I usually review newer picture books, but sometimes it’s good to take a look back in time. Classic picture books have a lot to offer our fast-paced society with their simple, slower pace. They can remind us to slow down, take notice, embrace imagination.
These classic picture books have stood the test of time for a reason. I find that we can read them again and again, without ceasing to love them. Many of these will be familiar to you, but I hope you find at least a few new favorites.
Favorite Classic Picture Books
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
This book may be mono-color, but in my opinion, it’s the perfect picture book. It is a lovely story about a girl and a bear cub who get mixed up on Blueberry Hill. I’ll never get tired of this one. This is my favorite of McCloskey’s books, but make sure to also read Make Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine, and Time of Wonder.
This book is such a wonderful celebration of imagination. Neighborhood children created their own village of rocks and boxes. Cooney wrote and illustrated many other wonderful books you won’t want to miss such as Miss Rumphius.
The Oxcart Man by Donald Hall illustrated by Barbara Cooney
This book has a beautiful rhythm. Over the course of the year, the ox-cart man and his family make things which he takes on a journey to sell for the things his family needs. It ends where it began as the family begins their year anew with their new supplies.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
I love the childhood innocence of the play in this book. The boy spends the day playing in the snow. It’s simple and perfect. But my favorite part is when he looks for the snowball he tried to save in his pocket. Keats wrote and illustrated many other wonderful books including A Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair, and The Little Drummer Boy.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Although these are really more easy-readers, they make marvelous read-alouds as picture books. And, there’s just something special about Frog and Toad’s friendship that makes them completely endearing. Don’t miss Lobel’s other works like Mouse Tales, Owl at Home, and Mouse Soup.
Frederick by Leo Leonni
Leo Leonni is an author I first discovered while roaming the children’s section of my local library. I immediately fell in love with all his books. While the other mice store away food for the long winter, Frederick stores away another important thing: stories.
Swimmy by Leo Leonni
Here’s another favorite book by Leonni about a little red fish who shows his friends the power of unity. Don’t miss Leonni’s many other wonderful books like Inch by Inch, An Extraordinary Egg, Fish is Fish, and Let’s Make Rabbits.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
This book is so much fun to read. with its sound effects, anticipation, and surprises, I loved it as much as my kids.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Many children dream of the drawings becoming real, and that’s just what happens when Harold picks up his purple crayon. But at the end of his adventures, he’s safe at home in bed. Fans of this book should check out Aaron Becker’s Journey books.
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Burton writes beautiful books, most of which are about machines. But this one is about a little house which a city grows up around. The little house misses its hill and open space until the grandchildren of the man who built it find it and move it back to the country once more. So, if your kids love big machines, be sure to check out Burton’s other books like Katy and the Big Snow and Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I wasn’t sure what I though about this book the first time I read it. Isn’t the boy being naughty. But the story grew on me. It’s a story about imagination, home, and unconditional forgiveness.
Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Carle has written many classic picture books, but this is my favorite. His cut-paper illustrations are stunning. Also, he incorporates days of the week and numbers into a wonderfully simple story of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Corduroy is afraid he’ll never be bought because he has lost a button, so he goes looking for one. Little does he know that one little girl will love him just the way he is.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is one of those stories I have trouble reading without getting teary. This is a story about what’s really important and counting the blessings you already have.
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown illustrated by Clement Hurd
This sweet story is a reassurance of a parent’s unconditional love. No matter where little bunny plans to run, mother bunny will be there. Brown also wrote my childhood favorite Goodnight Moon, also illustrated by Hurd.