The best children’s books that celebrate the joys of friendship, exploration, and imagination

Who am I?

Hi there! I am a children’s author, illustrator, and designer living in MA. I spend a lot of time thinking about how important friendship is to me; both the good and bad times, and how I could have handled certain scenarios differently. Books give us the opportunity to act out scenarios without having to live them. Books can teach us mannerisms and coping skills, making us more prepared for life. They also give us an opportunity to take a break from reality and sneak off into other worlds from time to time. Every book on my list highlights the importance of friendship and the thrill of adventure, I hope you enjoy them!  


I wrote...

The Flower Garden

By Renee Kurilla,

Book cover of The Flower Garden

What is my book about?

After planting a seed packet in the backyard, things don’t go as expected for best friends Anna and Tess. They fall asleep in the sun and wake up to blooms as tall as buildings! Did the seeds really grow that fast?

All is explained when Anna and Tess meet May, a little garden gnome whose magic is responsible for the transformation. The girls are May’s size now, and they follow her through the flower garden and into May’s underground gnome home—discovering new things about their world and themselves along the way. This immersive graphic novel from author-illustrator Renée Kurilla is perfect for emerging readers. It explores growing and changing friendships and offers details to discover on every page and with every read.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Tiger vs. Nightmare

Renee Kurilla Why did I love this book?

This book is such a clever way to approach a nightmare discussion with older kids. I first picked it up because I love Emily’s art; her watercolors are so expressive and rich. 

It’s easy to fall in love with the simplicity of the little futuristic world that Tiger lives in. She has a monster living under her bed that actually helps fight off nightmares, how lucky! 

The way Emily weaves the story, you can clearly see Tiger’s struggles with the scary thoughts on her mind. Emily highlights the importance of talking about it and working together to conquer those fears. It’s a very powerful experience!

If a kid can relate to Tiger’s character, I would imagine they would feel empowered to conquer their own scary thoughts, too. 

By Emily Tetri,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tiger vs. Nightmare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Tiger is a lucky kid: She has a monster living under her bed.

This monster arrived when Tiger was just a baby. It was supposed to scare her - after all, that's what monsters do. But Tiger was just too cute! Now, Tiger and Monster are best friends.

But Monster is a monster, and it needs to scare something. So every night, Monster stands guard and scares all of Tiger's nightmares away. This arrangement works out perfectly, until a nightmare arrives that's too big and scary for even Monster. Only teamwork and a lot of bravery can chase this nightmare…


Book cover of Little Robot

Renee Kurilla Why did I love this book?

A young girl, who appears to be different from the other kids in her town, finds a misplaced robot and teaches it the joys of nature (exploring, petting cats, skipping rocks, etc.). They continue to meet every day, and each day their friendship grows stronger. Eventually, the friends realize they are very different, and the robot longs to find more of his kind. 

The concepts are more advanced in this story than the others I’ve chosen. The girl is a loner who finds a friend she wants to protect by any means. The robot resists her protective nature because he wants to be free. Through this struggle, we watch the girl uncover a talent for tinkering and building that helps everyone in the end. 

Ben Hatke does so much storytelling in his amazing art. Most of the dialogue consists of Jonks, Morps, and other sound effects. I would recommend this graphic novel for any early reader, especially those who are beginning to form solid friendships.

By Ben Hatke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Little Robot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lonely girl befriends a sweet little robot in this brand new adventure from Zita the Spacegirl author Ben Hatke! When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it's all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!


Book cover of Snail Crossing

Renee Kurilla Why did I love this book?

Snail is cabbage bound! The only thing that stands in his way is a busy highway and the fact that he moves…at a snail’s pace. Through his determination, he finds a way to be helpful to a colony of ants who ultimately find a way to return the favor.

This story has so much subtle humor and makes a great read-aloud. (My 5-year-old daughter cackles when snail tries to make “evasive maneuvers” to avoid a crow.) It teaches how you can be persistent, kind, and brave all while having a good sense of humor. In the end, it pays off for everyone because Snail and the ants have forged a new friendship!

By Corey R. Tabor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Snail Crossing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

In a book that is as cheerful and charming as Snail himself, Corey Tabor tells a winning tale of slow but steady Snail, whose determination and kindness bring him the best reward of all: friendship.

When Snail spies a plump, crisp cabbage across the road, nothing will stop him-not a speeding car or even a hungry crow.

But then kindhearted Snail stops to help a crew of antsy ants in a rainstorm, and he loses his way. It looks like he will never get his treat-until Snail's new friends come up with an ingenious idea. . . .


Book cover of A Tale of Two Sloths

Renee Kurilla Why did I love this book?

This book has the perfect sense of humor to grab your attention, but then slips in notes on being a good friend, bravery, trusting others, and general appreciation for the world we live in. 

Peter and Ernesto are so relatable (I truly think there is a little bit of my own personality in each of them). Peter is content to experience life right where he is, Ernesto wants to explore. When Ernesto leaves their shared tree home to see more “pieces of the sky,” Peter panics and tries to catch up with him to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. In doing so, nervous Peter has unknowingly been as brave as Ernesto! In the end, they reunite (in the most hilarious way) and realize how much they need each other. 

I can see kids re-reading this one a lot, and also grabbing one of the other 2 books in the series!

By Graham Annable,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Tale of Two Sloths as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Peter and Ernesto are sloths. Peter and Ernesto are friends. But Peter and Ernesto are nothing alike. Peter loves their tree and never wants to leave, while Ernesto loves the sky and wants to see it from every place on Earth. When Ernesto leaves to have a grand adventure, Peter stays behind and frets. The two friends grow even closer in separation, as Peter the homebody expands his horizons and Ernesto the wanderer learns the value of home. With ridiculously cute art and simple, funny text, their reunion is even more adorable than you are imagining.

Laika Studios superstar artist,…


Book cover of Little Fox in the Forest

Renee Kurilla Why did I love this book?

Stephanie Graegin’s art is warm and welcoming. I was already familiar with the adorable anthropomorphic characters in her other books when I discovered Little Fox in the Forest. She seems to have created an entire world all her own that translates so well from book to book. You can always expect caring, kindness, and friendship in Stephanie’s world. 

The wordless story introduces two friends, a girl and a boy. When a cute little, sweatered fox snatches the girl’s favorite stuffed animal from the playground, her friend helps her try to find it. They run into the woods together and happen upon the most amazing alternate universe.

The girl and boy locate the stuffed animal only to discover that the little fox who found it seems to need it so much more. Through a happy ending, we learn that sharing can feel rewarding too.

By Stephanie Graegin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Little Fox in the Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Fans of Aaron Becker’s Caldecott Honor winner Journey will love this utterly enchanting wordless picture book in which two friends follow a young fox deep into the woods and discover a wondrous and magical world.
 
When a young girl brings her beloved stuffed fox to the playground, much to her astonishment, a real fox takes off with it! The girl chases the fox into the woods with her friend, the boy, following close behind, but soon the two children lose track of the fox. Wandering deeper and deeper into the forest, they come across a tall hedge with an archway.…


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Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

Book cover of Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

Christina Weigand Author Of Palace of the Twelve Pillars

New book alert!

Who am I?

My faith is a driving force in my life. Writing and dragons are my passions after my family. When not writing I mentor young people in their own writing. I’ve taken several writing courses and continue to study and work on honing my craft. Dragons serve as messengers of God in my books. I studied dragon lore and found the dragons an excellent vehicle for sharing God’s message. The dragons play a sentient, teaching, guiding role in the books they are featured in. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bad dragons to challenge the characters and the good dragons. 

Christina's book list on dragons with a Christian message

What is my book about?

When the head of an ancient Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn’t enough money to pay the hefty Roman taxes.

The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery inside a cruel centurion’s home. As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion’s children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

When the centurion travels to Jerusalem, Chana is unaware of her family's presence in the city. But the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Naftili, Chana's brother, is taken as a slave in the same house as his sister, where he discovers that Chana isn’t the same girl he grew up with.

Their fate to live a life as slaves seems impossible to overcome until they are rescued by dragons sent from God. But all is not easy as their faith journey continues. They will encounter obstacles designed to prevent them from becoming Dragon Guardians, faithful followers who spread and protect the Word of God.

Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

What is this book about?

When the head of a Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn't enough money for the hefty Roman taxes. The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery in a cruel centurion's home.

As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion's children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

Unaware of her family's presence in Jerusalem, the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. While struggling to overcome her traumas, her…


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