100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know

There’s a reason the title of this article says “everyone” and not “children.” Sure, children should know these pictures books, but you should too. You’ll get just as much out of reading these stories.

The following 100 titles span several decades and include some of the best stories from all over the world. Some take kids on fantastical rides to magical places while others reveal the wonders of the real world around them.

What all these picture books have in common is they respect, educate, and entertain young children. Furthermore, they offer families and teachers the opportunity to bond through enlightening stories and relatable characters.

Chances are good that you already know many of these picture books. You read them as a child. Still, there will be several titles that are likely new to you, allowing you to continue traditions from your youth as well as start new ones.

Picture books use text and illustrations to tell a narrative and are usually aimed at young children.

Whether you're a parent, an educator, or simply a picture-book lover, this comprehensive list will open up new worlds for you...

  

 Abuela

By Arthur Dorros

A little girl uses her imagination to turn a mundane bus ride into a magical flight over New York City.

 

 Accident!

By Andrea Tsurumi

Lola, an armadillo, is racked with guilt after spilling juice on a chair.  She retreats to the library where she learns everyone makes mistakes.

 

 Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

By Judith Viorst

This classic was published in 1972 and has won numerous major awards.

 

 Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

By Eric A. Kimmel

The titular character, which happens to be an arachnid, uses a moss-covered rock to dupe forest animals.  He’s finally taught a valuable lesson by Little Bush Deer.

 

 Andy and the Lion

By James Daugherty

This cute tale is about Andy, a lion, and a whole bunch of kindness.

  

 Bark, George

By Jules Feiffer

A mother worries about the odd sounds emanating from her son.  Did we mention the mother is a dog and her son is a puppy?

 

 Blueberries for Sal

By Robert McCloskey

A mom and son pick blueberries alongside a bear and her cub.  Then the moms trade offspring.

 

 Bread and Jam for Frances

By Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Frances wishes to eat only bread and jam.  Her parents grant that wish.  Hilarity ensues.

 

 Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

By Bill Martin, Jr.

Illustrated by Eric Carle

This inviting book is about children’s reactions to a bunch of different colored animals.

  

 Bruno Munari’s ABC

By Bruno Munari

An annoying fly introduces the alphabet.  For example, representing the letter “A” is an “Ant on an Apple.”

 

 Buz

By Richard Egielski

A boy swallows a bug.  What follows is a rousing good time as the boy, bug, and pills try to rectify the situation.  Consuming bugs has never been so much fun.

 

 Caps for Sale; A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business

By Esphyr Slobodkina

You can’t go wrong with a picture book about monkeys.  In this tale, monkeys swipe a peddler’s cap.

 

 The Carrot Seed

By Ruth Krauss

Illustrated by Crockett Johnson

Ignoring ridicule from the adults in his life, a young boy plants a carrot seed.  He’s confident the seed will grow into something special.

 

 A Chair for My Mother

By Vera B. Williams

In this heartwarming story, a child, mother, and grandmother save money to buy a comfy chair after a fire destroys their furniture.

 

 Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

By Bill Martin, Jr. & John Archambault

Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

What happens when the alphabet tries to climb a coconut tree?  Read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to find out.

 

 Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type /

By Doreen Cronin

Talk about bovine inspiration.  Cows unearth a typewriter and use it to make demands.  When Farmer Brown refuses their mandates, the cows stop working.

 

 Come Along, Daisy!

By Jane Simmons

A duckling loses her mother after intently playing with lily pads and dragonflies.

 

 Corduroy

By Don Freeman

This charming story is about a department store teddy bear who wants a lot of material things.  After the teddy bear is purchased by a little girl, he discovers that what he really wants isn’t for sale.

 

 Crown: An Ode to The Fresh Cut

By Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by Gordon C. James

Derrick Barnes’ picture book is all about visiting the barbershop and getting a haircut.  Just a little off the sides please. 

 

 Curious George

By H.A. Rey

You can’t have a list like this and not include one of the greatest children books of all-time. 

  

 A Different Pond

By Bao Phi

Illustrated by Thi Bui

A Different Pond is based on the life of Vietnamese-American poet Bao Phi.  His opus highlights the commitment immigrants make to their family.

 

 Dinosaur Roar!

By Paul and Henrietta Stickland

Does the kid in your life love dinosaurs?  If they do, this book is for them.  It includes all kinds of anthropomorphized dinos.

 

 Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

By Mo Willems

Don’t worry, the pigeon doesn’t actually drive the bus.  Instead, he dreams about driving a bus.  But does he still make all the stops?

 

 Don't Touch This Book!                   

By Bill Cotter

We recommend that you do touch this book.  Inside, you’ll meet Larry, a lovable monster, and learn about his issue with sharing.

 

 Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel

By Adam Rubin

Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

This is the only picture book on our list that’s in the horror genre.  How else do you categorized a story about the world running out of tacos? 

 

 Duck on A Bike

By David Shannon

This picture book tells us that if you want to get farm animals out of their cars, you should inspire them with a bike-riding duck.

 

 Far Apart, Close in Heart: Being A Family When a Loved One Is Incarcerated

By Becky Birtha

Illustrated by Maja Kastelic

Hopefully, the title doesn’t apply to your family, but if it does, you need this tome on your child’s bookshelf.

 

 Fire Truck

By Peter Sís

A young boy awakes to discover that he’s a fire truck.  Insert fire hose joke here.  Fire Truck includes a gate-fold illustration that opens into a three-page spread. 

 

 Freight Train

By Donald Crews

This delightful book follows a train on a typical, but colorful, journey.

 

 Froggy Gets Dressed

By Jonathan London

Froggy dresses appropriately so he can play in the snow.  Of course, he’s made to wear the proper togs by his mother.

 

 The Gardener

By Sarah Stewart

Told through a series of letters, The Gardner is about a young girl who goes to live with her uncle in the city.  She brings with her a love of gardening.

 

 George and Martha

By James Marshall

George and Martha are friends and hippopotamuses. In real life, hippos are extremely dangerous, but in picture books, they’re cute as the dickens.

 

 Grand Canyon

By Jason Chin

Readers are taken on a fascinating journey through the Grand Canyon.  The trek covers several miles and billions of years.

 

 Go Away, Big Green Monster!

By Ed Emberley

A monster is slowly revealed in the pages of this well-crafted book.  “Go Away” is designed to help children who are afraid of bedtime monsters.

 

 Goin’ Someplace Special

By Patricia McKissack

A young African American girl, living in Nashville in the segregated 1950s, visits a public library.  It sounds easy, but she must overcome the indignities of her era to complete her journey.

 

 Good Night, Gorilla

By Peggy Rathmann

What do you get when you mix an oblivious zookeeper returning home and curious animals who don’t mind leaving the zoo?  You get Good Night, Gorilla.

 

 Goodnight Moon

By Margaret W. Brown

Illustrated by Clement Hurd

In this classic, a little bunny says goodnight to just about everything in his room.

 

 Gossie

By Dunrea Olivier

A gosling must deal with the heartbreak of losing her beloved red boots.  She wears them all the time, no matter what she’s doing.

 

 Grandfather's Journey

By Allen Say

A Japanese American describes his grandfather’s journey to America and confronts the difficulties he faces for loving two countries.

 

 Harold and the Purple Crayon

By Crockett Johnson

A moonlight walk is the perfect canvas for Harold and his purple crayon. 

 

 Harry The Dirty Dog

By Gene Zion

Illustrated by Margaret Graham

A little dog becomes so dirty that his family fails to recognize him.  Needless to say, this little dog doesn’t like to take baths.

 

 Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

By D. B. Johnson

The “Henry” in the title refers to Henry Thoreau.  This picture book contains biographical information on the famous transcendentalist.

 

 Her Right Foot

By Dave Eggers

Illustrated by Shawn Harris

The “her” in the title is the Statue of Liberty.  The picture book is about the fact that her right foot is lifted.  In other words, she’s on the move.

 

 How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

By Jane Yolen

How do dinosaurs say good night?  Any way they want!  Okay, that’s how the joke unfolds.  In Jane Yolen’s enchanting yarn, the question is discussed by a mother and child.

 

 I Kissed the Baby!

By Mary Murphy

The “baby” in the tile refers to a duckling.  The “I” refers to various animals.

 

 If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't!

By Elise Parsley 

This is the third in the series of “Magnolia Says Don’t” books.  Like its wonderful predecessors, this is all about what NOT to do.

 

 If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

By Laura J. Numeroff

This picture book takes the reader through a day in the life of a young child.  It begins with the kid giving a mouse a cookie.

 

 Julius

By Angela Johnson

Illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Maya’s grandfather arrives with a pig.  Then they spend quality time together.  It sounds simple, but Julius is a great read.

 

 Kitten’s First Full Moon

By Henkes, Kevin

What happens if a kitten mistakes a full moon for a saucer of milk?  The kitten ends up hungry, tired, and wet.  We end up saying, “Ahh.”

 

 Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

By Henkes Kevin

The title of this book sounds like a Jefferson Airplane album, but it’s really about a little girl who doesn’t want to wait to show off her new handbag.

 

 The Line-Up Book

By Russo Marisabina

A young boy takes a bunch of objects and lines them up from his room to the kitchen.  Hopefully, it won’t give the precocious one in your life any bright ideas.

 

 The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

A crimson-colored feline presents the alphabet. 

 

 Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China

By Ed Young

As the title suggests, this is the classic Red Riding Hood story told from a Chinese perspective.

 

 Love You Forever

By Robert Munsch

Illustrated by Sheila McGraw

Warning, this book will make you cry.  It’s about a mother who lovingly rocks her son to sleep.  Eventually, the son does the same to his mom.

 

 Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

By Bernard Waber

A jovial crocodile causes a neighborhood dispute. 

 

 Mabela The Clever

By Margaret Read MacDonald

This African folktale is about a mouse who avoids being tricked by a cat.  It’s sort of a culturally-rich version of Tom and Jerry.

 

 Machines at Work

By Byron Barton

This picture book is all about workers and machines knocking down a building and then building a new one in its place.

 

 Maisy Goes Swimming

By Lucy Cousins

Your child will help the titular character put on a swimsuit so she can take a dip in the pool.

 

 Make Way for Ducklings

By Robert McCloskey

Duck parents find a place to raise their family.  Then, they take their family to the Boston Public Garden to eat peanuts.

 

 Mama Cat Has Three Kittens

By Denise Fleming

Two of the three kittens do everything their mother does.  The third kitten naps.

 

 The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

By Mordicai Gerstein

Finally, a picture book that chronicles Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center Towers. 

 

 Martha Speaks

By Susan Meddaugh

After eating alphabet soup, the family dog can suddenly speak.  While it’s super cute, problems do arise. 

 

 Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

By Virginia L. Burton

Mike Mulligan has a name for his steam shovel.  It’s Mary Anne.

 

 Millions of Cats

By Wanda Gág

You had us at “millions of cats!”  A peasant searches for one kitten but returns with—yes, you guessed it—millions of cats.

 

 Miss Nelson Is Missing!

By Harry Allard and James Marshall

This picture book is about one of the most vile and awful fiends on the planet, a substitute teacher.

 

 Mr. Gumpy's Outing

By John Birmingham

Mr. Gumpy welcomes animals onto his boat.  His hospitality does have serious consequences though.

 

 The Mitten

By Jan Brett

Cold animals make a home out of a mitten.  The glove is the perfect hovel until someone sneezes.  The Mitten is a charming yarn.

 

 Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

By John Steptoe

The daughters share great beauty, but not the same temperament.  One is a little sour and the other is sweet.  They go before the king who just happens to be looking for a wife.

 

 Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

By Candace Fleming

Mr. McGreely finally has his dream garden.  Now, he must keep bunnies from eating his beloved vegetables.

 

 My Friend Rabbit

By Eric Rohmann

Mouse and Rabbit are good friends.  Even though trouble follows Rabbit, Mouse lets him play with his toy plane.

 

 The Napping House

By Audrey Wood

A flea causes a huge commotion after biting a sleeping creature.

 

 Off to School, Baby Duck!

By Amy Hest

The first day of school is experienced by a baby duck.  As always, Grampa saves the day.

 

 Old Black Fly

By Jim Aylesworth

Illustrations by Stephen Gammell

The alphabet is presented by a black fly who keeps landing in places he shouldn’t land.

 

 Olivia

By Ian Falconer

Olivia is a pig with lots of energy.  In fact, Olivia is probably too energetic.

 

 On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

We recommend not using an e-reader to present this picture book to your kid.  It is, after all, about a young child enjoying a day away from screens and video games.

 

 Opposite Surprise

By Agnese Baruzzi

This deceptively simple book offers readers an enjoyable guessing game that’s all about opposites.

 

 Owen

By Kevin Henkes

This story revolves around parents trying to get their son to give up his favorite blanket. 

 

 Owl Moon

By Jane Yolen

Illustrated by John Schoenherr

On a moonlight night, a little girl and her father take a hike with the hopes of seeing an owl.

 

 Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me

By Eric Carle

A father fulfills his daughter’s wish by taking down the moon—when it’s small enough to carry of course.  Pages fold out to display larger pictures.

 

 Round Trip

By Ann Jonas

This picture book documents a trip to the city and back again.  It should be noted that illustrations are in black and white.

 

 The Snowy Day

By Ezra Jack Keats

Who doesn’t love snow?  In The Snowy Day, a young boy experiences the magic of snowball fights, making snowman, and sledding.

 

 Spots, Feathers and Curly Tails

By Nancy Tafuri

Readers learn about the interesting characteristics of farm animals.

 

 Stellaluna

By Janell Cannon

Beautifully illustrated, Stellaluna is about a fruit bat raised by birds.  There’s not a lot of books with bats for protagonists. 

 

 The Story of Ferdinand

By Munro Leaf

Illustrations by Robert Lawson

The 2017 animated movie is based on this picture book.

 

 The Stray Dog

By Simont Marc

The stray dog is based on a true story.

 

 Strega Nona

By Tomie De Paola

Strega Nona’s apprentice is left alone with her magic pasta pot.  This great picture book is the retelling of an old Italian tale.

 

 Sylvester And the Magic Pebble

By William Steig

When Sylvester holds his magic pebble, he can make a wish.  When he wishes to be a rock, he drops the pebble and can’t pick it up to wish himself back.  By the way, Sylvester is a donkey—that probably explains a lot.

 

 Tar Beach

By Faith Ringgold

This picture book is based on the author’s quilt painting of the same name.  Tar Beach is about a young girl flying over her home in Harlem.

 

 Trashy Town

By Andrea Griffing Zimmerman

Mr. Gillie is a trash man and he slowly, but surely, cleans his town.

 

 The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf

By John Scieszka

Illustrated by Lane Smith

This is the story of the three little pigs as told by the wolf.

 

 Tuesday

By David Wiesner

Curious frogs ride flying lily pads through a neighborhood.

 

 Uptown

By Collier Bryan

A lot of these picture books take readers on a voyage through the imagination.  Uptown takes readers on a voyage through Harlem.  While it’s a real place, the journey is still magical.

 

 The Very Hungry Caterpillar

By Eric Carle

A caterpillar eats a bunch of food, forms a cocoon, and then falls asleep.  Sounds like a typical Thanksgiving.

 

 We're All Wonders

By R. J. Palacio

This picture book is based on the bestseller, Wonder.  In this volume, young readers are introduced to Auggie, his dog, and the Choose Kind movement.

 

 Where's Rodney?

By Carmen Bogan

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Through Rodney, readers explore the natural world and get a little dose of poignant social commentary.

 

 Where's Spot?

By Eric Hill

Spot’s mother looks for her son to tell him supper is ready.  Of course, if it was dessert time he’d be there with bells on.

 

 The Wolf’s Chicken Stew

By Keiko Kasza

A wolf tries to fatten a chicken for dinner.  Since this is a children’s book, it’s safe to say that things don’t go as planned.

 

 Yoko

By Rosemary Wells

This picture book is NOT about an artist who breaks up a rock and roll band.  It’s about a young girl who brings sushi to school.

 

 You Don't Want a Unicorn!

By Ame Dyckman 

Illustrated by Liz Climo

Yes!  We do want a unicorn.  At least we did until we read this sidesplitting picture book by Ame Dyckman.  Unicorns may look cute, but they’re awful pets.

 

 Zomo The Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa

By Gerald McDermott

This Wester African tale is about a trickster rabbit trying to gain wisdom.  Silly rabbit.  Tricksters are for kids.

 

* Header image credit: Composite photo by Mattia Merlo, courtesy of Flickr


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