Database of Award Winning Children’s Literature. Once you enter the DAWCL site you can search the database using keywords (or by many other criteria such as suggested reader age, format or language). What’s nice about this search is that all books listed have won some sort of prize, so the quality is high, and the database includes much older books, that you won’t necessarily find on Amazon.
Google. Type into the box "childen's books about death" or whatever subject you are looking for.
Children’s Picture Book Database at Miami University. Although it asks you to enter your zipcode this isn’t required to complete the search(this information is used when applying for grants for the service) – you can just enter your keyword, or choose to do a more advanced search. This database will bring up books that don’t necessarily have your keyword in the title, but that do have it in the (librarian-written) abstract.
5. I search the literature database at the Helping Books/Helping Families Program. This database contains “children’s literature titles, both fiction and nonfiction, covering topics that focus on ethical and personal issues relevant to young people.” – so not a site for looking for books on eg owls, but great if I want a book that explores eg compassion, grandparents or rituals.
6. I use lists compiled by librarians around the world – librarybooklists.org has an excellent kids’ section, with links by subject to many different lists drawn up by librarians. Additional useful lists by subject drawn up by librarians can be found at Monroe County Public Library, the University of Calgary (scroll down to subject bibliographies), and Boston Public Library (again, scroll down for book lists by subject).
7. Library Thing is an online book catalogue where any member of the public can upload details of books they own, and then rate them. On Library Thing’s search page you can look for books using tags (ie keywords), for example I typed in “owls, picture books” and a list of over 200 books came up. I can then tweak this result by going to the right hand side of my search results page where there is a section called “Related tagmashes”. Here you will find links to books which are tagged with similar keywords (eg “children’s books, owls”). I like Library Thing for 2 key reasons (1) a rating is given for most of the books therein – a rating often based on the input of hundreds of people who are book lovers. This means I tend to trust the rating given a book and so my final results are pretty reliable. (2) the tags (keywords) added to books are not necessarily related to the title of books and so you can find books you would not find via e.g. Amazon where the search is based on words in a book’s title.
8. I regularly visit Anastasia Suen’s blog 5 Great Books. As Anastasia herself puts it “The purpose of this blog is provide thematic book lists for children learning to read.” and once a week you’ll find a new list of 5 books for younger children on a particular topic (recent topics include Thanksgiving, Turkeys, Pumpkins, Cats and Spiders). Unfortunately it isn’t possible to see a list of all the topics covered, but there is a search function and that will bring up any mention of the keyword you enter. For example, I searched for “owls” and although owls haven’t featured as a topic themselves, I was pointed to a book which features owls, in the list of books about the Moon.
9. Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site is full of goodies. As Carol puts it herself, “this is a collection of reviews of great books for kids, ideas of ways to use them in the classroom and collections of books and activities about particular subjects, curriculum areas, themes and professional topics.” The page dedicated to themes and other subjects is the most useful from my perspective – it contains an alphabetical list of themes such as farms, quilts and trains. Although the list of themes is not exhaustive, if the theme you’re after is listed, then you’ll hit a gold mine – reviews of lots of books on that topic, with an indication of likely reader age.
10. A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books by by Carolyn W. Lima and John A. Lima sounds like a perfect book for finding kids’ fiction by theme.
11. California’s Department of Education has a searchable online database of “outstanding literature for children and adolescents in grades kindergarten through grade twelve“. You can search by keyword and restrict your result to fiction, or even subgenres such as drama or science fiction. Sometimes items are returned which don’t seem to match your search criteria (sometimes this is because a word in the book summary cotains a substring which matches your keyword eg summary contains “Mudge” but keyword is “mud”), but this database is nevertheless useful as it contains only high quality literature and will return results where your keyword is not in the book’s title, but is in the summary provided of the given book.