Inside: Full of unforgettable stories, creative plots, and imaginative illustrations, our February book list will have your kids snuggling up close whispering “Read it again!”
UPDATED FOR 2021.
February is the shortest month of the year, and in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the last chance to do winter projects and activities. What are your favorite winter crafts and experiments? What are you going to miss about winter when it’s over?
Our favorite winter activities are making icicles in our backyard as well as ice candles and doing snow science experiments. When we get back home after a few hours of outside time, we like to get cozy in front of the fireplace and read some great children’s books.
Any day of the year is perfect for reading, but it’s especially true in February because it’s the Library Lovers Month! Depending on where you live, your library might have a whole month of exciting activities and story times planned for you and your kids.
February is also a great time to learn more about black history (it’s Black History Month) and tinkers (both Inventor’s Day and Engineers’ Week are this month). It’s also an ideal month for reading books about real friendships (it’s International Friendship Month) and getting serious about learning how to play a musical instrument (it’s National Music Month).
Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you buy a book through my link I will do a cartwheel in your honor (and get a small commission at no cost to you).
February 1: Annushka’s Voyage, Edith Tarbescu (National Freedom Day)
After her mama dies and her dad goes to America, Annushka and her little sister stay with grandparents. It’s a scary time because the anti-Jewish movement is sweeping the Russian Empire, and entire villages are demolished without warning. But the day comes when Annuska’s daddy sends two steamship tickets. Thirteen-year-old Annushka and her sister travel alone in the basement of a ship, surviving hunger, dark, cold, illnesses, and separation from the family in the hopes of a brighter future. Although it’s a very dramatic true story, the choice of words and bright illustrations blunt the dark edge and make it appropriate even for little kids. It’s also a great jumping off point for discussing the quest for freedom and why freedom matters. Today is National Freedom Day.
February 2: Groundhog’s Day Off, Robb Pearlman (Groundhog Day)
If you’ve read lots of books about Groundhog Day with your kids, you will especially appreciate this one. Not only does it differ from typical Groundhog Day scenarios, but it’s the funniest one we’ve read so far. A groundhog is upset that he is taken for granted and decides to quit. What is the mayor to do? Hold auditions for a new candidate, of course. You will be laughing at the funny candidates and the groundhog’s spa adventures. Will there be six more weeks of winter? It’s Groundhog Day today!
February 3: Amazing Grace, Mary Hoffman (Black History Month)
Celebrate Black History Month with an amazing girl who learns that she can be anything she wants to be if she puts her mind to it. Grace has a passion for acting. She’s been acting out adventure stories and fairy tales in her home for as long as she remembers. So when her class is doing a Peter Pan play, she knows she can be an amazing Peter Pan, but she is told that Peter Pan is neither black nor a girl. What’s Grace to do now?
February 4: Heckedy Peg, Audrey Wood (Fairy Tale)
This edge-of-your-seat thriller is sure to set your kids’ pulses thrumming. Written in the best tradition of classical fairy tales and illustrated with magical paintings reminiscent of old masters, this dark tale of a witch that turns children into food is all-around captivating. A mother can get her kids back from a wicked witch only if she guesses each of her kids correctly. A loving mother would know her children anywhere. The happy ending in this heartwarming testament of a mother’s love is inevitable. Heckedy Peg is one of the best children’s books we have ever read.
February 5: Stop, Go, Yes, No! Mike Twohy (Opposites)
There are lots of books about opposites for kids, but none are as loved by all my children as this one. Geisel Honor Winner Mike Twohy has developed an amazing story (that I never tire of re-reading) in just 28 words! There is only one word per page, but it’s enough to create a funny and clever story about an enthusiastic dog who wants to cuddle and a sleepy cat who doesn’t. Cartoon illustrations are genius and extend the story.
February 6: Chopsticks, Amy Krause Rosenthal (National Chopsticks Day)
With witty humor and delightful illustrations, the very talented Amy Krause Rosenthal tells a tale of the importance of sticking together while learning the art of standing on our own. Every time we read it, we discover a new joke, a new aspect of illustrations, or something else that slipped our attention on previous readings. This lovely book is one of my favorites. Don’t forget to hide your spoons and forks today and eat like a quarter of the world’s population (hint: with chopsticks). Why? Because today is National Chopsticks Day!
February 7: Let Me Finish! Minh Le (Library Lover’s Month)
February’s a Library Lover’s Month and Let Me Finish! is one of our favorite books about reading. My oldest son can’t pass this book without picking it up and reading it out loud to anyone who happens to be nearby, pointing out all of the funniest moments. If your favorite place to be is in the middle of a good book, then you will appreciate this hilarious story about a boy who can’t shake off pesky animals who keep ruining the ending of books for him. Every time he settles for a good read, he hears, “Have you gotten to the part where the puppy runs away?” or “Can you believe her best friend turned out to be a robot?” Arrgh! Would he ever find a quiet place to read? The cartoonish art is extremely amusing.
February 8: The Snow Day, Komako Sakai (Snow)
This beautifully illustrated story is perfect for a snow day. In Chicago, this month we had our first big snowstorm of the year with nine inches of snow on the roads. I dug this book up before my kids woke up so we could read it during breakfast. I knew everyone would be eager to run and play in a snowstorm as soon as they could.
In this story, a bunny is excited to wake up to a snow day, only his mommy thinks he will catch a cold and won’t let him play outside until it stops snowing. Poor bunny! We think playing in falling snow is one of the most enjoyable things in life. I’m not sure what medium was used to create the grainy illustrations, but they are quite incredible and very expressive. It’s a great book to talk about feelings and emotions with your kids after studying the bunny’s body language.
February 9: The Wompananny Witches Make One Mean Pizza, Jennie Palmer (National Pizza Day)
When two witches pounded all their angry/anxious feelings into fresh dough, they ended up baking such a mean pizza that it knocked their door down and went into town to terrorize the general population. But even a mean pizza is no match for a bunch of very hungry children. We love this book and think it’s very funny. It’s a perfect choice to celebrate National Pizza Day. If you are planning on making a pizza for your celebration, the book includes a recipe in the back. (And by the way, when your kids are out of sorts, you can suggest they pound their feelings into the dough. By the time they are eating freshly baked bread or pizza, they will be all smiles.:)
February 10: The Crocodile and the Dentist, Taro Gomi (National Children’s Dental Health Month)
They say don’t judge the book by it cover, but that’s exactly what we did with this book. When we saw a drawing of a dentist looking more scared than his patient, we jumped to the conclusion that it is going to be a funny book. And we were right! This picture book offers a great way to explain to children that the only way to avoid frequent trips to the dentist is to brush the teeth properly. It’s a perfect read for National Children’s Dental Health Month.
February 11: Albie Newton, Josh Funk (Edison’s Birthday + National Inventor’s Day)
Celebrate Edison’s birthday and National Inventors Day with an inventive young boy by the name of Albie Newton. Albie loves to tinker, invent, and build, and he is very good at it. What he’s not very good at is paying attention to how his actions affect others, which makes it hard to make friends. He takes things others are using and makes loud noises while others are trying to read. Will he ever learn? Well, it doesn’t look like he does, but your kids will. They are also likely to begin tinkering as soon as you finish reading this book. If you visit the author’s website, you can download an awesome Albie Newton activity kit.
February 12: Abe Lincoln’s Dream, Lane Smith (Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday)
I once came across an article called “Ghost in the White House” and enjoyed it very much. I immediately began to wonder if there was an Abe Lincoln ghost story written specifically for kids. And there it was! We love the unique illustrations, the humor, and the happy ending (the ghost of Abe Lincoln finally finds peace). You might be surprised to learn (as I was) that Abraham Lincoln is by far the most reported ghost in the White House. From Grace Coolidge (wife of President Calvin Coolidge) and Lady Bird Johnson to Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands: the list of people who reportedly saw Lincoln’s ghost is long. Today is the birthday of Abe Lincoln, our 16th president, whose life was tragically ended by an assassin’s bullet.
February 12: Bringing in the New Year, Grace Lin (Chinese New Year)
This year, February 12th is also a Chinese New Year, celebrated by 20% of the world’s population. There are quite a few books about the Chinese New Year for kids. I picked one by Grace Lin because she writes comforting stories about families and love. Also, her illustrations are bright and beautiful. She has written several excellent books for kids, and we fell in love with her writing from the first book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. In Bringing in the New Year, a little girl and her family are sweeping the house, cooking, and decorating to bring in the New Year. (Have you seen A Big Moon cake for Little Star by Grace Lin? We love this book as well!)
Related: Ring In The Chinese New Year with Dragon Art & Puzzle
February 13: Up the Mountain Path, Marianne Dubuc (International Friendships Month)
This book is one of my favorites. Mrs. Badger is a wise old lady who greets old friends and helps creatures in need. She also teaches others how to be kind and brave, how to listen to intuition, and how to have faith. Read this with your kids more than once and emphasize different aspects of the story. There is so much to discuss: opening your eyes, lending a helping hand, harmony with nature, enjoying the journey, passing on traditions, encouragement, friendships, and the cycle of life. If you are amazed that a children’s book can pack so much meaning, you’ll be even more amazed when you read it. From each word, to the soft pencil and watercolor illustrations of serene forest scenes, this book is a treasure. It’s a great book to read in February, which is International Friendships Month.
February 14: Slugs in Love, Susan Pearson (Valentine’s Day)
This is the funniest Valentine’s Day book we’ve ever read. We have about fifty of them and have read many more. “Marylou loved everything about Herbie —how his slime trail glistened in the dark, how he could stretch himself thin to squeeze inside the cellar window, how he always found the juiciest tomato.” Thus begins a hilarious tale of slug love, bad luck, and slime rhymes. The illustrations are cute and full of humor. I know you will enjoy reading this book as much as we did.
February 15: Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, Ann Malaspina (Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday + President’s Day)
Today is the birthday of a passionate and brave women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony. I’m sorry to say there aren’t many books about her that don’t put us to sleep. Indeed, we found only one so far. (If you have any recommendations, please, let me know). However, Heart on Fire is absolutely delightful. It’s written in an engaging, fast-paced manner, and the illustrations go a long way to help the story along. I love the dramatic close-ups and the lush colors. I think the strength of this book is that it doesn’t try to cover too much but immerses the reader in one single event in Susan B. Anthony’s life. Today is also President’s Day, a federal holiday celebrated celebrated on a third Monday in February.
February 16: The Greentail Mouse, Leo Lionni (Mardi Gras)
Leo Lionni’s books have been read into tatters in my house. Have you heard the story of how he became a children’s author? Leo Lionni was an esteemed art director for Fortune Magazine when he found himself on a train with no drawing supplies. He started tearing the magazine pages into shapes to help him tell a story he had in mind, and that’s how his iconic paper collage medium was discovered. The fateful train ride soon led to the publication of his first children’s book. One year later, he quit his job and began his career as a children’s book author/illustrator. He is the pioneer of using paper collage as a medium for book illustrations, and he has received four Caldecott Medals for his illustrations.
In Greentail Mouse, a Mardi Gras celebration gets out of control, but most of the participants make a full recovery (except for one mouse who is forever marked by a green tail). We love the vivid art and the big double-page spreads. Read it today on Mardi Gras before decorating your own masks and baking a king cake.
February 17: Thank You, Omu!, Oge Mora (Random Acts of Kindness Day)
A little fat lady has to think twice about sharing her stew with a little boy even though she has enough for fifteen people. But she ends up sharing not only with the boy but with many other people who show up at her door that day. She learns that life gives to the giver. At the end of the day when her stew is gone and she is hungry, all the people, she was kind to come back bearing gifts of chicken, salad, dessert, and more. We’re in love with the unique illustrations.
February 18: Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levin (Black History Month)
Could you spend 27 hours squeezed in a small box with your knees drawn up to your chin? What if the box was roughly handled and sometimes you had to spend hours standing on your head? This is a true story of Henry Brown, a slave who mailed himself in a box to a place where there was no slavery. Henry had always been a slave, but one day his wife and children were sold without notice, and Henry had had enough. The Caldecott Medal illustrations are stunning and expressive yet not disturbing for little kids. I think it’s a great book to introduce kids to the idea of slavery and to start a discussion about freedom.
February 19: The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein (Love)
You probably already have read this amazing book with your children, but it’s just so perfect for this month when we celebrate love, kindness, and friendships that I can’t help but mention it. This book is pure genius from the first illustrations to the last word. The first time I read it with my first child, I was pregnant, emotional, and ended up weeping. I was not sad because the boy was so ungrateful, but because the tree had nothing else left to give. When you become a mom, you want to give your children the world, but all you can really give is love, encouragement, and pancakes. And sometimes it just doesn’t seem enough.
February 20: The Magic Horse of Han Gan, Chen Jiang Hong (Great Tales from Far Away Lands)
Myth, legend, and the culture of ancient China, spellbound narration and suspense, and the most extraordinary silk paintings combine here to create one of the most fascinating children’s books I’ve ever read. This is a story that is impossible to forget. The physical setting and the general sensibilities combine to transport us to a different era (over 1,200 years ago), and the ending is a surprise.
The main character of the story is Han Gang, a Chinese artist, who was legendary for painting horses that looked alive. In this story, one of these horses does spring from the page and become a great warrior’s war horse. All throughout, you will see splendid paintings of horses. I knew I had to buy The Magic Horse the moment we finished reading the library copy, so we could read it over and over again.
February 21: The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires (National Engineers Week)
This year (2021), National Engineers Week is February 21-27, and it’s a great time to read books about inspiring inventors, machines, structures, and other magnificent things. (It’s also a great time for extra tinkering. As I did last year, I’m planning an engineering project for each day of the week for my kids). We’ve been reading The Most Magnificent Thing for a few years and never get tired of it. Through expressive (one might even say magnificent) drawings, the award-winning Canadian author tells a story of a creative girl who knows exactly how her project is supposed to look and work, only it doesn’t come out right on the first (and even tenth) time. If you want to teach your kids a powerful lesson about the creative process in a humorous way, this book is for you.
February 22: A Birthday Cake for George Washington, Ramin Ganeshram (George Washington’s Birthday)
It’s George Washington’s birthday, and a lot of dignified friends are in attendance. They dance and eat at the same time as slaves cook and clean. The illustrations are amazing. I love the one where the top of the page shows the hems of elegant dresses and feet posed in fancy dance moves, while the bottom of the page shows the basement where slaves dressed in more demure colors are slaving away on the feast. I love that the book depicts the hardships of slavery in a way that children can connect with. No birthday cake for them. Absolute horror in kid’s minds! Slaves make the cake, but they’re not allowed to taste it. Today is Presidents Day, a holiday that was originally called George Washington’s Day.
February 23: Anansi the Spider: A Tale From the Ashanti, Gerald McDermott (Black History Month)
There is something about this Anansi tale that is incredibly satisfying. By the last page, all the different threads suddenly come together and everything clicks into place. I know my kids feel the same way because every time I read the last page and look at them, they nod their heads in unison. Anansi is a prominent part of West African history and a very important character in folklore. He is usually the dispenser of wisdom, but he’s also crafty and deceptive. There are many different variations of the Anansi stories, and I’m sure you will find many Anansi titles in your library. This particular Caldecott Honor Book is full of African folk-style illustrations in bold shapes and colors. What are your favorite picks for Black History Month?
February 24: Brave Irene, William Steig (Winter)
One of the most charming things about William Steig’s books is his ability to transport the reader into the action. In Brave Irene, we feel the biting wind and our muscles are quivering from the effort of trudging through deep snow in an epic snowstorm. We feel the horror when the wind tears the valuable dress from Irene’s hands and sigh in relief when the dress is found. This satisfying tale of bravery and courage has rich language, a suspenseful plot, expressive illustrations, and a sweet ending. It’s with great pleasure that we’ve been reading and rereading this book over the years.
February 25: Poetree, Caroline Pignat (Celebrate Seasons)
Winter is drawing to a close, and it’s a great time to read a book of poetry that celebrates seasons. Winter: “Beneath a blanket, frosty white, the old tree sleeps long winter’s night.” We just recently had our first real snow this year, and when we went for a walk, I couldn’t help reciting, “Knobs and nodes make memories of branches. Tales now told in scars.” Isn’t it pretty? If reading poetry to kids puts you to sleep, remember that poetry is an acquired taste. The more you read poetry, the more you enjoy it. I like what James Dickey said about poetry, “If you give to it, it will give to you, and give plenty.” And “the more your encounter with poetry deepens, the more your experience of your own life will deepen, and you will begin to see things by means of words, and words by means of things.”
February 26: Falling for Rapunzel, Leah Wilcox (Fairy Tale Day)
In this version, Rapunzel sits at the top of the tower and has a hard time hearing what the Prince is saying down below. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,” he pleads. Instead, she throws down her underwear. “No, Rapunzel, your curly locks.” She throws down her dirty socks. The blushing hero is growing more agitated by the minute and pleads for a braid; Rapunzel pushes out her maid. Watching her maid ride into the sunset with a prince, Rapunzel says, “I’m glad I finally heard him right.” And then she comes out of the tower door and wonders why the maid and the princess couldn’t just use the door. He-he!
February 27: If Polar Bears Disappeared, Lily Williams (International Polar Day)
This nonfiction book is a wonderful way to talk to children about global warming without loading them with too many hard-to-digest facts. I love that it shows how children can make a difference by choosing environmentally friendly options starting today. They can turn off the lights when they leave a room (a big one for us). They can put on a jacket instead of cranking up the thermostat (very relevant for us too).
February 28: Tooth Fairy, Andrey Wood and Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World, Selby Beeler (Tooth Fairy Day)
Today is Tooth Fairy Day, and I asked my kids for a recommendation. They brought over these two books and said, “Can’t you mention both? We can’t pick.” So here they are. In Tooth Fairy, a lost tooth becomes an inspiration for a Tooth Fairy deception. It’s funny, and if you have multiple kids, they will perhaps recognize a twinge of discontent arising from one sibling getting something that the other one doesn’t (like a Tooth Fairy visit). In Throw Your Tooth On The Roof, you learn what children around the world do with their teeth after they fall out. They put them in trees and dance around them, feed their teeth to dogs, turn them into earrings, and throw them on roofs. Fun, ha?!