Sitting down and reading to our kids has saved us in so many situations: They can’t sleep? Read them a book. Their energy level is bonkers x bananas? Read them a book. They’re antsy in a restaurant? Ok, you see our parenting pattern. But while we were busy making goat noises and imagining what Amelia Bedelia sounds like, some life lessons—profound ones about what it means to be a mother—started sneaking out between the lines. Here, a roundup of books that may not tell us what to expect but raise our expectations of ourselves. 

RELATED: 15 Books Every Baby Needs in His or Her First Library

children books koala
HMH Books for Young Readers

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

A tale of sibling rivalry told from the perspective of an ambitious koala, it drives home the longing of every firstborn baby.  

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children books harriet
HMH Books for Young Readers

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox

For every mom who has ever lost it at the end of a long day, let this be a reminder of how universal that moment is—and a lesson in forgiving yourself.

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childrens books one more
Viking Books for Young Readers

Just One More by Jennifer Hansen Rolli

Total eye candy (author-illustrator Rolli is also a fine artist), this book celebrates relentless toddler negotiator Ruby without any hint of exasperation.

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childrens books Gregory
Scholastic

Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat

Gregory the goat has his parents worried sick when all he wants to eat is “disgusting” food like eggs, vegetables and orange juice instead of a “normal” diet of car parts and leather boots. A welcome dash of humor for anyone parenting a picky eater. 

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RELATED: Bye-Bye, Goldfish and Bananas: Here’s How to Raise An Adventurous Eater

childrens books puch
Nancy Paulsen Books

Pouch by David Ezra Stein

This is the story of Joey, a baby kangaroo who tentatively leaves, and frequently returns to, the comfort of his marsupial mama. It’s a hopeful salve for anyone struggling with separation. 

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childrens books bj novak
Dial Books

The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak

An instant antidote to any bad mood (yours or theirs), the Office writer delivers a direct hit to every child’s funny bone. But parent-readers also get served a subtle reminder about how smart and special our audience truly is.  

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childrens books places
Random House

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Full of colorful metaphors about life’s inevitable ups and downs, there’s a reason this Seussian masterpiece has become an evergreen graduation gift.

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childrens books goodnight moo
HarperFestival

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

No matter how frantic your day or how rushed your bedtime routine, this 70-year-old classic infuses every parent’s voice with just the right dose of mellow, meditative magic.

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childrens books olivia
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Olivia by Ian Falconer

This subtly sophisticated book stars a precocious, limit-pushing pig. We identify with her just-patient-enough pig mother—yet we root for the artsy Olivia and love her anyway, too. 

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childrens books meansoup
HMH Books for Young Readers

Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt

A recipe for how to soothe any school-age kid returning home after a rough day in the trenches.

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childrens books tantrum
HMH Books for Young Readers

The Chocolate-Covered Cookie Tantrum by Deborah Blumenthal

Blumenthal nails the nuanced details about what it feels like to experience an epic tantrum, from the perspective of both the child and the parent. It’s as reassuring (the storm passes) as it is relatable (my kid's not the only one who lies down on the sidewalk!).

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childrens books pete
HarperCollins

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

What does this cool kitty do when his brand-new white kicks get covered in everything from blueberries to mud? He takes it in stride, of course. Meet your new role model for keeping calm when life gets crazy. 

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childrens books sophie
The Blue Sky Press

When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang

Little Sophie gets ridiculed by classmates for her take on an art assignment, and you get a conversation starter about bullying and being strong enough to be yourself.

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childrens books napping
HMH Books for Young Readers

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

Soothing visuals, lulling word patterns—reading this is the perfect way to reset when a nap gets interrupted…or doesn’t happen at all. 

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childrens books berenstein
Random House Books for Young Readers

The Bearenstain Bears Get the Gimmies by Stan and Jan Bearenstain

Struggles with self-regulation, a fixation on getting new stuff NOW, freaking out upon hearing the word “no”—if you’re working on any of these issues at home, this is a must-read. 

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childrens books nanette
Disney-Hyperion

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems

Nanette is elated to get her first taste of responsibility: picking up a delicious baguette from her neighborhood bakery. When things go off the rails, her reaction is hilarious while her mom’s is heartwarming.

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RELATED: 15 Books That Teach Kids Kindness

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