Party Time: 7 Books for Birthday Festivities | Milestones

The most important day in any kid’s calendar is their birthday, and it’s no wonder. Presents, cake, and family and friends are just some of the elements that make each birthday the best day ever! These seven titles are perfect as gifts for the child of the hour or in anticipation of the big day.

The most important day in any kid’s calendar is their birthday, and it’s no wonder. Presents, cake, and family and friends are just some of the elements that make each birthday the best day ever! These seven titles are perfect as gifts for the child of the hour or in anticipation of the big day.

Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish by Beth Ferry. illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. Putnam. ISBN 9781524741549.
PreS-K–Every child longs for their birthday and spends hours dreaming about the big day, and the rules in this joyful book will feel completely familiar to many ("Rule no. 2: You must have a PARTY!"; "Rule no. 8: You must make a Wish"). Children will especially love reading and rereading this book to laugh about the exceptions to the 10 birthday rules and to point out fun details of Lichtenheld's anthropomorphic animal drawings. Every birthday rule has at least one exception, and each one is silly, charming, or both. Along with the rules and the humorous exceptions, the story has a pervading sweetness, reminding grown-ups to cherish the days of birthday wishes and to celebrate the optimism and hopefulness of young children.

When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano. illus. by Christian Robinson. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781626722934.
PreS-Gr 1–An exuberant ode to children’s anticipation for the most special day each year: their birthday. The exaggerated excitement is echoed in Robinson’s clever use of scale, as in a spread featuring a gigantic present tied with white twine. A little girl reaches up to pull the string, dwarfed by its size. The long and tall trim size is also ideal for displaying a towering, swimming pool–size birthday cake so large that the young birthday boy needs a ladder to reach the candles. A muted palette of slate blue, mustard yellow, forest green, and burnt sienna, sometimes appearing on a rich black background, reflects the festive tone of the text without tipping over into what could be—in the hands of a less skilled poet and artist—overwhelming or obnoxious in its fervor. Instead, readers will appreciate and immediately recognize the joyful expectancy. Buoyant and perfectly childlike, meant to be read aloud with gusto.

If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon by Joyce Lapin. illus. by Simona Ceccarelli. Sterling/SilverOak. ISBN 9781454929703.
K-Gr 3—This title playfully educates young readers about the moon through the portrayal of a moon-based birthday party. The text is written in a way that will appeal to children who like a story format as well as space fans interested in facts. For example, one fact reads, "In picking the very best spot for your party, it is helpful to know that the same side of the Moon always faces Earth." The book's illustrations are large and leave lots of room for the imagination. The subject matter will appeal to space-lovers and star-gazers.

[See also: First Books About Weddings | Milestones]

The Spectacular Suit by Kat Patrick. illus. by Hayley Wells. Scribble US. ISBN 9781950354696.
PreS-Gr 2–Frankie’s party is imminent, and her family has chipped in to help prepare for it. The problem is her attire: Frankie does not want to wear any of the three dresses her mother presents to her, and her favorite sweater is not quite right, either: “What Frankie wanted was a suit. A spectacular suit. Luckily, her family finds the drawing and manages to sew a suit that delights Frankie: “It looked exactly how Frankie felt: like a powerful, stormy sky.” Completing her look with slicked-back hair and cat’s eye sunglasses, Frankie feels spectacular for her birthday party with all her friends sharing in the joy. The desire to choose particular clothing will resonate with those who have experienced a preschooler dressing themselves. Older readers will likely cue into the theme of disrupting gender norms as Frankie eschews a party dress for a party suit. This is a perfect birthday celebration that allows the individual’s sense of style and self to shine.

The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli. illus. by author. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763628253.
Toddler-PreS-A child wearing only a diaper and a striped party hat gets a present from Grandma. What is it? The toddler takes off the wrapping and discovers a big brown box! A box is full of possibilities and this child lets imagination reign. When the child finally opens the gift, there’s a stuffed dog inside. Now the two of them can create adventures. The container becomes an airplane, a sailboat, and a sled. The new pals share a snack inside its protective walls before settling down for a cozy nap. Patricelli’s simple, first-person narration is refreshing. With bold black outlines, the acrylic paintings are expressive and endearing. Dynamic, solid-colored backdrops, upon which the box throws its significant shadow, add a sense of spontaneous fun. This is a perfect birthday book for a toddler, along with a box, of course!

Alicia's Happy Day by Meg Starr. illus. by Ying-Hwa Hu & Cornelius Van Wright. Star Bright. ISBN 9781887734851.
PreS-Gr 1-An urban setting forms the backdrop for a little girl who is celebrating her birthday. Alicia's mother guides her through streets where she is greeted by neighbors, shopkeepers, street vendors, and even taxi drivers. Expanding on the fantasy quality of the day, airplanes write a salutation in the sky and pigeons bow to the birthday girl. Finally, this perfect interlude is rounded out by a huge ice-cream cone from the Icey man and a party with her loving extended family. Watercolor illustrations paint a cheerful portrait of a bustling Latinx neighborhood. An upbeat, joyous tale.

One Big Day by Anne Wynter. illus. by Alea Marley. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062934932.
Baby-Toddler-There’s nothing quite like a little one’s first birthday. The anticipation. The emotions. And quite a lot of firsts. In this sweet board book, a Black family celebrates a child’s first go around the sun. In spare text, the book covers the highs (unwrapping a big box with a friend) and lows (the scary bursting of a balloon) of the day. The jewel-tone illustrations highlight the joy and festivity that shine throughout. The word one is repeated on every page, reinforcing the baby’s age in a developmentally appropriate way. A great choice for introducing the events of the party to the baby of the hour and for managing the expectations of any older siblings who might need some assurance. A lovely choice for read alouds in advance, on, and after the big day.

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