Hey, I Recognize that Name: 8 Celebrity Picture Books Worth Reading

Rachel Rosenberg

Senior Contributor

Rachel Rosenberg has been writing since she was a child—at 13, she was published alongside celebs and fellow teens in Chicken Soup For the Teenage Soul 2. Rachel has a degree in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University; she’s been published in a few different anthologies and publications, including Best Lesbian Love Stories 2008, Little Fiction, Big Truth’s Re/Coded anthology and Broken Pencil magazine. She also appeared on the Montreal episode of the Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids podcast. Her day job is as a Children’s Librarian, where she digs singing and dancing with small humans.

Zonderkidz, publisher of You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!)

From award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson, You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!) shows kids the great things that can happen when we approach others and ourselves with empathy, patience, and love. In this debut picture book from Taraji P. Henson, quirky, stylish and a bit off-the-cuff Lil TJ is ready for her first day of school. But when she gets there, TJ finds that everything she does is a little different than everyone else and is filled with anxiety and doubt until she looks inside to her own creativity and personality, she figures out how to help herself make new friends! Available everywhere now!

There are a lot of celeb-penned children’s books out in the world, written with varying levels of goodness. After all, not all writers are created equal, but publishers are unlikely to turn down aspiring picture book writers who already have fans and clout. So, how do you find which celebrity picture books are worth reading? I have done the work and read many of them, and now I’ll give you my picks.

My choices aren’t about the figures personally—some famous folks whose acting work I love have written kids’ books that I’ve read but won’t revisit. While some of the books on this list are by celebs I’m indifferent to in general, I love their books because they come from storytellers with genuine charm, insight, and panache.

So these eight books are my favourites, pairing well-written stories with an appealing voice and purpose. Plus, they’re matched with beautiful illustrations that elevate and complement the words.

The Enchanted Symphony_Julie Andrews cover

The Enchanted Symphony by Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, and Elly MacKay

This one inspired a real love-fest on the Children’s Librarian staff chat at work, we all loved it. Piccolino’s father is a maestro at their village’s opera house. Their home is busy and popular; that is, until a mysterious mist blankets everything and sends all the people home for an extended stay. When Piccolino and his father figure out a way to bring joy back to the village, the fog disappears. Andrews was inspired by how arts and nature brought people joy during the pandemic, and her story reflects that movingly.

The Sissy Duckling cover Harvey Fierstein

The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein and Henry Cole

I’m a Fierstein fanatic, and this 2002 picture book of his does not disappoint. Elmer is a happy duckling who loves make-believe and cookie decorating. Sadly, he can’t find other boy ducklings who enjoy the same types of play, so his disappointed dad tries to coach Elmer in sports. Using wit and whimsy, Fierstein’s duckling hero finds the strength to confidently follow his heart and proudly be the duck he is.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o book cover

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison

Nyong’o’s picture book is about a little girl named Sulwe, who struggles because her skin is darker than that of her parents and sister. She is self-conscious that it makes her less appealing to friends at school. The illustrations beautifully capture Nyong’o’s text, which portrays an important experience with nuance and sensitivity.

please baby please cover spike lee

Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson

Simple, repetition-heavy text accompanied by Nelson’s gorgeous illustrations makes this a win. Exhausted but loving parents plead with their little one to eat her peas, share her toys, and go back to bed. And as the parent of a newborn, I found the parental bargaining very relatable. All of that made for a funny, baby-friendly picture book.

Bompa's Insect Expedition cover David Suzuki

Bompa’s Insect Expedition by David Suzuki, Tanya Lloyd Kyi, and Qin Leng

Suzuki, a famous scientist and environmentalist, co-wrote a nonfiction picture book about two children and their grandfather exploring nature together. Bompa and the twins, Nakina and Kaoru, wander around the backyard and examine insects. The twins ask questions that Bompa replies to with accessible information. Leng’s art is charming and provides silliness to the fact-based text, making the book fun to read and a great learning tool.

The Book with No Pictures cover B.J.Novak

The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak

This book goes over bananas popular with kiddos, it’s a surefire hit during story times. True to its title, there are no pictures, but large font, nonsense words, and interactive text all combine to make this book the equivalent of child catnip.

Remember to Dream, Ebere cover Cynthia Erivo

Remember to Dream, Ebere by Cynthia Erivo and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Every night, before bed, Ebere’s mother reminds her to dream. Ebere’s imagination is vast, and with each subsequent sleep, she fills out the details of her nighttime dreams. Erivo’s text is simple and calm, with gentle repetition, and the illustrations are playful and endearing.

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit Emma Thompson cover

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson and Eleanor Taylor

Did you know that Emma Thompson wrote multiple Peter Rabbit books? This one was the first, written in conjunction with Peter’s 110th anniversary, and Thompson perfectly captures the mischievous spirit of the originals. Fun fact: I worked at Selfridges’ book department when this was published, and we hosted Thompson for a meet and greet—she wore adorably whimsical mismatched veggie earrings.

There you go, eight celebrity picture books that are worth reading. There are a ton of celebrities getting in on the kidlit scene and it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to spend time on, but I promise that these will delight you and your favourite kiddos when you sit down for storytime.