Design Mom’s Top 50 Picture Books

First, can I just say I loved coming up with this list and really thinking about the books that my children love the most — I kept having endearing flashbacks to cozy reading sessions and quiet bedtime routines. Second, coming up with this list was such a challenge! There is an incredible amount of excellent work out there. Narrowing it down to fifty was tougher than I expected. Most of all, I’m over-the-moon about the reaction to the Children’s Library Giveaway. Yay for books!

A few notes: As I compiled, I realized I want to make a few different lists — favorite toddler books, favorite chapter books, favorite holiday books… But for this list, I’m focusing on picture books. I had in mind children ages 3 to 10 — though some books skew younger than 7 and some skew older than 6. I also included a few books that would fall under the toddler book category, but that are loved by most everyone of any age. There are a couple of well-illustrated chapter books too — selections that even my young children enjoy.

The other thing I tried to do as I compiled the list, was to include as many authors and illustrators as possible. For example, there are at least 6 Dr. Seuss books I would consider essential to a children’s library, but I only included one here. Lastly, I made sure to include a Fairy Tales collection, Mother Goose collection and Fables collection — it wouldn’t be a decent library without them.

I’d love(!) to hear how your list might look different. Any picture books that would make your top 50 that didn’t make mine?

P.S. — Image by Brooke of Inchmark. She writes wonderful library book reviews.

The Design Mom Top 50 Picture Books, in alphabetical order:

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

All in a Day

Archie and the Pirates

Arrow to the Sun

A Bargain for Francis


Blueberries for Sal

Curious George


Fairy Tales

Frog and Toad Together


Good Night, Gorilla

Goodnight Moon

Green Eggs and Ham

Harold and the Purple Crayon

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy


The Jolly Postman

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

The Little Bear Treasury

The Little House



Many Moons

Mother Goose

A Million Dots

My Father’s Dragon

The Napping House


Not a Box

Oh, What a Busy Day


Ox-Cart Man

The Paper Bag Princess



Polkabats and Octopus Slacks

The Relatives Came

The Reluctant Dragon



A Sick Day for Amos McGee

The Snowy Day

So You Want to be President?

The Stinky Cheese Man

The Story of Ferdinand


Strega Nona

A Tree Is Nice

Time for Bed

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Wild Things Are


The Widow’s Broom

Winnie the Pooh (4-volume set)

Very Hungry Caterpillar

You are Awesome

Zen Shorts

202 thoughts on “Design Mom’s Top 50 Picture Books”

  1. what a great list… I am keeping my fingers crossed.. My girls loved “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Day”…

  2. Strega Nona was my favorite as a child and I’ve been meaning to get it for my son! This is a great list. A few books that my son loves are Planes, Trains, and Boats by Byron Barton. He is almost 3 years old and has practically memorized each one.

  3. I’m definitely bookmarking these lists. My kids are 4, 2, and 1. I’m looking forward to reading all of these books with them eventually.

  4. Great list! I’ve been meaning to write a list of my girls’ favorite books to include in their baby book. Several of their favorites are on your list, too. :)

  5. I really love Miss Rumphius and Roxaboxen (although you’ve already got Ox-cart Man, so I suppose that’s your Barbara Cooney). And Bread and Jam for Frances has always been my favorite by the Hobans, although Little Brute Family and Charlie the Tramp are awesome too!

    One I was surprised not to see–Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon.

  6. We read Archie and the Pirates a couple of months back because of another list I found on your blog. My son LOVED it and drew a wonderful picture of it. There are several books on the list that I was not aware of. We will have to check them out! Thanks!

  7. I’m a nationally certified school librarian and I think your list is great! :) So hard to do!!! Good luck to all!

  8. Great list! I love ‘oh were they ever happy’ and ‘miss twiggerly’s tree’ (also ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch is my kids’ new favorite!)

  9. Love the list a lot of our favorite books are on here. What chapter books are your older kids reading? We are reading Homer Price by Robert McCoskey and just started Nicholas.

  10. This is FANTASTIC!! What a great and comprehensive list — I totally approve of your super awesome selections!! Man, I would enter this giveaway in a heartbeat but as you can probably surmise, we have most of them already :) HUGE KUDOS for including ‘Oh What a Busy Day’ which is probably my all time favorite children’s book!

  11. Ooh, I love the Napping House, too. One of our favorites I didn’t see in your list is The Mitten by Jan Brett. Another is Each Peach Pear Plum.

    I think you got just about all of ours, plus a few we don’t have. Thanks, Gaby!

  12. So many of the stories I read to my girls growing up. I hope to someday share these stories with my grandchildren!

  13. Hmmmm…did I miss the Beatrix Potter? I always loved those books when I was younger (partially because they were such little books—little books just seemed better in little hands). I got a collection from my parents a few years ago (well, more than a few by now). She was such a brilliant illustrator. I want to be like her when I grow up.
    I might also have included one of the Paddington books. My son is loving my old Paddington books to pieces (literally)! But you’ve got so many good books on your list, I don’t know that there would be any I could take out and replace.

  14. You have a number of my faves already and I’m definitely going to bookmark the list for future reference!

    I’d definitely have to add Guess How Much I Love You :) :)

  15. My list would have Paddington and Beatrix Potter and Jamberry and The Mitten by Jan Brett, but many of the ones on your list I haven’t heard of before, so maybe I’d like them better than the ones I just mentioned if I’d read them!

  16. Since you asked, I just have to share some that I would include in my top 50. This is not to discredit any of the ones on your list as I think this is a great list and it would be VERY hard for me to pick only 50 of my favorite children’s books.
    1. Leo Lionni–I love all of his books and his illustrations so it would be hard to pick which one but probably The Biggest House in the World.
    2. I think I would definitely include a Beatrix Potter book. The Tales of Tom Kitten and Jeremy Fisher are my favorite of her stories.
    3. One of the original Richard Scarry books. My favorite Richard Scarry as a child was Going Places but I think it is now out of print but I have a copy I read to my kids and they love it too. I love the illustrations of places throughout the world and his story of Pierre, the Paris policeman!
    4. The sweetest little mystery book for 3-5 year olds: Sherlock Chick by Robert Quackenbush!

    I mention these in case you have not read them because I think you will love them! Enjoy! I am looking forward to finding the ones on your list that I have never read!

  17. I worked at public libraries throughout college and grad school mostly as a page–I sorted/shelved books. My FAVORITE place to shelve was the “juvenile” section. I’d pull beautiful books to read on my breaks.

    Yours is a wonderful list. I especially enjoy the Madeline books.

  18. Great list!!! I do not envy you the task of picking only 50! That had to have been hard but as you said, a fun walk down memory lane! I love the emotions books evoke! I love your list!! Here’s hoping they become ours!

  19. “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”. With 4 little girls I have to say I could see each one of them fidgeting around with her new purse of treasures, only to explode when an opportunity to share wasn’t forthcoming. I love it when authors capture children exactly.
    I’m excited to get busy reading the books on this list we haven’t already claimed as favorites.

  20. The Incredible Book Eating Boy may be the best book my kids read this year. They loved it. They loved the bite in the back, the vomiting, the word spewage (especially since they were just learning to read and loved seeing another kid mess up his words!) What a great, liberating book for little learners! Loved seeing it on your list, and as an adult, I was utterly inspired by the art on ephemeral paper!

  21. Love the list! Very proud to say my parents read me most of those (that were out when I was a child).
    What about Corduroy? I loved that book!

  22. I love so many of these books, but there’s also a lot I haven’t heard of it. I would also include When The Sun Rose and Christmas in Noisy Village.

  23. Something From Nothing is a wonderful story with amazing illustrations to match. It’s my most favorite! Pheobe Gillman has some pretty great books (Jillian Jigs and her Marvelous Pigs), but i like this one lots and lots!

  24. The Jolly Postman is fantastic. I would replace your Seuss selection with the Sneeches, throw in Yoko by Rosemary Wells, The Girl and the Elephant, Flyaway Katie, Library Lion, Tuesday and although I cannot remember the exact title at the moment… the one about the red lemon that gets cast aside for not being yellow.

  25. I’m going to print out this list and bring it with me to the library. I’m in a bit of a pickle with my oldest son (just turned 7). He is going into 2nd grade but reads at a 5th grade level. It’s very difficult finding books that encourage his gift but are still age appropriate. Also, he’s a little boy. He likes (and deserves) to read picture books just like the other kids in his class. I’m thrilled to hear some of these books are appropriate for 9/10 year olds, which is the age group his teacher recommended for him.

  26. Great list! I love books and the gift they are when read with our children and grandchildren. I would also include Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, and Runaway Bunny. So glad to see you included Harold and His Purple Crayon, which was my favorite as a little girl in the 50’s!

  27. I’m with Claire–this is a dream give away. Your list is fantastic: one of my very faves to read to my son is William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and, when I was a chid, I loved Shel Silverstein’s Giraffe and a Half.

  28. Ahhh, love so many of these, and can’t wait to check out some new ones too!

    (We’ve been having a huge Ferdinand moment for the past few weeks.)

  29. With five children I thought I would have read most of the ones on your list, but I see quite a few I have never heard of. Thanks for the list, I will be looking them up. I love book recommendations!

    A few I might have on my list of favourites:
    The Seven Silly Eaters
    Something From Nothing
    Any book by Kevin Henkes, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse is probably our favourite, but they are all good.
    My kids love Red is Best and Each Peach Pear Plum.

    Now I struggle to keep my twelve-year old son in books – any thoughts anyone??

  30. Wow! Your list has some of our favorites, and some that are new to me. Can’t wait to read them all and revisit some favorites.

  31. What a fabulous list! There are so many beloved books on there, and some new ones to discover as well. I can imagine it was incredibly hard to narrow your list down.

    A few of our family favorites (that aren’t on this list) are Chicks and Salsa, The Best Pet of All, The Wolf’s Chicken Stew, Stone Soup (the Jon Muth version), and Owl Moon.

  32. I LOVE books and look encouraging kids to fall in love with books. Thanks for your lists. I would love to hear your top Christmas Book list. Your list is very complete and I agree that these are some of the very best. There are two other books that I would add to this list:

    You Are Special, by Max Lucado (any of the Wemmicks series are great!)
    Old Turtle, by Douglas Wood (phenomenal pictures, good message)

    Thanks again for your list!

  33. I have always loved the book Who Wants Arthur? It’s about a dog who is in a pet shop who just wants a home with a pair of old slippers to chew on. I adore children’s books. I hope to write one some day!

  34. Love this list! In my recent nesting mode I sorted through all of my picture books from my years of teaching. {I also inherited my mom’s books from her years of teaching kindergarten.} I have at least 7 huge tubs of books and that doesn’t include the books on the shelves in my 2 year-old daughter’s room. I’m so blessed that she LOVES books as much as I do.

    Here are some of my favorites that you didn’t list: The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant {I cry EVERY TIME I read it}, The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell {Oh my word, this book is just amazing} and these books are generally for older kids, but any book by Patricia Polacco is absolutely amazing – Pink and Say is another wonderful tearjerker.

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