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. Oh my, the memories this list has brought back to me! In third grade we would literally race to get The Napping House when we visited the library. I will definately need to build my library with these books. Let’s hope it’s a sudden build and not one by one over time!

  2. Fabulous list! Other favorites at our house are: Ish by Peter Reynolds, anything by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Little Pea, Little Oink), Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, and anything by Donald Crews.

  3. Isn’t it amazing how 50 books seems so huge, until you list them and realize how many wonderful books simply didn’t make the cut? I love this list, but my personal list would be topped by Mo Willems books, particulary the Elephant and Piggie books, as my beginning readers have become reading LOVERS after reading them (and laughing at the illustrations). Please feel free to continue listing–we can’t get enough book suggestions!

  4. How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza are all very fun. I tend to enjoy a bit of humor in most of my books.

    1. Oh, there are so many that I keep thinking of:

      1-All of the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer
      2-Berenstain Bears teach a moral with humor mixed in.
      3-Bark George by Jules Feiffer
      4-I love the illustrations in the Toot and Puddle books.
      5-Sandra Boynton books are cute.
      6-Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
      7-We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen with illustrations by Oxenbury
      8-The Day I Had to Play with My Sister by Crosby Bonsall
      9-The Most Beautiful Kid in the World by Susan Meddaugh

      I feel I could go on forever.

  5. Wonderful list, of which we have many… some I would add are “Andrew Henry’s Meadow” by Doris Burns; “Story Number One” by Eugene Ionesco and illustrated by Ettienne Delessert; and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Childs Garden of Verses” by illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa.

  6. I love “Hats for Sale” by Slobodkina, Esphyr. It was my favourite book growing up and now it’s a favourite of the children! :)

  7. Loved reading through your list! Such goodies on there. Some of my fave that I would add are:
    1. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Williams
    2. Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington (mostly because it’s my 2 yr old son’s favorite)
    3. I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
    4. Anything by Peter Sis (Mozart, The Wall)
    5. Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai

    I’m excited to start putting holds on some of these at the library.

    1. I would also add I’ll love you forever by Robert Munsch.
      Awesome list of course! :D
      As an English as a Second Language teacher, I have to say most of your books on the list are the books I present to elementary kids in my classes.
      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Loved reading through your list! Such goodies on there. Some of my fave that I would add are:
    1. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Williams
    2. Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington (mostly because it’s my 2 yr old son’s favorite)
    3. I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
    4. Anything by Peter Sis (Mozart, The Wall)
    5. Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai

    I’m excited to start putting holds on some of these at the library.

  9. Fantastic list! Have read and love most of the books, can’t wait to read the books I don’t recognize yet. Sharing books with my children will be one of my most favorite parts about motherhood, I think. Another book I love is LOVE YOU FOREVER by Robert Munsch. I cried the first time this book was read to me, I was 5 :)

  10. Fantastic list! Makes me have flashbacks too :)
    My own list would have to include a Julia Donaldson-Axel Scheffler book. My boys adore “Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book” and, of course “The Gruffalo” is popular with them too.

  11. Hey!
    A Box of picture books would be fantastic for my bookworm kids!
    I am surprised that you haven’t listed any of Julia Donaldson’s books – as I notice the previous comment says – (Room on the Broom, What the Ladybird heard,…) they are FANTASTIC! Also the MOG the cat books.
    As you are in France, the French classics are not to be missed: ‘les contes du chat perché’ … and as you’re next to Belgium don’t forget the extremely rich comic book culture. One for teaching sexuality is: ‘le guide du zizi sexuel’ – great for answering those difficult questions.

  12. Some of our favorites are:

    365 Pengiuns, Jean-Luc Fromental
    Anatole, Eve Titus
    Where is the Cake, T.T.Khing
    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    Polo (all of them), Regis Faller

    Great list!

  13. Sorry been away from blog reading for awhile!

    Thanks for this post. How bout doing a post about best story books. My little toddler is getting into story time and I have no idea where to begin.

    Since we also live in France it is really important to me to keep his English at the level of those toddlers in the States ;-)

    Thanks Gabby!


  14. What an amazing list of books! Great taste! We have quite a few of these treasures in our own library and those we don’t, I’m taking note and will be on amazon for a bit… There’s one that I didn’t see on the list which my kids LOVE. It’s ‘Iggy Peck, Architect’ by Andrea Beatty. Can’t recommend it enough!!

  15. Great list!

    We live in Sydney, and love Australian author Jeannie Baker’s beautiful collage books.

    “Flotsam” is a beautiful book, too (can’t remember the author, but it won a Caldecott medal).

  16. What a great list! Thank you for putting it together and sharing with us, all.
    Here are some of my favorites that I think are worth a look, if you haven’t already…
    – The Library by Sarah Stewart
    – Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock (I think you’d mentioned this one pre-France?)
    – Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed (great story though there’s a clown pic that scares me more than a little)
    – Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J Harvey (a touching story to introduce 9/11 to little ones)
    – A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Benton
    – The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, Rosana Faria and Elisa Amado (Stunning!)

  17. What an exciting list of books! We´re a multilingual family, with a bookshelf that holds children books in 4 languages. As our oldest child, who is 4 is about to begin nursery in English, we´re sure to be reading more and more in English. While I´m still crossing my fingers for this prize, knowing which books are worth investing into is a huge help, so thank you Designmom for sharing the list! :)

  18. Awesome list!! What a treasure trove of cool books to explore – thank you so much for compiling and sharing!!

    My fav book as a wee one was a book by Fulvio Testa called “A Short Step”


  19. Oh, and Enid Blyton books! ie.The Folk of the Faraway Tree” and “Snugglepot & Cuddlepie”

    Also, The Magic Pudding and Possum Magic (I’m Australian :)

  20. This is GOLD! Thank YOU! As an illustrator AND Children’s book LOVER you have made my Morning… {Cheers} xox … Always the biggest fan of Where the Sidewalk Ends…

  21. You should check out Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman. It’s brilliant and my favorite picture book. The illustrations reveal so much humor and the text is very re-readable.

  22. a lot of our favorites are on your list, and my son is still at the board book phase so we haven’t explored many of the more recently published regular picture books yet. a couple of my favorites from when i was little (that i thought had really lovely illustrations) were the polar express and the velveteen rabbit. my dad also had a beautiful volume of hans christian andersen fairy tales, and he had a collection of time-life books called the enchanted world–the dragon volume was my favorite, although all of them had incredible pictures.

  23. a great list….many on there that i read as a young girl growing up….blueberries for sal among the favorites.
    i will say you must look at duck for president….one of our favs right now.

  24. I second Miss Rumphius. I’d add The Man Who Walked Between the Towers or The Wild Boy. We also love The Lion and the Little Red Bird and the Paper Princess. Over at my whiskeyina youtube page (hopefully hyperlinked on my name), there are videos of me reading several other children’s books we love (none of which are on this list, so it might be fun to see/hear them). The production values of the videos are a bit weak — I was a novice, taping readings after bedtime — but the books are all great. There are also videos of me singing and one political “children’s book,” but you can ignore those ;-) Keep reading!

  25. What a great list. I love to see so many Caldecotts in there! My boys love love love the books with no words, that I just have to make up for them, like Noah’s Ark and The Lion and the Mouse. But they also are currently in love with Drummer Hoff, Caps For Sale and A House is a House for Me.

  26. Betsey Holley

    Lots of my favorites! I’d add The Buggliest Bug, The Gruffalo, Stick Man, and The Big Red Barn. Any by Julia Donaldson are so witty and great.

  27. Many you listed are our favorites, but I’d add what a couple previous commenters suggested- Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems (actually anything by Mo Willems), and Little Pea and Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal are favorites of ours. We also love the Babar books. Last, but not least, my girls LOVE Tickle Monster, which is a picture book, but more an activity book.

  28. Love that Calef Brown made your list, My son Wyatt (4) and I recited Kansas City Octopus at a talent show. (He was so proud!)

    If you have not checked out the Mr. Magee books and all other books by Chris Van Dusen, they are amazing and SO fun to read.

  29. What a fabulous list. It must have been so hard to limit yourself to 50 books. For me, I would have definitely added one of Sibylle Olfers books, like the root children, as well as one of ElsA Beskows books, such Peter in Blueberry Land. Such fantastic stories with lovely nature inspired drawings.

  30. I’m so glad my son’s favorite made it in! (Green Eggs and Ham) I loved the Stinky Cheese Man and forgot all about it. Thanks for reminding me!

  31. I love your book posts!! I want to instill in my son and my newest baby (due in 8 weeks!!) a love, or at least, a liking, of reading. Thanks for the suggestions! We already have Good Night Moon but ones that I liked as a kid and forgot about was Strega Nona, Harold and the Purple Crayon, & the Stinky Cheese Man. I also like the Jamie Lee Curtis books. I’ve been getting them since my son was born.

  32. awesome list!
    my kids are obsessed with books!
    this is a great list to check back on for bday party ideas.
    having three girls i know a lot of girlie books too.
    i like ‘pinkalicious’ and ‘strawberry freckle face’.
    both fun and great reads with lots of good ‘advice’ for kidlets!

  33. So thrilled to see Strega Nona made the list! I am a lifelong Tomie DePaola fan. I remember going to a book signing of his as a child we had his ‘The Clown of God’ inscribed and autographed.
    I would have to have ‘The Story About Ping’ by Marjorie Flack & Kurt Wiese on my list too.

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