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Top 50 Recommended Picture Books for Young Readers 

This page is intended to provide you with information about high quality picture books for young readers.  Children who are read to while young do better in school, so it is never too early to start with books.  We agonized over a list of the best 50 books to recommend, which proved an amazingly difficult task because there are so many good books to consider and it was even more difficult to rank them.  What criteria should be used in the selecting and the ranking?  Should we consider the top selling books of all time (this gives older books an advantage), the best selling books by year (this gives recent books to the year in question an advantage), books voted most popular (whose poll should you use?), books most checked out by certain libraries (whose library should you use), books selected by certain groups such as librarians and teachers (which group should you use and are they really better than parents?).  And what do you do with certain authors that have many books to recommend, and how in the world do you rank among them?  Dr. Seuss in particular proved very difficult in this regard, he could have nearly filled this list!  In the end, we decided to consider all these criteria, limit each author to two or so books, and come up with our own list of recommendations.  We recommend that you take a look at each book on our list and see if it meets your own criteria before recommending it or reading it to a child!


  1. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, 1960. This book has proven to be one of the most memorable books of all time and has inspired generations of children to eat silly food.  It has not sold as well as The Cat in the Hat, 1957, (over 10 million copies sold, ISBN-13: 9780394800011), but has come close.  Green Eggs and Ham is intended for very early readers and uses only 50 words, all but one being one syllable words.  ISBN-13: 9780394800165.
  2. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss, 1963.  Similar to many of the books by Dr. Seuss, the title explains exactly what the book is about!  Children adore this silly connection with dad and as with all the children's books by Dr Seuss, he wrote them because he felt that they should be more entertaining and fun material for beginning readers.  ISBN-13: 9780375828379. 
  3. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, 1902.  This is the best selling children's book with around 45 million copies sold!  The Peter Rabbit series has sold over 150 million!  This book introduces a somewhat naughty little rabbit named Peter in a way that children love.  The book has numerous publications including: ISBN-13: 9780723247708 and ISBN-13: 9780140542950.
  4. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, 1881/1883.  Around 35 million sold!  This is the story of a naughty wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a boy while he learns to love.  ISBN-13: 9780968876800.
  5. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, 1942.  Mrs. Mallard has to find a home for her eight little ducklings as Boston's streets are too dangerous for them.  With a little help from a friend, Mrs. Mallard finds her family a safe new home in a park.  The book has the cutest duckling names ever!  ISBN-13: 9780670451494.
  6. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, 1942.  This is one of the best selling picture books with around 15 million copies sold!  Learn about a curious puppy who is unable to keep up with his pack.  ISBN-13: 9780307021342.
  7. The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris, 1907/2008.  Brer Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds through his wits rather than his strength.  ISBN-13: 978-0762432196.
  8. Puss In Boots by Charles Perrault, 1697.  This is an ancient French Fairy Tale that has survived through the ages.  It tells the tale of a cat who is initially unappreciated but who serves his master well.  ISBN-13: 9780374361600. 
  9. The Three Billy Goats Gruff by P.C. Asbjfrnsen and J.E. Moe, 1841. One by one, three goats attempt to cross a bridge in search of grass. A troll stops each and threatens to eat them, but each outsmarts the troll. .ISBN-13: 9780694010332.
  10. Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman, 1961. The book describes a number of dogs of different sizes, shapes, and colors that are always on the move. ISBN-13: 9780394800202.
  11. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, 1936.  While the other bulls would fight and play, Ferdinand just sat and smelled the flowers.  Yet, after sitting on a bee, Ferdinand is picked to fight in the bullfight.  ISBN-13: 9780670674244.
  12. Stone Soup.  A classic folktale of making soup out of a stone (or a nail or an axe, depending on the version).  Although there are many publications of this folktale, the 1947 children's book, Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown is probably the best known version in the United States.  ISBN-13: 9780689711039.
  13. The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Westcott, 1988.  A very funny book of rhyming verse about a baby, a doctor, a nurse, and a lady with an alligator purse.  ISBN-13: 9780316931359.
  14. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman, 1960.  A baby bird hatches while the mother is away from his nest. The baby bird then begins searching for his mother.  ISBN-13: 9780394800189.
  15. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, 1930/1978.  The 1930's version of the story is a retelling of a shorter version first published in 1906.  The 1978 version changed the story a little to make it more appealing to children, such as the train needing help is loaded with toys for children.  ISBN-13: 9780448405209.
  16. The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant by  Jean de Brunhoff, 1933 (also named The Story of Babar).  The story of an elephant that grows up without his mother in a human city. ISBN-13: 9780394805757.
  17. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., 1992.  A fun book filled with humor, color and textures.  ISBN-13: 9780805017441.
  18. Rumpelstiltskin by The Brothers Grimm (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm), 1812/1857 (retranslated by Paul Zelinsky, 1986).  A miller's daughter makes a bargain with a dwarf to give up her firstborn in order to spin gold out of straw.  After her child is born, she regrets her bargain and tries to get out of it.  She may, if she can guess the dwarf's name.  ISBN-13: 9780525442653.
  19. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, 1985.  A delightful tale of a boy and his struggle to believe in Santa Claus.  ISBN-13: 978-0618611690.
  20. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood, 1984.  How can a strawberry loving mouse keep a big, hungry, strawberry loving bear from eating his fruit?  The book is interactive, in that the reader helps the mouse solve his problem.  ISBN-13: 978-0859531825. 
  21. The Giving Tree.  A curious message for both young and old.   It is the story of a tree that selflessly gives to a boy all that it can throughout his life.  ISBN-13: 9780060256654.
  22. Curious George and the Curious George series of books by Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey, 1941 - present.  They tell the adventures of a curious little monkey named George.   Altogether around 27 million sold!  ISBN-13: 9780395150238.
  23. The Random House Book Of Mother Goose A Treasury of 306 Timeless Nursery Rhymes by Arnold Lobel. 306 nursery rhymes such as "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep," "Little Boy Blue," and "When Clouds Appear Like Rocks and Towers." ISBN-13: 9780394867991.  (More familiar too many is R.H. Disney's Mother Goose, 2005.  ISBN-13: 9780736423106.)
  24. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963.  A Boy is sent to bed without super as punishment and escapes to a world where he is the king of wild things.  Around 19 million sold!  ISBN-13: 9780060254926.
  25. Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, 1940.  This book provides a surprisingly detailed history of Lincoln that is both short and designed to entertain and teach the very young.  ISBN-13: 9780385076692.
  26. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, 1969.  Around 30 million sold!  An entertaining tale about a caterpillar that teaches the days of the week, counting, and animal life cycles.  ISBN-13: 9780399208539.
  27. Clifford the Big Red Dog and the Clifford the Big Red Dog series of books by Norman Bridwell, 1963 - present.  All the series sold around 110 million! This is the story of Emily's pet dog that is so big his dog house is bigger than her house! ISBN-13: 978-0439644914.
  28. Andy and the Lion, by James Daugherty, 1989.  A tale of how kindness will be rewarded. ISBN-13: 9780140502770
  29. Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, 1964/1993.  Frances is a fussy eater. What happens when a child only wants to eat bread and jam at every meal?  ISBN-13: 9780060223595.
  30. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, 1947.  A polite little bunny says goodnight to many entertaining objects. ISBN-13: 9780060775858
  31. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback, 1997.  This is the children's song in print. ISBN-13: 9780670869398.
  32. I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie by Alison Jackson, 1997.  A bit of a Thanksgiving spin-off on the previous book, but it is a very humorous account of an old lady that eats and eats.  ISBN-13: 9780525456452.
  33. Corduroy by Don Freeman, 1968.  A story of a girl wanting a special friend and a teddy bear wanting a home. ISBN-13: 9780670241330.
  34. Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker, 1994.  Newly hatched chicks learn to buckle a shoe, shut the door, pick up sticks and lay them straight. Teaches children how to count.  ISBN-13: 9780152928698.
  35. Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack, 1932/1968.  Danny asks a bunch of animals what he should give his mother for a gift.  Yet, nothing seems like the correct gift, so he asks Mr. Bear. ISBN-13: 9780027353907.
  36. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, 1978.  In the town of Chewandswallow, the weather comes three times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  And the weather is wonderful!  ISBN-13: 9780689306471.
  37. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, 1972.  Alexander knew he was going to have a bad day when he woke up with gum in his hair.  And he was right, his day went downhill from there.  ISBN-13: 9781416985952.  
  38. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, 1955.  A story of a boy's imagination and adventure.  ISBN-13: 978-0064430227.
  39. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond, 1985.  Sharing a cookie with a mouse leads to unexpected results.  It will wear you out!  ISBN-13: 978-0060245863.
  40. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, 1986.  A cute story about a child and his mother and how they will always love each other.  Around 20 million sold!  ISBN-13: 978-0920668368.  
  41. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, 1943.  A story of a house and the changes it sees with time.  The house starts out in the country on a hill surrounded with apple trees.  Yet, the lights of the city grow closer and closer until the house is surrounded by the city.  One day the new owner moves the house back were it belongs.  ISBN-13: 978-0395259382.
  42. Puff, the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow, 2007.  Is a printed adaptation of the song.  Puff and his friend Jackie Paper has a special friend named Puff who frolics in the land of Honalee.  The book's pictures cheer up the ending.  ISBN-13: 9781402747823.
  43. John Henry by Julius Lester, 1994.  The book is a tall tale of John Henry, how he grew big, strong, fast, and fearless. His crowning achievement was the cause of his death, the winning of a competition to see who could dig the most through a mountain.  ISBN-13: 9780803716063.
  44. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen, 2003.  This bedtime story might be more for parents than for children!  This story is a humorous tale and the substitution of dinosaurs for children will be obvious for all.  :ISBN-13: 978-0439610216.
  45. The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate The Wash by Trinka H. Noble, 1980. Here is the tale of a boy and his pet snake. While they were on a school field trip, the trip was initially boring, until crazy things started to happen. ISBN-13: 9780803717237. 
  46. The Fortune-Tellers by Lloyd Alexander, 1997. Traveling in the wilderness of America in 1793, three children are separated from their father during an Indian attack. In the search for their father, they come across a wounded Indian boy. If they leave him, he will surely die. If they take him, they may never reunite with their father. This is the tale of their adventure and the choices they must make. ISBN-13: 9780140562330.
  47. Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, 2004. The moon is full and a kitten is hungry and inquisitive. But is the kitten brave enough, fast enough, and persistent enough to get lucky? ISBN-13: 9780060588281. 
  48. Little Red Riding Hood by Brothers Grimm, 1857, republished 2009. This is a retelling of the classic story by the Brothers Grimm that maintains the integrity of the classic tale while adding some humorous personality traits to the main characters either from the use of artwork or by a side comment of one of the characters. A little girl is on her way to her Grandma's house when a wolf discovers her. ISBN-13: 9780735822566. 
  49. Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young, 1992. Seven differently colored blind mice approach an object unfamiliar to them and report their findings to each other. Though each mouse approaches the same object, each encounters (feels) only a part of the object so that each perceives a different object. The book's textured illustrations allow the reader to visualize how each mouse might interpret the object in a different way. ISBN-13: 9780399222610. 
  50. Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Jan Brett, 1992. The classic story of Goldilocks, a little girl, who comes upon the home of three bears. ISBN-13: 9780399220333.
  51. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, 2008.  This is a moving book about a father rabbit and his son's love for each other.  ISBN-13: 978-0763641757. 


Note an ISBN number is a number that uniquely identifies a book.  Each book, each republishing and each printing format has a unique ISBN number which is why each book has more than one.    For Picture Books, the ISBN numbers provided above are generally to hard copies of the book.  Many but not all of the picture books also come in the Board Book format.