Our Favorite Picture Books for Young Children

Written August 16th, 2010

It seems that the majority of books I pick out in a rush at the library end up being disappointing. I try to make a short list before I go of books I want to grab for Mackenzie, but any we pull off the shelf when we’re there are more likely than not to be inane or inappropriate.

My requirements for a good book are pretty simple: Engaging, clever, understandable on some level to a 2-year-old, and devoid of snotty kids, demonized parents, or adult content.

I am pickier, though, when it comes to books we actually keep on our shelves because that means I’m willing to read them over, and over, and over again. No literary french fries allowed.

A bonus is that the text itself is clear so Mackenzie can recognize letters and sound out words with me. It seems the trend now is to do funky things with fonts and that’s a shame when I’m hoping she absorbs patterns like left to right, top to bottom, capitals at beginning of sentences, etc.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some treasures we have found and I’d love to hear any recommendations you may have in the comments.

ANYTHING by Dr. Seuss. Ok, not the Ladies Godiva, but all of his children’s books are brilliant. We own every one and Mackenzie’s favorites change weekly.

ANYTHING by Bill Peet. The stories can be a bit long in terms of amount of text per page, but Mackenzie is undeterred. She loves the characters and spots them everywhere (every caboose is now named Katy)

Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen – Very clever, silly, and great illustrations. NOTE: I didn’t love another one in the same series that I picked up (I think it was How Do Dinosaurs Say I love You) because the punk little dinosaur was awful to his mom and there were no consequences. Maybe I’m picky but I don’t want to read that to my kids!

Bentley and Egg by William Joyce – The language is elevated, which I actually love because the story is still easily understood but it exposes Mackenzie to new words. It’s definitely entertaining for the adult reading it as well.

Bill in a China Shop by Katie Weaver and Tim Raglin – A hilarious story about a bull named Bill. It actually choked me up when I first read it because it deals with making a big mistake and how a second chance can make a big difference. Sniff.

Fast Food by Joost Elffers – The illustrations are all made out of real fruits and vegetables, which makes this a great one for identifying things and marveling in the variety of colors, textures, etc. in food.

The Amelia Bedelia Books by Peggy Parish – Many of the jokes go right over Mackenzie’s head because things like “dress the chicken” and “draw the drapes” don’t ring any bells for her. However she still enjoys the books immensely and understands that Amelia Bedelia is always doing silly things even though she’s trying her best.

Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel – Definite favorites. They are simple stories but Mackenzie likes to hear them over and over.

The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman – A classic that has seen a lot of use in our house!

The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I believe this is three books in one, and they are all great. The illustrations are simple, the stories are clever and imaginative.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. Oh, how we love this one! The illustrations are beautiful and each character has a different voice at our house and must be read accordingly. 🙂

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth . I am not a fan of the sequel to this, but Zen Shorts is a treasure. The sub-stories in it teach important lessons and the illustrations are darling.

Runners up: Anything by Robert McCloskey, William Steig, or Steven Kellogg. One by Otoshi. How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by David Shannon – the illustrations are much crazier than I normally like, but the books are too much fun to pass up. The Little Engine That Could, Little Bear, and The Paper Bag Princess.


About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
This entry was posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Our Favorite Picture Books for Young Children

  1. Pingback: Blogging Backlog | Adventures in Beanland

  2. Shannon Pence says:

    Our most recent favorite author is Julia Donaldson. She writes funny,clever, enjoyable rhyming books that have repeating phrases and themes. Both Brianna and Chelsea have the entire “Room on the Broom” book memorized by heart (our favorite by Donaldson), but The Gruffalo and What the Ladybug Heard are also great. The Snail and the Whale is good too, but the rhyming is more varied.


  3. Tiffany says:

    We love the elephant and piggy books by Mo Willems. And his Knuffle Bunny series – especially the third one. We also love the George and Martha series by James Marshall. We like the other dinosaur books by Jane Yolen : How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? And How Does a Dinosaur Get Well Soon?

    There’s more, but I can’t think of them right now.


    • Tiffany says:

      I just pulled out my Christmas books and remembered two of my favorite Christmas ones are Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear and Mr Willoughby’s Christmas Tree.


  4. denise says:

    Thanks for this- – I was looking for a few ideas of Christmas books to give the kids. I posted some of our favorites on my blog today.


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