best picture books for kids, best picture books, best picture books you've never heard of

Best Picture Books You’ve Never Heard Of

Best Picture Books for Kids EVER!

I love picture books; it’s a complete story in 24ish pages with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It’s a visit to an art gallery or a museum with beautiful artwork in all kinds of media — drawings, paintings, collages, and more.  It can transport you to another time and place, a different culture, or a different person’s point of view.  Picture books are NOT just for young children; I insist they are for everyone, adult and child alike.  My 4th grader’s teacher is reading Patricia Polacco’s picture books to the class and the kids are thoroughly enjoying them.  Picture books also make bedtime stories a pleasure because one reader can satisfy a wide audience.

I  recommend these particular books highly because I don’t mind reading them umpteen times and my kids actually choose them for bedtime stories.   The picture books with an older age span are wonderful for rich vocabulary and many will transport you to other times and places both real and imaginary.  Enjoy!

You can find them on Amazon (click on picture of book to purchase there) or at your local library.  The list is in alphabetical order by author’s last name in case you are searching at the library.  A great resource that many of these books came from is Great Books for Girls and Great Books for Boys, both by Kathleen Odean.  Other entries came from book lists from elementary schools around the country and book lists from libraries.  Most of the authors have written many other books that are also excellent so if your child likes a particular book, I suggest doing an author study.

The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M. T. Anderson.  Based on a true story set in 1817, this is the story of a sea serpent who came to Gloucester.  [ages 4-9]

The Bobbin Girl by Emily Arnold.  A ten-year-old girl fights for better working conditions during the industrial revolution.  Based on a true story.  [ages 5-9]

The Shape Game by Anthony Browne.  A trip to the museum turns into a drawing adventure.  Artists and doodles will love this book!  [ages 4-7]

From Here to There by Margery Cuyler.  A great way to get a sense of geography as a little girl travels from her house to the universe.  [ages 3-7]

The Empty Pot by Demi.  Trying your hardest and telling the truth wins a little boy a kingdom. [ages 4-8]

The Greatest Power by Demi.  The sequel to The Empty Pot.  [ages 4-8]

Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English.  Wonderfully illustrated with collage art, this is a story about a hot day in an inner city.  [ages 4-8]

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee.  James and Eamon go to Nature Day Camp sort of learn about nature but have the best week ever!  [ages 4-8]

Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham.  A classic that I loved as a child that is now a favorite of my kids.

Dog Magic by Carla Golembe.  A story about how a little girl named Molly Gail overcomes her fear of dogs.  [ages 4-9]

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson.  Clara is a slave who escapes to freedom by creating a quilt that maps the way to freedom.  [ages 5-9]

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard and E.B. Lewis.  Set in Reconstruction Tennessee, Virgie, a girl, goes to school to learn to be free. [ages 5-9]

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  An African-American  little boy living in an urban city spends the day exploring after a big snow.  A beautifully illustrated story.  [ages 2-7]

The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg.  A little boy’s mysterious tadpole grows too big to keep in his family’s apartment so he must come up with a plan to save it.  [ages 3-8]

Mr. Tanen’s Ties by Maryann Cocca-Leffler.  Mr. Tanen’s zany ties delight the kids at his school, but when the school superintendent insists he wear plain ties, something unexpected happens.  [4-8]

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester.  A rat with a lisp becomes the unlikely class hero. [ages 4-8]

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin. A little Asian girl wonders why her garden is filled with ugly vegetables but, after a delicious soup, finds that her neighbors want ugly vegetables in their gardens as well. [ages 4-8]

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.  A hilarious story of how Jeremy Jacob becomes a pirate. [ages 3-7]

Halibut Jackson by David Lucas.  Halibut Jackson overcomes his shyness and your child will have fun finding him hidden in every page. [ages 2-7]

Hog-Eye by Susan Meddaugh.  A little girl pig uses her wits to outsmart a wolf. [ages 3-8]

Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman.  Moses and his friends are all deaf and they take a class field trip to a symphony to meet a deaf percussionist.  [ages 4-8]

My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel.  Set in Tanzania, Saruni saves his money to buy something special to help out his mother.  [ages 4-9]

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.  A feminist take on a princess story in which the princess rescues the bum prince.  [ages 4-8]

Zen Shorts by Jon Muth.  Chinese philosopher Chuang Tze made accessible for kids. [ages 5-8]

Thank You,  Mr. Falker by Patricia Pollaco.  This is her story about how her teacher diagnosed her learning diability and helped her to learn to read.  My kids both raved about it.  [ages 6-10]

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman.  School safety has never been so hilarious. [ages 4-8]

Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner.  A beautifully illustrated book about a tiger looking for his smith with a zen message.  [ages 3-6]

Ish by Peter Reynolds. My preschool-aged son drew a “tree-ish” painting after the teacher read this book to the class about a boy who is discouraged by his paintings but then realizes that “ish” is better than painting realistically.  [ages 3-7]

Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson.  A bookmaker’s daughter during the 1400’s saves the day by helping her father illustrate a book.  Gorgeously illustrated.  [ages 5-9]

When I Was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant. A spare but beautiful story of a simple life growing up in West Virginia.  [ages 6-8]

Tea with Milk by Allen Say.  A Japanese-American young lady must adjust to living in Japan.  [ages 5-9]

A Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch.  A beautiful and haunting story about a Siberian girl who comes up with a plan to save hundreds of beluga whales trapped by ice.  [ages 4-9]

Baloney (Henry P.) by Jon Scieszka.  My little son loves this book about an alien boy who has a really great excuse about why he’s late for school.  The book uses words from many different languages which are fun to decode.  [ages 4-7].

Preschool to the Rescue by Judy Sierra.  Preschool-age kids love to act out this book about a sticky icky mud puddle with their trucks.  [ages 2-5]

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown.  A loving tribute to Dr. Seuss in the style of Dr. Seuss about a library in a zoo.  [ages 3-7]

Don’t Say Ain’t by Irene Small.   Dana learns to navigate two worlds:  an advanced integrated school and the friends she has at home.  [ages 5-10]

Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley.  A funny story about a Sweetness, an orphan, helps the sheriff capture outlaw Coyote Pete.  [ages 4-7]

Doctor DeSoto by William Steig.  A dentist and his wife who are mice outwit a fox. [ages 3-8]

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart.  An uplifting story about a girl who lives during the end of the Great Depression. [ages 4-9]

Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnel.  A true story set in 1914 about getting a little girl to her grandmother’s house seventy-five miles away.  [ages 4-8]

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. Finally it’s time that mom gets to buy something for herself and finding the perfect chair is not easy.  [ages 4-8]

Yoko by Rosemary Wells.  Yoko gets bullied because her lunch and snack are different from her classmates.  [ages 4-8]

Night, Night, Stars So Bright by Noreen Wenjen.  The perfect toddler bedtime story.  [ages 2-6]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

best picture books for kids, best picture books, best picture books you've never heard of

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I was wondering if you would be open to looking at any of my books for consideration for your lists. I would be happy to send copies, if you send an address. All the books are rhyming picture books and are now all Award-Winning: The Magic Word has received the 2011 Gold Readers Favorite Award, the 2011 NABE Pinnacle Summer Winner Award, and the 2011 Global eBook Finalist Award. Santa’s Birthday Gift has received the 2011 National Indie Excellence Finalist Award and the 2011 Silver Readers Favorite Award. Peter and the Whimper-Whineys has received the 2011 Bronze Readers Favorite Award. Thank you. Sherrill S. Cannon

  2. Thanks for this list! There are some great looking titles here and I’m excited to see a number of unfamiliar ones that I’m now eager to check out. The age range info is much appreciated.
    Mrs Brown recently posted…Wild Rumpus, Minneapolis MN, USAMy Profile

    • Hi Mrs. Brown,
      Your comment totally made my day! I feel like no one reads these books. I found them from Library summer reading lists and Great Books for Girls by Kathleen Odeon. We loved these books so much that I wanted to get the word out. I read 300+ picture books to my kids one summer for a big literacy push and these were our favorites. I also like picture books because I was able to read to 6 year old, 4 year old and 2 year old and no one was bored or complaining. They all loved that half hour of reading 10 picture books a night but I had to go to several libraries 3x a week to get all the ones on the list.

  3. Leslie in VA

    EXCELLENT list! I see many of our faves here. I have NEVER seen Saving Sweetness on a top picture book list and it is one of our all time best books. Have you heard of Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Anne Hoberman? Based on your list, I think that you will like it! Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Leslie in VA,
      Saving Sweetness was on a library book list and I like that kind of new Tall Tale western type of story. I’m glad you liked it too. I think there is a sequel too?! Yes! I have heard of Seven Silly Eaters but have never been able to get my hands on it. You are making me want to try again. I think it sounds great!!

  4. Lori Norman

    This is a great list! Thanks for all the work you put into this post. I appreciate your one- or two-line descriptions.

  5. So many of many favorite on this list! I will have to look up When I Was Young in the Mountains as I have never heard of that one and it sounds like a good one.
    Barbara Mojica recently posted…DIFFICULT DECISIONSMy Profile

  6. J Loo

    I found a pin on a favorite books board about this list and had to check and see if “Dr. Desoto” made the cut. Such a delightful story! Thanks for the terrific list! Have you heard of “Dog Breath” by Dav Pilkey? It’s another really good one.

  7. Sherrie Petersen

    How I Became a Pirate is one of my personal favorites. I love that you’re highlighting books that people may not have heard of. One that my kids used to love is Bark, George. It probably has less than a hundred words — maybe less than 50! — but it’s hilarious and brilliant.
    Sherrie Petersen recently posted…Guess the Musician, Part Two!My Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge