magnusson of Columbus
Illustrated by Kira Weber of Chagrin Falls
This playful story for children ages 3-8 is an introduction to symphonic music, the orchestra and supports literacy development. The book was inspired by watching young children enter the orchestra hall, many for the first time, to experience a live performance of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra where Fleming-Gifford worked as the education director for several years. The authors hoped to capture the viewpoint of young children and their expectations of going to the symphony versus their actual experience. Artist Kira Weber, who has autism, was tasked to bring the book to life. Fleming-Gifford met  Weber at the Fairmount Center for the Arts, where Fleming-Gifford is the executive director. Proceeds from the book sales will support Fairmount Center for the Arts and I Am Able Iowa. For more information or to obtain a copy of “SymFUNNY,” visit


Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama
by Selina Alko
The book shares the blended traditions of two holidays — Christmas and Hanukkah — through the eyes of a young girl as her mixed-faith family comes together to celebrate.



Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa
by Donna L. Washington and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
The story of Li’l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa — coming together to help others. It provides a fun introduction to the holiday.



My Teacher’s in the Computer!  

By Shelby Hoefling and illustrator Stephanie Hider
This year is different for Haley as she embarks on an adventure of virtual learning and finds her teacher in her computer! With bring-a-bear-to-school day just around the corner, Haley teaches her No. 1 pal, Eddy the Teddy, how to be a gold-star virtual student with her special checklist and school routine. 



Democracy for Dinosaurs: A Guide for Young Citizens
By Laurie Krasny Brown
The book explores key civic values on every adult’s mind and shows young readers how the things they do every single day can be guided by principles we must share in a democratic society: freedom, fairness, the rule of law, equality, respect for free speech, and respect for the truth. By modeling accessible ways to practice being a good citizen, children will understand they are part of their country and that they have an important role to play.


The Journey
By Francesca Sanna
Without being overly scary, this picture book shows a realistic version of the refugee experience. It starts with a war, which takes the father. The mother and children decide to escape to another country, which promises safety. They run and hide in the darkness, and pay to have someone help them cross, but their journey is not over. There’s an ocean to cross, and still more borders to cross. Ages 6 and older.


The Name Jar
By Yangsook Choi
The book speaks to any child who’s ever felt different or shy about meeting new people.  When Unhei arrives in America from Korea, she not only has to deal with being the “new kid” but also having a strange name that no one can pronounce.This is a book about the simple but powerful ways that we can build bridges of friendship across cultures.


My Friend Has Autism
(Friends with Disabilities) 
By Amanda Doering Tourville, illustrated by Kristin Caraan Sorra
The book is about a friend, Zack, who has autism. However, it doesn’t matter to the narrator and they talk about airplanes, build models and enjoy hanging out at each other’s houses.


Editor’s Review
No Days Off: My Life with Type 1 Diabetes and Journey to the NHL
By Max Domi
Anyone who knows me and my family understands our winter life revolves around youth hockey schedules. Whether it’s traveling to cities like Buffalo (yes, we did this three times — all in January) or to the local ice rink, or cheering on our favorite NHL teams on the couch, our sons are dedicated to the game. My youngest, Anton, has never been a big reader, so I can only entice him to read books if they’re about hockey. He doesn’t like fictional hockey stories, but he wants to learn about the players and games of the past and future. One of his favorite Montreal Canadiens players, Max Domi, recently published a book. It’s about his passion for playing hockey, but also a big event that changed his life: a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at age 12. It didn’t slow him down or hinder his dream of becoming an NHL player. Even if your kids don’t like hockey, it’s a good story about overcoming obstacles and striving to do whatever it takes to reach your goals. I read the first chapter out loud to Anton, as the 223-page book was still a bit overwhelming for him. However, after that first chapter, he couldn’t put it down — and this was the first time I saw him embrace reading on his own. My advice if you have a reluctant reader, find books about a subject they enjoy.
— Angela Gartner

It’s Cool to Be an OMie
By Debbie Bard
Debbie Bard — a Kent State University graduate, certified children’s yoga instructor and life coach who has a degree in middle childhood education  — has a new book that provides a positive message to young readers and yoga enthusiasts: “Peace, love, happiness, Earth” is the constant theme of what it means to be an “OMie.” She hopes to spread her mission in teaching children the importance of loving oneself, embracing the practice of yoga and the power of nature for one’s mind, body and soul. It’s a happy read for families who want to help their kids to meditate on positivity and life lessons.
— Angela Gartner


If You Give a Pig a Party
By Laura Numeroff
Follow the adventure of pig and all her friends, who she invites to her party that includes a pillow fight, a game of hide-and-seek, balloons and more. It’s a book to read out loud to kids of all ages.
— Recommended by Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library


Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots
By Michael Rex
Do you know the difference between a fact and an opinion? It can be a hard thing to understand. Some things are facts, like the number of robots in this book. Other things are opinions, like which robot would make the best friend or which robot dances best.
— Recommended by Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library


Big Nate: Blow the Roof Off 
By Lincoln Pierce
Nate is back in this new comic strip collection of his latest hijinks this month. Making it to middle school has certainly increased the drama in his life.
— Recommended by Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library


Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World
A Graphic Collection from Kazoo
Readers will learn through short biographical comics about Julia Child and Frida Kahlo, as well as other not-as-well-known important women like Kate Werne, a detective who foiled an earlier attempt to assassinate President Lincoln.
— Recommended by Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library


Your Nose
By Sandra Boynton
Starring a little fox child and a big fox parent, here’s a loving ode to terrific noses of all kinds. It’s a celebration of the love between a parent and child — and of the beautiful, boop-able noses we love.


ABC Dance — An Animal Alphabet and Good Night Baboon — A Bedtime Counting Book
By Sabrina Moyle, illustrated by Eunice Moyle
A sister duo created two books to help kids learn their ABCs and how to count in these colorful, easy-to-read animal stories. 


Indestructibles Series with Let’s Be Kind and Let’s Go Outside
Different authors provide fun, short words in these non-toxic, washable books. Also, some titles such as “Hello Farm” and “Love You, Baby” are bilingual in Spanish and English. 




Baby Paleontologist
(Baby Scientist Series No. 4)
By Dr. Laura Gehl
Baby Scientist is an adorable board book series that brings fun, accessible science concepts to the baby’s world using simple language, recognizable settings and vibrant art.


Just Like Me
By Vanessa Brantley-Newton
An ode to the girl with scrapes on her knees and flowers in her hair, and every girl in between, this exquisite treasury will appeal to readers of “Dear Girl” and “I Am Enough,” and have kids poring over it to find a poem that’s just for them.


Never Let A Unicorn Get Spots!
By Diane Alber
A little girl wakes up one day to her Unicorn covered in spots. She has to find a solution, and quick, before these spots keep spreading. Also, look for Alber’s book “A Little SPOT of Kindness!” to help kids spread kindness every day.


Teaching Kids About Diversity:
I Love Me! 
By LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss, illustrated by Beth Hughes
In these times of protests regarding the death of George Floyd, racism and police brutality, it may be difficult to engage in conversations with children about these topics, especially in an age-appropriate manner. The book “I love Me!” celebrates everyone’s differences and promotes a good self-image. It also teaches kids about diversity, but can open the discussion about mistreatment of others in the community, bullying and racism.
— Angela Gartner


Strike Zone
By Derek Jeter
In the seventh book in the middle grade series inspired by the life of iconic New York Yankee Derek Jeter, young Derek and his friends learn the true meaning of teamwork when they have to embrace the unexpected on their baseball team.


Pete the Cat’s Family Road Trip
By James Dean
Pete the Cat and his family are ready to explore all the many wonderful American landmarks on their fun family road trip! They visit many famous sights, including Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Savannah and more.


Welcome to the Party
By Gabrielle Union
Actress Gabrielle Union pens this festive and universal love letter from parents to little ones, perfect for welcoming a baby to the party of life.


Freedom, We Sing
By Amyra León, illustrated by Molly Mendoza
Molly Mendoza’s immersive, lush illustrations invite kids to ponder singer/songwriter Amyra León’s poem about what it means to be free. It’s the perfect book for parents who want a way to gently start the conversation with their kids about finding hope in the tense times in which we’re living.


One Leaf Rides the Wind
By Celeste Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Filled with lush illustrations, this counting book reveals both the pleasure and the tranquility of the Japanese garden, while introducing haiku poetry, with eleven poems that are simple and easy to follow.


Local Spotlight: Cleveland Mom Creates Interactive Children’s Book Inspired by Her Son
Khadijah Fair, author, mom and entrepreneur, released her debut children’s book, “Oh Khalil and the Color Block Bandit,” last month. It was inspired by her son, 4-year-old son Khalil Johnson, whose Instagram video went viral after solving the Rubik’s cube at age 3. 

“There’s never a dull moment being Khalil’s mom, and I really wanted to capture the essence of his curiosity in a fun and educational way,” Fair says. “Khalil’s eagerness to learn and his adventurous spirit inspire me every day, and I’m certain that he’ll have a positive impact on everyone that reads this book, as well.”

The book immerses young readers on a quest following a curious Khalil as he nails down the culprit for his missing color blocks. Fair’s goal was to create an educational book with interactive learning surprises throughout. Whether it’s counting, answering context-based questions, or the introduction of American Sign Language, readers are exposed to a range of educational tidbits, which are ideal for a beginner reader.

— Available on all platforms, including at Barnes & Noble and at


Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo’s Super Adventure
By Sesame Street Workshop
Young children will join Elmo as he gets ready like a hero and learns about wearing masks and washing hands. With the help of Elmo and his mommy, this new story from Sesame Workshop will help children calm school anxiety and understand new and different routines they may experience.


Kindness Makes Us Strong
By Sophie Beer
This joyful board book shows various children as they extend kindness in all kinds of situations: on the playground, at lunchtime, on a bike path and on a neighborhood street. This sweet preschool read-aloud shows the way kindness helps build friendship and community.


8 Little Planets
By Chris Ferrie, illustrated by Lizzy Doyle
Travel around the solar system and celebrate what makes each planet unique. From Neptune to Mercury and all the planets in between, each one is different and each one is happy to be what they are.


Hello World! Birds
By Jill McDonald
This series is designed to introduce first nonfiction concepts to babies and toddlers. Told in clear and easy terms (“Peck, peck, peck! This noisy woodpecker is looking for food inside a tree trunk.”) and featuring bright, cheerful illustrations, “Hello, World!” makes learning fun for young children.



Spooky Pookie 
By Sandra Boynton
It’s Halloween! What will little Pookie decide to be this year? Pookie tries on costumes one by one, but somehow can’t find just the right thing. The resolution to Pookie’s dilemma will delight toddlers and their caregivers alike.



Don’t Push the Button: A Halloween Treat
By Bill Cotter
Go trick-or-treating with Larry in the hilarious Halloween hair-raising adventure in this book series. It’s an interactive story for toddlers or preschoolers that warns them not to ring the doorbell. See what happens when they do!  



Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?
By Jim Gigliotti
This is a great book for middle schoolers who will be learning about Edgar Allan Poe. Filled with broken hearts and black ravens, Poe’s ghastly tales have delighted readers for centuries. His first published story, “The Raven,” was a huge success, but his joy was overshadowed by the death of his wife. Poe devoted his life to writing and his tragic life often inspired his work. His poetry and stories continue to influence popular culture through films, music, literature and television



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