Watty Piper and Loren Long brought us this inspiring story of a little train engine many years ago and it is still inspiring and encouraging millions of people, children and adults alike. When the little train gets stuck at the bottom of a hill, the little engine keeps his focus, and keeps telling himself “I think I can, I think I can” until eventually he makes it to the top of the hill. The message this leaves the reader with is one of how important it is to be determined, persevere, and never stop trying. One of the most inspirational children’s books ever, this one is a classic.
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.
Joanna, thanks so much for this fantastic article. I now have lots of homework and a new author to follow as well. I’m one of the people who has been bugging you for more info on indie publishing for children’s books and I really love that you listen to the requests of your listeners. Love your podcast and blog. You’re really inspiring, and so is Darcy!
First published in 1942, this is one story that has become a classic. A little bunny thinks he might want to run away. Similar to the stage that many children go through, this little bunny thinks life will be better away from home. His mother, though, tells him that if he runs away she will run after him. A true tale of the love a mother has for her young, this story is one that will keep you and your children coming back. Each situation the bunny mentions he might be in, the mother has an answer for as to how she would rescue him. Delightful and heartwarming, this is one of the best.
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.
“ When God Created Mothers" When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel appeared and said. "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one." And God said, "Have you read the specs on this order?" She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love aff ...more ”
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Remember picture books are not just for tiny tots, some of these stories are much more suited to children in the early and even middle years of primary (elementary) school. Each title is linked to an Amazon page where you can find reviews and age recommendations for those you might not be personally familiar with (I certainly haven’t read them all…or at least I don’t remember reading them all!) I hope this list re-connects you with a story or two that you had forgotten all about and that you will take pleasure in re-visiting with the children in your life.
Between 1957 and 1960 Harper & Brothers published a series of sixteen "I Can Read" books. Little Bear was the first of the series. Written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by a then relatively unknown Maurice Sendak, the two collaborated on three other "I Can Read" books over the next three years. From 1958 to 1960, Syd Hoff wrote and illustrated four "I Can Read" books: Danny and the Dinosaur, Sammy The Seal, Julius, and Oliver.
Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann tell the tale of a little girl who loves pink. She loves it so much, in fact, that she only wants to eat pink, yummy treats. The pinker, the better and the gooier, the yummier. When she begins to turn pink, her parents take her to the doctor who insists that she begin to eat more green in the form of vegetables- yuck! After her parents insisting that she eat more vegetables so she can return to normal, she sneaks just one last pink treat and turns even darker- almost red! That’s when she decides that vegetables aren’t so bad after all and finally returns to normal. The only problem is her little brother has now decided that he loves pink food! Oh no! Here we go again!
The book Pink Tears is really cute, I love how it teaches about emotions and how to not bottle them up. My son really liked the book as well and kept pointing at Lolly! I wish the book would have gone into some more detail about how or why the others were not playing with Lolly and then the end was a little sudden with her just going back out and everything was fine.

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
Japanese author and illustrator Mitsumasa Anno has published a number of picture books beginning in 1968 with Mysterious Pictures. In his "Journey" books a tiny character travels through depictions of the culture of various countries. Everyone Poops was first published in Japan in 1977, written and illustrated by the prolific children's author Tarō Gomi. It has been translated into several languages. Australian author Margaret Wild has written more than 40 books since 1984 and won several awards. In 1987 the first book was published in the Where's Wally? (known as Where's Waldo? in the United States and Canada) series by the British illustrator Martin Handford. The books were translated into many languages and the franchise also spawned a TV series, a comic strip and a series of video games. Since 1989 over 20 books have been created in the Elmer the Patchwork Elephant series by the British author David McKee. They have been translated in 40 languages and adapted into a children's TV series.

What parent and child hasn’t tried to outdo each other when expressing their love for each other? Little Nutbrown Hare wants his daddy, Big Nutbrown Hare, to know just how much he really loves him. Having a difficult time putting it into words and not knowing how to express his love for his father, Little Nutbrown Hare keeps coming up with more and more as his father tries to outdo him each time. After the little bunny falls asleep, the father wins with an expression of love that can’t be outdone. Fun to read together and endearing to moms, dads, and children everywhere, this tale brings home the ‘I love you more’ game. Bedtime or not, this is one story that you will want to share over and over again, and who knows, it may even help you come up with more ways to express your love for your little ones


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.
Chris Van Allsburg has created a story of fantasy, adventure and fun, with this book about two kids who get more than they bargained for with a board game that they find. Not only does it take them from boredom to excitement, but the trouble they encounter along the way will thrill you and be fun to share with your own children. Playing a game may never be the same again, once you find out what happens with this simple little board game. Magical, mystical and full of surprises, this is one story that will be a great addition to any day.
This spoof on the three little pigs will have you laughing and wanting to know more within the first few pages. When the three little wolves go out on their own, they build a house that should stand up to the big bad pig. But the pig is armed with more than simply his huffing and puffing. He has dynamite! Sharing this hilarious tale will make a family reading time more fun than ever. And the ending may surprise even those who think they can tell what will happen next. This anytime story will be one to read over and over again.
One way to know your day is going to be bad is waking up with gum in your hair. Alexander finds himself seeing more and more problems as the day goes on. From the gum in his hair to dropping his sweater in the sink to tripping on his skateboard, he finds himself in the midst of one of the worst days ever. Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz tell this tale of a little boy and all the things that go wrong for him both in story and in pictures in a way that will make you sympathetic for this little boy and how his day is going and appreciate life as it goes well. Children and adults alike will love this tale of a boy, his bad day, and the hilarity that comes with the story. Bad days happen to everyone. Sharing a funny story about a bad day will help learn to see the humor in life even when things don’t go right.
Mo Willems brings to life, through this charming story, the tactics of a small child to get his own way. When the bus driver has to leave the bus for a few minutes, he cautions those who are left behind (the readers) not to let the pigeon drive the bus. Asking nicely doesn’t ensure he gets what he wants so he moves from pleading, bribery, arguing, manipulating, and finally throwing a tantrum just like small children will to get their own way at times. Humor and true life comments throughout this tale will leave you laughing and offer you a sense of reality in a delightful story
This bright, bold, biology book of sorts has entertained and educated kids and parents for decades. Maybe it’s the array of images of animals and people going about their business (pun intended) that delights. Or maybe it’s the unapologetic honesty of the text that readers find refreshing and fun. Whatever the case, this classic that brings new meaning to the term “potty humor” belongs in every young library!
This spoof on the three little pigs will have you laughing and wanting to know more within the first few pages. When the three little wolves go out on their own, they build a house that should stand up to the big bad pig. But the pig is armed with more than simply his huffing and puffing. He has dynamite! Sharing this hilarious tale will make a family reading time more fun than ever. And the ending may surprise even those who think they can tell what will happen next. This anytime story will be one to read over and over again.
Bedtime stories are a favorite among children and parents alike, and this is one of the most beloved bedtime stories of all time. Written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, saying goodnight has never been more fun than with this tale of comfort, loving goodnights, and a room full of entertaining objects to say ‘goodnight’ to. Written in rhyming verse that makes it easy for even the youngest children to memorize, they will soon be able to ‘read’ it along with you. This is one story that will soon become a family favorite. Parents and children have been sharing this story for more than fifty years, and it has become one of the best loved picture books of all time. “Goodnight” time has never been more quiet and loving than when you share this timeless tale of saying “goodnight” with your children and grandchildren.
Joanna, thanks so much for this fantastic article. I now have lots of homework and a new author to follow as well. I’m one of the people who has been bugging you for more info on indie publishing for children’s books and I really love that you listen to the requests of your listeners. Love your podcast and blog. You’re really inspiring, and so is Darcy!
Graeme Base has created yet another astounding book to add to the list of the best. This beautiful and amazing picture book will have you looking for clues throughout it to find out the answer to the question, ‘Who stole the birthday feast?’ A mystery like no other with clues on each page and in every illustrated picture, the fun is just beginning with the reading. When you think you know the answer, you may find something that will tell you whether you are right or wrong. Mystery lovers young and old will find this story one to enjoy over and over, alone or with a loved one.
Everyone loves lovable grandmothers, but this is no ordinary grandma. Strega Nona actually means ‘Grandma Witch’. The lovable and magical things she can do with her magic pasta pot will amaze, astound, and humor you and your children as you share this story. Everyone in the village comes to her for help and advice, even the priest and the nuns in the convent. Her powerful pot is put to the test and the hilarity that results will leave you laughing. This is a wonderful book to share with little ones at bedtime or any time. Winner of the Newberry Award, Tomie dePaola has created a classic.
This classic by Robert Munsch offers adventure, suspense, humor, and romance. What more could you want in a children’s book? Princess Elizabeth and Prince Ronald are to be married, but when a dragon kidnaps Prince Ronald and catches the castle on fire, burning everything owned by the princess- even her clothes, it puts a damper on their plans. Undaunted by this set back, Princess Elizabeth puts on a paper bag for a dress, and goes out to find her prince. After she manages to rescue him, the prince tells her to come back after she is dressed like a real princess. Hilarity and humor will keep you laughing as you share this romance gone wrong with your children.
Classic Picture Books: Often, when you see lists of recommended picture books, you'll see a separate category of books titled "Classic Children's Picture Books." What's a classic? Typically, a classic is a book that has remained popular and accessible for more than one generation. A few of the best-known and best-loved English language picture books include Harold and the Purple Crayon, written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson, The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, both written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton and by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Clement Hurd.
What better way to teach babies and toddlers where each body part is than with a game and a book? Karen Katz has created one of the most interactive and teachable peek-a-boo type of stories that will help you as you and baby have fun learning. It is one of the best children’s books. Finding the belly button, the eyes, and other parts of baby’s anatomy will be exciting and fun as you make a story into a game. Interacting with the baby and the story will be one of the easiest ways to teach simple concepts. Play time, nap time, any time, this story will keep you and baby having fun for a long time
Picture Book Biographies: The picture book format has proved effective for biographies, serving as an introduction to the lives of a variety of accomplished men and women. Some picture book biographies like Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman, and by Deborah Heiligman, with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, appeal to children in grade one to three.
Many more picture book biographies appeal to upper elementary school age kids while still others appeal to both upper elementary and middle school age kids. Some recommended picture book biography titles include and A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, both of which were written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet and The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter.
Chris Van Allsburg has created a story of fantasy, adventure and fun, with this book about two kids who get more than they bargained for with a board game that they find. Not only does it take them from boredom to excitement, but the trouble they encounter along the way will thrill you and be fun to share with your own children. Playing a game may never be the same again, once you find out what happens with this simple little board game. Magical, mystical and full of surprises, this is one story that will be a great addition to any day.
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.
More than simply childrens books, this one is actually more like a work of art. Not only is each letter of the alphabet done in 3D, some of them move and even change into the shape of the next letter. Animation in a way that may have never been done before, this is one book that will amaze you and your children. One fun thing to do is to try and figure out how it was made and how the letters work. Maybe it could even become the focus of an art project as you try to create a similar work of your own.

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.


Orbis Pictus from 1658 by John Amos Comenius was the earliest illustrated book specifically for children. It is something of a children's encyclopedia and is illustrated by woodcuts.[1] A Little Pretty Pocket-Book from 1744 by John Newbery was the earliest illustrated storybook marketed as pleasure reading in English.[2] In Japan, kibyoshi were picture books from the 18th century, and are seen as a precursor to manga.[3] Examples of 18th-century Japanese picture books include works such as Santō Kyōden's Shiji no yukikai (1798).[4][5]
Hi, I'm Kelly. I'm a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let's stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you'll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.
A hilarious book about cause and effect, Fortunately relays both the unfortunate and fortunate events of Ned, a boy trying desperately to get to a surprise party. Sharks, malfunctioning planes, and pitchforks sticking out of haystacks will try their best to derail Ned’s celebratory plans, but fortunately, fate has something else in mind. Replete with laugh-out-loud illustrations.
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