100+ Favorite Picture Books for Preschoolers

I saved our library receipts from the last year and kept a running list of all the books I read with my kids in 2012. It was well over a thousand different books. We love the library and go there at least once a week. In trying to come up with my list of favorite books for preschoolers, I went through that list, but it was overwhelming, so I'm sure I've missed some. But below are some of my preschoolers' favorite books (I have two preschool aged boys, ages 5 and 3). I tried include a mix of older books and newer releases. We are always adding to this list and I'm sure I've forgotten or missed some great books, so I would love it if any readers would comment at the end of this post with their favorite picture books.

10 Books about Creativity and Imagination
I love the following books because they really show one of my favorite aspects of childhood--how creative and imaginative these young ones are!
  • Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson, Rosemarie Brennan and Cyd Moore--This is a great book about not following the crowd. Willow always gets in trouble in art class because her pictures don't fit the formula. But in the end, it's Willow's teacher who gets a lesson about the the importance of spontaneity and individuality in art.
  • Ish and The Dot  by Peter H. Reynolds--These are two more books about thinking outside the box when it comes to creating art. They show that you don't always have to create art that imitates life perfectly--sometimes even a dot can be work of art.
  • Not a Box by Antoinette Portis--A small rabbit in this book turns a cardboard box into all sorts of things--a race car, a mountain, and more. Since my kids always love creating with empty cardboard boxes themselves, they could really connect with the theme of this book.
  • It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw--In this book, the narrator looks at all sorts of clouds and imagines the different things that they look like. After reading this book you will definitely want to go outside and lie on the grass to look at clouds yourself.
  • The Brave Cowboy by Joan Walsch Anglund--This is one of my son's all-time favorites because he can relate so much with the cute little boy who is the main character. The main character is pretending to be a cowboy. The illustrations are fun because the real-life things are drawn in black and the things he imagines are drawn in red.
  • Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld--This was one of those books we randomly picked up from the library and really ended up loving. If your boys are like mine who are very competitive and always coming up with all sorts of crazy adventures with their toys, they will appreciate this book. Two kids are playing with a shark and train and imagining all sorts of contests for their toys and which toy might "win" in each situation.
  • Beautiful Oops! --My kids like the unique look and feel of this book, and I absolutely love the message of this book--If you make a "mistake" just be creative and turn it into a "beautiful oops." It is a book that is perfect for a child or adult of any age. (This is on both this list and my list of favorite books for babies and toddlers because it is such a favorite and all three of my children enjoy it).
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury--This captures the fun of pretend play by showing a father and his children pretending to go on a bear hunt. This is a fun book to also act out. You could even go all out with simple props like this family did.
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs --Most people know the movie version of this story, but the original book is definitely worth picking up. A pancake lands on a child's head and that sparks Grandpa's imagination. He spins a delightful tall tale about food falling from the sky.
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon --If your child loves drawing as mine does, he will appreciate this classic book that shows just how far you can go with one simple crayon and your imagination.
10 Books about Animals
  • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear  by Don Wood and Audrey Wood--This is one of our absolute favorites. It is so cute and fun to read out loud. The narrator warns the mouse about a "big hungry bear" (which never appears) so that the mouse will share his strawberry. My kids' favorite part is when the mouse tries to disguise the strawberry with glasses and a mustache.
  • Harry the Dirty Dog  by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham--Harry doesn't want a bath, so he runs away and has a little adventure. My dog-lover likes this adorable book.
  • The Pout-Pout Fish  by Deborah Diesen and Daniel X. Hanna--My kids love the rhythm and the funny "blu-blu-blu" sounds that the fish makes in this book about a frowning fish who thinks he has to spread his "dreary-wearies" until he finally meets someone who helps him changes his mind.
  • Class Two at the Zoo  by Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman--An entire school class gets eaten by an anaconda, but finally the last child props a stick in the snake's mouth to allow everyone to escape. It might scare younger kids, but  the story was told in such a humorous way that my boys just laughed and begged to read it again and again.
  • Gregory, the Terrible Eater --My kids think it is so funny that the goat in this story is supposed to eat garbage and that he gets in trouble for eating fruits and vegetables.
  • Cock-a-Doodle-Moo!  by Bernard Most--A rooster is sick and tries to get the cow to wake up the animals instead, and it leads to a hilarious series of a different funny attempts on the words "cock-a-doodle-doo." My boys love all the silly words in this book.
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister--This is a classic story about the importance of kindness. Rainbow fish is beautiful but unhappy until he learns the importance of having friends.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague--There are many bedtime stories out there that show the classic struggle between a parent and child at bedtime. But it is more entertaining because it features tiny little human moms and dads and huge dinosaur "children." And in the end the right way to go to bed is shown.
  • Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young--This is a take on a classic fable about blind men and an elephant--but it is blind mice instead of men. The illustrations are beautiful and the story has a good moral.
  • How to Hide a Butterfly and Other Insects--This book shows how different insects camouflage themselves. My kids love searching the illustrations for the hidden insects.
10 Books about People

  • Is There Really a Human Race?  by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell--Although my kids might not understand all the plays on words in this book, they love the fun illustrations with all sorts of different people.
  • The Prince Won't Go to Bed!  by Dayle Ann Dodds and Kyrsten Brooker--Another "going to bed" story--this time featuring a stubborn prince who won't go to bed. The whole castle tries to please him in increasingly more elaborate ways but in the end all he wanted was a goodnight kiss.
  • Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson and Fumi Kosaka--We love this story about how one simple act of kindness sets off a chain reaction of good deeds around the world.
  • The Paper Bag Princess  by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko--I love the fairytale twist in this book--it's the prince who is vain and the princess who is brave and rescues the prince from the dragon. In the end when he criticizes her, she decides that the prince isn't worth it.
  • Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow--I like the message in this book. When Molly Lou Melon faces teasing at a new school, she doesn't let it get to her--instead she is just happy with who she is, and she ends up winning friends by being herself.
  • Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel  by Virginia Lee Burton--When steam-powered shovels are outdated, one man can't part with his beloved machine and he has one final exciting job.
  • Madeline  by Ludwig Bemelmans--We love the spunky heroine in this classic book.
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz--Every child has his bad days and this is about one kid who has just one of those days. This book seems like a downer, but it is one I like to talk about with my kids afterwards (about how Alexander could have had a better attitude, how he blamed people for things that really weren't their fault, and how we sometimes all do that but we should try to be responsible for our own feelings). My boys think Alexander is funny but they can also relate with him at times.
  • Chrysanthemum , Owenand Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse are just three of the books we love by Kevin Henkes--Although these are animals, not people--but they face life-like situations that kids might deal with. They are all strong and fun characters who overcome those childhood challenges.
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney--Miss Rumphius sets out to make the world a better place in a small way by spreading flower seeds wherever she goes.
10 Classic Picture Books
These are books I remember from my childhood that I have in turn shared with my children. They have definitely  stood the test of time :)
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak--This classic book was a perfect fit for my two "wild" little boys. (And we also like the Little Bear books by Sendak).
  • Jan Brett books such as Fritz and the Beautiful Horses and The Mitten--We love Jan Brett's beautiful illustrations in her books.
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina--My monkey-lovers absolutely adore this book about a peddler who sells hats and meets some mischievous monkeys.
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein--A generous tree finds something to give in every stage of life. (And we also love Shel Silverstein's books of poetry as well.)
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey--This is one of my favorites--a cute little girl and a baby bear get all mixed up while picking up blueberries on a  mountain.
  • A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman--This book explores all types of houses--even things you wouldn't normally consider a "house." It is creative and fun and my boys are always finding all sorts of things hidden in the illustrations that they like.
  • Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie--A sweet story about friendship that alternates between Toot traveling the world and Puddle at home.
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper--My boys love trains so of course this classic has to be on our list! It has a great message about not giving up and we have been known to chant "I think I can" whenever we face any type of challenge around our house.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd--This was on my list of favorite books for babies and toddlers, but I also have to include it here because my 3-year-old insists on reading it almost every night.
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman--A cute book about a teddy bear's adventure through a department store.
  • Also don't forget to read or tell your child classic fairy tales such as "The Three Little Pigs," or "Little Red Riding Hood," or "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." (I usually just tell these stories to my kids but there are picture books or anthologies available with all of these stories).
10 Concept Books (Colors, Numbers, Alphabet)
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert--You will probably see this in most teachers' classrooms because it is a fun book that introduces the letters of the alphabet and gives them some personality.
  • Mouse Paint  and Mouse Count  by Ellen Stoll Walsh--Learn about how colors can mix in the first book and practice counting when these lively mice outwit a snake in the second.
  • Alphabet Under Construction  by Denise Fleming--This book is high on the favorites list for my middle child because he loves construction. But it is great for any child because it shows a cute little mouse putting together all of the letters of the alphabet with tools that match the sound of each letter.
  • LMNO Peas  by Keith Baker--This alphabet book features adorable little peas doing all sorts of activities.
  • Museum ABC  and Museum 123 --I love art history, and so I love reading these books by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that show some famous works of art while at the same time reinforcing letters and numbers.
  • Zero the Hero  by Joan Holub and Tom Lichtenheld--Even if your kids aren't quite ready to understand all the math facts about the number zero, they still will get a kick out of this book that gives the number "Zero" quite the personality. I was surprised at how much my 3- and 4-year-old wanted to read this over and over again when we checked it out from the library.
  • Candy 1 to 20  by Pam Abrams, Bruce Wolf and Laurie Goldrich Wolf--this book might fit better on my list of books for toddlers because it is so simple. But I was surprised at how much my sweet-toothed older boys absolutely loved this book. They have chosen to check it from the library several times.
  • One Odd Day by Doris Fisher, Dani Sneed and Karen Lee--A great book for kids who are learning about odd and even numbers. Even if they aren't ready to learn about odds and evens (some of it was above my 3-year-old's head) they will still get a kick out of the wacky illustrations in this story.
  •  Eric Carle Books such as 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo --My kids haven't outgrown Eric Carle books. Even though they are very simple, they have a familiarity and charm that my boys love.
  •  Pete the Cat books by by James Dean and Eric Litwin such as Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes  and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons --Not only do these books reinforce colors and numbers, they are also about being relaxed when things don't always turn out the way we expect. My kids think Pete the Cat is very cool.
10 Books about Things that Go
I have two boys who love all things that go--cars, trucks, planes, roller coasters... So I have to have a special category just of their favorite books about things that go! (I could probably list 100 books just about trains, but held back and just listed a few...) For more transportation themed books see my C is for Cars and T is for Trains Lesson Plans.
  • Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee--This is one of my three-year-old's favorite books. It is a cute and simple story about a girl riding on a roller coaster for her first time.
  • All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund--What happens when Dinosaurs decide they want to go for a train ride? Everything turns out to be a big mess. My kids love it!
  • Busy Trains --This is an old, classic book about trains. My boys love the detailed illustrations and will spend a long time just looking at the pictures.
  • The Little Train  by Lois Lenski--Another classic old book about trains. We follow Engineer Small through his day. (We also like other books by Lois Lenski about Pilot Small, Cowboy Small, and more.)
  • Cars: Rushing! Honking! Zooming! and other books by Patricia Hubbell--My kids have all enjoyed checking out Patricia Hubbell's transportation themed books. They are fun and easy to read and the illustrations are cute.
  • Good Night Engines  by Denise Dowling Mortensen and Melissa Iwai--This book features may different types of vehicles--including trucks, trains, planes, and cars.
  •  Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go --We like Richard Scarry's books because they aren't just vocabulary books--they have stories and funny little characters that keep my kids poring over the pages.
  •  Round Trip by Ann Jonas--This book is very cool because once you reach the end of the book (your "destination") you flip the book over and read it backwards and upside down to take the "return trip." (The reversible black and white illustrations are very cool!)
  •  Freight Train  by Donald Crews--Yet another book that I put on my list of favorites for babies and toddlers that I couldn't leave off of this list because my older boys absolutely love it! It's simple enough that they both have it memorized, but they still ask to read it all the time!
  •  Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia--This is random book my middle child pulled off the shelf at the library. He loves construction workers and machines, so he begged to read this book over and over.
10 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books
Below are some Caldecott award winners that my kids enjoy. Visit the website here for a complete list of Caldecott award winners.
  • Blackout by John Rocco--What happens when the power goes it in a big city? Maybe people actually stop for a minute to spend time with each other instead of with whatever else was distracting them.
  • Grandpa Green  by Lane Smith--In this book the boy's Grandpa's life history is shown through the bushes he has pruned and shaped. We were definitely captivated by this unusual storytelling and illustration.
  • Me . . . Jane  by Patrick McDonnell--My kids love monkeys, so they really enjoyed this book based on the life of Jane Goodall.
  • Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein--My kids laughed so hard at this book about a chicken who never gets to hear the end of his bedtime stories because he always interrupts.
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig--This is a somewhat sad book, but still one that my kids think is interesting--and it does have an important message about being careful what you wish for.
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats--My kids don't know much about snow, being from southern California. But this book gives them a taste of the childhood joy in freshly fallen snow.
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer--Olivia may be a pig, but she acts just like a typical three-year-old child--full of energy and imagination.
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead--When the zookeeper gets sick, the animals cheer him up. It is a charming story.
  • Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola--We love the Strega Nona books. She is clever and her bumbling assistant Big Anthony makes us laugh.
  • Knuffle Bunny Books by Mo Willems--both Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too were honor books. The illustrations are unique and the stories are funny (and we can relate, too!)
5 Books about Music and Art
Want to introduce your children to music and art in a fun way? Here are some books we enjoyed.
  • The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, Sue Williams and Barrie C. Turner--This Book/CD set takes you through Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals and helps kids know what sounds to listen for on each track. It's a perfect introduction to classical music.
  • Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin  by Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman--One by one instruments are added to this story until the whole orchestra is on stage.
  • When Pigasso Met Mootisse  by Nina Laden--This is a hilarious book based on acquaintance of the real-life artists Picasso and Matisse.
  • Can You Hear It? --by William Lach--This book is a 2 for 1--introducing kids to both classical music and art.
  • Katie and the Sunflowers  by James Mayhew--There are actually several books about Katie's adventures going inside famous paintings--this just happens to be one in that series that we read and liked.
5 Interactive Books
Just because they grow older doesn't mean they don't want interactive books just like babies love lift-the-flap books. My boys are fascinated by books with moving parts, hidden pictures, and pop-ups.
  • Robert Sabuda Pop-ups such as Peter Pan and ABC Disney --these are treated very carefully in our house because they are works of art. We love Sabuda's beautiful pop-ups!
  • The Jolly Postman  by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg--My kids love pulling out all the letters on each page of this book
  •  Search and Find Books such as Treasure Hunt for Boys  by Roger Priddy or The Big Book of Search and Find by Tony Tallarico--These books can keep my boys absorbed for quite some time. The first is more simple; the second is challenging, but my kids still like it.
  • The Water Hole  and The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base--The second book is really for older kids but my preschool aged boys love the beautiful illustrations in both books.
  • Kaleidoscope by Salina Yoon--This is a book and a toy in one. The front cover has a kaleidoscope wheel to turn and each page has vibrant illustrations that are fun to look at through the wheel.
5 Wordless Picture Books
These are great books to read with your child because you are forced to have a conversation about what you are reading instead of being caught up in the text. They are also great books for preschoolers to just look at on their own because the whole story is told with pictures.
  • Zoom  and Re-Zoom  by Istvan Banyai--These books start with a simple picture on one page and then "zoom out" on the next page to show you a different perspective. Each page continues to zoom out in surprising ways--you never know what you are really looking at.
  • Peter Spier's books such as Peter Spier's Circus. We have checked out several different Peter Spier books from the library. The detailed illustrations tell quite the story and my kids will be very absorbed in looking at these books when we get them.
  • The Lion and the Mouse  by Jerry Pinkney is a Caldecott award winner. The gorgeous illustrations in this book tell the classic fable of the Lion & the Mouse.
  • Trainstop Trainstop by Barbara Lehman--This shows what happens when a girls imagination wanders while she rides a train.
  • Tuesday by David Wiesner--This is another very imaginative wordless picture book featuring flying frogs.
5 Books about the World and Nature
  • Ava's Poppy  by Marcus Pfister--Ava watches her poppy grow but then sadly watches it die as well. But in the spring she sees a new sprout. It's a beautiful story about new life through the eyes of a child.
  • Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst--In this guessing game, each page shows a portion of something that is round like a ball and different people guess what it may be (In the end it is the world).
  • Leaf Man (and other books) by Lois Ehlert--This is a book we life to read at fall, but it is really fun any time of year. Ehlert's creative illustrations show a man and all sorts of other animals all created from leaves.
  • All the World  by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee--A brother and sister interact with the world in many different ways in this poet award-winning book.
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World  by Marjorie Priceman--You can travel the world in this imaginative book that takes you all over to gather ingredients for an apple pie. This is one of my favorites. (There is also a cute book called How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A by the same author, but instead of ingredients, you are gathering materials for your kitchen tools.
5 Favorite Book Series
5 Non-Fiction Books
  • My Very First Encyclopedia With Winnie the Pooh and Friends: Animals --My animal lovers love going through this book. Each page has a easy-to-understand, well-organized article about a particular animal with a full-sized photograph on the facing page. (This is one we picked up from a used bookstore, so I'm not sure if it's still being published, but you could check your library or buy a used copy).
  • Life-Size Aquarium  by Teruyuki Komiya and Toshimitsu Matsuhashi (other books in this series as well)--My kids love the large illustrations and the way the table of contents is set up like a map of the aquarium.
  • See Inside Your Body  by Katie Daynes and Colin King--The lift-a-flaps in this book make it entertaining as well as educational.
  • It seems like Gail Gibbons has a non-fiction book on almost everything--my kids like How a House Is Built , Trains, and many of the holiday-themed books.
  • Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains --My oldest son loves to draw so we have checked out drawing books like this from the library to go through together.
  • Don't forget the check the juvenile nonfiction section of your library for books on whatever topics your preschooler is interested in. We have loved some of our books about trains, cowboys, monkeys, and more that we have picked up from the nonfiction section of the library.
Be sure to also check out my list of favorite books for babies and toddlers. Even though they've grown older, my boys still enjoy many of those books. And please comment below with some of your favorite picture books for preschool aged children!

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