75 Books That Build Character

by Allison McDonald

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childrens books about morals

The number one thing you can do as a  parent to help teach your child to read is to read to them. The number one thing as a parent you can do for the world is to raise your child to be  a responsible caring adult .  Parenting is a challenge on good days but mixing lessons not just about concepts but about character with reading time is a shortcut that works. Books are a wonderful tool to reinforce tough to grasp lessons and to open the door for discussions that we aren’t always sure how to approach with our kids.  All these books build character,  teach lessons, have messages or open the floor for discussions without being preachy . Click through titles for full reviews of theses 75 books that build character.

  1. Shelia Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes
  2. The Family Book by Todd Parr
  3. Let Them Play by Margo Theis Raven
  4. Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman
  5. Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  6. Apple Pie Fourth Of July by Janet S. Wong
  7. A Chair For My Mother by Vera B Williams
  8. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
  9. Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann
  10. The Loudest Roar by Thomas Taylor
  11. Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson
  12. I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson
  13. Looking For Sleepy by Meribeth Boelts
  14. Pablo’s Tree by Pat Mora
  15. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  16. The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza by by Philomen Sturges
  17. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
  18. Murmel, Murmel, Murmel by Robert Munsch
  19. Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel
  20. Ordinary Amos And The Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes
  21. Alexander And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  22. Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch
  23. Piglet and Papa by Margaret Wild
  24. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
  25. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  26. Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell
  27. A Picture Book Of Helen Keller by David A. Adler
  28. Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni
  29. The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom
  30. Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse by Rebecca Janni
  31. Bear Stays Up At Christmas  by Karma Wilson
  32. Duck On A Bike by David Shannon
  33. Cowboy Camp by Tammi Sauer
  34. The List by Hazel Hutchins
  35. Scaredy Squirrel Makes A Friend by Melanie Watt
  36. Julius The Baby Of The World by Kevin Henkes
  37. Rosa By Nikki Giovanni
  38. The Pirate Of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon
  39. Is There Really A Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis
  40. A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow
  41. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  42. Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore
  43. The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
  44. Sink or Swim by Valerie Coulman
  45. The Princess and The Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch
  46. I Want To Be A Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis
  47. No! David by David Shannon
  48. My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris
  49. It’s Mine  by Leo Lionni
  50. Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora
  51. One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root
  52. How To Catch A Star by Oliver Jeffers
  53. My Best Friend Moved Away by Nancy Carlson
  54. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  55. The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jennifer Wojtowicz
  56. Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham
  57. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
  58. Music Over Manhattan by Mark Karlins
  59. I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
  60. Zip, Zip… Homework by Nancy Poydar
  61. Tacky The Penguin by Helen Lester
  62. Did I Tell You I Love You Today? by Deloris Jordan
  63. Hair For Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham
  64. I Don’t Want To Go To Bed by Julia Sykes
  65. Owen by Kevin Henkes
  66. The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein
  67. Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boyton
  68. Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
  69. Dad, Jackie and Me by Myron Ulberg
  70. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
  71. Click Clack Moo , Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
  72. A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn
  73. A Very Big Bunny by Marisabina Russo
  74. The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards
  75. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

What books do you think should have made the list?


Animal Books For Babies and Kids

by Carrie Anne
From baby animals to a secretive mouse, this months books have a distinctive animal flavour.
DK Canada
specialty board book
12 pages
Young kids are very tactile, holding, feeling, rubbing everything they come in contact with. Add to that baby animals and you have a book that will interest young readers. Baby Animals is sturdy for little hands to turn the pages and rub the fur of rabbits and calves. Touch a Feel books are a great way to explore vocabulary with young kids too, helping them to find words to describe what they are feeling. Baby Animals is just one of the books recently re-released in the Touch and Feel series.


Richard Scarry’s Readers (Level 2): A Smelly Story
Richard Scary’s Great Big Schoolhouse Readers – Level 2
Erica Farber, illustrated by Huck Scarry
age 5 to 6
24 pages
Sterling Publishing

The animal village created in Richard Scarry books were part of my childhood and have been popular with my own kids. A Smelly Story uses short sentences, limited vocabulary and repetition to make it an easier story for new readers to enjoy on their own. The front cover provides a few tips on sharing the book with kids and how to encourage them to read it on their own. The garbage angle might even appeal to boys who may be more reluctant to read. Who doesn’t love a good story about chasing a pile of garbage?

Wendy the Wide-Mouthed Frog

by Sam Lloyd
age 3 to 5
10 pages
Silver Dolphin Books/Raincoast Books
Like it or not, our kids will probably encounter someone who thinks they are better than anyone else (or they may go through a stage of this themselves). Wendy is a frog who thinks just that and criticises the other animals in the wild for not being as great as she is. That is, until she meets a squid. At first I thought, with Wendy poking fun of other animals, that the book was somewhat negative in nature. Although Wendy isn’t nice and does change her tune at the end (though doesn’t apologize to others for her behaviour), the book does open up an opportunity to discuss how negative comments can make our friends feel bad. Wendy herself is a hand puppet which mom can use to bring Wendy to life but the kids will love the squid page where they too can stick their hand in to be the squid’s tentacles. This moves kids from being passive listeners to interacting with the book too.

Little Mouse’s Big Secret

by Éric Battut
age 3 to 5
24 pages
Sterling Publishing
As a child it’s great to find or receive a special treat. Sometimes we’re worried we’ll have to share with others so we keep it a secret. That’s what Mouse does in Little Mouse’s Big Secret. Each page has a friend asking Mouse what he’s found but he doesn’t tell. Eventually Mouse’s secret is discovered and Mouse finds out sharing with his friends isn’t all that bad. I love the very simple look of this book, with a small line of text and just illustrations of a tree and mouse. Early readers will enjoy helping out as one line is repeated on many pages of the book. And then of course there’s the fun of actually sharing and enjoying something with your friends, as Mouse discovers near the end.

Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 , and is the Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief at EverythingMom.com.


New Books For The New Year

by Carrie Anne

From concept books to story books, resolve to start the New Year by spending more time sitting and exploring the joy of reading together.

This New Baby
by Teddy Jam, illustrated Virginia Johnson
Groundwood Books
board book
22 pages

Holding a new baby, staring into a newborn’s eyes, can evoke a feeling that is hard to put into words. This New Baby, with it’s water colour illustrations, tries to express what mothers, fathers, relatives feel through the use of poetic versus. A wonderful book to read with your new baby and remember those first moments of joy.

 Except the Color Grey
by Arlene Alda
Tundra Books
age 3-5
24 pages

What’s your favourite colour? It’s a common question asked of kids. The answer comes quick but usually it’s not just one colour. And who can blame them. Except the Color Grey explores this question with kids using wonderful coloured photographs depicting the sites kids might take in during their day. The words say what the kids are thinking about some of the colourful things they see outside. This is a great book exploring the idea of colour and how it exists in every day things. I love the use of general photos of things the kids could encounter when out. Why not explore some of your child’s favourite colours around the house or on a neighbourhood walk?

 Bear in a Square
by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Debbie Harter
Barefoot Books
age 3 to 5
32 pages

Bear in a Square is a fun concept book that combines shape recognition and counting. Follow bear’s adventures, from when he gets up until he goes to sleep. Each spread shows bear in his next environment, such as at school or visiting the circus bears. Readers are invited, through large text on the page, to find a shape in the illustration. As you turn the page, you’re asked to find a new shape and the number of images on each page increase from 1 to 10. Kids can count the shapes as they find them, plus they can count the line of shapes down the right, illustrating the number for that page. At the back is a page showing al the shapes with their names. Although the text is simple, the flow does illustrate a story which is nice within a concept book.

 Lots of Dots
by Craig Frazier
Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
age 3 to 5
32 pages

Okay, this isn’t a new book (released in 2010) but I do love it so. This colourful book invites you to examine the world around you, a world filled with dots of different sizes and functions, but dots none the less. I love the bright colours on the white pages with the dots highlighted. My kids loved pointing and counting all the dots on the pages. Plus afterwards they were more attune to the world around them, pointing out dots in things they never gave a second glance at before. A fun book.

 You Are a Gift to the World / The World is A Gift To You
by Laura Duksta, illustrated by Dona Turner
Sourcebooks/Raincoast Books
age 3-8
32 pages

It’s so easy to get caught up in the idea of ‘items’. This uniquely designed book is really two books in one but with the same message: people and the beautiful world around us are the best gifts we can receive. You Are a Gift to the World, talks about how important our kids our to us, how they make us feel and how that is gift enough. This can translate into all people who are important in our lives. The World is a Gift to You, reminds us of the special gift the world is with the animal, plants and nature surrounding us. Each tale ends in the middle with a simple message. Forget the Barbie, LEGO and transformers, this is a message of appreciating the gifts that are really important. I love that.

I want to thank Crystal from Raincoast Books, Sylvia from Tundra Books, Leah at Barefoot Books, and Trish at Groundwood books for my review copies.


Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 , and is the Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief at EverythingMom.com.

Books About Hanukkah For Kids

picture books about hanukkah Hanukkah is coming up and even though we celebrate Christmas I like to teach my kids about other traditions and holidays and picture books are a perfect way to start. Here are 8 Hanukkah picture books to check out.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko is a good book about how many families with two different faiths celebrate both  during the holidays. My son and I both really liked this book and it’s loving family that creates it’s own traditions from both parents. I wish it had more information about Hanukkah but that wasn’t it’s goal even if I was hoping to find it. What it did have was a lot of little bits of traditions that you can use to dig deeper to learn more.

The Miracle of Hanukkah by Seymour Chwast is a great non fiction book about Hanukkah. It explains the history behind the holiday in an easy to understand format. My favorite part is how the book has many different layers of pages to explain the fight between the Maccabees and Antiochus, it’s a fun way to keep kids into it while explaining the history.  Great book !

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland is a Hanukkah story about kindness repaid and how things can go awry. Sadie is a kind young woman and after she offers her fire wood to an older woman who is cold the older woman repays her with a magic frying pan. This pan magically makes latkes , as many as you want if you say the magic words . Her hungry brothers are overjoyed, their bellies are full but as often happens, they get greedy.  See the frying pan will keep cooking and cooking unless you know the magic words to make it stop, and her brothers didn’t hear those words. Mayhem ensues but the family and village find a way to make the mountains of latkes into a celebration. Beware you will be craving latkes after reading this, luckily there is a recipe.

A Confused Hanukkah: An Original Story of Chelm by Jon Koons is a delightful story about the village of Chelm, known by some as the village of fools.  The people of Chelm aren’t the brightest and when their Rabbi is away they have no one to guide them about Hanukkah. So they send a villager out to find out how to celebrate it, only he misses the nearby village and ends up in the big city where there are Christmas trees.  After he returns the village gets ready for Hanukkah with a dreidel covered Christmas tree, and they select the biggest fattest villager to be dressed as their version of Santa. Luckily the Rabbi returns , and gets the village back on course , explaining the proper Hanukkah traditions and the reasons behind them all. I love this book, I think it’s a great comical look at Hanukkah while really teaching much about it as well.

Hanukkah Lights by Ben Lakner is a book that is fun for a variety of ages and explains so much. For someone like me who has grown up with friends who celebrate Hanukkah but doesn’t herself, I know a little bit about the holiday but am fuzzy on the details. This book clears up those fuzzies! There is so much in this board book, little kids will love lifting the flaps to reveal fun details. The text is too long for the average toddler though, so if you are reading it only to a tiny one, I’d focus on the pictures and flaps, they are wonderful. If you are reading this with an older preschooler it’s perfect and they still love the flaps too!

Hanukkah Lights by David Martin is a new book to us and perfect for my toddler. Even though we do not celebrate Hanukkah I want my kids to be familiar with various religions and celebrations that go with them, this is a perfect first Hanukkah book . My daughter loved it and it was fun to read with my son and have him read unfamiliar words. I was so excited to find a great Hanukkah book for toddlers.

The Only One Club  by Jane Naliboff is a cute book about a little girl named Jennifer who is the only one in her class who celebrates Hanukkah. Soon she finds out that there are lots of “Only Ones” in her class , like the only one with red hair, the only one who wears dresses every day and the only one with a unique last name. I like the message this book has, that we should celebrate our diversity and tell our kids it’s not a bad thing to be unique.

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert is a bright and cheery look at the traditions surrounding the holiday within the parameters of a haiku on every page. The illustrations by Karla Gudeon are so detailed I spent ages just looking at all of it. Each page is a haiku that goes along with a night of Hanukkah and it also explains briefly some of the other traditions like playing driedel , eating latkes and chocolate gold coins!

Holiday Book Picks

by Carrie Anne

The days are busy, full of learning and fun. I love winding down with my kids by enjoying a book together. Here are a few holiday books and new books you might be interested in adding to your personal library.

 My Little Stocking
by Sara Gillingham
Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
Board book
12 pages

If you celebrate the holidays with stockings full of treats for your little one, you might enjoy My Little Stocking. This layered board book explores the question in a child’s mind when it comes to a full stocking Christmas morning: what could be in here. Each layer you turn in the book reveals colourful possibilities made out of felt and posing more questions. All the while, a little Elf peeks out, the head being a finger puppet you can move around as you read the story. The finger puppet concept is very similar to the Paul Frank Colors book reviewed last month .

Snow Baby Finger Puppet Book

Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
Chunky board book
12 pages

Baby’s first exposure to snow can be full of wonder and surprise for both baby and parents. Snow Baby takes you through baby’s experience in the snow, falling from the sky, landing on her face. The book is small and chunky for little hands and little ones will love the velvety soft baby face finger puppet that appears on each page, bring baby to life. The puppet hole is big enough for little fingers to probe too.

Michael Hague’s Treasury of Christmas Carols

by Michael Hague and Kathleen Hague
Sterling Children’s Books
Age 3-8
48 pages

Singing Christmas carols is a favourite pastime for our family during December. We sing along to the radio, music on the iPod, even just singing out of the blue.Michael Hague’s Treasury of Christmas Carols is a wonderful small collection holiday favourites that are easy for children to learn with their repetitive choruses: Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls,, Oh Christmas Tree, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Kids may know the tunes to these songs but not the words. This treasury includes a mix of large type words (without musical score to avoid confusion) and delightful Christmas illustrations of bunnies and cats and ducks enjoying the season.


by Paola Opal
Simply Read Books/Raincoast Books
Board book
24 pages

I’m always drawn to the look of a book first and I love the format for this board book, a tall rectangle versus a standard square board book. Bitsy is part of a new series of board books using simple illustrations with a limited colour palate. I love the story, a beaver family working together to build a damn. Mom and dad are able to cut the wood but Bitsy is not big enough yet to cut down the big pieces needed. A small hole in the damn needs the help of a small Beaver and Bitsy proves that all family members play an important role, each offering their own unique skills that make the family complete. What a wonderful message to give kids. I’m looking forward to reading some of the other books by Paola Opal.

 Animal Baths

by Bob Barner
Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
age 3-8
32 pages

Bath time can be something kids either enjoy or avoid. Animal Baths is a great way to encourage kids to get soapy and preen like a duck, scrub like a bear and other animals. The colourful pages with collage-like illustrations take kids through the cleaning routines of some common (and perhaps not so common) animals. Then it invites kids to get clean, asking which animal they will be in the tub. The last two pages take the animal attributes talked about in the earlier pages, incorporating them into your child’s bath routine. A fun story for reluctant bathers and bath lovers alike.

 The Crown On Your Head

by Nancy Tillman
Feiwel and FriendsRaincoast Books
age 5-8
32 pages
Most books I come across are stories designed with kids in mind; stories we read for our children’s enjoyment. The Crown on Your Head is a story just as much for mom and dad and for kids (though I think it might even be a little more for the parents). We know as parents how special our kids are and that we see them destined for great things. This story tries to explain this feeling to kids, by talking about their invisible crown of magnificence. Unlike a traditional crown, like in the monarchy, that makes someone better than everyone else, this crown exists on everyone’s head, their special soul or ora. My 5-year old enjoyed the story but I took it more to heart I think, making me a little teary as a read it. I also love the note at the end of the book about how kids can reaffirm to themselves that their crown is indeed there, even if they can’t see it. A wonderful bedtime story or great for those growing and transition stages your kids go through.

I want to thank Katie from Sterling Children’s Books and Crystal from Raincoast Books for my review copies.
Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 , and is the Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief at EverythingMom.com.