Do you ever wonder who the most prolific children’s book authors are? These authors have published dozens — often even hundreds — of books over decades. If you work with kids’ books or have children in your life, you’ve likely seen these names come up multiple times. Still, maybe you don’t realize how many books they’ve authored and, in some cases, illustrated.
Many of these super prolific children’s book authors have been writing for decades — Jon Scieszka’s Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales was one of my favourites growing up, and I am now An Old. Gail Gibbons has been keeping kiddos informed since the 1970s — no library children’s nonfiction area is without at least a few of her titles.
An important detail about this list is that most of the authors are white. As I noted in 2022, the publishing industry has been slow to consistently publish authors of colour. While that is changing, it means authors and illustrators of colour have yet to catch up in terms of publication numbers. So, considering many of these are authors who began working in children’s publishing multiple decades ago, they do mostly land in the less-diverse category.
Boynton is a children’s author and songwriter, whose irreverent humour will have adults giggling along with their kiddos. Even her website is full of gentle self-deprecation. She wrote Hippos Go Berserk in 1977 and went on to write and illustrate Moo, Baa, La La La!, The Belly Button Book, Dinosaur Dance, and over 75 other books. On top of that, she’s written five music albums and has illustrated many greeting cards — Boynton clearly likes keeping busy.
Ed Young worked on 100 children’s books over his 60 years in the biz. His work utilized various techniques from China, where he was born. In 1968, he won a Caldecott for illustrating Jane Yolen’s The Emperor and the Kite. Then, in 1978, he began writing retellings and adaptations of Chinese folk and fairy tales. He won his second Caldecott in 1990 for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China, and in 1993, he was recognized with a Caldecott Honor for Seven Blind Mice. Other works include The Cat From Hunger Mountain and My Mei Mei.
According to Scieszka’s official site, he began writing and publishing books in 1989. Since then, he has authored “too many books for him to count.” He’s known for his silly, somewhat subversive take on well-known fairy tales such as The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, The Frog Prince Continued, and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. In 2008, he was named the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by The Library of Congress — so he’s a pretty big deal in children’s publishing.
Donaldson’s The Gruffalo was published in 1999 and was instantly successful, eventually inspiring screen and stage adaptations. Also a songwriter, she’s released three children’s albums — The Gruffalo Song and Other Songs, Room on the Broom and Other Songs, and The Gruffalo’s Child and Other Songs. According to Book Trust, Donaldson has written over 120 books and plays for children and teenagers, and from 2011-2013, she was the Children’s Laureate. Her most recent release, The Oak Tree, was published in September 2023.
Yolen is the author or editor of more than 400 books for children, a pretty hefty bunch of piles if you stacked them in a room together! Her first picture book, See This Little Line, was published in 1963, and she seems not to have tired of writing for kiddos since. The list of awards she’s won is extensive and includes the Caldecott Medal. Yolen’s long, long list of books includes What to Do with a Stick, How do Dinosaurs Learn to Be Kind?, Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters, and oh so many more.
Lesléa Newman has a crucial place in picture book history as the writer of Heather Has Two Mommies, one of the first picture books to feature a same-sex family. She hasn’t stopped writing meaningful children’s books since, with topics including but not limited to Jewish holidays and LGBTQ+ families. She’s written over 85 books for all ages, with 40 of those being picture books. So far in 2023, she’s published The Fairest in the Land, I Can Be…ME!, and The Babka Sisters — all three tell beautiful, diverse stories.
I don’t love to generalize, but I’m pretty confident in saying that we all know Carle’s books. From The Very Hungry Caterpillar to The Grouchy Ladybug, Carle’s blocky, choppy style is instantly recognizable on the covers of books he wrote and illustrated. However, his first literary success was collaborating with the also-prolific Bill Martin Jr. on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. After that became a bestseller, Carle worked on his own picture books and published 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He won many awards and honours over his lifetime, and he wrote and illustrated over 70 picture books.
Gibbons has been writing and illustrating children’s books since the 1970s. She’s written 67 books, mostly nonfiction, about food, animals, tools, and many aspects of science and nature. Her books are still being re-published with updated information, and they include Giant Pandas, Monarch Butterflies, and How a House is Built. She has received many awards and citations, including from the American Library Association and National Science Teachers Association.
Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
This is a kidlit power couple, as Andrea Davis Pinkney writes and Brian Pinkney writes and illustrates. According to a 2019 article, they’ve been together for 30 years and collaborated on 20 books in that time — many focusing on Black history. They also work separately and have received multiple honours between them, including Coretta Scott King Book Awards, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and nominations for the NAACP Image Awards. Their works include Martin Rising, Bright, Brown Baby, Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, and so many others.
Just recently, at a library storytime, I sat amongst entranced kiddos and listened to a librarian read Parr’s latest, The Monster Mac and Cheese Party. As the librarian explained before reading, Parr’s books take up a lot of shelf space in any children’s library. Parr’s popularity has endured across over 60 books because of his childlike art style combined with positive messages and whimsical humour. His first, The Okay Book, came out in 1991, and since then, his oeuvre includes The Earth Book, The Thankful Book, Be Who You Are!, and This is My Hair.
Bunting began writing in her 40s and yet still amassed a catalogue of more than 250 books for children of all ages. Her books ranged from the whimsical — In the Haunted House, a Halloween story — to the serious — Smoky Night, a book about a child and his mother escaping a neighbourhood riot. Other picture books by Bunting include Yard Sale, Mr. Goat’s Valentine, and One Candle. She was celebrated for her consistent address of important social issues, and her books ran the gamut of topics. She won many awards, including the PEN Los Angeles Center Literacy Award for Special Achievement in Children’s Literature.
Rylant has written more than 100 children’s books across varying ages. Her extensive catalogue includes A Kitten in Gooseberry Park, Home is Where the Birds Sing, and Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike. She still publishes, and her upcoming title, Rosetown Always, will be published in July 2024.
These prolific children’s book authors aren’t going anywhere. Even those who have passed away, such as Eve Bunting, Eric Carle, and Ed Young, remain the authors of beloved books that will remain on children’s shelves for a long time.