60 Not-to-be-Missed Picture Books

Part of the impetus for this blog was the nagging thought that there are many amazing picture books in the world that I do not want to miss sharing with my children. This thought has reared its head again and spurred me to come up with a list of 60 books that I absolutely do not want to miss sharing with my children. These 60 books are books that I hope my children will read repeatedly and remember fondly as part of their childhood.

Why 60?  I was aiming for my top 50 picture books, but 50 felt a little too restrictive and is not divisible by 12.

Why divisible by 12?  While I could simply share my Top 60 list with you today, I thought it would be more helpful and exciting to reveal five not-to-be-missed picture books on the first of each of the 12 months of the year.

You are invited to read these books along with us!  Feel free to read all five books or only those that look interesting to you each month. This will be most fun if you stop back after you have read the books and let us know what you think.

If you have not done so already, sign up to receive notices when new booklists are posted via email, RSS feed, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

Without further ado, here are the first 5 of my 60 not-to-be-missed picture books…

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack KeatsA young boy named Peter explores and frolics in the snow. The Snowy Day features lovely illustrations, with lots of texture. Ages 1+


Crictor by Tomi Ungerer“Once upon a time in a little French town…” Madame Louise Bodot received a boa constrictor in the mail. She named the boa constrictor Crictor, and it became her pet. So begins Crictor, a delightfully apsurd exposition about what it might be like to have a boa constrictor as a pet. Ages 3+


Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall. A story of sibling rivalry that feels authentic, with a satisfying good ending. The big red lollipop on the front cover does not hurt this book’s chances of appealing to kids. Ages 4+


Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William SteigThe heart-wrenching tale of a donkey who discovers a magic red pebble and unwittlingly turns into a rock. This miserable plot is tempered by William Steig’s wit and is the perfect set-up for a well-delivered message about being thankful for what you have. Ages 4+

Art & Max by David WiesnerAn energetic, imaginative tale that only David Wiesner has the artistic skills to pull off. I could have selected any one of Wiesner’s three Caldecott-award-winning picture books for this list — Flotsam, The Three Pigs, or Tuesday. All three are super innovative, artistic masterpieces. Art & Max is pure, unadulterated fun. Ages 4+

  • Which of these books is your favorite, and why?
  • How have children you have shared these books with reacted?
  • Is there another book by one of these authors — Ezra Jack Keats, Tomi Ungerer, Rukhsana Khan, William Steig, or David Wiesner — that you particularly like?

I look forward to hearing from you!

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44 Responses to 60 Not-to-be-Missed Picture Books

  1. Liz Shanks says:

    I’m new to blogging and recently joined Kidlitosphere so I’m still navigating the fall down the rabbit hole so to speak. In this posting, you mentioned two of my favorite authors – Steig and Ungerer. As for Steig, I guess it’s a tie between “Amos and Boris” and “The Amazing Bone” and “The Beast of Monsieur Racine” is my favorite Tomi Ungerer. I do love what I call “the essentials”; that is picture books that don’t underestimate children in challenging vocabulary, sentence structure or content. I enjoyed reading the posting and hope you’ll visit the “snuggery” at liz’sbooksnuggery.com.
    Liz Shanks

  2. Sylvia Liu says:

    Thanks for this list…I’ve read all but Crictor, so I’ll check it out. And I’m such a huge David Wiesner fan (I reviewed one of his lesser known books, “June, 29, 1999,” here: http://bit.ly/ABXk8c). I look forward to seeing the rest of your list.

  3. Beth says:

    I LOVE book recommendations! I’ve never read the Art & Max, I’ll be checking that out! I’d love for you to come link up at TGIF kid oriented Linky Party – http://livinglifeintentionally.blogspot.com/search/label/Linkey%20Parties – I know my readers would love this too =-)
    Have a great weekend,

  4. What a great list of the known and unknown – Sylvester and the Magic Pebble sounds intriguing. And I wish I’d known about The Snowy Day when my two were small Now, like Pam, you’ve set me wondering about my top 60. I’m so glad you settled for 60 rather than 50 – one degree easier!

  5. Miranda Paul says:

    We’ve read almost all of them! Thanks for this…I’ve got a few more to share with my kids. I’m glad this Comment Challenge introduced me to your blog.

  6. patzm says:

    The Snowy Day is my favorite of these. There’s an exhibit of Ezra Jack Keats’ artwork in New York through the end of the month, and I hope to be able to see it.

  7. Dorine White says:

    I like Sylvestor and the magic pebble. it is a wordy one, but tells a great story. I really want to find a copy of Crictor, that one hit the right tone with me.

  8. This is a wonderful feature – thanks for sharing! The only book I am not familiar with is The Big Red Lollipop, and I’ll be sure to check it out.
    I’m looking forward to the next five!

  9. Of those five Sylvester and The Snowy Day are my favorites. Why? I love the illustrations in The Snowy Day. And who doesn’t love Sylvester? Such a crazy plot, that reminds us what is most important of all.

  10. I loved the Big Red Lolllipop and thought Rukshana deserved The Golen Kite award she got for it. (She was also nice enough to participate in out Pirate Alphabet)

    I love Snowy Day and while I like Art and Max, Tuesday is my favorite David Weisner

    • Amy says:

      Fun video! I am not familiar with The Golden Kite award, but I was a fan of Rukhsana Kahn before The Big Red Lollipop and think that this is her best picture book yet.

  11. We love The Snowy Day at our house. My daughter always asks if she can make tracks in the snow like he does. I keep telling her when it snows she can. She has been very disappointed with the lack of snow this winter. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!! I can’t wait to see the rest of your 60!

  12. I admit The Snowy Day is my favorite. Now as an adult living in the city I can appreciate the imagery of the boy against the snow covered urban landscape, but I think the real reason I love it is that I remember it so vividly from my childhood. Back then I didn’t live in the city or where it ever snowed. It was more about the boy’s intensely personal experience with that wonderous day.

  13. Camille says:

    We love The Snowy Day at our house. I have not read the rest – some of them are ones that I am vaguely familiar with but still have never read. I am going to add them to my library list! I am excited to see your list unfold as the year goes on.

  14. carriemonroe23@gmail.com says:

    I haven’t read any of these but they look really great. I’m going to have to check them out. The Big Red Lollipop sounds like a good read.

  15. MissieKa says:

    I haven’t read any of those books! They look great, might keep an eye out for them for my nephews birthday (my kids are a bit beyond picture books)

  16. Of these choices, “The Snowy Day” is my favorite and I’ve read it to my girls – now teens – and my five yr old niece and it always works. I tend to favor newer books, but I wasn’t a fan of “Art and Max” and while I liked “Big Red Lollipop,” I wouldn’t have it on my top 60. Of course, now I’m going to think of what is on my top 60, so thanks for that…

    • Amy says:

      I love that The Snowy Day is both appreciated by children’s books critics (not too critical a bunch) and is very satisfying to read to children.

  17. Amy says:

    I always read The Snowy Day for my snow-themed storytime, but A Whistle for Willie is my favorite of Keats.

    • Amy says:

      I am sure that part of my love for The Snowy Day comes from associating reading the book to my kids and watching them play in the snow. The Snowy Day is currently one of my 2-year-old’s favorite books. It’s snowy outside. I also really like the illustrations in The Snowy Day.

  18. My favorite David Wiesner book is Tuesday. There is little to no text, but the illustrations are very vivid and descriptive. My children, ages 6 and 8, love reading this book. We giggle at the pictures and then they make up their own “story”.

    • Amy says:

      Tuesday is a crazy read, is it not? While I have read it, I have not shared it with my children. I think I should. I’m very curious what they would think of it…and Sector 7.

  19. I forgot about Crictor! It was a favorite when I was a kid – I’m going to have to look for it next time I go to the library.
    David Wiesner is a favorite author, I used to teach The Three Pigs in my children’s literature course. It’s hard to select one favorite of his – thought up at the top would have to be Sector 7 and Tuesday.

  20. Jen says:

    I loved the Snowy Day so much, but haven’t shared it with my kids yet unfortunately. Thanks for giving me the impetus to do so. I will see if I can find the others as well.

  21. I love The Snowy Day! I read it as a child. I was astonished to find that it is 50 years old this year!

  22. My kids and I read all of these book this past year except Big Red Lollipop. Snowy Day is a classic, as is Crictor. We thought Art and Max was ok, but Syklvester and the Magic Pebble was our favorite for sure. We read it when we celebrated William Steig’s birthday at our house:

    Looking forward to the rest of the list of books! I follow on Twitter.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Eric. You pick fantastic authors to celebrate on your blog! I have especially enjoyed some of the contributions authors have made to your blog.

      Teachers, head on over to Happy Birthday Author for great ideas for birthdays to celebrate in addition to Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle!

    • Amy says:

      I am curious if you – or anyone else – has a favorite Wiesner book.

  23. Russ Cox says:

    Thanks for sharing your list. I must get down to the library and read a few of them that I’ve missed. Happy 2012!

  24. We’ve read all but Crictor. I’m placing a reserve right now at the library. Of the other 4, I think my kids enjoy Art & Max the most because it is rather unusual. It’s a little like Harold and the Purple Crayon, one of our very favorites. Our reviews of some of the other titles:
    Snowy Day (with craft tie-in) – http://www.brimfulcuriosities.com/2010/10/snowy-day-by-ezra-jack-keats-jumpstarts.html
    The Big Red Lollipop – http://www.brimfulcuriosities.com/2010/09/big-red-lollipop-by-rukhsana-khan-where.html

    • Amy says:

      Thanks for sharing these reviews, Janelle. I love both your cut-doilie pictures and your thoughtful, honest review of The Big Red Lollipop. I think some of the best picture books make kids think and broaden their view of the world as well as telling a great story. A big part of why I love The Big Red Lollipop is that it encourages kids to think about what it feels like to not quite fit in. I did not know that the author was Sanaa!

      Harold and the Purple Crayon must have felt like a crazy departure from standard picture book fare when it was first published — much like Wiesner’s books do (esp. Tuesday and Sector 7).

  25. Jamey says:

    I’ve heard of all of those except for “Art and Max” and we haven’t read “Big Red Lollipop” although I did almost buy it as a Christmas gift. (I have three preschoolers.) We’re huge Ezra Jack Keats fans though. “Peter’s Chair” is our favorite of his. Great list. I’ll look forward to seeing the rest of it and you’ve got me thinking about what 60 I would pick.

  26. I can tell already I’m going to love your 60 books. In those first five you have included my all time favorite (Sylvester) and three others I really like (especially Big Red Lollipop). So I can’t wait to check out the one I haven’t read: Crictor.

    • Amy says:

      Fantastic! Thanks for the comment. Sylvester is my favorite book from my childhood. Today, I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite picture book. Let me know what you think of Crictor! -Amy

  27. Anya says:

    Of these 5 we only read Art & Max, my kids absolutely loved it- such a gorgeous and funny book. Will check out the rest of these soon,

    • Amy says:

      My 7-year-old and I laugh out loud at Art & Max, but this book had my 4-year-old seriously concerned for Art the first time we read it.

  28. PragmaticMom says:

    I haven’t read The Big Red Lollipop but based on the other 4 books which I totally love, I will now hunt it down.

  29. Bola says:

    I love “the snowy day”! Another book of note from Jack Ezra Keats is “A Whistle for Willie” featuring Peter of “The Snowy Day”. Here is my review of the books: http://www.slimybookworm.com/blog/what-picture-book-are-we-reading-now/

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