Picture books are such a glorious mash-up of art forms. You have your writing. You have your illustrations. And you have your design. For a picture book to work, all three have to be great. And a picture book has to please not only the child being read to, but also the adult who is reading it to them. It's a tricky business and much much harder than most people think. That's why there are plenty of bad picture books. But these ones are all winners. If you buy only these picture books, you'll have a great collection. No child's bookshelf is complete without them.

Note: If you want to know what the book is about, click on the cover and it will take you to Amazon where you can read a synopsis and reviews. 

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

One of the best grumpy stories of all time. Lifts my spirits every time I read it. And my favorite line for when I just can't take it anymore: "I think I'll move to Australia."

Are You My Mother? 

A classic for a reason. Acquired and published by Dr. Seuss, who had damn good taste. 



Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

Brilliant in its time and still brilliant today. What kid can resist the search for Gold Bug?



Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type

A picture book about workers' rights? And the power of the written word? Starring farm animals! Brilliant and hysterical.


Curious George  

Written by American immigrants who escaped Nazi France in WWII, their little monkey is a great metaphor for being a stranger in a strange land. And he always makes kids laugh.

Diary of a Wombat

This book can make the shyest of kids squirm and giggle with glee. Told from the wombat's point-of-view, a great example of Voice in a picture book.


Everyone Poops

Yes, this is the best book about pooping that there is. And every collection needs a pooping book. 


Frog and Toad

These books feel like old friends. So many great lessons in each story, but mostly they are about how to be kind and true and love each other. The most important lessons of all. 



The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear

Mouse, strawberry, bear: a trifecta of things children love. Add to that: great rhythm, great sound effects and just enough tension to have your child on the edge of her seat. This one is a crowd pleaser. 


The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

This is the best Halloween book you can get, especially for kids facing their fears for the first time. Empowering and funny as heck.


Make Way for the Ducklings

A classic, and for good reason. A lovely story about mothers and fathers and finding your safe place in the world.


Millions of Cats

Another classic, but this one is a little crazy. In a great way. The first real picture book in American history, so everyone should have it. And it's about cats. Millions of adorable cats. Until things go horribly wrong...

Not A Box

One of my favorite books about creativity and thinking "outside the box." You're never too young or old for this encouragement.


One Duck Stuck

Great rhyme and rhythm. Great animals. Great illustrations. A fun book all around.


Owl Moon

A deceptively quiet story, but so beautiful and powerful. About the sacredness of nature, about the sacredness of time between parent and child, and a reminder to us parents to make time for both.


Rotten Ralph

Oh, we all have a little Rotten Ralph in us. One of Jack Gantos's best stories. Guaranteed to put your child's worst troublemaking into perspective.

The Paper Bag Princess

One of the best feminist picture books of all time. Turns the princess story on its head. My own personal manifesto. If you want to raise a strong, independent girl (or a boy who respects strong, independent girls), you must have it.

The Salamander Room

About a boy who imagines a room where a salamander would want to live. With trees, and sky, and a stream running through it. It's my kind of room. This book is gorgeously written, gorgeously illustrated, and gorgeously designed. A perfect picture book, in my opinion. 

The Snowy Day

This revolutionary picture book was the first with an African American hero and an urban setting. Many years have passed, but many issues remain the same. This book stands the test of time.


For you bat haters out there. I dare you to read this book and not fall in love with bats. A wonderful story about fitting in. Or not fitting in. And accepting yourself and others. Feels pretty timely.

The Story of Ferdinand

Hitler burned this book because of its pacifist message. And it was one of the most banned books in America for years and years. A brilliant story about a bull who refuses to fight. Ferdinand, my hero.


Where the Wild Things Are

This is the perfect picture books. The words are perfect. The art is perfect. The design is perfect. And it has the line "Let the wild rumpus begin!" What more could you want?

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Maurice Sendak wrote for Playboy, wrote rock songs, then decided to write children's books. Why not? It was the 60s. His poetry collections (including this one) are unrivaled. Hilarious, twisted little gems. Your kids will love them (and so will you).