In 1931, Jean de Brunhoff's first Babar book, The Story Of Babar was published in France, followed by The Travels of Babar then Babar The King. In 1930, Marjorie Flack authored and illustrated Angus and the Ducks, followed in 1931 by Angus And The Cats, then in 1932, Angus Lost. Flack authored another book in 1933, The Story about Ping, illustrated by Kurt Wiese. The Elson Basic Reader was published in 1930 and introduced the public to Dick and Jane. In 1930 The Little Engine That Could was published, illustrated by Lois Lenski. In 1954 it was illustrated anew by George and Doris Hauman. It spawned an entire line of books and related paraphernalia and coined the refrain "I think I can! I think I can!". In 1936, Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand was published, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Ferdinand was the first picture book to crossover into pop culture. Walt Disney produced an animated feature film along with corresponding merchandising materials. In 1938 to Dorothy Lathrop was awarded the first Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in Animals of the Bible, written by Helen Dean Fish. Thomas Handforth won the second Caldecott Medal in 1939, for Mei Li, which he also wrote. Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline was published in 1939 and was selected as a Caldecott Medal runner-up, today known as a Caldecott Honor book.
For my needs I recently created - Best Popular Picture Books on Goodreads with pretty limited criteria - that is 5000 ratings and shelved at least 500 times as "picture book". Sure it won't be as long as this list - and if people ever start voting on it, I'll probably end up doing a lot of deletion. But it will always be a good starting place for picture books.
Author Virginia Lee Burton has made this story a Caldecott Medal winner. Originally published in 1943, the moral of the story is even more relevant now than it was then. The little house is happy living way out in the country. When she eventually notices things changing, roads being made, and other buildings and houses being built closer, while trees and fields are being replaced with them, she begins to worry. By the end of the story, she is all alone in the middle of all the newer development. There is a happy ending, though. Her past owner comes and rescues her from the new and unwelcome city life, and takes her back to the country where they were both happier.
Oh, Harry! He hates baths so much that he’s willing to run away from his beloved family for a romp through construction sites and coal chutes until he’s no longer a white dog with black spots, but a black dog with white spots. When Harry finds himself unrecognizable to his loved ones, he learns that being clean might not be so bad after all. A book that will make anyone sit up and beg for another reading.
Author Maurice Sendak offers a tale of suspense, action, and fun, with this story about a young boy named Max who wears a wolf suit to bed. Max has been naughty and is sent to bed without any dinner. The real adventure begins with the forest growing and creatures appearing as wild and free. Being wild with the wild things can be tiring, as Max discovers on his adventure. As things begin to happen in his room, creatures appear that are a cross between scary and funny. Winner of the Caldecott Medal and listed in the ‘Best Illustrated Children’s Books” for many years, this is a winner worth a look. Illustrations that will grab your eye and a written tale that will draw you and your children back again and again are what this story has to offer. Adventure, artwork, and fun are all wrapped up in one small package here.

I bought this for my 6 year old who became a big sister and she loved it! I thought it would be an easy read for her but I bought it anyway and although it is an easy read for her, the story is just too cute. She enjoyed it and all I wanted was for her to feel special and get used to the idea of becoming a big sister and this book definitely helped. I recommend the book to any age group under the age of 7.
Wordless Picture Books: Picture books that tell the story completely through illustrations with no words at all, or only a very few embedded in the artwork, are known as wordless picture books. One of the most stunning examples is The Lion and the Mouse, an Aesop's fable, retold in illustrations by Jerry Pinkney. Pinkney received the 2010 Randolph Caldecott Medal for picture book illustration for his wordless picture book. Another wonderful example, which is often used in middle school writing classes as a writing prompt is A Day A Dog by Gabrielle Vincent.
A picture book combines visual and verbal narratives in a book format, most often aimed at young children. The images in picture books use a range of media such as oil paints, acrylics, watercolor, and pencil, among others. Two of the earliest books with something like the format picture books still retain now were Heinrich Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter from 1845 and Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit from 1902. Some of the best-known picture books are Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings, Dr. Seuss' The Cat In The Hat, and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. The Caldecott Medal (established 1938) and Kate Greenaway Medal (established 1955) are awarded annually for illustrations in children's literature. From the mid-1960s several children's literature awards include a category for picture books.
Dr. Seuss has taken a simple story and made it one that applies to everyone at one time or another. Each milestone in life opens new doors of opportunity, and that is what this story implies. As you read it with your children, you may even be inspired yourself. Not only does it inspire and encourage the reader about the opportunities in life, but it is also entertaining with the traditional Seuss wit and rhyme. Fun to read aloud and even more fun to share with a loved one, this is one picture book that will become a family favorite.
What do you get when you put together a peddler, some monkeys, and the story telling gift of Esphyr Slobodkina? You get a classic story that has been around for decades and is still just as entertaining and fun as it was when first published in 1938. Generations of children have grown up with this and other classics that have made storytelling an art. With the humor and warmth found only in the past, this is one children’s book that will continue to amuse, delight, and inspire many families for many more years to come. Family classic and a treasure to share – what more could you want in a story?
Mrs. Biddlebox – This is possibly my favorite picture book of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. Unfortunately, it’s out of print. The good news is you can get a used copy in good condition on Amazon. Mrs. Biddlebox wakes up in a bad mood, but instead of sitting around like a grouch, she tackles that bad mood and turns it around in time for sleep. We reach for this book anytime my little ones and I have butted heads during the day, and it’s the perfect tool to help us process the bad mojo and end the day on a positive note.
Cows may seem quite boring to most people, especially when they are plain old ordinary cows. The way Doreen Cronin tells it with pictures by Betsy Lewin that prove it to be true, Farmer Brown’s cows are no ordinary cows, at least not after they find an old typewriter that someone left in the barn. When the cows begin to learn how to spell and write, they insist on being treated differently and end up going on strike when Farmer Brown refuses their demands. Funny, delightful and entertaining, this is a great book for the entire family to share.
When self esteem, or the lack of it, tells Vashti that she can’t draw, her teacher encourages her to try. Just making one dot on the page, and seeing where it will lead, opens up a new world of being artistic. That is some of the best advice she could have given her. When Vashti finds that she can mix some colors to create other colors, she begins to experiment and see just how much she can do. This is one of the most encouraging childrens books to read aloud or even alone. Trying in the midst of doubt can help anyone find hidden talent, and reach places they would have never made it to.
Nothing makes a better first book than one that will keep a child coming back. Nina Laden brings together this surprise and guessing book with colorful illustrations and windows to look into to see what is hiding behind the scenes. From a cow to a choo-choo train this is one book that will offer the stimulation needed to make it into a game and enjoy the colors and patterns throughout it. Attention grabbing and fun to read, children’s books such as this are something to share. Cuddling up and reading together takes on new fun with a book that’s a game as well as a story
In this magnificent visual and literary masterpiece, a young Native Canadian boy, who longs to see the Atlantic Ocean, carves a tiny boat and figurine from wood and sets them on a journey both dangerous and delightful through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Full of adventure, geography, and natural wonders, Paddle to the Sea belongs in every home.
Harold is one little boy who has an imagination that can help get him out of many jams, especially with the help of his purple crayon. Author Crockett Johnson has brought one of the most adventurous and endearing stories to life with a tale that will not fail to amaze and amuse you and your children as you share this wonderful story. Harold receives help from his crayon by drawing a boat to get him out of water, to creating landmarks to help him find his way home. His imagination and sense of adventure is contagious to all who will allow their own imaginations to soar
We have a wide range of ages in our family, from toddler to grade-schooler – and a healthy variety of reading tastes, too. And so I can’t guarantee that every kid will love every book on these lists of the best picture books, but I can tell you that every one of these books wowed my test audience of three very different kids, plus me and my husband. I’m also pretty annoying about telling friends and family to give these books as birthday and holiday and “just because” presents, and every single time they report back: Everyone loved the book! The kid and the parents.
I Am Peace (one of three books in a series, between I Am Yoga and I Am Human) reads more like an aspiration than a tale. It takes us through one, slowed-down moment with a child who is using mindfulness to bring about peace when his thoughts are worrisome. “I give myself a moment. I take a breath. And then I tell myself, it’s alright.” Peter Reynolds’ illustrations are simple and endearing, peace signs abound. In a perfect world, people of any age will have access to the same sanity and peace that the child in this book has.
×