25 Classic Picture Books to Read with Young Children: Find these books at your local library or purchase through the affiliate links provided for your convenience. All recommendations are mine.
There’s something about reading a classic picture book. It can transport you back to when you were a child and remind you how you felt the first time you read it. Was the book one you read over and over? Did you cuddle up with your parent in a rocking chair? Or perhaps you wrapped yourself up in your favorite blanket while you just stared at the pictures.
I write so often about books, I’ve put them in one central location and created a collection of all of my book lists! Find more great reading book lists here.
While there are simply too many to list, here are ones you shouldn’t miss reading with your young child. Just click on the link to be taken right to the book.
Corduroy: Have you ever dreamed of being locked in a department store at night? The endearing story of Corduroy paints a picture of the adventures that might unfold (for a teddy bear at least) in such a situation. When all the shoppers have gone home for the night, Corduroy climbs down from the shelf to look for his missing button. It’s a brave new world!
Babar the King: This charming French illustrated classic follows the adventures of Babar the elephant as he becomes king of his people.
Madeline: A Caldecott Honor Book : Nothing frightens Madeline–not tigers, not mice, not even getting sick. To Madeline, a trip to the hospital is a grand adventure. A true classic, Madeline continues to enchant readers more than sixty years after its first publication.
Dr. Seuss’s Beginner Book Collection: A perfect gift for new parents, birthday celebrations, and happy occasions of all kinds, this collection of five beloved Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss—The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop,and Fox in Socks—will be cherished by young and old alike.
The Little Engine That Could: 60th Anniversary Edition: The special anniversary edition of The Little Engine That Could™ contains the entire text and original artwork. A laminated jacket, gold-stamped cloth binding, and colored endpapers complete the deluxe package. Young readers, as well as parents and grandparents, will treasure the story of the blue locomotive who exemplifies the power of positive thinking.
The Little House: Won the Caldecott Medal in 1943: A poignant story of a cute country cottage that becomes engulfed by the city that grows up around it. The house has an expressive face of windows and doors, and even the feelings of a person, so she’s sad when she’s surrounded by the dirty, noisy city’s hustle and bustle: “She missed the field of daisies / and the apple trees dancing in the moonlight.” Fortunately, there’s a happy ending, as the house is taken back to the country where she belongs.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel: Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers — the very symbol of industrial America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap heap.
Billy and Blaze: A Boy and His Pony: Billy was a little boy who “loved horses more than anything else in the world.” Imagine how happy he was when he got his very own pony for his birthday! From that day on, Billy was seldom seen without his new friend, Blaze.
Drummer Hoff: W0n the 1968 Caldecott Medal. With bold illustrations, Barbara Emberley offers a jaunty adaptation of the cumulative folk song about seven soldiers who build a magnificent cannon and Drummer Hoff, who fires it off.
The Story About Ping: The tale of a little duck alone on the Yangtze River, The Story About Ping is a sweet and funny book with wonderfully rich and colorful illustrations. On a day like any other, Ping sets off from the boat he calls home with his comically large family in search of “pleasant things to eat.” On this particular day, he is accidentally left behind when the boat leaves. Undaunted, the little duck heads out onto the Yangtze in search of his family, only to find new friends and adventures–and a bit of peril–around every bend.
Swimmy: Caldecott Honor Book: Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger.
Millions of Cats: 1929 Newbery Honor Book Award: This enchanting tale tells of the very old man who went off in search of the prettiest cat in the world for his wife and returned instead with millions to choose from. This book become an American classic, widely recognized as the first modern picture book.
Harry the Dirty Dog: Harry is a white dog with black spots who loves everything . . . except baths. So one day before bath time, Harry runs away. He plays outside all day long, digging and sliding in everything from garden soil to pavement tar. By the time he returns home, Harry is so dirty he looks like a black dog with white spots. His family doesn’t even recognize him!
Harold and the Purple Crayon: One evening Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. But there wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. Fortunately, he had brought his purple crayon. So he drew a moon. He also needed something to walk on. So he drew a path…
Caps for Sale: A peddler walks around selling caps from a tall, tottering pile on his head. Unable to sell a single cap one morning, he walks out into the countryside, sits down under a tree, checks that all the caps are in place, and falls asleep. When he wakes up, the caps are gone–and the tree is full of cap-wearing monkeys.
The Snowy Day: No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.
The Story of Ferdinand: All the other bulls would run and jump and butt their heads together. But Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers. So what will happen when our pacifist hero is picked for the bullfights in Madrid?
Blueberries for Sal: The story is of a little girl Sal and her mother as they go out into the country to pick blueberries for winter, and a bear and his mother as they go to eat berries for winter from the other side of the same hill. Set in a small town in Maine this picture book piece uses a single dark blue color and block printing for the illustrations.
Make Way for Ducklings: Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live. The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston. But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arive safely at their new home.
Little Bear (An I Can Read Book): Enter the world of Little Bear. Children will be entranced by Little Bear’s trip to the moon, his birthday party, and his wishes and adventures.
Curious George: In this, the original book about the curious monkey, George is taken from the jungle by the man in the yellow hat to live in a new home, but–oh, what happened! Though trying to be good, George is still very curious and takes a swim in the ocean, escapes from jail, and goes for a flying ride on a bunch of balloons.
Where the Wild Things Are: In the forty years since Max first cried “Let the wild rumpus start,” Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children’s books of all time. Now, in celebration of this special anniversary, introduce a new generation to Max’s imaginative journey to Where the Wild Things Are.
Eloise: The Ultimate Edition: For all those who love love love the irrepressible 6-year-old resident of New York City’s haughty Plaza Hotel, and shining star of Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight’s classic Eloise, the ultimate joy is to see four favorite titles collected in one enormous volume: Eloise: The Ultimate Edition. Sit back and watch as our heroine braids Skipperdee the turtle’s ears, brushes her teeth with pear lemonade in Moscow, absolutely goes wild in Paris, and jingles around her lobby at Christmastime, tying tassels on the thermostat.
The Velveteen Rabbit: Or How Toys Become Real: Originally published in 1922, the classic story of a toy rabbit who loves a boy so much he eventually becomes real has charmed children—and adults—for nearly a century. This heirloom edition, containing Margery Williams’ original text paired with gorgeous paintings by award-winning illustrator Charles Santore, is sure to be treasured by families for many years to come.
Rosie’s Walk: Rosie the hen leaves the chicken coop and sets out for a little walk. Right behind her is the fox, slyly trying to catch up with her. Rosie’s walk is quiet, uneventful and eventually leads her back to the coop, blissfully unaware of the fox’s travails as he tries — unsuccessfully — to navigate the obstacle course that Rosie has led him through.