You want to read the best picture books to your kids but either:
- You've exhausted all of the other ubiquitous lists of "books to read before you grow up".
- You want a comprehensive list of quality books which will appeal to all kids and parents and which go beyond the usual book recommendations.
Congratulations, you've found a great list of "must read" picture books that is not a repeat of every other "best books" list out there in internet land.
First let me say, that making this book list was HARD. How could I whittle the 1000s of picture books I've read down to only
50 51? I used a couple of criteria.
First, if a book is on every other "best children's books" list it was less likely to make the cut. No Goodnight Moon, no Where the Wild Things Are. I mean, do you really need me to tell you about them? Second, I wanted a list of books that covered a wide range of topics like social-emotional learning, humor, diverse cultures and experiences, as well as books that were just plain FUN.
No children's picture book list can be comprehensive, but I flatter myself that I have a good selection here. Happy reading!
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Age 0 and up
Wonderful board books and picture books to start reading to your babies from day one.
Clive and His Babies (series) by Jessica Spanyol. I adore this board book series about Clive, especially this one in which he wheels around his diverse collection of baby dolls.
Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck by Asia Citro, illustrated by Troy Cummings. An absolutely delightful board book with onomatopoeic and rhythmic text that will have toddlers making their favorite garbage truck noises.
My Turn to Learn Numbers by Natalie Marshall. If you are looking for a concepts book, I like books by this author—there are also books about colors, shapes, etc.—with bright illustrations and tabbed pages.
Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Short, sweet rhymes will encourage parents and babies to interact and giggle with each other. A fun take on "this little piggy."
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leslie Staub. A celebration of all children no matter what they look like and where they live.
Breathe by Scott Magoon. A calming book that follows a day in the life of a baby whale.
Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora. Walk around a diverse neighborhood and hear "hello" in different languages.
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith. An Indigenous girl celebrates finding happiness in the everyday events.
Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. So funny! You get credit for picking any Jan Thomas book to read because once you read the first one, you won't be able to stop searching out more.
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett. A book by one of my favorite authors. There are only 4 words but the creative possibilities are endless.
How We Eat by Shuli de la Fuente-Lau. Entertaining photographs of an inclusive population and the many ways people eat.
MORE: Best toddler books
Age 3 and up
As your toddlers turn into preschoolers, they will sit for longer stories. But still keep reading their favorite books from the previous category!
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ronald Barrett. A humorous look at what happens when animals make the wrong sartorial choices.
The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars by Jean Merrill, illustrated by Ronni Solbert. An elephant with a penchant for smashing learns how to temper his enthusiasm.
Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes, illustrated by Jess Engle. A bird receives reassurance from her mother that her need for physical boundaries is totally okay.
Red is Best by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis. A tribute to a child's obsession with a favorite color.
Big Kids No Everything by Wednesday Kirwan. Saying "No" is a way to find your voice, and sometimes it even turns into a "Yes."
Umbrella by Taro Yashima. Onomatopoeic text accompanies the story of a girl trying out her new umbrella.
May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice de Regniers, illustrated by Beni Montresor. After a king and queen issue an invitation, a boy wants to know if his animal menagerie will also be welcome.
Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade. A gentle bedtime story about listening.
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek. A rhyming tour of humorous and multicolored and multi-talented sheep.
A Beach Tail by Karen Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Take a walk down the beach from a young boy's perspective.
Mr Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham. A joyful book about sharing a boat and sharing a pot of tea.
Wait Till the Moon is Full by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Garth Williams. A classic and peaceful tale about how a mother raccoon teaches her son patience.
They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel. An ingenious book that will start a conversation about perspective.
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback. Die cut pages add to the pleasure of watching Joseph learn how to make something out of nothing.
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. The mayor of La Paz outlaws singing, leading to a hilarious standoff with a local rooster.
Red Sled by Lita Judge. A child and woodland creatures take a late night ride on the eponymous sled.
Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez. A boy is looking for his missing stuffed toy and he asks everyone around him for help.
Thanks to All the Animals by Allen Sockabasin. Local animals care for a frightened boy and keep him warm until his father arrives to rescue him.
Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle. A wordless book that will teach kids to think critically as they read a new version of a classic fairy tale.
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. A charming story about how being different can save the day.
Age 5 and up
Kindergarteners and older children will sit, rapt with attention for these funny, thoughtful and creative tales.
The Storyteller by Evan Turk. Stories nestle within a story in a captivatingly original folktale.
The Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti. With wonderfully dry humor, a pair of owls teach barnyard animals the secret of happiness.
Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim. The tapirs teach the leopard the value of being silent.
A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng. A classroom of children describe their varied and loving families.
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales. A skeleton comes to fetch Grandma Beetle on her birthday, but the clever woman thwarts him as she claims to have too many chores to do first.
Once Upon a Book by Grace Lin and Kate Messner. On a winter day, in an attempt to shake off cabin fever, Alice opens a book and is sucked inside on an adventure.
Zen Shorts by Jon Muth. Stillwater the panda tells the neighborhood children stories which change the way they look at the world.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. A girl and her mom hang out at home when one day a tiger with a very large appetite shows up.
We March by Shane W. Evans. A gorgeous book depicts the March on Washington with spare, poignant text.
The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, illustrated by Sophie Casson. A wonderful book featuring Van Gogh, that addresses bullying and what it means to be an artist.
Molly By Golly: The Legend of Molly Williams, America's First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly. Learn about how, in 1818, a cook became a hero.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis. A group of girls cross the fence—literally and figuratively—in the segregated South.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka. Two girls in a refugee camp cooperate when they find only one pair of shoes.
Dear Juno by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung. A young boy waits for a letter from his grandmother, who lives on the other side of the world.
Rain School by James Rumford. A celebration of the power of education and the joy of going to school.
Oscar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel. On Christmas Eve in 1938, a Jewish refugee experiences acts of kindness as he makes his way up Manhattan.
Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch. As Death follows Duck, the pair maintain a kind of strange friendship, their conversations centering around existential questions about life and death.
The Rain Stomper by Boswell Addie, illustrated Eric Velasquez. A rainy day prompts a celebration of joy by a baton twirler waiting for a parade to begin.
Once a Mouse by Marcia Brown. A fable about pride, kindness and bravery.
Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil, illustrated by Charly Palmer. A boy reminds us the even when we have extra lousy days and our moods seem to control us, we can show ourselves grace and forgive ourselves.