Children's Books at Chinaberry

At Chinaberry, we carefully read every book we offer and classify them by reading level.

We believe that most methods for classifying children's literature into appropriate age levels are confusing and neglect to take into account the uniqueness of each child. Children's books in this catalog are categorized by the following guidelines, ones which most parents will find enable them to select books which are appropriate for their child, regardless of age. For those of you who prefer to know simply what age child might typically enjoy the book, we have included an appropriate age range too.

Level 1 Baby/Toddler (Age 0-3): Simplicity and Familiarity
Ultra-brief text or even wordless; familiar words; familiar objects in illustrations; frequently no plot, which offers simplicity and open-endedness that is perfect for "customizing" the book to your child.

Children's books for the very young. These include wordless or near-wordless board books and even books with text, providing you take the cue from your child and disregard the text, if necessary, and simply point to and talk about illustrations of familiar objects.

Board Books: Board books have come a long way. Some started out as the wonderfully sturdy books they are. Others began as popular hardcover books and are now scaled down so that little hands can turn the pages, carry them around and love them without anyone having to worry about them falling apart. Now even children's books that were originally published for older kids have been put in board book form because they are so adorable. They fare well in a diaper bag, misplaced under a sofa cushion, or on the floor of the car's backseat. You can't go wrong having a few of these in your family's life.

Level 2 Preschool (Age 2-5): Stories that expand beyond the everyday
Full-fledged story lines with simple plots to follow; details in illustrations invite more relaxed page-turning in order to savor the subtleties your child can now catch; feel free to continue to customize a book for your child by distilling the text in your own words, speeding up page-turning etc. Many toddlers can find much in this level to enjoy, while 6+ year-olds, who can usually sit through "thick" children's books, still adore picture books.

Picture books illustrated in such a manner that the action in the pictures corresponds to the action in the text which you will read in your own words, if necessary. As the child hears the story in words that are familiar to him, he can see the story unfolding in pictures. This classification includes most of the children's books labeled for all ages, books that truly offer something for everyone young and old.

Level 3 Early Education (Age 4-9): Horizon-broadening and often thought-provoking
Stories with complexities, feelings, characters, and challenges for the child who can appreciate meatier subject matter than Level 2 books offer; heftier text length - most with illustrations and a few occasional illustrations taking a definite backseat to the story; plot frequently offers the maturing child something to think about after the story ends; a few carefully-chosen folk tale books for the child who is now mature enough to grasp what such stories have to offer.

Books which can be read to a child capable of sitting though a story without needing an abundance of illustrations to hold interest.

Beginning Chapter Books: If you have children ready for beginning chapter books, you'll want them to have books that pique their interest and entertain them, leaving them excited and wanting more. Positive reading experiences at this turning point often help ensure that a child will be on the way to enjoying reading for life. And if the books are part of a series, all the better! Once they're hooked on the first book, they'll be eager for more. Our ''Ready for Chapter'' children's books are just the thing to engage your new reader.

Level 4 (Age 8 & up):
More complex subject matter most appreciated by a child emerging into maturity, new responsibilities, and his/her own self.

Longer children's books which can be read to an older, interested child and read by an intermediate or advanced reader. Feel perfectly justified tailoring the text to the child, especially when it comes to concepts or situations which may be too heavy or complicated for a young child.

Parents -- Please Read:
The older our children grow, the more complicated their lives become. Because level four covers such a wide range of children's ages, we feel it is necessary to warn you that some of these books may have mature themes in them - themes that may involves sex, violence, and indiscreet language. And while we feel it is crucially important to offer our children books with mature themes, it becomes more difficult to for us to choose books that fit the general reader since we all have such varying ideas of morality. It is our intention to choose books that offer our children visions of higher models of resolution to problems than the resolutions that are commonly exhibited in our culture today. We are looking for books that lead children to develop expansive levels of compassion, empathy, and skill when dealing with the inevitable difficulties of life. This type of book often has a disturbing amount of conflict; but we feel this conflict finds resolution in a way that models behavior that we would like our children to embody.

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Stories that have withstood the test of time. Beloved children's books your children will eventually want to share with their children. Classics.

Fantasy & Science Fiction
Whether you're casting a magical spell, or traveling through time, fantasy and science fiction books can be among the most engaging, enlightening, and escapist of genres. How many of us adult bibliophiles discovered the joy of reading in the wonderful world of fantasy and sci-fi?

Adventure & Mythology
Archetypal tales of bravery and harrowing epics of derring-do. Action abounds in these adventure filled children's books and audiobooks.

Naughty or nice, timid or tricky, cute or crafty, folks have always been fascinated with the magical, hidden world of fairies. Explore the pure, enchanting magic of the fairy folk here.

Fairy Tales & Folktales
Handed down from generations past, these much-loved stories are both fun and involving, and contain within them basic lessons of right and wrong that can stick in a young readers mind.

History & Historical Fiction
Learning about the past can only help a young reader in their future. This selection contains fascinating factual books about history as well as highly entertaining, and ever so enlightening historical fiction to help bring the past to astounding life.

Animals, Nature, & the Environment
One thing will always remain true: Kids love animals. And they really love to read about them. This section contains a whole menagerie of children's books about animals and the delicate environment they call home.

Science & Geography
Delve into the intriguing world of science & geography in this section.

Mysteries & Scary Stories
Gently scary and mildly mysterious, the children's books in the spooky section really reach out and grab the young reader in search of suspenseful thrill.

School Issues
Dealing with the trials and tribulations that arise in school is one of childhood's greatest challenges. Books in this selection offer a refreshing, reassuring look at the issues your child may face during their life of learning.

This collection of books and audiobook presentations offers a view into the life of families both traditional and unique.

Love & Friendship
John Lennon was right: You will get by with a little help from your friends, and all you really need is love. These children's books celebrate the joys of friendship and the wonders of love.

Send your children off to the land of nod enfolded in the comfort of a special story. Craft your own family sleepy time reading tradition with our charming selection of children's books that are great to read at bedtime.

It's a wide, wide world out there. Sometimes, if you're lucky, it's a wide, wide world in your very own neighborhood. This children's book selection features a rainbow of diverse characters, exotic locations, and other celebrations of our planet's wonderful diversity.

Strong Females/Heroines
Because sometimes a princess has to save herself. An entire collection of stories to inspire young girls to be their own heroes!

Strong Males/Heroes
Our boys deserve gallant role models. This selection of stories features men and boys who do the right thing, brave any danger, stand up for justice, save the day, and never, ever cheat on their taxes.

Books and resources to guide you and your child through this important if somewhat awkward phase of life.

Coping with Difficult Times
Into every life, a little rain must fall. This selection of books tackles the difficult subjects of death and loss with heartfelt compassion and candor.

Spirituality & Kindness
Our selection of stories with a spiritual theme, this collection celebrates the deeper, and sometimes intangible aspects of our world.

Problem Solving/Conflict Resolution
Teaching our children to solve their problems non-violently is one of parenting's most daunting challenges. The selection of stories in this category feature folks who find creative resolutions to life's inevitable battles.

Activity Books
Much more than mere busy work, Chinaberry's selection of activity books range from hilarious to fascinating to downright enlightening. Inspire your child with our fun and educational selections.

Learn about nature, history, geography, biology, and much more with our fact-filled trivia selections.

Because everyone can use a good laugh, Chinaberry is happy to offer a selection of joke books and other humorous tales for young comedians and other readers in the mood to guffaw.

Nothing adds to a holiday celebration quite like a good holiday storybook. Here you'll find touching tales of Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, and many other traditional holidays.

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Ideas for Reading to Very Young Children


Here are some tried and true tips to help release your very own inner storyteller. Be captivating!

(Pick and choose from among these suggestions to make book-time more fun.)

The most important thing to remember is that you can customize your book-reading to accommodate the needs of your child. What this means is that you should "experiment" to find ways to make book-time enjoyable for both of you.
  • If your child tends to be squirmy when you're reading, try not reading the text and using your own words, instead. Try pointing to the objects on the page while you or the text "talks" about them. If necessary, disregard the text's story and talk about the pictures in your own words, instead. In many cases, books with "sing-songy" texts will probably be the first ones your child will actually sit through while you read the real text.

  • Put "life" into the reading with your voice. Be expressive. Give different voices to different characters.

  • Move your fingers across the page to show that movement is taking place. (As reading adults, we take so much for granted concerning what we "see" in books. Remember that a child has to learn to shift from 2-D into "life.")

  • You might find that your child enjoys book-time more if, each time you "read" a book, you talk about the same things using the same words. Children love repetition and enjoy it when you say something they expect you to say and they adore the sound of your voice.

  • If parts of an illustration aren't familiar to your child's world, introduce new objects a few at a time, but be sure that you frequently point to and talk about them (eyes, animals, moon, etc.).Gradually, expose your child to more new objects in the illustrations, pointing them out whenever you see them, both in books and in daily life. Anything you do to encourage your child to participate in the story, either while reading or "after the fact" while, say, looking at the moon or at an animal, will enhance enjoyment of the book.

  • Just talk about the pictures, and don't stay on one page too long. (Four seconds is often long enough for the inexperienced listener.) Don't even have high expectations of reading all of the book! Soon enough, you'll no longer be talking about single objects on the page, but about relationships of characters on the page, for instance, or what caused this or that. You may be pleased to find a little "story" tucked away in a corner -- put there by the artist for the observant.

  • Start with "easy-to-read," bright, simple and maybe even aesthetically unappealing (to you, anyway) picture books. Children often need to be taught to appreciate the classy, beautiful art in so many books. Introduce these often among favorites, and when s/he's about 12-18 months old, teach your child to turn pages.

  • If your child is still at the point of needing you to zip right through page-turning at a pretty good clip (to hold her interest), you might find that you shouldn't bother reading text with a plot. Talk about the pictures, instead, and forget the plot for now. Do remember, though, that a book generally "recommended" for much older children can be used with an infant if you use the book creatively.

  • Use the book the way you want to use it. For instance: you don't have to teach numbers to a one-year-old with that beautiful counting book. Just talk about the pictures, instead. You don't have to read what the book says. If the story includes a particular event or emotion you'd rather not present, make up your own version. Children over 16 months particularly enjoy self-concept books emphasizing "me;"at around 2 years, "make-believe" is grasped and immensely enjoyed.

  • When you don't feel like reading, remember that many requests for book-time are merely indications that your child wants to sit and cuddle. Pick a very familiar book and let the child space out on the illustrations, having him indicate when to turn the page. He may repeat all you've ever said, and you just say, "uh-huh." (Compiled by Anita West)

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To Our Chinaberry Family,

In the difficult, uncertain times we're facing, it is hard to know exactly what to say to our children. How much do we tell them? How do we best comfort them? What is the best way to alleviate their fears and keep alive their faith in human goodness? The following tips and book suggestions for parents of both younger and older children can help address these questions. (The book suggestions cover a wide age range, including some parenting books.)

Please click here if you'd like to go directly to the selection of books.

For Parents:

Stay Attentive to Your Emotional State
  • Remember that children, especially young children, are exceptionally attuned to the undercurrent of their parents' emotional states. If we are afraid, even if we aren't talking about it, our children know. If we are feeling confident and secure, they know that too. In unsettled times such as these, it is difficult not to be overcome with fear. We must somehow master our own fears to be the steady beacons our children need us to be.
  • Take time to process your own emotions so you can be clear and emotionally available for your children. If our children see us facing our own fears, it will be easier for them to face theirs, especially with our loving support.
  • We must look deeply inside, hopefully at a time when we are not in direct contact with our children, and understand our deepest fears. When we know and then accept these fears, we can act with understanding and compassion. For example, if we are afraid of being separated from our children in the event that something terrible should happen, we can take steps to assure our connection even if we are separated (see below).

Stayed Informed
  • Take the time, even just a few minutes a day, to stay informed. There are many reputable list serves on the Internet that you can join to keep apprised of what is actually happening, organizations that ask deeper questions than modern media has the time to ask or answer.

Slow Down
  • Slow down and find ways to focus on what is most important to you. Rather than focusing on your fears, pay attention to what you love and wish to nourish. Hours spent watching the same news over and over again are certainly better spent in loving interaction with your children.

Take Action
  • Take concrete action on your political beliefs. Studies show that people who act for what they believe in feel more in charge and more in control and less dominated by fear. It empowers both you and your children to see you modeling what being a true American citizen is meant to be.

  • Be informed, actively voice your opinions and show you care. A call to your Senator or Congressional Representatives saying exactly how you feel about a situation takes less than five minutes and is extremely empowering. Especially when you know that you are just one of many taking the time to put your values into action. Ask friends to speak out too; there is power in numbers.

Foster Connection
  • Feeling connected to something or someone helps us know that we are not alone, that we have someone we can reach out to for support in times of need. Now is a good time to foster relationships with your neighbors and community in fun ways (potlucks, ice cream socials, play dates with the parents of small children, block parties, etc.). The more interconnected we feel to those around us, the safer we feel. If we feel connected, we are more likely to feel we have the power to change things. If we feel unconnected, it is easy to feel powerless.

For Young Children:

The Comfort of Routine
  • Calm, unhurried routines allow children to feel deeply comforted. When things are done day after day in the same general way, at the same general time, children's bodies relax into a rhythm that soothes them. This is especially important in times of stress.
  • Maintain your normal routines as much as possible. The more you react to what is happening in the world by changing your daily life, the more likely your child will react too.

Tell Them That You Care
  • With young children, less is more. Telling them too much tends to incite their worries rather than calm them down. A small child doesn't need to know the intricate politics that lead to war. They need to know that their parents will always love them and do their best to care for them and keep them safe.
  • Listen carefully to what your children have to say, let them know you hear what they are saying and honor their concerns. Telling them ''not to worry'' is not only unhelpful, it is disrespectful. In the end, simply affirming your love and commitment to keeping them safe may be the best thing you can do.

Be Watchful for Signs of Stress
  • Be alert to the ways in which your children might be showing you that they are stressed, from irregular sleep patterns to atypical clinginess to a greater propensity for picking fights with a sibling.
  • Whatever issues your child had before are likely to be exacerbated now. If your child is typically outgoing and is now quieter than usual, be more present for him. If your child is typically shy and is now on the aggressive side, this, too, can be a sign of inner turmoil.
  • Children are very tuned in to what we are feeling. They are aware of what we whisper when we think they aren't listening, and they pick up on phone conversations when they are within earshot. They often take in much more than we realize.
  • If your child is showing signs of stress, slow down. Allow more time for everything: more reading at bedtime, more cups of cocoa at the table with mom or dad, and more time simply to cuddle. A less hurried pace not only comforts children, it also allows them to find the time to voice their worries and cares.
  • Try to reduce the other stresses in your children's lives. This is not the time to pile on new chores or expectations. Expect the norm, but relax about new things and try to be as supportive as possible. But, it is also important not to relax your usual standards, as this can be a sign that there really is something to worry about.
  • It can create stress in young children if they sense emotional dissonance in their parents. Therefore, it's possible that if we have not dealt with our own fears and are sending confusing messages, our children will have trouble being honest with us and entrusting us with their concerns.
  • Play, artwork, participating in large motor activities (running, biking, dancing, etc.) or cooking together can be wonderful releases during stressful times.

Turn Off the News
  • Turn off your TV/Radio News when your children are awake. They are too young to fully understand the visual and verbal images they are being exposed to and it will do nothing to comfort them. There is plenty of time after bedtime to catch up on the news.

Photo Link
  • If you and your children are separated for large portions of the day, either because of school or work, put a smiling happy (plastic-covered) photograph of your family in their lunch boxes for them to see each and every day when they sit down to eat. Let them know your love follows them wherever they are all day long!

Guardian Angels
  • If it fits in with your religious and spiritual beliefs, now is a perfect time to talk about guardian angels -- the reason for their presence here, how they watch out for us, etc. Many children find the idea of guardian angels exceptionally comforting.

Have Fun Together
  • Taking the time to build a loving connection between you and your children is the strongest message of love you can offer. Read more, cuddle more, talk more, play more... simply be together more.
  • Fall back on fun family traditions: picnics in the summer, cocoa and sledding in the winter, tea parties with friends, etc.
  • Make your own recording of stories for your child to listen to; your voice heard again and again is inherently soothing. Your child will love the tape no matter how unprofessional you think you sound.
  • Read books that comfort and affirm the basic goodness of life. Click here to see our book list.

For Older Children:

Address Their Real Questions
  • As your children age, it is much more important to address their real questions. You need to determine whether they are simply asking if they are safe, or if they really want to know what is happening in the world and why. They need answers that are true but are also simple enough that these answers don't leave them feeling overwhelmed or more afraid.
  • Try to remember what it was like to be ten (or twelve) or whatever age your older child is and give an answer that would have satisfied you but not scared you. You definitely don't need to describe a nuclear winter to a ten-year-old when he asks about a nuclear bomb, but you can explain that it has long-term, very serious health effects for people around the world.
  • There is a fine line between being specific enough to take children's questions seriously and overloading them with so many scary facts and figures that they become immobilized or worse, desensitized to others' pain. If you have trouble coming up with appropriate answers in the moment, you may want to think things through ahead of time so you are ready to answer you child's questions.
  • There is nothing wrong with saying ''That is a very good question! I need a little time to think about the answer.'' If you say this, make sure you do get back to your child as soon as possible, preferably that day.
  • An older child's mind is sophisticated enough to grapple with harder questions and learn that there really are no simple answers in world conflict. You can discuss things with them deeply enough to help them learn to see that every story has two sides. Part of developing compassion and maturity is learning to see other people's point of view. This is an excellent time to practice.

Let Them Know the Plan
  • Older children need the same reassurances of your love as they did when they were younger. What changes is the way you show it. Now, rather than discussing what to do in an emergency just with your spouse, let your children know your plans too. Let them know how to reach you and where you are, so if, God forbid, the worst were to happen, they would feel that they had a plan of action. Nothing complex -- just a short list of contingencies and phone numbers and maybe what to do if they can't reach you.

Listen with an Open Heart
  • So often our children don't want answers so much as to be heard. They want to talk about their feelings and know that someone is deeply listening. Comments like ''I can hear that you are really thinking seriously about these issues; if you have any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them'' help your children much more than a lecture on world politics, or dismissing their concerns by telling them not to worry.
  • If we visually protect our children (meaning we don't let them watch hours of TV news playing and replaying scenes of horror), they will generally only take in as much information as they can comfortably process. It is very hard for many children to screen out scary visual images. As a parent, part of our job is to help protect our children from what can be ''too visually invasive'' media intake. Too much graphic violence can harden a child's heart.
  • Comfort and routine are still important stress reducers when your children are older. You may not have an elaborate bedtime routine with your 14-year-old, but a regular game of cards before bed or an established check-in time so that you both can connect about your day offers the same comfort as reading to your younger child does.

Get Informed Together
  • Go to the library, search reliable web sites -- learn as much as you can at an intellectual level appropriate to your child. Learning together not only forges loving bonds but ensures that your child is getting the truth rather than the half-digested ''facts'' that may be flying around school.
  • The older they are, and the more interested or fearful they are, the deeper you can go. Feed your child's true knowledge base (without letting them get immersed in the fear-based traditional media outlook) and at the same time affirm your love and belief in their innate goodness.

Be Secret Agents of Good
  • Talk about people having the power to be good and/or evil and how each of us must choose to act from our hearts from a place of goodness if we want to change the world for the better. Show your child that you are trying to make the world a saner place by your actions. Model what you wish to see in the world; be a secret agent of good!
  • Feeling and acting helpful during times when it is easy to feel helpless is empowering and comforting. There are many organizations doing good in the world and being a part of them goes a long way toward knowing that you are making a difference, even in a small way. No matter what your political affiliation is, or where you stand on current international issues, peace is most likely what we all want in the long run. Organizations that promote peace indirectly (by working to end hunger, eliminate hand gun violence, build tolerance and equity, etc.) take us closer to a peaceful world.

Read, Read, Read
  • There are so many stories that develop the hearts of children. Children can become stronger and face difficult times by reading and hearing stories of other children who confronted such challenges. Fill them with these stories so they have the courage to act from their hearts in the world and see things from more than their own perspective.

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