Ten favorite picture books (ages 3-10)

Picture books are truly for everybody. Read them together with young children, sharing a story together, savoring the joy of discovery. Encourage older children to take a break with picture books and savor the story. Here’s a selection of old and new picture books I love.

Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal: Oh how I love this book. As one young reader told me, “it makes me want to learn more about my own name.” Alma helps us all feel like we are special for being unique. Alma Sofia Esperanza Josi Pura Candela worries about her long name until her father tells her family stories, one for each person she’s named after. The illustrations are soft and gently sweet, showing the distinctive essence of each ancestor and the affections between Alma and her family. (ages 4-8)

Drawn Together, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat: When a young boy visits his grandfather, they struggle to communicate because the grandson only speaks English and his grandfather only speaks Thai. After an uncomfortable dinner where the cultural divides are palpably painful, the boy pulls out a sketch he’s made of a superhero. He’s surprised when his grandfather starts drawing a Thai warrior. As they start drawing together, they build a new world layered and complex with both cultures. Not only is this a beautiful story, it is full of universal emotions: connecting across generations and cultures, relating to each other through art and storytelling, and discovering shared passions. (ages 4-9)

Duck! Rabbit!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld: Is it a duck? Or a rabbit? What do you think? Turn it upside down – do you see anything different? The off-stage narrators argue back and forth, trying to convince each other that their perspective is right. Lichtenheld’s illustrations, with absolute clearness and utter ambiguity, are perfect for encouraging your own kids to join the debate. (ages 4-9)

Firebird, by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers: A young African American girl looks up to Copeland saying, “the space between you and me is longer than forever”–how could I ever become as beautiful and graceful as you? Copeland turns to the young girl, reassuring her that she was once just as small, just as shy–and the magic comes when you pursue your dreams. (ages 6-10)

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson: One night, Harold decided to go for a walk. Bringing only his giant purple crayon, Harold draws himself a world full of wonder and imagination, from a sailboat on a stormy sea to a picnic with a moose with nine kinds of pie! This classic picture book has inspired young children since 1955, but it captivates children still, showing them how far their imagination can take them. (ages 3-7)

Hello Hello, by Brendan Wenzel: This picture book will delight young readers, saying hello to different animals. Read the spare rhymes slowly, encouraging readers to notice how the animals are similar and different. “Hello Stripes. Hello Spots.” Sure, tigers have stripes and cheetahs have spots, but what about fish and lizards? Which they have stripes and spots, too! I especially love the way Wenzel gives clues on each page of what’s coming next–the whale shark’s spotted tail, leads into: “Hello Giant. Hello Not.” Wenzel’s animals are full of life, and a key in the back will help eager readers to learn all of their names. (ages 3-8)

Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love: After Julián, a young Afro-Latinx child, sees three fabulous people dressed as mermaids, he creates his own costume. When Abuela discovers this, will she support him or chastise him? In this delightful story, Julian’s grandmother embraces his creativity, helping him complete the outfit, and then proudly taking him to a parade. This story delights readers and never becomes too preachy, staying rooted in the joy of imagination and the importance of being seen and recognized. (ages 4-8)

Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales: With a huge imagination and a love of luche libre, the popular Mexican wrestling sport, little Niño battles his own make-believe monsters. Whether he’s defeating the Guanajuato mummy or exploding the giant Olmec Head, this is one confident little kid. Morales brings humor, dynamic energy and vivid artwork to this terrific picture book. (ages 4-8)

Press Here, Hervé Tullet: This ingenious interactive book invites readers right into the action of this story, pressing dots to multiply them, blowing on them to scatter them across the page, clapping to make them blow up like a balloon. It is utterly simple and yet completely engrossing, showing readers that they are truly part of making any story come alive and leap off the pages of a book. (ages 3-7)

Rain, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson: Have you ever noticed that a good mood can be contagious? One a rain day, a grumpy old man complains about his “nasty galoshes” and the “dang puddle.” But not everyone feels that way. A little boy is so excited to put on his froggy hat and rain boots. When they bump into each other, the little guy’s mood eventually rubs off on the old man. A delightful story, perfect for spreading a smile. (ages 4-8)

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©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books