5 Children’s Books About Families That Will Make You Smile

I’ve been happy to read all of these engaging stories many times over with my kiddo. Hopefully you’ll find something new and fun for your TBR here. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

My picture book posts were originally published and then occasionally expanded between 2012-2015, with reviews based on reading with my kiddo between preschool age and about eight years old. As of 2023-24, I’m freshening up my lists and adding more recs.

Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen, with art by Kadir Nelson.

Nelson is one of my all-time favorite children’s book artists, so I checked this one out and read it by myself before Boy Detective even had a chance to look at it. Re-reading it with him was a delight, because he enjoyed the magical tale as much as I did. It’s a remix of the classic fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, except with 12 boys of a single dad preacher in Harlem. Narrated by the family dog, the text is full of energy and fun. (My only complaint is about what happens to the dog at the end! Surely the family will reconsider?)

My Name is Elizabeth, by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. Elizabeth is no one’s Lizzy, Liz, Beth, or Betsy – and she’s not shy about letting you know! But there is one special someone who can get away with calling her something else. I love Elizabeth’s mix of regal pronouncements and friendliness, and the reactions of all the townspeople to her declarations. There are lots of fun little details going on in the rooms of her house too.

How To Be A Baby, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap.

I didn’t know if Boy Detective would get this, since he is an only child, but luckily he has met quite a few babies, so he thought it was hilarious. The narrator is the big sister, and she can tell you ALL about how bad it is to be a baby. You can’t do anything fun, you can’t eat anything good, and when you’re bad you get put in baby prison (playpen.) Of course, she also spends the whole book entertaining the baby and smiling at him, and she has already worked out a plan for all the fun things they’re going to do when he gets bigger. So it’s funny, especially for grownups who have met that older child who’s full of opinions about the younger sibling, but it’s also sweet.

What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum, with illustrations by Adrian Johnson.

Patrick’s ready for bed at Granny’s, but there are so many things missing! Luckily, Granny will stop at nothing to make things right. Anyone who’s known a good grandma will enjoy her determination to make her beloved grandson happy and comfortable.

Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

I rarely go looking for children’s picture books that convey deep life lessons. I certainly don’t expect to find them in books with purple rhinos on the cover. But wow, this one packs a punch. It’s a silly story about Daisy’s reaction when the aforementioned purple rhinoceros shows up in her house. It’s also a cautionary tale about what happens to families when adults don’t listen to children. If I were insecure about my relationship with my kid, I might feel quite threatened by it. Since I’m not, I can just take it as a friendly reminder to be more present when I can. To Daisy’s parents’ credit, when they do get the wake-up call, they respond quickly and with love. So that’s a good demonstration that even when things get off track in relationships, it’s worth making the effort to get things back on track. Both Kemp and Ogilvie do an amazing job here. Kemp’s writing is funny and well-crafted. Ogilvie’s drawings are so expressive and her color choices are bold and gorgeous.

And that’s the list!