20 of My Favorite Picture Books

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

One of my favorite things to do as a school library clerk is to process books. When I process books, I get to touch them and look at them and flip through them and silently fangirl about how pretty they are. I split my time between a high school and two elementary schools, and while I love researching and selecting young adult books, picture books hold a special place in my book-loving heart. Today I want to share 20 of my favorites with you. I’d be glad to give any of these to the kids in my life.

All descriptions are from Goodreads.

A Bike Like Sergio's book cover

A Bike Like Sergio’s
Written by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money? 

The book with no pictures book cover

The Book with No Pictures
Written by B. J. Novak

A book with no pictures? What could be fun about that? After all, if a book has no pictures, there’s nothing to look at but the words on the page. 

Words that might make you say silly sounds. . .In ridiculous voices. . .

Hey, what kind of book is this, anyway?

At once disarmingly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experience to share–and introducing young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians book cover

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians
Written by Carla Morris; illustrated by Brad Sneed

Every day after school Melvin goes to the library. Everything has its place in the library and Melvin likes it that way. And his favorite people—Marge, Betty, and Leola—are always in their place, behind the reference desk. When a subject interests Melvin, his librarian friends help him find lots and lots of books on the subject. When he collects creepy bugs in a jar, they help him identify, classify and catalog the insects. When he is cast as an Enormous Eggplant in the school play Betty reads aloud from Organic Gardening Magazine to help him find his motivation. As the years pass, Melvin can always find the answers to his questions and a lot of fun in the library. Then one day he goes off to college to learn new things and read new books. Will he leave the library and his friends behind forever?

A Child of Books
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen. 

Each Kindness
Written by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Maya is different–she wears hand-me-downs and plays with old-fashioned toys. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her gang, they reject her. Eventually, Maya plays alone, and then stops coming to school altogether. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
Written by Lindsay Mattick; illustrated by Sophie Blackall

In 1914, during World War I, Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian on his way to serve with cavalry units in Europe, rescued a bear cub in White River, Ontario. He named the bear Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.

Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter Lindsay Mattick recounts their incredible journey, from a northern Canadian town to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England . . . and finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made a new friend: a boy named Christopher Robin. Gentle yet haunting illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Sophie Blackall bring the wartime era to life, and are complemented by photographs and ephemera from the Colebourn family archives. Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.

Flora and the Flamingo
Written and illustrated by Molly Idle

In this innovative wordless picture book with interactive flaps, Flora and her graceful flamingo friend explore the trials and joys of friendship through an elaborate synchronized dance. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. Full of humor and heart, this stunning performance (and splashy ending!) will have readers clapping for more!

Gaston
Written by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Christian Robinson

This is the story of four puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. Gaston works the hardest at his lessons on how to be a proper pooch. He sips – never slobbers! He yips – never yaps! And he walks with grace – never races! Gaston fits right in with his poodle sisters. But a chance encounter with a bulldog family in the park-Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette-reveals there’s been a mix-up, and so Gaston and Antoinette switch places. The new families look right, but they don’t feel right. Can these puppies follow their noses-and their hearts-to find where they belong?

Hello Lighthouse
Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

Last Stop on Market Street
Writtern by Matt de la Pena; illustrated by Christian Robinson

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

Library Lion
Written by Michelle Knudsen; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, is very particular about rules in the library. No running allowed. And you must be quiet. But when a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library. And, as it turns out, this lion seems very well suited to library visiting. His big feet are quiet on the library floor. He makes a comfy backrest for the children at story hour. And he never roars in the library, at least not anymore. But when something terrible happens, the lion quickly comes to the rescue in the only way he knows how.

Library Mouse
Written and illustrated by Daniel Kirk

A shy mouse who lives in the library decides to write and illustrate his own tales. When he’s done, he put his books on the shelves. But when the children read the stories, they all wanted to meet the author. Will the library mouse finally share his secrets with his fans?

Llama Llama Red Pajama
Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney

Llama, Llama red pajama waiting, waiting for his mama. Mama isn’t coming yet. Baby Llama starts to fret. In this infectious rhyming read-aloud, Baby Llama turns bedtime into an all-out llama drama! Tucked into bed by his mama, Baby Llama immediately starts worrying when she goes downstairs, and his soft whimpers turn to hollers when she doesn’t come right back. But just in time, Mama returns to set things right. Children will relate to Baby Llama’s need for comfort, as much as parents will appreciate Mama Llama’s reassuring message. 

Maddi’s Fridge
Written by Lois Brandt; illustrated by Vin Vogel

Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school, and play in the same park, but while Sofia’s fridge at home is full of nutritious food, the fridge at Maddi’s house is empty. Sofia learns that Maddi’s family doesn’t have enough money to fill their fridge and promises Maddi she’ll keep this discovery a secret. But because Sofia wants to help her friend, she’s faced with a difficult decision: to keep her promise or tell her parents about Maddi’s empty fridge.

Filled with colorful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others.

Madeline
Written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline is one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature. Set in picturesque Paris, this tale of a brave little girl’s trip to the hospital was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 and has as much appeal today as it did then. The combination of a spirited heroine, timelessly appealing art, cheerful humor, and rhythmic text makes Madeline a perennial favorite with children of all ages.

The Name Jar
Written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.

Say Something!
Written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

In this empowering new picture book, beloved author Peter H. Reynolds explores the many ways that a single voice can make a difference. Each of us, each and every day, have the chance to say something: with our actions, our words, and our voices. Perfect for kid activists everywhere, this timely story reminds readers of the undeniable importance and power of their voice.

She Persisted: 13 Amazing Women who Changed the World
Written by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Alexander Boiger

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

This Is Not My Hat
Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . .

When God Made You
Written by Matthew Paul Turner; illustrated by David Catrow

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly. 

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves. 


What picture books did you love as a child? What picture books do you love now? Leave a comment below!

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