100 Must-Read Picture Books For Kids and Adults

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Amy Diegelman

Staff Writer

Amy Diegelman's fangirl tendencies date all the way back to sneaking into her brother's room to steal his comic books and have never wavered. Amy is a high-school drama nerd from Missouri, who somehow ended up with Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's Degree in Library Science. She is a Teen Librarian in Chicago, IL where she lives with her computer, video games, and a cat-shaped monster named CJ. Amy reviews books for School Library Journal, tweets at @amydieg, and once breathed the same air as LeVar Burton. Twitter: @amydieg

If there is one thing I’ve learned from being a youth librarian, it’s that picture books are some of the most wonderful things in the world. I’m not just talking about for children, either. As an adult I have found joy, inspiration, comfort, sadness, and growth by reading picture books. From rhyming tales of books lost in zoos to death parables that refuse to sugarcoat, from surreal abstract collages to breathtaking classical art – there is nothing you can’t find in this simple, quick, beautiful form. I’ve covered a few categories, hoping to honor the classics while exposing a whole world of possibility to readers of any age.

“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.” – Philip Pullman


Corduroy Don Freedman

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

The Mitten by Jan Brett

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmens

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Llama Llama by Anna Dewdney

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, George Hauman, Doris Hauman

1718866The Essential Classics
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Robert Lawson

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, Helen Oxbury

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Plena, Christian Robinson

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Ray Cruz

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey business by Esphyr Slobodkina

Olivia by Ian Flaconer

Curious George by H.A. Rey

The Runaway Bunny by  Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Jr. Martin, John Archambault

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague

Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Keven Henkes

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Strega Nona: An Old Tale Retold by Tomie dePaola

Eloise by Kim A Nelson, Hilary Knight

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern, Simms Taback

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood, Audrey Wood

6668Lesser Known Gems
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl

The Sign On Rosie’s Door by Maurice Sendak

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Suess

Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays by Leslea Newman, Susan Gal

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B Williams

A Hole Is To Dig by Ruth Krauss, Maurice Sendak

The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle

That is Not A Good Idea by Mo Willems

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitch Smith, Ying-Wha Hu, Cornelius Van Wright

14553583International Titles
by Nicola I. Campbell, Kim La Fave

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale by Verna Aardema, Diane Dillon, Leo Dillon

Ganesh’s Sweet Tooth by Emily Haynes, Sanjay Patel

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos, Rafael Lopez

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, Rafael Lopez

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave by Marianna Mayer, Kinuko Y. Craft

Padmini is Powerful (Bharat Babies) by Amy Maranville


16029151History & Biography
I Have a Dream
by Martin Luther King Jr, Kadir Nelson

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, Jerome Lagarrigue

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, E.B. Lewis

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon, Richard Simon, Marc Siegel

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russel-Brown, Frank Morrison

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear Lindsay Mattick, Sophie Blackall

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, Tim O’Meara

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909  by Michelle Markel

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, Elizabeth Baddeley  

Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai

Journey by Aaron Becker

Flotsam by David Weisner

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Chalk by Bill Thompson

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Zoom by Istvan Banyai

Wave by Suzy Lee

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Tuesday by David Weisner


22249668Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, Isabelle Malenfant

I Am Jazz – Jazz Jennings, Jessica Herthel, Shelagh McNicholas

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, Henry Cole

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, Marc Curato

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Heather Has Two Mommies, Laura Cornell

Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman, Mike Duncan

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

Personal Favorites

7096916Heart in a Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

Instructions by Neil Gaimen, Charles Vess

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, Marc Brown
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Dinosaur vs Bedtime by Bob Shea

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas, Helen Oxenbury

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

2016 Picks

26618833Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Elizabeth Zunon

Cry Heart But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, Charlotte Pardi, Robert Moulthrop

Thunder Boy Junior by Sherman Alexie, Yuyi Morales

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

Best In Snow by April Pulley Sayre

Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane, K.G. Campbell

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Ada Twist, Scientist by  Andrea Beaty, David Roberts

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, Rafael López

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol