22 of the Most Magical Picture Books from Childhood

Posted on November 1, 2016 by

There’s something magical about introducing a child to their first picture book. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a little one in your life or simply want to take a trip down memory lane, we have the perfect list for you. These classic picture books, complete with official publishers’ descriptions, celebrate the magic of childhood as they introduce new readers to beloved characters and iconic stories.

 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

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Max is sent to bed without supper and imagines sailing away to the land of “Wild Things,” where he is made king.

In the 40 years since Max first cried “Let the wild rumpus start,” Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children’s books of all time.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

A stuffed toy rabbit (with real thread whiskers) comes to life in Margery Williams’s timeless tale of the transformative power of love. Given as a Christmas gift to a young boy, the Velveteen Rabbit lives in the nursery with all of the other toys, waiting for the day when the Boy (as he is called) will choose him as a playmate. In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made “real” through the love of a human. “‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’” This sentimental classic — perfect for any child who’s ever thought that maybe, just maybe, his or her toys have feelings — has been charming children since its first publication in 1922.

 

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

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Poor Dick and Sally. It’s cold and wet and they’re stuck in the house with nothing to do… until a giant cat in a hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure and almost wrecking the place in the process! Written by Dr. Seuss in 1957 in response to the concern that “pallid primers [with] abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls’ were leading to growing illiteracy among children, The Cat in the Hat changed the way our children learn how to read.

 

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the tale of a mischievous rabbit and his nerve-wracking encounter with Mr. McGregor.

 

Curious George by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey

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In this, the original book about the curious monkey, George is taken from the jungle by the man in the yellow hat to live in a new home, but — oh, what happened! Though trying to be good, George is still very curious and takes a swim in the ocean, escapes from jail, and goes for a flying ride on a bunch of balloons. This treasured classic is where it all began for the curious, lovable monkey and is a must have for any children’s book collection.

 

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

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A true classic with a timeless message, The Story of Ferdinand has enchanted readers since it was first published in 1936. All the other bulls would run and jump and butt their heads together. But Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers. So what will happen when our pacifist hero is picked for the bullfights in Madrid?

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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Carle’s classic tale tells the story of a voracious caterpillar who eats his way through the days of the week and then changes into a beautiful butterfly.

 

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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“Once there was a tree… and she loved a little boy.”

So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.

Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk… and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.

This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.

 

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

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Madeline truly needs no introduction. An enduring classic, Madeline continues to enchant readers more than 70 years after its first publication.

Nothing frightens Madeline — not tigers, not mice, not even getting sick. To Madeline, a trip to the hospital is a grand adventure.

 

Corduroy by Don Freeman

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Don Freeman’s classic character, Corduroy, is even more popular today then he was when he first came on the scene in 1968. This story of a small teddy bear waiting on a department store shelf for a child’s friendship has appealed to young readers generation after generation.

 

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

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Harry is a white dog with black spots who loves everything… except baths. So one day before bath time, Harry runs away. He plays outside all day long, digging and sliding in everything from garden soil to pavement tar. By the time he returns home, Harry is so dirty he looks like a black dog with white spots. His family doesn’t even recognize him!

 

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

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“One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.”

Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement.

Full of funny twists and surprises, this joyful story shows just how far your imagination can take you. Harold and the Purple Crayon has delighted readers of all ages since 1955.

 

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

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In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room — to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one — the little bunny says goodnight.

In this classic of children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.

 

The Arthur series by Marc Brown

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None of Arthur’s friends wear glasses and his classmates tease him! But when he stops wearing them, he gets in all kinds of trouble. Maybe four eyes really are better than two.

 

Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

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It only takes a little to be big!

Meet Clifford and Emily Elizabeth in the original Clifford book! Clifford is big. Clifford is red. But most of all, Clifford knows how to be a good friend.

 

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

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If a hungry little mouse shows up on your doorstep, you might want to give him a cookie. And if you give him a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk. He’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he’ll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim…

This book is a great first introduction to Mouse, the star of the If You Give… series and a perennial favorite among children. With its spare, rhythmic text and circular tale, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is perfect for beginning readers and story time!

 

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

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From writing letters to going swimming, telling stories to finding lost buttons, Frog and Toad are always there for each other — just as best friends should be.

 

Animalia by Graeme Base

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An alphabet book with fantastic and detailed pictures, bearing such labels as lazy lions lounging in the local library…

 

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

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The tiny town of Chewandswallow was very much like any other tiny town except for its weather, which came three times a day: at breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it never rained rain and it never snowed snow and it never blew just wind. It rained things like soup and juice. It snowed things like mashed potatoes. And sometimes the wind blew in storms of hamburgers. Life for the townspeople was delicious until the weather took a turn for the worse. The food got larger and larger and so did the portions. Something has to be done in Chewandswallow… and in a hurry.

 

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

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A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole…

Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish.

 

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

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Strega Nona — “Grandma Witch” — is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical ever-full pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. Big Anthony is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden, but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, he recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.

 

The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff

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The classic story of literature’s most beloved elephant. After his mother is killed by a hunter, Babar avoids capture by escaping to the city, where he is befriended by the kindly Old Lady. Later, with cousins Celeste and Arthur, he returns to the great forest to be crowned King of the Elephants.

 

What was your favorite childhood picture book? Tell us in the comments!

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