IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Jenna Bush Hager gets a birthday surprise — yes, it does involve books

And some of her favorite authors!

Happy Birthday, Jenna!

In honor of Jenna Bush Hager’s 40th birthday, TODAY teamed up with Barnes & Noble and Read With Jenna to plan a special surprise.

To celebrate the show’s resident book expert, more than 30 authors whose books have been featured in Read with Jenna have offered up the names of their favorite kids’ books. And with that list, Barnes & Noble is donating 1,000 books to Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, the school outside of D.C. where Jenna used to teach.

The list includes a vast array of stories, covering topics such as gender, the true meaning of Santa Claus and how to find your place in the world. And, of course, there’s a selection of childhood classics that authors are proud to hand down to the next generation of readers.

Scroll through to discover the authors’ recommendations and what kids at Jenna’s old school will be reading this winter — plus a few selects from Barnes & Noble.

Read With Jenna Author's Favorite Books

Recommended by Tara Conklin, author of “The Last Romantics”

"Love, Santa," by Martha Brockenbrough

In this book for readers ages four to eight, a young girl learns the beautiful truth about Santa. Through correspondence with the North Pole, she discovers that Santa is a state of mind that we bring out through kindness and imagination around the holidays.

Recommended by Etaf Rum, author of “A Woman is No Man”

"Sideways Stories from Wayside School," by Louis Sachar

This book has been a hit with kids since its publication in 1978. Louis Sachar’s collection of stories about the wackiest school in town (which was accidentally built sideways) is meant for readers ages seven to 13, but it’s written to be hysterical enough to entertain the adults, too.

Recommended by Jean Kwok, author of “Searching for Sylvie Lee”

"The Many Meanings of Meilan," by Andrea Wang

This new children’s book (published earlier this year) comes packed with heart. It follows Meilan as she moves from Boston’s Chinatown to rural Ohio, where she must stand up against injustice at her new school.

Recommended by Linda Holmes, author of “Evvie Drake Starts Over”

“It Feels Good To Be Yourself,” by Theresa Thorn

Introduce youngest readers to the concept of gender identity, from boy to girl to everything between and outside. Although it’s written in child-friendly language, it will help young readers with the vocabulary to discuss gender identity, thanks to easy-to-understand definitions.

Recommended by Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of “Patsy,” and Emma Straub, author of “All Adults Here”

"Ada Twist, Scientist," by Andrea Beaty

Very curious Ada is full of questions. This adorable book asks “Why?” while celebrating the achievements of women in STEM, including Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. (And it’s now also a series on Netflix.)

Recommended by Ann Patchett, author of “The Dutch House”

"The Beatryce Prophecy," by Kate DiCamillo

A perfect read for kids who love tales of Medieval journeys and prophecies, this new tale by children’s book superstar Kate DiCamillo follows a young girl named Beatryce as she sets off on an epic quest. And although DiCamillo’s lyrical writing can be enough of a selling point, the book also features illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall.

Recommended by Kevin Wilson, author of “Nothing To See Here”

"The Strange Case of Origami Yoda," by Tom Angleberger

This New York Times–bestselling series follows Dwight, a sixth grader who does a lot of weird things. One day, he decides to fold an origami version of Yoda — and it turns out that his origami Yoda can tell the future and now the entire school is lining up to ask questions.

Recommended by Margaret Renkl, author of “Late Migrations,” and Qian Julie Wang, author of “Beautiful Country”

"Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White

It’s no surprise that multiple authors recommended this classic. It’s one of the most beloved books in American literature, telling the story of a spider named Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur. The tender novel about life, death, love and friendship is a time-tested classic for a reason.

Recommended by Abi Dare, author of “Girl With the Louding Voice”

"Matilda," by Roald Dahl

If your kids love the movie “Matilda,” get them the book that started it all. Roald Dahl’s classic 1988 book follows exceptional Matilda as she goes head-to-head with Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress who hates kids.

Recommended by Lily King, author of “Writers & Lovers”

"Corduroy," by Don Freeman

“Corduroy” is a tender story about a teddy bear waiting on the department store shelves to be taken home and loved. It’s as beloved today as it was on its original publication in 1968.

Recommended by Elizabeth Wetmore, author of “Valentine”

"The Undefeated," by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

This award-winning book is a love letter to black life in America, tracing history from slavery through the civil rights movement and up to today. It won the 2020 Caldecott Medal and features references to heroes such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Recommended by Megha Majumdar, author of “A Burning”

"Heidi," by Johanna Spyri

“Heidi” is one of the enduring classics of children’s literature, published in 1881 and based on the story of a real-life Heidi who grew up near the Swiss Alps.

Recommended by J. Courtney Sullivan, author of “Friends & Strangers”

"Ramona Quimby, Age 8," by Beverly Cleary

Kids who love a wise-cracking lead character will adore this modern classic by Beverly Cleary. Being eight isn’t easy for Ramona — but reading about her (mis)adventures is a delight.

Recommended by Ella Berman, author of “The Comeback”

"Those Shoes," by Maribeth Boelts

Teach kids about consumer fads with this wise and witty picture book. It’s ideal for readers ages five through eight and helps them understand the true value of what’s in their lives — from shoes to love.

Recommended by R. Eric Thomas, author of “Here For It”

"The Monster at the End of This Book," by Jon Stone

Sesame Street’s Grover does not want your kids to finish this book. He’ll do anything to stop kids from reaching the end of this book and revealing the monster hidden on the last page. It’s a lovable, adrenaline-fueled read for kids — who will probably want to start back on page one as soon as they finish.

Recommended by Yaa Gyasi, author of “Transcendent Kingdom”

"The Rainbow Fish," by Marcus Pfister

There are plenty of reasons to love “The Rainbow Fish.” It’s a heartwarming tale about a fish who learns to make friends once he learns to share. But it’s OK if the main reason you love the book is its unforgettable illustrations.

Recommended by Rumaan Alam, author of “Leave The World Behind”

"Harriet the Spy," by Louise Fitzhugh

Get out in front of the new Apple TV+ series and get your kids the book that inspired it all. As Harriet recovers from her secret spy book falling into the wrong hands, she learns the power of words — and how to use them for good.

Recommended by Susie Yang, author of “White Ivy”

"The Giving Tree," by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein’s poignant book is enough to make grown adults tear up with its lessons of selfless giving. It’s okay if your kids just like it for the unusual illustrations.

Recommended by Mateo Askaripour, author of “Black Buck”

"Frog and Toad Are Friends," by Arnold Lobel

It’s a rare book that’s as funny to adults as it is to kids. It’s a great choice for kids just learning to read on their own (ages six through eight) and has been beloved by generations of readers since its publication in 1970.

Recommended by Kristin Hannah, author of “The Four Winds”

"The Velveteen Rabbit," by Margery Williams

"There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid.” This heartwarming tale of a toy rabbit who wants to become real is a moving reminder of the power of love.

Recommended by Lauren Fox, author of “Send For Me”

“Tell Me a Mitzi,” by Lore Segal

Mitzi and her little brother are out for a big adventure in the big city, blending urban exploration with wild fantasy. It’s a hysterical classic, beloved by all sorts of kids with a mind for jokes and a nose for adventure.

Recommended by Naima Coster, author of “What’s Mine and Yours”

"A Chair for My Mother," by Vera B. Williams

This tender book packs a punch — and comes with imaginative, punchy illustrations. It’s the story of Rosa, her mother and her grandmother who are saving to buy a very comfortable chair after their home is ravaged by a fire.

Recommended by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of “Good Company”

"The Tale of Despereaux," by Kate DiCamillo

A mouse, a rat, a princess and a serving girl all come together in this Newbery Medal–winning tale by Kate DiCamillo. It’s a magical, immersive story, perfect for readers ages 9 through 12.

Recommended by Maggie Shipstead, author of “Great Circle”

"A Murder for Her Majesty," by Beth Hilgartner

Kids who are obsessed with historical fiction will be completely enraptured with this tale of murder and intrigue in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. It’s a tale of suspense that follows an 11-year-old girl hiding out in Yorkshire cathedral, disguised as a choirboy.

Recommended by Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of “Malibu Rising”

"Annie’s Plaid Shirt," by Stacy B. Davids

Annie wears her plaid shirt everywhere — until her mom insists that she must wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding. But then she comes up with an idea. It’s an ode to problem-solving and being true to yourself that kids of all ages can learn from.

Recommended by Jason Mott, author of “Hell of a Book”

"Dear Mr. Henshaw," by Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary is a children’s book master for good reason — and critics agree. This story about a 6th grader who develops a correspondence with his favorite author won a Newbery Medal and was named by teachers as one of the top 100 books for kids.

Recommended by Megan Abbott, author of “The Turnout”

"The Hundred Dresses," by Eleanor Estes

This tale of finding the courage to speak up against bullying won a Newbery Honor when it was published in 1944. Its message — and stunning illustrations — feel just as fresh today.

Recommended by Amor Towles, author of “Lincoln Highway”

"Eloise at The Plaza," by Kay Thompson

The Plaza’s most precocious resident comes roaring to life in the pages of Kay Thompson’s beloved classic. Whether Eloise is pestering Nanny or running the elevator to the tippy top floor, it’s always an absolutely fabulous adventure.

Recommended by Naomi Krupitsky, author of “The Family”

"Mrs. Katz and Tush," by Patricia Polacco

Just because you have very different backgrounds doesn’t mean you can’t be the best of friends. It was originally published in 1992 but still carries an endearing message, proving that anybody can be friends — no matter their culture or age.

Barnes & Noble's Favorite Books

Children’s & YA Book Awards

Young Reader

Picture Books

Monthly Picks

Young Reader

Young Reader Classics

For more book recommendations, check out:

Subscribe to our Stuff We Love and One Great Find newsletters, and download our TODAY app to discover deals, shopping tips, budget-friendly product recommendations and more!