The best kid’s books on living a great life

The Books I Picked & Why

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

By Colin Thompson, Amy Lissiat

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Why this book?

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley is a book that, well, the first time I read it my mind was blown. This is a self-help book for all humans in a picture book. It takes our thirst to live forever, to always want more, be more, see more, do more, look better, and compares that with the wonderful Riley, who is happy with some fruit and maybe a couple of slugs on Tuesday or Friday.

He likes a little stick that can scratch his back.
He looks like Riley. Why would he want to look like anything else?

This is a beautifully written and illustrated book on being grateful for what we have.


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Celeste the Giraffe Loves to Laugh

By Celeste Barber, Matt Cosgrove

Celeste the Giraffe Loves to Laugh

Why this book?

The great thing about picture books is they can give these incredible, and sometimes incredibly simple, messages about life. Celeste the Giraffe Loves to Laugh is a story about Celeste, who doesn’t know where she fits in, she feels like all the other animals are cooler than her. So she sets out to be like them in order to be “better”. But that leads to one disaster after another, with Matt Cosgrove’s hilarious illustrations adding to the action as Celeste uses all sorts of random items for her costumes.

In the end, Celeste finds her own special gift, the thing that makes her at least as cool as all the other animals!


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The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg

By Bill Peet

The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg

Why this book?

This was my favourite book as a kid, and I still love it now. Bill Peet is an incredible author and artist, who also did amazing work for Walt Disney. Many of his books are about finding the gift in your uniqueness, where the thing that makes the main character an outcast, the butt of jokes, ends up being the thing that makes them special in the end. 

The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg does this wonderfully as Zeke, a griffin hatched by a pigeon, finds his heart, courage, and uniqueness to save the very birds who had wanted to exile him.


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Stargirl

By Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl

Why this book?

While my first three suggestions were picture books, I have upped the age a little here. Stargirl is a tween/YA novel, and it is incredible. Jerry Spinelli has written a personal development book in the form of a beautiful work of fiction. Standing out, fitting in, being yourself, hiding your gifts, embarrassment of yourself and others, beauty, it’s all here as the amazing ukulele playing, singing, gift-giving, caring, “oddly”-dressed Stargirl enters the life of a normal, everyday town and turns it on its head.

As a reader, Stargirl is a warm cuddle of delight. As a writer, Stargirl is a lesson in language and imagery. A must-read.


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Harpo Speaks!

By Harpo Marx, Rowland Barber

Harpo Speaks!

Why this book?

Okay, I am totally cheating here. Harpo Speaks! is not specifically a kid’s book at all (although it would be wonderful to read with and to upper primary and older), but it is my favourite book of all time, and I couldn’t not include it here. Harpo Speaks! is the autobiography of Harpo Marx. I have read it at least ten times, and every time I learn something new. 

The Marx Brothers show how life can and should be fun, but that the fun comes after and while you are working incredibly hard towards a dream. And of all of them, Harpo’s attitude to and joy of life is a lesson to us all. I can’t recommend this highly enough.


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