With back to school season officially in full swing, it’s no wonder so many NJMOMs have got books on the brain. I like to shop local, and books are no exception—so I’m rounding up a list of my fave children’s books by authors homegrown or bred in the Garden State. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of these clever minds (hello, Patrick McDonnell!) at local readings and book fairs in our town, which makes reading them all the more special. Here are the books my three boys are currently reading and loving (or are on our wish list):
featured image, Goodnight Princeton by Mimi Omiecinski
Amelia Bedelia Road Trip! by Herman Parish (Princeton, NJ)
Celebrate America’s beloved housekeeper re-imagined as a delightful young girl in Herman Parish’s series of Amelia Bedelia chapter books that are just right for beginning independent readers. In this illustrated adventure, young Amelia Bedelia piles into the family car and takes a road trip with her family—of course, taking everything literally and that leads to all kinds of silly misunderstandings—just the kind of literal literacy that won us over in the original books when we were kids! Herman Parish was in the fourth grade when his aunt, Peggy Parish, wrote her first Amelia Bedelia book, and now continues to carry on the family legacy for a new generation of readers.
Momo and Snap Are Not Friends by Airlie Anderson (Belle Mead, NJ)
The gorgeous opaque watercolor illustrations in Airlie Anderson’s children’s books alone are enough to capture your child’s vivid imagination. Airlie creates all her own illustrations and is also the author of my two-year-old’s current fave picture book, Momo and Snap, which is a hilarious story told without words—only assorted grunts and noises. It describes how a competitive relationship between a crocodile and a monkey turns into a supportive one and is perfect for a rising pre-schooler.
The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz (Princeton U alum)
If you have a budding Chopped Jr. chef on your hands, they will love reading The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz. This is the smart story of a basketball-playing, cake-baking protagonist who has to move away from the greatest city in the world to middle-of-nowhere Petersville. It’s a heartwarming story of family, entrepreneurship, and recognizing our unique talents. As a family who has moved 3 times since having kids (and our own 8-year-old foodie at home), we definitely relate to this sweet story, which will inspire young foodies and entrepreneurs to think beyond the lemonade stand. Also, we’re looking forward to The Doughnut King (book no. 2) which is available for pre-order now.
The Pepper Party Picks the Perfect Pet by Jay Cooper (Maplewood, NJ)
Do your kids love Captain Underpants? Fans of the lowbrow potty humor type will enjoy this series by Jay Cooper, a Maplewood, NJ author and illustrator. The Pepper Party Picks the Perfect Pet is the first book in a series about The Pepper Party, a family that is raucous and loving and wild and fun. Every member in the family has their own idea about the perfect pet, and they’re not above sabotage to get their way. Soon they end up with a variety of animals in a house full of chaos— it’s a fun, silly book for emerging readers with an underlying adopt-don’t-shop message and themes of the treatment of pets and the responsibility of adoption.
The MUTTS Summer Diaries by Patrick McDonnell (Princeton, NJ)
Comic book lovers rejoice! My boys have a sudden love affair with comic books and this diary-style book series about Mooch and Earl from MUTTS comic strip creator Patrick McDonnell is no exception. In the Summer Diaries, Mooch and Earl are eager to make the most of summertime, with adventures in the backyard pool to exchanging knock-knock jokes with a dolphin. It’s ideal for kids ages 7-12—along with The MUTTS Autumn Diaries for back to school and cozy fall adventures.
The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi (Princeton, NJ)
If your kids have ever had to take care of the class ‘pet’ for the weekend, thank your lucky stars it’s usually a stuffed animal. Not so in Anica Mrose Rissi’s saga of a teacher’s blind adoration of a beloved tadpole named Bruno. When Bruno turns into a giant, the kids must step up and take matters into their own hands, because the teacher fails to notice all the amusing classroom shenanigans caused by the desk-eating, farting, slime-sneezing, classroom-wrecking creature. I find it great for read-aloud storytimes and lessons on problem-solving or pets.
A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan (Haddonfield, NJ)
I bought this book for my 9-year-old niece. A Kind of Paradise, written by New Jersey author Amy Tan, because I was a teen library volunteer (like the protagonist) and had a surprisingly good time doing it. As a consequence of breaking her middle school’s honor code, 13-year old Jamie must volunteer in her local library all summer. Initially disappointed to miss out on her usual summertime plans, she eventually develops meaningful relationships with library staff and patrons. This book is a joyful story of the power communities have to lift us up and to shape our dreams.Little Free Library in Princeton
Goodnight Princeton by Mimi Omiecinski (Princeton, NJ)
Mimi Omiecinski’s book celebrates everything wonderful about growing up in the world’s most quintessential Ivy League town (but we’re not biased or anything!). It highlights some of Princeton’s most beloved places and attractions, including Nassau Street, the library, Palmer Square, and the Dinky! If you live anywhere near Princeton or have kids who you hope will be a future Tiger, then this book is for you.
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