Interview with Karen Cicero and the Good Housekeeping Kids’ Book Awards 2023

by Alice Knisley Matthias

Kids Discover Interview with Karen Cicero and the Good Housekeeping Kids’ Book Awards 2023

What makes a book become a favorite for a reader? 

Do the characters feel like people you know? Does the story make you want to read for hours and never put the book down? Maybe you read a line and burst out laughing. The illustrations add to the magic of the story on the page. 

There are a variety of formats, genres and titles available for readers on the shelves at schools, libraries and bookstores. What sparks the interest of one child might not grab hold of another reader and that’s what makes reading a book a personal experience for people of all ages.

The pages of a book can take readers to faraway places, help kids recognize situations that seem familiar or make them feel like they are having a conversation with friends.

Karen Cicero is a former editor at Parents who started the brand’s awards programs and now leads the way for the Good Housekeeping Kids Book Awards.

How does she know how to find the titles kids will be sure to love?

According to Cicero, “When it comes to creating a list of the best children’s books, Good Housekeeping has a secret weapon: More than 125 actual kids from all over the country poured out their hearts about books we sent them to review.”

These kids, known as “junior reviewers,” knew what caught their imagination and shared their thoughts with the GH panel. There was discussion about characters and story lines and in the end it was the kid comments that helped make up the list of books that got enthusiastic support.

The roundup of books covers the ages from babies to middle-school readers and doesn’t hesitate to include a few sensitive topics. The books got the stamp of approval from kids and a thumbs-up from a librarian.

There are fun-loving dogs, ice-cream-eating squirrels, books to learn about counting, science lessons, STEM topics, nonfiction and fiction titles, graphic novels, and a variety of middle-grade series to choose from on the list.

Kids Discover got a chance to talk with Karen Cicero about what she has learned about the combination of kids and books. Her adventures include visiting almost every state with her family and she is a mom who loves to decorate for the holidays.

In fact, she lives in the Christmas city with the name of the season: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The 2023 Good Housekeeping Kids’ Book Awards

Find the full list here and get started on your reading fun!

How did you become involved with the Good Housekeeping Kids’ Book Awards?

Good Housekeeping launched the first Kids’ Book Awards in fall 2022. I joined the team in May 2022 to work on the story and other GH award programs. Although it was my first book awards for Good Housekeeping, I had previously created annual best children’s book lists for another publication.   

How does the process work?

Click on “How We Tested” in this link to get all the specifics. Overall, the Good Housekeeping list stands out from other children’s book lists because it’s approved by literacy experts and children.

What new categories have been added?

We added several new categories for 8- to 12-year-olds, including best graphic novels and best middle-grade books in a series. 

How do you encourage kids to become readers?

If kids aren’t into reading, it’s just because they haven’t found a book that speaks to them yet. I’d suggest that they check a book out of the library that’s about one of their interests. I don’t think kids realize how many books there are on sports, video games, or even zany facts. Another idea is to try reading a graphic novel version of a chapter book. Many popular book series, like Keeper of the Lost Cities, Spy School and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, have a comic-style version that some kids find easier to follow.

How did you get started reading and writing? Can you share a favorite author/book you liked as a young reader?

For as long as I can remember, I loved books. My favorite picture book was The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes—even though the story takes place around Easter time, I’d read it all year long. In middle school, I couldn’t get enough of anything Judy Blume wrote. I even saved my lovingly worn copies for my own daughter, who never cracked them open and instead read the Harry Potter series and other fantasy novels repeatedly.  

What subjects interested you in school?

I liked math the most in elementary school. By high school, I enjoyed writing short stories and joined the newspaper staff. In senior year, I became editor in chief and went to college to study journalism.

What’s a piece of advice or words of encouragement you got from a teacher or mentor?

The best piece of advice I ever received is that the first draft of anything—a book report, an article, a short story—isn’t usually very good. Don’t be discouraged if you’re asked for revisions because they will only make your work better. Popular authors have told me that they revise their stories many times before they’re published.

What do you read now?

Besides all the middle-grade chapter books I read for work—I’m about to crack open the new Percy Jackson book—I like mysteries and memoirs.


Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, garden, family and education. Her work appears in The New York Times, Allrecipes, Taste of Home, Food Network, Washington Post, Eating Well, The Kitchn, Delish, Birds and Blooms, Woman's Day, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, America's Test Kitchen, Boys' Life and Parade. Her book, "Tasty Snacks in a Snap!" is published by Scholastic for young readers. You can read her work at Home / Alice Knisley Matthias ( and follow her at Alice Knisley Matthias (@aliceknisleymatthias) • Instagram photos and videos and @AKnisleyMatth ( / Twitter (