10 Best Children’s Books in 2020

10 Best Children’s Books in 2020

Obviously many books can serve as the ten best children’s books to delight and educate your children. This is especially true since it’s not about the substance you read to your kids but the act and tone and exposure to words.

But what about the grown-up’s experience? – shouldn’t the best children’s books delight us, too?

I’m far too selfish only to think of my kids when reading. I better be delighted and educated, as well – and that, for me, is what qualifies books for being on a list of the ten best children’s books.

Below are 10 of the best children’s books in my kids’ collection, as well as a few more foregone conclusions for classics that should just be in your collection by default.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud & David Messina – Feelings are sometimes abstract and hard to articulate for kids. Even grown-ups often wonder “what’s the point in being kind for kindness’ sake?” Further, why bullies are mean is particularly complex. But this book gives you tools for explaining the self-interest in being kind and why bullies are mean. It feels like a corporate H.R. in-house self-publish. But trust. You’ll find it unmissable.

Tuba Lessons by T.C. Bartlett and Monique Felix is magical. Plain and simple – evocative illustrations inspiring children to fill in their own blanks. Trust me – open the cover and watch the kids dive in. There are very few words – so challenge your kids to narrate the pictures, themselves!

Little Boy by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds – For those of us who struggle with being present and mindful, this book, with its unique cadence and adorable illustrations helps parents slow down and think of the importance of days made of now.
It’s too bad the book is specifically gendered and focused on a white boy’s perspective. The only improvement would be to expand the lens to universal gender and skin color.

I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan The best children’s books lend themselves to creative voicing and a personality that leaps off the page. This, the first in a series, is educational and entertaining and allows the reader to be as ridiculous as possible. You’ll never look at garbage trucks the same way.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry

The importance of cooperation and teamwork is one of the most fundamental we should pass on to our littles. And Little Blue Truck always shows that life is easier when we work together. Further, the rhymes and illustrations are entertaining for everyone.

The Secret Circus by Johanna Wright Similar to Goodnight Moon, this beauty combines uniquely simple illustrations with quiet language perfect for lulling little ones to sleep and allowing grown-ups to take their time with the sparse language and just revel in the quiet of the story.

Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak – – The author of Where the Wild Things Are created masterpieces of childhood wonder and unique illustrations. This series of mini-books allows kids to experience unique stories (and alphabet repetition) in a tiny package that kids can organize, discover and (re)organize.

Press Here by Heuvé Tullet – Reading this book requires children’s interaction giving them a sense of cause and effect. They will insist on executing every page’s instruction and will result in tons of delight. And if your kids are like mine, hours of repetition and ripped pages that have been repeatedly over-loved.

Stuck – Oliver Jeffers – Another element of children’s book magic comes from nonsensical storylines that delight. This is one of those. Just trust me.
How Much is a Million? – Conceptualizing large numbers is tough for anyone. This book actually illustrates a million. It’ll expand your mind and warm your heart.

City Dog Country Frog by Mo Willems While Mo can do no wrong, and all of the pigeon books are must-haves and Piggy and Gerald are modern classics, this wonderful book about a friendship through the seasons gently introduces loss and sadness in a way that may introduce your children to your own tears.

How Big is a Million? by Anna Milbourne & Serena Riglietti

Again, children grapple with complex ideas of feelings and numbers that are fascinating to contemplate and very difficult to illustrate and understand. And haven’t YOU wondered what a million looks like? Look no further. This gem literally illustrates it for you. This wonderful book is guaranteed to blow your mind as well as your kid’s. Again, children grapple with complex ideas of feelings and numbers that are fascinating to contemplate and very difficult to illustrate and understand. And haven’t YOU wondered what a million looks like? Look no further. This gem literally illustrates it for you. This wonderful book is guaranteed to blow your mind as well as your kid’s.

Also, I have to include the basics, without which your kid’s cursed to live a pointless, unfulfilled life. Kidding. (Sorta.)

Honorable Mention: Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd(?). Despite being a parody (knock-off) of one of the best children’s books of all time (see above), its application to modern life is hilarious and apt. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in cleverness.

And all of these bags could be easily carried in the best daddy diaper bag with confidence that your kids will love them and you won’t be annoyed.

On a Quest for Breast Milk

On a Quest for Breast Milk

During our pregnancy with my first kid, I was on a quest for breast milk and researched tons of sources. Doctor friends told us it would be the greatest gift we could give our newborn.

We were lucky that a friend had twenty pounds of frozen milk in Denver just after Big E was born in Colorado Springs. We packed it on dry ice and overnight’d it to New York.

For $100.

There had to be another way. This was unsustainable.

I’d already learned that milk banks weren’t the way for us.

For starters, I figured there was a milk bank in every major city in the country. At the time of this writing, there are twenty two. A few years ago, the closest location was in Massachusetts which would have shipped 4 oz of milk at $7/ounce plus shipping.

So…already this was tremendously cost-prohibitive.

Further, the milk banks pasteurize. This might be a good process for sick, fragile newborns, in which case, that’s awesome. They kill bacteria and cleanse the milk. However, these bacteria are what strengthen the baby in its growth and are a natural part of the child’s intestinal development. I mean – it’s not like they’re licking a subway pole.

Plus, milk banks often refuse milk from mothers who have colds or aren’t in perfect health. But sick mom milk is the best kind for growing babies…full of antibodies.

I asked doctor friends what needed to be avoided, and obviously I couldn’t feed my baby milk from a woman who was HIV positive and it would be smart to just avoid hepatitis.

But further, breast milk is absolutely magical, especially between the breast-feeding baby and the mother. (So in this case, it wouldn’t help me, but still…the science is fascinating.)

A doctor friend of mine in New York City would actually lick her newborn’s hands after being out in the city because it’s believed her body would receive signals about the germs the baby was exposed to, thereby triggering certain antibodies to be developed in the breast milk. LOL. And amazing.

But for us, the quest for breast milk at milk banks wasn’t worth the price of shipping sterilized milk. There had to be another way.

Another Google search led me to “Human Milk for Human Bodies” (HM4HB), a global Facebook network of women with full freezers who don’t want to dump their milk.

Posting locally in New York City, I quickly found generous women willing to give me their frozen supply.

When meeting them, I awkwardly asked, “Um, I don’t mean to offend, but I’d be remiss in not asking if you’re a meth addict or HIV positive or if you flavor your milk with Nestle Quik?”

In each case, the women laughed and said, “No. But you’re smart to ask.”

I trusted them. Who would go to the trouble of pumping, freezing and the rigamarole of posting of FB if they were Hep B positive meth addicts?

One woman, a yoga teacher, had a completely full freezer. I stuffed two Trader Joe’s bags and my backpack with frozen milk. Plus, Big E hung on my chest in the Bjorn. I swear they doubled my own weight. After walking innumerable blocks and taking a subway, I questioned whether my shoulder pain was worthwhile.

But my kid drank breast milk for two straight weeks. Because this donor was a yoga teacher, we called hers “soy milk.”

Another time, I carried Big E into outer Brooklyn for a pick-up. As I stepped onto the outdoor subway platform, I called the donor, as planned.

“Hi! I see you!” she answered.

I looked around and, twenty feet away, saw a woman waving to me.

When I reached her I asked, “How did you know it was me?”

“Because you’re the only white guy, here.”

I looked at the people around me. I hadn’t realized that every person in the subway was Asian.

Ah, the fabulosity of New York.

So…HM4HB fed both our children with a great variety of milks (and a great variety of nicknames). It’s an organization built on generosity and need and collective good.

Like them, promote them, use them and you, too, can be on a quest for breast milk. Help us all flourish.

ECKnox is on Maisonette

ECKnox is on Maisonette

So for some fashion talk, there’s a LITTLE detail I’ve kept under wraps for a few weeks…ECKnox is on Maisonette. But wait for it…

Before moving to New York City, Barneys didn’t even register on my radar. I was no fashionista, though I liked dressing stylishly. But Barneys didn’t figure into my fashion priorities.

I can barely recall hearing of Barneys before seeing the Sex and the City episode in which Carrie’s dating the politician and he asks “what district are you in?” and Carrie responds with charming ignorance, “The one closest to Barneys?”

I couldn’t find that actual clip. But I swear that was the quote. Anyway, enjoy this random scene of SJP and John Slattery.

At that point, I realized this nebulous store was the cool one referenced on SATC.

The year I was in a Broadway show and got to purchase tickets to attend the Tonys (mind you – I wasn’t performing at them) I asked the guys in my dressing room where I needed to shop to feel special for attending said awards show.

Everyone categorically said “Barneys.”

So I went to Barneys and, though I expected it to cost an arm and a leg, the salesmen helped me find something elegant, unique, and only cost an arm and half a leg.

It felt really good. And I looked great.

A decade later, when my very first fashion accessory design was accepted and displayed at Barneys, there was no greater feather in my cap.

As a branding friend of mine said, “Your company might or might not survive, but you get to write ‘I designed something in Barneys’ and put that on your tombstone, and very few people get to say that.”

The best diaper bag for dads definitely deserved to be at the best/coolest store in New York City.

Barneys was always known for finding new trends and incubating up-and-coming designers. There was no other store like it.

Well, as we know, Barneys didn’t fare well in this new retail environment and it’s gone belly-up, leaving a void of retail and real estate in the NYC landscape.

But now, folks – ECKnox is thrilled to let you know we’ve moved onward and upward.

ECKnox, making the best diaper bag for dads, is now available on Maisonette.com.

And Maisonette is better than Barneys.

Maisonette was founded by former Vogue editors, Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza Roccia who sought a higher level of unique style in their children’s wardrobes.

According to their website, Maisonette elegantly aggregates the best children’s products from around the world, creating an expertly curated shopping experience for you and a superior platform for mini-me designer brands and off-the-beaten-path boutiques alike. Think of us as your shortcut to fashion for short people.

And yes – that was a strong cut-and-paste job, there. But they say it best.

And now the best and/or coolest diaper bag for dads is available, well…in that elegant aggregate.

And they deliver to all legislative districts – including yours and the one nearest Barneys.

The Reason for Presidents Day

The Reason for Presidents Day

All of you 17 readers of this blog know that I highly prioritize understanding the “reason for the season“. That’s not a Christmas allusion, although Christmas is definitely one of those seasons for which I insist on forcing the kids into seasonal Biblicality, much to their dismay.

But our 3-day holidays merit reflection and comprehension in my book, too. My kids don’t JUST get to have a day off for Veteran’s Day or Labor Day or Martin Luther King Day or Presidents Day. No matter how abstract or morbid the holidays might be, we WILL be talking about them.

As a slight departure, recently, my kid streamed Newsies (the Broadway musical) at school. And she told me at dinner, “The kids were struck.”

Though I never saw it, I’m pretty sure Newsies is an admirably socialist story (cue McCarthyism)- especially for Disney – in which newspaper boys at the turn of the 20th century go on strike; presumably to dance with higher kicks on the streets of New York, given my quick glance at the video below.

So anyway.

My kid say, “The newspaper sellers were struck.”

“Close enough,” I thought.

That she even had the vaguest concept of the word, “strike” impressed me. Love it when Broadway introduces complexities into our kids’ lives without us having to step on our lecturing soap boxes.

Anyway – filing that away for Labor Day when I get to say “worker’s rights – you know – like in Newsies!”

So, anyway: back to asking my kids “What’s the reason for Presidents Day?”

This one is pretty straight-forward: honor our national leaders who bring us freedom, leadership, respectability, honor, progress, and protection.

Except at a time in life when we all question our leaders, look back on the dichotomy of goodness in our revered forefathers who were tyrants (Andrew Jackson) slave-owners (two-thirds of of them before 1865), philanderers (a vast majority, no doubt), and liars (all of them except Obama.)

Just the other day, my older kid said to me, “You know Donald Trump wasn’t the first President to be impeached, right?”

I responded (completely missing the point of her proclamation), “I didn’t even know you knew that word.”

“Bill Clinton was also impeached,” she said.

“I didn’t even know you knew who Bill Clinton was,” I responded, again: completely missing the point of her thoughts.

At a time when the presidency has been besmirched and degraded by unfathomable measures, I wonder if it might be time to alter the meaning (and name) of this holiday.

President’s Day began as a celebration of Washington’s birthday and was made an official national holiday in 1879. By the late 1960’s, congress changed the holiday (and Labor Day and Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr Day) to a “Uniform Monday holiday” providing for predictable Monday holidays. This law, signed by Nixon in 1971, served multiple purposes:

  1. Codified a 3-day holiday weekend for American workers.
  2. Spread these Monday holidays throughout the year to lower worker absenteeism.
  3. Conveniently provided a sure-fire way to increase in retail sales (so rich business types would be down for it, too.
  4. Included a provision to officially celebrate another February Presidential birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s, alongside Washington’s.

But given our current lack of Presidential nobility, along with endless re-discovery of our leaders, perhaps it’s time we made President’s Day about “Great American Leaders” day?

We don’t need birthday anniversary holidays for every single American of note, be they white, male, indigenous, female, of color or whatever. What if we had a holiday devoted to a value? (I know. I’m sounding dangerously conservative, here.) But like – a “Values Day” – a day where we think about things like the Scout’s Law or basic tenets of honesty, loyalty, or kindness.

Or hell, to be thoroughly American, maybe it’s “Liberty Day”. (Although, how would that differ from the 4th of July?)

I’d even be more inclined to have “Founding Fathers’ Day”. Aside from that itsy-bitsy awkward historical factoid of slavery (and their wealth, position, misogyny and snobbery) at least they didn’t start wars, assassinate Latin American leaders, or exploit foreign workers.

Scratch that. We’d be splicing hairs. Of course they did all that.

But at LEAST they happened to be in the right place at the right time to construct the world’s first democratic constitution.

Which was, objectively, a good thing.

At any rate, we currently have a holiday that most people think of as an extra day of skiing that’s devoted to 230 years of men who frequently did horrible things.

Maybe it’s time to update? What’s the point and not just the reason for Presidents Day?

Regardless, given all the mental gymnastics it takes me to discuss (with myself) the meaning behind President’s Day, we can all recognize there’s a lot to ponder and question around a dinner table on a Monday night with our children.

No matter which way you look at it (or which political side of the aisle from whence you hail) any discussion of context, history, ideas and values means parenting for good.

Finding the Moment

Finding the Moment

We’re all obsessed with finding the moment and savoring the now – and that’s certainly my greatest subconscious block in fully devoting myself to social media. Besides worrying I have nothing to say, I don’t want to walk through life in a double-tasked, obsessive fog constantly crafting the wittiest facebook posting, the dreamiest Instagram picture, or the most re-tweetable tweet.

I’m already busy with a triple-tasking mentality. My endless conveyor belt of to-do lists exhausts me. But I don’t need social networking to invade my thoughts and make me a quadruple-tasker.

As it is, I’m terrible about taking moments just to be. Sometimes I think I should take up smoking because it might force me to step out of a situation to breathe deeply. But I’m sure I would double-task my smoke trolling my phone for some absent, but obviously life-changing, email I’m not expecting.

I suppose lung cancer isn’t the answer.

So won’t hyper-scheduled and spreadsheet blogging/posting/tweeting/choosing-the-perfect-Instagram-filter-er disconnect me all the more from living “in the moment”?

Yet, to my great surprise, in my cultivation of social media events, I think I’ve been a better about the moments.

Sure, I snap even more pictures of my kids. But I also actively look for things to remember and document. It’s helping me in finding the moment to relish.

“Mindfulness” is almost a joke of a term, in 2020, isn’t it? The meaning is vague. And I think so much of us stumble around thinking, “I want to be more mindful. But how do I do it?”

To me, “mindful” is a westernized, 2020 translation of being.

And I mean “being” in the Zen paradigm of awareness, calm, being present, and just…being.

So mindfulness is a super-American translation of being from a state into an action.

We’ve altered a state of being into a state of action.

That might just be semantics, but I think there’s a profound cultural distinction, therein.

Just like the essence of yoga should be a physical practice of being in the moment (rather than checking exercise off a list and moving with our day), mindfulness should be a state of being, not an action.

Then again, we shouldn’t should all over ourselves.

Was that a double-negative? Am I making any sense?

Whenever I “practice” mindfulness (irregularly and with the help of the Mindfulness app) it’s definitely a practice taking place in a concentrated amount of time and left behind.

Which indubitably defies the purpose of mindfulness.

A few days ago, while enjoying a blissful afternoon in Washington Square Park, I coaxed Big E into laying on the artificial grass with me. We took a few minutes to look up at the trees.

It was an intentional forcing of finding the moment, together. (Or, at least on my side. My kid was like “weird. Daddy’s laying on the ground. I’ll give this a go.”)

I suggested looking at the sky.


“Look, kiddo! A kite in the tree!”

We saw a plastic grocery bag stuck in the branches overhead. Ah, the charm of city living.

We lay there together in a few minutes of adorable calm.

Yes, I took a picture of it.

But we were actively finding the moment. That was progress.