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Readers' Picks 

In anticipation of holiday gift giving, Kids VT asked parents and educators to identify the best children's books they've read this year.

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One by Kathryn Otoshi, Ages 3+

Red likes to pick on Blue. The other colors know that's wrong, but they're afraid to speak up. Luckily, a character named One helps the colors work together to solve their problem. This seemingly simple book about primary and secondary colors, numbers and counting teaches kids to accept each other's differences.

Lisa Aschbacher reads this book aloud to preschoolers in her arts-based literacy classes. An educator for VSA Vermont, which supports Vermonters with developmental disabilities, she says it helps them understand how words and actions can hurt or heal. After reading, she prompts rich discussion by posing questions such as, "What makes us feel happy and important?" and "What makes us feel lonely and unimportant?" This book, Aschbacher explains, "should be read by young and old for the very basic and important lesson that it illustrates: Sometimes, it just takes one."

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Little Red Bird by Nick Bruel, Ages 3-6

Little Red Bird is happy in her cage but curious to see what's beyond it. When the door is left open, she flies out to explore the larger world. Will she return to her home or keep her newfound freedom?

Bristol resident Michelle Steele, mom to Matthew, 4, and Sam, 6 months, says she loves the story because of its wonderful rhymes, colorful illustrations and, especially, its ambiguous ending. "Just when you wonder what the message of the book is going to be and what the bird will choose, it ends with the words, 'I wonder, what would YOU do?'" she explains. "The end is open, which is so rare in children's books, where authors so often feel the need to preach the 'right' answer to readers."

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Masterpiece by Elise Broach, Ages 8-12

An unlikely friendship develops between an 11-year-old boy, James, and Marvin, a beetle who lives under his sink, in this story, which Publisher's Weekly named as one of the best children's books of 2008. When James is recruited to create a fake masterpiece for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in order to catch a thief, he relies on Marvin to help pull off the plan.

Burlington dad Patrick Henry calls the book "a wonderful mystery full of twists and turns." He read it on his own prior to reading it with his kids, Thomas, 12, and Kate, 11. "I braced myself for their shrieks as each plot twist unveiled itself," he says. "My children did not disappoint me. At one point, they jumped up off the bed and screamed, 'No!' in surprise."

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