The best children’s picture books by first-time authors

Who am I?

As a former teacher, and grandmother of 13 now-grownup kids, I can’t begin to count the total number of children’s books I’ve read. A gazillion maybe? I have published 5 children’s books of my own and have read them to hundreds of classes all over the U.S. I have been an editor of children’s books for about 10 years and feel honored every time an author hands their precious manuscript over to me for assistance. I’ve read so, so many amazing books. It was difficult to name just a handful, but these books spoke to me, evoking emotions that stayed with me long after the last i was dotted and t was crossed. I hope you will feel that as well.


I wrote...

The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

By Bobbie Hinman, Kristi Bridgeman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

What is my book about?

The Knot Fairy was my first picture book. It blossomed out of love for my grandchildren (and their messy hair) and was a story that had to be told. You see, everyone knows her. She visits children everywhere…And she just likes to tangle their hair! Aha! So she’s the one! Soon my ideas morphed into a series of fairy books, each featuring the pranks of a different mischievous fairy. My mantra became, “Who better to blame it on than a fairy?”

As my first book remains near and dear to my heart, I have had the pleasure of meeting many other first-time authors, each with a story that is near and dear to their heart. The following books are among the best.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Alice Eloise's Silver Linings: The Story of a Silly Service Dog

By Sarah Kathryn Frey, Kit Laurence Nacua (illustrator),

Book cover of Alice Eloise's Silver Linings: The Story of a Silly Service Dog

Why this book?

I look for passion in an author’s voice. I found it in this stunning new book. Sarah Kathryn Frey has a heartfelt story to tell, but unlike other stories, this one is narrated by her dog, Alice Eloise. Rather than dwell on her disability, the author stresses that, if we look for it, there is always a silver lining. Her “silly service dog” takes us through her own trials and training. The dog is learning to take care of her beloved Sarah while remaining her silly self. Children will enjoy Alice Eloise’s antics—especially her restraint in learning not to dive for a loose French fry. The vibrant illustrations add even more beauty to the story.


Claire Blair's Unruly Hair: A Curly-Girl Tale (Brown Hair)

By Tara Cavosie, Shereen Said (illustrator),

Book cover of Claire Blair's Unruly Hair: A Curly-Girl Tale (Brown Hair)

Why this book?

I have always believed that in a perfect children’s book, young readers are able to identify with the characters, perhaps even visualizing themselves in the story. This book goes above and beyond this belief. The main character has curly hair but, like most girls, thinks the grass is greener (or the hair is straighter) on all of the other girls. As Claire struggles to accept her big, unruly, curly hair, she embarks on a journey to find ways to change it. With the story’s charming illustrations and delightful rhyming text, this is a sweet story of acceptance and inclusion. But what really sets this book apart from other books is that it is available in 4 different versions! Readers can choose from African American Claire, Brunette Claire, Blonde Claire, or Redhead Claire! Wow!


Do Not Wish For A Pet Ostrich!: A story book for kids ages 3-9 who love silly stories

By Sarina Siebenaler,

Book cover of Do Not Wish For A Pet Ostrich!: A story book for kids ages 3-9 who love silly stories

Why this book?

Children love to believe in make-believe—and I believe in letting them believe as long as possible. This book, with its rollicking humor, is one that children will want you to read over and over again. When a young girl wishes for a pet ostrich, she has no idea what she’s in for. Imagine trying to walk an ostrich on a leash or feed him 78 apples that get stuck in his long throat! This hilarious rhyming story, with illustrations that almost jump off the page, also has an ending you would never expect.


Mighty Mila: An Inclusive Children's Book about an Unstoppable Deaf Girl

By Katie Petruzziello, Nadja Sarell (illustrator),

Book cover of Mighty Mila: An Inclusive Children's Book about an Unstoppable Deaf Girl

Why this book?

I love children’s books that teach values through the words and actions of believable characters. This is one of my favorites. Based on a true story, little Mila has cochlear implants, yet wants to prove that she is every bit as bright, as strong, and as brave as any other child. Her goal is to do everything herself and never ask for help. But when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, she must prove how mighty she really is. Filled with bright, detailed illustrations that add so much to the story, this heartwarming tale is all about believing in yourself.


Molly Morningstar A Doll for Me: A Fun Story About Diversity, Inclusion, and a Sense of Belonging

By Andrea Coke, M. Fernanda Orozco (illustrator),

Book cover of Molly Morningstar A Doll for Me: A Fun Story About Diversity, Inclusion, and a Sense of Belonging

Why this book?

I always appreciate children’s books that are diverse. Children everywhere should be given the opportunity to see themselves in the stories they read. It’s important for adults to understand that what a child takes away from a storybook character can become a life-altering emotion. I found that emotion in this book. Molly Morningstar is a little girl with a problem: She can’t find a doll that looks like her! Sure, the dolls all look like her classmates, but not one looks like Molly. In refusing to settle for just any other doll, Molly finds the perfect solution to the problem. What if she could make a doll? I love the emotion, fortitude, and creativity shown by our shining star, Molly Morningstar.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dolls, assistance dog, and African Americans?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dolls, assistance dog, and African Americans.

Dolls Explore 12 books about dolls
Assistance Dog Explore 7 books about assistance dog
African Americans Explore 435 books about African Americans

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Rescue and Jessica, Sago, A Very Special Service Dog, and Our Service Dogs if you like this list.