It's often risky to create a list of "classics." A "classic" book has lasting significance or worth, and everyone has an opinion as to which titles should be included. Many of these books have been read to children for decades and still retain their value and importance in children's literature; other fairly new titles are generally considered to be among the best picture books of the last few years.
The importance of reading aloud to babies and children has been shown in scientific studies. The Library hopes that this list will get parents started on the road to a lifetime of literacy with their young readers.
Asch, Frank. Happy Birthday,
Moon. (Prentice-Hall, 1982)
A simple yet reassuring celebration of love and friendship.
Bang, Molly. Ten, Nine, Eight. (Greenwillow Books, 1983)
Numbers from ten to one are part of this lullaby which observes the room of a little girl going to bed. Caldecott honor book.
Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline.
Madeline, smallest and naughtiest of the twelve little charges of Miss Clavel, wakes up one night with an attack of appendicitis. Caldecott honor book.
Beskow, Fru Elsa Maartman. Pelle's
New Suit. (Floris Books, 1912)
Pelle's sheep gives him wool for a new suit, Grandmother spins it into yarn, Grandfather dyes it, Mother weaves it, and the tailor cuts and sews the suit while Pelle does errands for each.
Bridwell, Norman. Clifford
the Big Red Dog. (Four Winds, 1963)
Emily Elizabeth describes activities she enjoys with her very big, very red dog and how they take care of each other.
Bright, Robert. Georgie.
Georgie the friendly ghost is happy living with the Whittakers, but then things change and he decides to find a new place to haunt.
Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight
Moon. (Harper, 1947)
A little bunny bids goodnight to all the objects in his room before falling asleep.
Brunhoff, Jean de. The Story
of Babar. (Random House, 1961)
An orphaned baby elephant goes to live in the city with an elderly woman who gives him everything he wants, but he eventually returns to the forest where he is crowned king the elephants.
Burton, Virginia Lee. Katy and the Big Snow. (Houghton Mifflin, 1943).
Katy, a brave and untiring tractor, who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, makes it possible for the townspeople to do their jobs.
Burton, Virginia Lee. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. (Houghton Mifflin, 1939)
When Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Ann, lose their jobs to the gasoline, electric, and diesel motor shovels, they go to a little country town where they find that one new job leads to another.
Burton, Virginia Lee. The Little
House. (Houghton Mifflin, 1942)
A country house is unhappy when the city, with all its buildings and traffic, grows up around her. Caldecott medal winner.
Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. (Philomel Books, 1987)
A hungry little caterpillar eats his way through a varied and very large quantity of food until, full at last, he forms a cocoon around himself and goes to sleep.
Crews, Donald. Freight Train. (Greenwillow, 1978)
Brief text and illustrations trace the journey of a colorful train as it goes through tunnels, by cities, and over trestles. Caldecott honor book.
De Paola, Tomie. Strega Nona.
When Stega Nona leaves him alone with her magic pasta pot, Big Anthony decides to show the townspeople how it works. Caldecott honor book.
Duvoisin, Roger. Petunia.
Petunia the goose learns that possessing knowledge involves more than just carrying a book around under her wing.
Flack, Marjorie. Angus and
the Ducks. (Doubleday, 1930)
A curious Scottish terrier decides to investigate the strange noise coming from the other side of the hedge.
Freeman, Don. Corduroy.
A toy bear in a department store wants a number of things, but when a little girl finally buys him, he finds what he has always wanted most of all.
Gag, Wanda. Millions of Cats.
How can an old man and his wife select one cat from a choice of millions and trillions? Newbery honor book.
Galdone, Paul. The Little Red
Hen. (Clarion, 1973)
The little red hen finds none of her lazy friends willing to help her plant, harvest, or grind wheat into flour, but all are eager to eat the bread she makes from it.
Gramatky, Hardie. Little Toot. (Putnam, 1967)
Little Toot the tugboat conquers his fear of rough seas when he single-handledly rescues an ocean liner during a storm.
Hoban, Russell. Bedtime for
Frances. (HarperCollins, 1960)
Frances has trouble going to sleep because of frightening sounds and objects.
Hutchins, Pat. Titch. (Macmillan, 1971)
Nothing Titch owned amounted to much except the smallest thing of all - a seed.
Johnson, Crockett. Harold and
the Purple Crayon. (HarperCollins, 1955)
Harold goes for an adventurous walk in the moonlight with his purple crayon.
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy
Day. (Viking, 1962)
The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day. Caldecott medal winner. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Kraus, Robert. Leo the Late
Bloomer. (Simon & Schuster, 1971)
Leo, a young tiger, finally blooms under the anxious eyes of his parents.
Krauss, Ruth. The Carrot Seed.
Despite everyone's dire predictions, a little boy has faith in the carrot seed he plants.
Leaf, Munro. The Story of Ferdinand.
A young bull named Ferdinand who would prefer to sit peacefully under a tree and smell the flowers is chosen for the bullfights in Madrid when a sting from a bee makes him stomp and snort like the fiercest bull of all. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Lionni, Leo. Swimmy. (Pantheon, 1968)
A little black fish in a school of red fish figures out a way of protecting them all from their natural enemies. Caldecott honor book.
Lowrey, Janette Sebring. The
Poky Little Puppy. (Golden Book, 1942)
A puppy who is always late coming home finds one night that there is no dessert for him.
Martin, Bill. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967)
Children see a variety of animals, each one a different color, and a mother looking at them.
McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries
for Sal. (Viking, 1948)
Little Sal and Little Bear both lose their mothers while eating blueberries and almost end up with the other's mother. Caldecott honor book.
McCloskey, Robert. Make Way
for Ducklings. (Viking, 1941)
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard proudly return to their home in the Boston Public Garden with their eight offspring. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Mosel, Arlene. Tikki Tikki
Tembo. (Holt, 1968)
When the eldest son fell down a well and most of the time getting help was spent pronouncing his name, the Chinese decided to give their children short names.
Munsch, Robert N. Thomas' Snowsuit.
His mother, teacher, and principal have a hard time trying to convince Thomas to wear his snowsuit.
Numeroff, Laura Joffe. If You
Give a Mouse a Cookie. (Harper, 1985)
The cycle of requests a mouse is likely to make after you give him a cookie takes the reader through a young child's day. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Piper, Watty. The Little Engine
That Could. (Platt & Munk, 1930)
Although she is not very big, the Little Blue Engine agrees to try to pull a stranded train full of toys over the mountain. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of
Peter Rabbit. (F. Warne, 1902)
Peter disobeys his mother by going into Mr. McGregor's garden and almost gets caught.
Rey, H. A. Curious George.
(Houghton Mifflin, 1941)
The curiosity of a newly-captured monkey gets him into continual trouble.
Scieszka, Jon. The True Story
of the Three Little Pigs. (Viking, 1989)
The wolf gives his own outlandish version of what really happened when he tangled with the three little pigs.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the
Wild Things Are. (HarperCollins, 1963)
A naughty little boy, sent to bed without his supper, sails to the land of the wild things where he becomes their king. Caldecott medal winner. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Seuss, Dr. Horton Hatches the
Egg. (Random House, 1940)
When a lazy bird hatching an egg wants a vacation, she asks Horton the elephant to sit on her egg, which he does through all sorts of hazards until he is rewarded for doing what he said he would.
Slobodkina, Esphyr. Caps For
Sale. (Harper, 1947)
A band of mischievous monkeys steals every one of a peddler's caps while he takes a nap under a tree. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Steig, William. Doctor De Soto.
A mouse dentist copes with the toothaches of various animals except those with a taste for mice, until the day a fox comes to him in great pain. Newbery honor book.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Polar
Express. (Houghton Mifflin, 1985)
A magical train ride on Christmas Eve takes a boy to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa Claus. Caldecott medal winner. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Viorst, Judith. Alexander and
the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (Atheneum,
On a day when everything goes wrong for him, Alexander is consoled by the thought that other people have bad days too. (Reading Rainbow collection)
Zion, Gene. Harry, the Dirty
Dog. (HarperCollins, 1956)
When a white dog with black spots runs away from home, he gets so dirty his family doesn't recognize him as a black dog with white spots
Zolotow, Charlotte. William's
Doll. (Harper & Row, 1972)
William wants a doll to hug, bathe, and care for, but his brother calls him a "creep" and his father gives him a train set. Only his grandmother understands.