Kids' Books Gift Guide: Picture Books

I love, love, love me some picture books.  I used to sneak back to the kid's department while at work and read them when no one was looking.  It was pretty easy - booksellers seem to have an overall aversion to the children's department.  It might be all the children that are usually there...

Moving on, here are some of my all-time favorites, in no particular order.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Ok, this one is in a particular order.  This is my favorite picture book.  Of. All. Time.  Shel Silverstein is a brilliant, brilliant writer, (he wrote the lyrics to Johnny Cash's classic song A Boy Named Sue, you know).   This book is about selfishness, and selflessness, and I cry at least every other time that I read it.  You know what?  Forget it.  Don't buy this as a gift.  Go out and get yourself a copy.  Today.  Thank you.

Ok, here's another true confession moment: I don't love Dr. Seuss.  It makes me want to stab myself in the eye! Oh, what a wonderful way to die!  But... for the Sneeches, I'll make an exception.  It's a great story about being different, and conforming, and acceptance.  It also makes "theirs" rhyme with "stars," which makes me relatively insane.  

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
The story of the little nut brown hare (not to be confused with the little brown nut hair - long story) is super sweet.  Zj and I borrow from it all the time when trying to one-up each other in the love department.  "No, I love you more." "Well, I love you all the way to the moon and back.  So there. I win."  

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
This is the story of Stellaluna, a little fruit bat who falls from her perch, loses her mother, and is adopted by birds.  It's a sweet story of adoption, acceptance, and eating worms when you really don't want to.

The Olivia books by Ian Falconer
Olivia is by far and away the best pig ever.  She's precocious, and smart, and smart-alecky, and sort of like a real kid.  She can be a brat, and she can get into mischief.  The illustrations are great, and I enjoy these as much as my kids.  

The Skippyjon Jones books by Judy Schachner
Skippyjon is a little Siamese kitty who thinks he is a brave Chihuahua.  He goes on a ton of adventures, mostly in his own closet, and this one is a fun one to read aloud, because you can practice using your best Cheech & Chong voices.

Tuesday by David Wiesner
This Caldecott winner has been one of my favorites for years.  It is a nearly wordless story, told in beautiful illustrations, about frogs descending a town because it's Tuesday.  Aside from the plague-like implications, it's a great book to help your little one develop his or her own storytelling skills.  Zj tells me a different story every time we read it.  

The Fancy Nancy books by Jane O'Connor
Nancy is a diva in training, and endeavors to make her family as fancy as she is.  She's a bit of a drama queen, and little girls love to love her.

The Pigeon books by Mo Willems
The Pigeon is flippin' hilarious.  He will try to get you on his side.  See, he wants to drive the bus, and he spends the entire book trying to convince, bribe, beg or cajole you.  I enjoy these books as much, if not more, than my kids do.  And really, isn't that what it's all about?

There are two sides to every story, and this story of the three little pigs is told from the wolf's perspective.  Turns out, he's just misunderstood.  Why of course, aren't we all?   All Mr. Scieszka's books are delightful, and his Trucktown series is especially great for little boys who are obsessed with things with wheels.

Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis
I absolutely did not understand the whole "celebrities as children's book authors" phenomenon that popped up a few years ago.  Just because someone can act doesn't necessarily qualify him to write a kid's book.  Most were ghost-written, and many just weren't very good.  However, the picture books by Jamie Lee Curtis proved to be an exception to that.  Great, bright illustrations and simple rhyming sentences make these a winner.  Plus, she's always got a good moral or lesson in each one.  Our favorite is Big Words for Little People, and because of this book, zj was using "inappropriate," "privacy" and "patience" correctly in sentences by the age of two.

Llama simply cannot understand why he is snatched up from playing, strapped into a carseat, and forced to go shopping with Mama.  Sounds like real life, huh?  Llama gets madder and madder until he has - you guessed it - a full blown tantrum in the grocery.  As a Mama who has been there, done that, this book is a good reminder about why it's important to make these mundane trips fun for the little people, as well.  Either that, or hire a sitter.  Totally worth the $30.  The whole series is a ton of fun.

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
This retelling of a Tolstoy short story appeals to the book nerd in me in ways that are difficult to describe.  Beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story make this another of my favorites.

When Lucy the Bear finds a little boy in the woods, she brings him home, determined to keep him as a pet.  However, Mama Bear thinks children make terrible pets.  Well, I could have told you that, Mama Bear.  Funny stuff.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This book has been around almost as long as I have, but it still ranks as one of my favorites of all time.  This one has an easily-reachable spot on zj's bookcase, since we read it so often.  

If You Give A... series by Laura Numeroff
This is another oldie but goodie.  The demanding little mouse reminds me of zj sometimes...  

Pinkalicious by Victoria & Elizabeth Kann
The little girl in this story loves pink more than anything in the world - sound familiar?  She eats so many pink cupcakes that she turns pink herself.  This book series is perfect for the girly-girls in your life.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Here's another one that makes me cry about every other time I read it.  Maybe I'm just overly emotional, no?  Anyway, when raccoon goes off to school, he's worried about missing his Mama.  His Mama has a solution - the Kissing Hand.  Perfect for kids with separation anxiety or Mamas with the same.

Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle
Ok, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not really a fan of potty humor myself, but I challenge you to find a child in the 4-8 year old age range who is not.  Walter is a great dog, except for his gas issue.  Fortunately, you can scare away burglars if your gas is... gassy enough.  Flatulence for the WIN!

It's a Book by Lane Smith
In the age of iPads, Twitter and video games, the main character in this book reminds us that books are really just for reading.  No charging necessary.  

 Ok, I'll stop now. 

Really, I could go on for days...

Don't forget to drop back by on Wednesday to find out what beginning reader titles I'll recommend.

I know you're on the edge of your seat.


  1. OK, it's now officially eerie how much we gave in common. I have several favorites on this list, but I think we wore out three copies of "The real story of the 3 little pigs". It cracks me up every time. I've never read "Llama Llama Mad at Mama", but I think my 19-year-old needs it for Christmas, right?

  2. @Angie, 19 is not too old for a picture book. Ever. Also, if you haven't read Lane Smith's It's a Book, it's perfect for us plugged-in gals :)

  3. Angie, I think we are all in the 'very smart, very cool' super exclusive club!

    We have two copies of The Giving Tree (and I should be slapped for not reading it to Rachel yet). Our copy of Guess How Much I Love You is from my oldest daughter. and The Kissing Hand (makes me cry, too) was handed down from Angie

    Rachel LOVES Fancy Nancy, Olivia, and if you haven't read Skippy Jon Jones, you're in for a treat!

    I'm going to try out some of these new (to me) selections, and have a few more to add to your list ....

    How do Dinosaurs say Goodnight (and the whole series) - I LOVED these when Abby was little, and the boys are really enjoying them now. The illustrations are great!!

    We also love No Matter What -- I think Z would enjoy this one. I ADORE A BAd Case of the Stripes ... too funny. We have an amazing book someone gifted us called The Happy Postman -- it's a postman who gives letters to classic characters ... lots of fun with postcards, tiny letters, etc.


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