Ten Favorite Classic Children's Picture Books
My childhood favorites are still enjoyed by many children today.
I have always loved books, especially children's books. My mother read to us a great deal when I was a little girl, and I suppose that is why I have a deep appreciation for literacy. I was thinking about some of my favorite books while trying to choose one to buy as a gift for a child-friend of mine, and came up with this list of children's picture books I enjoyed as a child and still like to read to children today. There are a lot of great storybooks for children available. I had a hard time choosing only ten for this list, so maybe I will have to make another one to include more favorites.
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Noah’s Ark—Jacobus Revius and Peter Spier
This is a charming book that is truly a picture book. One page has a poem with a rhyming list of many of the animals who entered the ark, but most of the book does not have written text. The story of Noah and the flood is told through Peter Spier's delightful illustrations with exquisite, thoughtful detail. (Imagine Noah’s wife hopping up on a basket as the mice come scurrying into the ark!)
The Story of Ferdinand—Robert Lawson, Munro Leaf
Ferdinand is a little bull growing up in Spain with his mother and many other little calves. But unlike the other bulls, Ferdinand doesn’t like to fight, preferring to sit under a cork tree “just quietly.” He is a failure in the bullfights because the matador can’t show off his red cape when the bull just sits there. But suddenly, Ferdinand is stung by a bee, and shows he can really kick up a fuss!
Miss Rumphius—Barbara Cooney
As a little girl, Alice has big dreams of what she wants to do when she grows up: go to far-away places and see many things. But her grandfather always reminds her that she must also make the world more beautiful. So after Miss Rumphius (the grown-up Alice) hurts her back getting off a camel during her adventures, she realizes that she has not fulfilled her grandfather’s wish. She goes home to live beside the sea and regain her strength, and by a happy surprise finds a way to make her world a more beautiful place to live.
George and Martha: The Complete Collection—James Marshall
These two adorable hippos are two best friends who occasionally get on each other’s nerves by being inconsiderate, but remain good buddies despite their disagreements. These stories are even funnier to me now than they were as a child. The relationship problems could be anybody’s, and the understated language is full of wry humor. The simple line illustrations are delightful as well.
My favorite story depicts Martha getting furious with George for not letting her join his secret club, of which he is the only member. She even jumps on the roof in her rage—a dangerous thing for a large hippo to do. Finally Martha gets a peek into George’s clubhouse and sees a sign: The Martha Fan Club. She is thoroughly ashamed of herself. ‘“You old sweetheart,” she said to George.’
The George and Martha stories are available in a complete collection, as well as smaller books with several stories apiece.
Bread and Jam for Frances—Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban
Frances is a little badger who has decided that she does not wish to try new foods, since when she eats bread and jam, she always knows what she is getting, and she is always pleased. But when she is served only bread and jam, while the rest of the family tries varied and interesting dishes, she discovers that she does not like having to eat the same old thing at every meal and snack.
There are several other books about Frances and her predicaments: A Birthday for Frances, Bedtime for Frances, A Little Sister for Frances, Best Friends for Frances, and A Bargain for Frances.
The Biggest Bear—Lynd Ward
This book has an old-timey feel to it. Johnny Orchard is a little boy who is disturbed by the lack of a big bearskin hanging on the side of his family's barn, since all the other barns in the valley have trophy bearskins tacked to their buildings to dry. But Johnny's grandfather says, "Better a bear in the orchard than an Orchard in the bear." One day, Johnny goes hunting, and finds a little baby bear which follows him home. When the bear gets bigger, Johnny has a hard time keeping both the bear and the neighbors satisfied.
Goodnight Moon—Margaret Wise Brown
A warm-fuzzy book that evokes cozy feelings of being tucked into bed on a cold night. The pictures of the firelit room where the little bunny is saying goodnight to all his favorite things are my favorites. Children love to find the little mouse hiding on each page, and the rhythm of the rhyming "goodnight kittens and goodnight mittens."
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present—Charlotte Zolotow
A little girl who is having a hard time deciding what to get for her mother’s birthday comes upon a helpful rabbit who helps her figure out what her mother might like and offers suggestions based on the colors the little girl thinks her mother prefers. In the end, a combination of all the colors turns out to be the perfect gift for a mother who is hard to shop for. (I know the feeling all too well.)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel--Virginia Lee Burton
Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel Mary Ann have been together for a long time, digging tunnels, canals and cellars, but they are being pushed aside by modern equipment. Nevertheless, Mike puts in a bid to dig the cellar for the new town hall, and then has to prove that he and Mary Ann can do as much work in a day as a hundred men can dig in a week. The community comes together to watch and cheer for Mike and Mary Ann as they hurry, hurry, hurry to dig the cellar before the sun goes down.
Dandelion is an average-Joe lion who isn’t that smart, rich, or handsome. One day he is invited to a party and decides to get really spiffed up so that he can impress his friends. However, when he arrives at the party as a dandy lion dressed in a fancy suit, hat, and gold cane, he is denied entrance because no one recognizes him for who he really is—good old Dandelion. A gentle reminder that we are loved just the way we are and it’s best not to try too hard to impress.
Your Childhood Favorites
I would love to hear your memories of books that you enjoyed as a child. Perhaps you liked one of the books I have listed here, or maybe you have others that I should learn about so I can have the pleasure of reading them as well! What are your favorite children's stories? If you have one (or several), please share your thoughts in the comments.