“Send me everything your kid is reading right now”—a frequent request in my mom group text chain. How come? The desire to refresh our kids’ bookshelves is constant, voracious readers that they are. That’s why we chatted with actual parents, librarians and book publishers to find the best new kids’ books of 2021. Here, 11 of our favorites.

RELATED: 28 Classic Children’s Books That Everyone Should Read

oakley the squirrel
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1. Oakley the Squirrel: The Search for Z by Nancy Rose

Best for Ages 0 to 4

Alphabet 101, this book puts a creative spin on the ABCs as Oakley the Squirrel embarks on a quest to find the letter Z amongst a series of everyday objects. But will he reach the end of his exhausting search? Your little one will love following along.

Buy It ($7)

the boy who loved everyone
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2. The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter

Best for Ages 3 to 7

A thoughtful tale about navigating the social cues of friendship, this book follows preschooler Dimitri who can’t help but verbalize his affection for, well, everyone and everything. That is, until he learns that love can go unspoken, too.

Buy It ($14)

more than sunny
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3. More Than Sunny by Shelley Johannes

Best for Ages 4 to 8

This rhythmic story follows a pair of siblings, one of whom always sees the bright side of every situation. But given that the optimism (it’s not early, it’s birdy!) is rooted in curiosity above all else, it eventually proves to be infectious for the other half of the pair.

Buy It ($15)

school is cool
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4. School Is Cool by Sabrina Moyle

Best for Ages 5 to 9

First day jitters abound for this crew of animal friends navigating their first day at school. This colorful book captures all the most common nerves—making new friends, what to wear, how to fit in—giving kids a silly take on what to expect.

Buy It ($14)

fred gets dressed
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5. Fred Gets Dressed by Peter Brown

Best for Ages 3 to 6

Clothes? Meh—Fred prefers to be naked. That is until he wanders into his parents’ closet and suddenly feels inspired to get dressed. But his dad’s clothes don’t quite fit. This charming story about self-discovery and non-traditional gender roles is a must-read.

Buy It ($9)

a sled for gabo
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6. A Sled for Gabo by Emma Otheguy

Best for Ages 4 to 8

What’s a snow day without a sled? A little boy who doesn’t have much is about to get in on the fun, thanks to a community of neighbors eager to lend a helping hand.

Buy It ($16)

milo imagines the world
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7. Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena

Best for Ages 4 to 8

Appearances can be deceiving, Milo learns, as he embarks on a long subway ride with his sister, making observations and illustrating the journeys of his fellow passengers along the way. But when he locks eyes with a little boy, about his age and in a suit, he makes an inaccurate assumption. The lesson? You can’t know anyone just by looking at them.

Buy It ($13)

a song of frutas
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8. A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle

Best for Ages 4 to 8

When a little girl visits her grandfather in Cuba, the pair delight at singing special songs together all in the name of selling his delicious frutas. But, later, when they’re back apart, the tunes they shared keep them connected, no matter how many worlds away they feel.

Buy It ($16)

what the road said copy
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9. What the Road Said by Cleo Wade

Best for Ages 6 to 10

It’s true, in life, that we don’t always feel sure of our step or the right path to take. This book articulates just that via a child’s interactions with an actual road that rises up to meet their feet. The moral of the story? Just keep going—that’s the best you can do.

Buy It ($17)

the little things
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10. The Little Things by Christian Trimmer

Best for Ages 4 to 8

The ripple effect of small acts of kindness is real as one little girl discovers after she returns a sea star that has washed ashore to the ocean. Cue the domino effect of paying it forward...and making a big difference on the whole.

Buy It ($13)

help mom work from home
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11. Help Mom Work from Home! by Diana Murray

Best for Ages 4 to 8

Working from home is easy, especially if you have a pint-sized leader keeping you on task. (Not so much.) But when mom starts to appear a bit frazzled, will her “co-worker” tune in and help her manage the stress? Prepare to laugh (and cry) as you read this sweet and hilarious nod to the perks and pitfalls of working from home with kids.

Buy It ($15)

RELATED: The 2021 Happy Kid Awards: Your Guide to the Coolest Products for Kids of All Ages

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