List of Best Picture Books: Some Key Titles to Build a Library

Library cards are these free little tickets to sign out the world and we have three and we get giddy every single time we step right up and carry baskets of the adventure home.

But then there are these books…. the ones that we carry through the years.

The papers and the paintings that become our own, become our friends. That we return to again and again, bobbing orange buoys on the waters of childhood, that chart our memories of our mama’s voice and the lap quilt pulled over the knees, of their bare toes and the way they played with our hair when we got to the scary part and of the long, still afternoons in the summer sun with the grass this plush carpet and the stack sort of teetering.

We check out library books but we build a library too of the well-loved ones, line shelves with the memories of us all turning the same story over, over, over in our hands, the ink and the feelings rubbing off onto us and getting into us, picture book lines flowing through the veins of a a whole family and making us into this one body.

I duct tape up books this week. And I remember reading this one to every 4 year-old that’s ever passed through here, every single one of the six of them, and this is what I press down and smooth down along the spine of it all and thist holds these mothering, learning, happy years all together:

That the best words are the worn right through ones.




29 Best Picture Books to Build a Home Library On

Noah's Ark (Picture Yearling Book)Noah’s Ark

Every Peter Spier book we’ve ever owned has become tattered and loved and poured over, the pictures real art and the story singing. Even now, when I ask the 15-yr-old for his favorite picture books, he always first says “All the Peter Spier’s.”

The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah

So many of the Peter Spiers are out of print now, so they are worth the picking up if you can find it. Shalom loves this one too… she sings it!

To Market To Market
To Market To Market

And this one too. His artwork is like a history lesson and so delightfully detailed!

Miss RumphiusMiss Rumphius

Ah, this is perhaps one of my most favorite storybooks of all time. Every mama and child need to make memories with this one because the story is one that can change your beautiful life…. and lupines are now the favored flowers of the bed. To be like Miss Rumphius! A book to be read a million times and is always better with the next re-telling…

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales   Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales

I prefer to invest in big anthologies that become the spine of our humble home library, as oftentimes the price of the anthology is very, very cost effective considering how many books there are in one. Beatrix’s is a standard go-to for our read alouds… her words are enriching ones for little minds and the stories wise.

We have three copies of this one. We love it that much. Enough said.

A mama-favorite with that one line I love to sing, even now to the big boys: “Stella luna? You’re my baby!”
A story that soars right into your heart. Can’t imagine childhood without this one.

A picture book I could live in….The story of Emily Dickinson written in the  most evocative prose accompanied by my favorite artist, Barbary Cooney. I can never get enough of this one — lines to linger over. The same author/illustrator team wrote this equally amazing one… and this one is only a penny and is one of my all time favorites and my heart hurts in the most beautiful way every time I read it…

The World of Christopher Robin: The Complete When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six (Pooh Original Edition)  The World of Christopher Robin: The Complete When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six 

I have read these stories endlessly for the last fifteen years and I can’t bear the thought of ever stopping. Now We are Six is a classic that I read all one summer when I only had two, a five year old and three year old, dreaming of being six.

The Little House
   The Little House

This quaint classic that’s a Caldecott award winner and for good reason. We smile every time I read it and the artwork is simply perfect and the story line about simpler, rural times…  This story encapsulates how I feel about the country and we have cherished it.

Katy and the Big Snow Book & CD   Katy and the Big Snow Book & CD

Never knew a boy who didn’t love this book — and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by the same author (and of the Little House above).

Classic, timeless books. The map in this book always fascinates and we track out Katy’s path and every good snowfall always warrants a memory of Katy.

Ox-Cart Man  Ox-Cart Man

Yes, another Barbara Cooney, Caldecott award winning book, these pages of the most simple prose that somehow makes everything beautiful.  We have loved this book.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small
   James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales

I am not sure if my boys have asked for stories from any book more than this one. Rich language, tender true life farm stories of a vet who writes of memorable encounters with animals. Absolute five star.

Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever! (Giant Little Golden Book)
Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever!

Every childhood needs a stack of classic Richard Scarry to spend afternoons pouring over. How they all have loved Lowly and Huckle. I can remember being 7 and loving Lowly and Huckle!

Aesop's Fables for Children: Includes a Read-and-Listen CD (Dover Pictorial Archives)
  Aesop’s Fables for Children: Includes a Read-and-Listen CD 

The duct taped books at our house are the creme de la creme and this is a duct taped one. If Malakai could claim just one book as his own, I think this might be it.

And this is the book I always begin to ask narrations from — short, pithy pieces, a paragraph or two, and then a child narrates back the story from memory. This Milo Winter’s edition has the most luminous, classic art… a must for ever homeschool journey.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Public Television Storytime Books)
  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge 

I think we have three copies of this one! The story of William trying to discover “what is a memory”and return it to old folks “who have lost their memory” is utterly exquisite in every sense of the word. When I first began as a student teacher in university, my mentor gave me two copies of this one, her favorite. This is a book every child needs to grow up on — the love of the young for the old.

Owl Moon: 20th Anniversary Edition
  Owl Moon

A Caldecott award book, we could read this every night all winter long. All of Jane Yolen’s books shine, but this one particularly shimmers.

A staple for the chilly nights… and one I could read again and again, just for me!

Make Way for McCloskey: A Robert McCloskey Treasury
   Make Way for McCloskey: A Robert McCloskey Treasury

We have a copy of this, as does my mother and my sister, so everywhere my children go, this classic is always close at hand — so storytime is always a perfect read.

This one book that includes all eight of Robert McClosekey’s award-winning picture books. We’ve spent untold hours with this one and I’m so glad they’ll have memories of these happy stories….
Millions of Cats (Gift Edition) (Picture Puffin Books)

Millions of Cats

A quirky Caldecott rendered only in black and white, this one has been read up through all of the six, all who were simply captivated with the repeating refrain. A memorable story with a needful theme of the importance of humility.

Pickle-Chiffon Pie
  Pickle-Chiffon Pie

A riotously fun book that packs a powerful lesson of love, this is a kid-favorite here.
A classic that came back into print due to demand — parents wanted their children to experience this memorable, endearing tale and for very good reason.

Every child is absolutely guaranteed to love this one! Five Star! A story of grace and generosity and true love….

Eloise Wilkin Stories (Little Golden Book Treasury)   Eloise Wilkin Stories 

Shalom has loved this one. That is all.
Truly, truly loved. The perfect book for pudgy hands.

It is duct-taped.

I have loved it too…  A necessary read for all little ones — and their mamas.

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 (Picture Puffins)

   The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot 

Ah! Such a book! All the boys have loved this one and I never get through it without grinning. This is prose that romps with tongue in cheek and another Caldecott winner and it is a most worthy winner.  This is one we have read a thousand times and none of us ever tire of.  A family that did great things together!

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh  The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

To have all the tales in one hardback book, the classic childhood primer.

This one has come the whole long way with us and was worth every single word.

Ours is duct taped. Enough said.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Anniversary Edition of a Modern Classic

  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
And this one? Has lost its cover and is entirely taped together and that conveys how all six have been completely smitten with this one. This is a book that I will replace and read to grandchildren, Lord willing, and I will remember how this one has been carried to sandboxes and treetops and taken to the barn… sometimes all of life seems like a bear hunt and you can’t go around and you can’t go under and you’ll just have to keep going through! 

Perfect read!

Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)

Duct-taped. Multiple copies. Read hundreds of times. An award winner.

One to own and every boy will grow up with this one and I remember this one from my own childhood.  This one is sort of like a rite of passage, a history lesson and the most memorable geography lesson rolled into one.  As is this one by HC Holling, and this one — this is an author whose books will be cherished for generations.

The Children's Book of Virtues   The Children’s Book of Virtues

Classic, traditional, handed-down stories that have been compiled into this one volume and coupled with beautiful illustrations.

Stories that sit in the memory and shape a child into all things virtuous and thoughtful and kind.

You Read to Me & I'll Read to You: Stories to Share from the 20th Century
You Read to Me & I’ll Read to You: Stories to Share from the 20th Century

An anthology of so many great picture books, all in full color, that make for great reading for the beginning reader.

A transitional book that is yes… tattered and dog-eared and has been perfectly carted all over.

The 20th-Century Children's Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud
The 20th-Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud

This one was worth every penny and there is rarely a read aloud without it and it has every classic picture book in it and having just this one book is like having a whole library and can you tell that we have loved it and have left one of the best till last? Ten Star. A book to give to every child.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
  The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Ah yes… leaving the best towards the last.

I believe this book is inspired. Truly. I didn’t expect to like it, first given to us as a gift. And now I cannot sufficiently rave about this book. It has become my standard baby shower gift — because every child needs this book. I’d like to take several of the Spanish editions with me to Guatemala

This book changes lives. It has mine.  Necessary.

The Child's Story Bible  The Child’s Story Bible

And this one? Has come the whole long way. Right from the beginning.


Not a picture story bible, but a read aloud book for the 4 and older set, that takes a child through the Bible chronologically, in this very thoughtful, meaty prose. A true classic.

And so those are some of the stories that we claimed as ours and laid down as the simple foundations to our little library, to our little lives.

Those… and a rather notable supply of duct-tape.

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

~ Oscar Wilde

(To Read All of Our Booklists

— take your time and breathe in deep and wander through the library stacks here )


Photos: summer days of stories here…
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