Mama’s Secret Tip for Finding Great Kids’ Books

So, I’m apparently not one of the most observant people you’ll meet.

My mom and I still discuss Nancy’s “titian hair”.

I never figure out “who dun it” in a mystery novel until the bad guy literally is explaining his entire motive to the tied-up hero. Does that make me the perfect mystery-novel audience? (My mom read the entire Nancy Drew series to me as a child. I was shocked Every Time.) Gone Girl floored me, but I don’t think I was alone in this. I mean, who can conceptualize a story like that?!

I believed in Santa Claus until I was about 9 years old by purposely looking the other way and ignoring any naysayers. I’m not sure if that makes me naive or just looking to continue the magic a liiiittle bit longer.


I DID notice something fun and sneaky in the children’s section of the library.

But, first, a quick backstory.

I’ve been doing some research into children’s book publication (I get my research skills from my Nancy Drew days. Girl knew what was up). The whole kit and kaboodle (FYI – I always thought this was “kitten kaboodle” until I Googled today…whatever that may be) is scary and overwhelming and, well, sadly dismal most of the time. On the other hand, all of my favorite authors–both children’s books and adult–have stood the test and gotten their delightful books published, so it can’t be all scary, overwhelming, and dismal.

Through my research, I discovered Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books is one of the (VERY) few publishing houses to still accept unagented and unsolicited manuscripts from author-wannabes. I started scrolling through their book list and began putting Chronicle Books library books on hold. The more I read with George, the more I liked their choices. Chronicle Books publishes thoughtful, quirky kids’ books, and I have yet to find a dud (though we haven’t made it through the whole catalog, but I have a good feeling).


One day in our living room, I found myself studying our shelf of library books (I keep them separate from our personal books Mama would go mad looking for lost library books). I noticed something fun and clever.

Every book published by Chronicle Books has these nifty, little stripes on the spine.

OK, this may not excite everyone, but I excitedly took my new-found knowledge to the library and browsed the children’s section. Since I haven’t found an annoying book written by Chronicle Books yet, I now snatch every book I see with these fancy-dancy stripes and add it to my bag.

Some of our Chronicle Books faves:


Flora and the…(Penguin, Peacocks, Flamingo) series by Molly Idle, as reviewed here.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex, as reviewed here.

Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet, as reviewed here.

Press Here by Hervé Tullet, as reviewed here.

carnivoresCarnivores by Aaron Reynolds (Hil-ARIOUS)

Mine! by Jeff Mack (review to come!)

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel (My biologist husband especially thought this was clever.)

goodnightChronicle Books also famously pulled Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey out of their “slush pile” (the piles and piles of manuscripts they receive each month) to create a New York Times best seller. The stuff of dreams, people! Construction equipment just isn’t George’s jam (unless that excavator has a picture of, say, Texas on the side, THEN we’re really cooking with gas!), but I know so many little boys (and big boys) are infatuated with tough, loud machines.

I discovered most of these books prior to actually discovering Chronicle Books, so–happy coincidence! Keep an eye out for the little stripes, and I doubt you’ll be disappointed. 

A little tip for you fast-movin’ mamas out there. (#WinkyFace) I hope you find some new titles you and your kiddos love.

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