Summer is upon us and I’m always on the hunt for simple activities for the girls and me to do together.
It’s no surprise that reading books is one of my favorite activities – preferably with some sort of cookie to go along with it.
Last year, I printed out the whole list of Caldecott books, and Ella and I made some good progress through them.
But some of those books are HARD to track down or are just old and not that interesting 80 years after publication.
So this year, I’ve put together a list of 100 of the most popular picture books at our house. 100 gives you about 3 books a day to read over the next 3 months and also means that if your library doesn’t have some of them, you have plenty more options.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself after being a children’s librarian, introducing 800 elementary schoolers to children’s lit, and now being a parent for the last five years, it’s that I am VERY picky about picture books.
These 100 are ones I’ll wholeheartedly stand behind. They’re funny, beautiful, kid-friendly, absolutely top-notch and will hopefully be super popular picture books by the end of this. We’ve read every one of them (I cannot stand a book list where the person hasn’t actually read everything they’re recommending), and the girls and I all give them big thumbs up.
There’s also a printable copy of the list at the bottom of this post if you want to hang it up so you can mark them as you work your way through or take it along to the library or bookstore with you this summer.
Mostly, I just hope you find some new (or old!) favorites on this list. Happy reading!
100 picture books to read this summer
- It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle and Jeremy Tankard. A little child keeps thinking he’s escaped the tiger, only to discover it hiding again on each page.
- Tuesday by David Wiesner. This wordless Caldecott winner about flying frogs on an ordinary Tuesday evening is magically realistic.
- The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee. With a first child, picky eating might be a little bit cute. By the time there are four or five or six children, it’s much less sweet.
- I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. All this bear wants is his hat back, but no one seems to have seen it. Until the bear suddenly realizes what animal might have lied to him.
- Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. This classic ink-illustrated book about a mother and her daughter and a bear and her cub gets everyone all mixed up on a summer day’s outing to pick blueberries.
- Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas. Singing his cows to sleep, the cowboy discovers he’s possibly not as brave as he thought.
- Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya and Toyofumi Fukuda. Ever wondered how long a giraffe’s tongue is and how that really looks? This book answers all your questions about how big animals really are with stunning photography and fun little illustrations.
- Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell. It’s hard to count monkeys when other animals keep getting in the way in this hilariously silly counting book.
- Out of Sight by Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais. Lift the flaps to see who the paw prints, tails, and coat patterns belong to in this gorgeous over-sized animal book.
- That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems. When a hungry fox thinks a fat goose might make the perfect dinner – little does he know what the goose has in store for him.
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. When a young donkey finds a magic pebble that grants wishes, he’s sure all his problems are solved until he’s confronted with a hungry lion and makes an unfortunate wish.
- Journey by Aaron Becker. This wordless book follows a little girl who draws a door on her bedroom wall and opens it to discover a magical world inside (just warn your children not to try this at home!).
- Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. An old man and woman decide that they’d like a cat to keep them company, but the man, when he finds a huge group of cats, can’t decide which one is the prettiest.
- Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry G. Allard Jr. and James Marshall. When her classroom gets out of control, Miss Nelson calls in the big guns with a very scary substitute teacher.
- The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers. A little rabbit is terrified of his own shadow and retreats to the woods to hide. But the woods have something even scarier lurking within.
- Moo! by David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka. This book has only one word, but you’ll be amazed at how versatile a “mooooo” can be when a cow steals a car and goes joyriding.
- Red Sled by Lita Judge. In this nearly-wordless story, a group of animals find a sled left out in the snow and have themselves a winter adventure.
- The Woods by Paul Hoppe. When a beloved bedtime friend goes missing, a little boy braves the woods to go find his pal.
- Good News Bad News by Jeff Mack. With four words, this book shows the bright and dark side of any situation when an optimist and pessimist go for a picnic.
- Scarface Claw by Lynley Dodd. This rhyming story follows a terrifying cat who frightens off all the other neighborhood pets until he faces something even scarier – his own reflection!
- Good Boy, Fergus! by David Shannon. Even better than the No, David! series, this book is all about a little dog who gets himself into all sorts of mischief.
- Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. How many shades of green do you know? This beautiful book with cut-outs on each page is clever and beautiful.
- Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems. Who could make Goldilocks fresh and new again? Leave it to Mo Willems.
- Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard. Bird wakes up too grumpy to do anything, so he marches off in a huff. But all his friends want to join him for his grouchy stroll. Can he stay grumpy with all his friends in tow?
- More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt and Troy Cummings. The author is happily writing a book with no bears until an off-screen voice demands more and more and more bears until the author complies.
- No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont and Jackie Urbanovic. The sheep just wants to go to bed, setting his alarm, brushing his teeth, and settling in for the night. But the other barn animals aren’t giving him a chance to catch a single minute of snoozing. This is the BEST read-aloud.
- Hippo, No Rhino! by Jeff Newman. When the zookeeper mixes up the signs at the zoo (intentionally?), the rhino is beside himself with fury as one visitor after another comments on what a nice hippo he is.
- Piggies by Audrey Wood and Don Wood. Dancing on fat baby hands, these ten little piggies are bursting with personality as they play in the sun, snow, sand, and tub, then finally head to bed.
- Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss. These animals made of different fonts are absolutely stunning and guaranteed to be the coolest alphabet book you’ve ever seen.
- The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. This wordless take on the classic fable is stunning – totally worthy of the Caldecott it won a few years ago.
- Pouch! by David Ezra Stein. A baby kangaroo heads out to explore the world, but keeps getting frightened back into his mother’s pouch.
- John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith. American history like only Lane Smith could tell it – hysterically funny and just plain silly.
- Chester by Melanie Watt. Chester doesn’t like the way the author is telling his story, so with red marker in hand, he tries to take over.
- Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Do you see a duck or a rabbit? Are those ears or a bill? You’ll have to read it and decide for yourself!
- Bink and Golly by Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee and Tony Fucile. These unlikely friends will make you laugh out loud in three funny little tales of roller-skating hilarity.
- Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham. Mr. Gumpy is happy to take various animals along on his boat ride, provided they behave themselves. To no one’s surprise, they don’t.
- Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown. When a bear finds a little boy, she thinks she’s discovered the perfect pet. Her mother thinks otherwise.
- The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli. Nothing could stop this crocodile from eating watermelon. Nothing, that is, except swallowing a seed.
- The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. The plain white cover makes this look like a very dull book indeed, but your children are guaranteed to be rolling on the floor. Prepare to read this one over and over again.
- Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle. This wordless book ups the ante by adding flaps in a story of a little girl who wants to dance like a flamingo (and a flamingo who wants nothing to do with her).
- Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown. When a rabbit starts eating all the carrots in the garden, the carrots come up with a sneaky plan to cure him of his snacking.
- Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. These sweet stories of two toy friends are funny and darling. The perfect bedtime stories.
- Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Prepare for hysterical giggling in this ultra-silly book about a very odd pair of friends.
- What do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. From tails to eyes to nose, this animal book is made extra-fun by guessing on each page who various body parts belong to. I’ve read a lot of animal books and this is one of my favorites.
- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. The Big Bad Wolf just wants his turn to tell the story. He didn’t MEAN to eat his porcine neighbors – all he wanted was to borrow a cup of sugar to make a cake for his grandmother.
- The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg. When an old woman helps a witch who crash-lands in her yard, the witch leaves behind her broom stick which becomes an amazing helper to the woman, even though her neighbors are all convinced it is evil.
- Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough. Eddie loses his bear and when he rediscovers it, his beloved teddy has grown to 10 times its normal size. Meanwhile, a large bear in the forest finds that HIS teddy has shrunk down to an itty-bitty little bear. What is going on?
- I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles by Jean Marzollo, Walter Wick and Carol Devine Carson. If your kids are anything like mine, this will keep them occupied for hours
- Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O’Malley and Carol Heyer. When two classmates have to come up with a fairy tale together, they can’t agree on anything. Here’s the story they end up with.
- The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. When a pencil starts drawing a town, all is going well until the complaining starts and finally the pencil has to draw an eraser to get rid of things people don’t like. But then the eraser starts taking matters into his own hands. Can he be stopped before everything is gone?
- Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis. Who knew a stick could be so many different things, from a sword to a baton to a fire hose (check out Not a Box too!).
- Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes. Chester likes to do things his way and fortunately his best friend feels just the same way. But when Lily moves in, she has a mind of her own.
- Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban and Garth Williams. I love all the Frances books, but this one, where Frances keeps coming out to ask her parents just one more question, is my absolute favorite. Probably most parents can sympathize with Frances’ parents who eventually get quite tired of “just one more thing.”
- Doctor De Soto by William Steig. When a fox visits a mouse dentist and his wife for help with a toothache, he thinks he might have to eat them after his tooth has healed. But the dentist and his wife have other plans.
- The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson. Ferdinand just wants to sit and smell the flowers, but when men coming looking for a bull to fight in the bullfights in Madrid, they think he’s just the bull for them.
- Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace. Little Pea hates eating candy for dinner. But if he doesn’t eat them up, he can’t have any dessert. Can you guess what peas eat for dessert?
- Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent. Is there a more catchy name in all of children’s literature? Unfortunately, his long name just about gets Tikki Tikki Tembo drowned when his little brother can’t manage to get the name out to explain to his mother that he’s fallen into the well.
- George and Martha by James Marshall. These two hippo friends are so hilariously funny, you’ll be checking out every book in the series. Promise.
- The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez. In this wordless book, a chicken is stolen by a fox. Or is she?
- Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda. All Cat wants is to be Santa. Will Santa let him?
- Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman and Betsy Lewin. One of my favorite easy reader series, these short stories about a cowgirl and her horse are funny and cute.
- Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage. A wordless book about a walrus who escapes from the zoo, my girls have both loved finding the walrus hiding from the zookeeper on each page.
- Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats. All Peter wants is to be able to whistle for his dog Willie, but he can’t quite figure out how to whistle. I like this one even better than Keats’ most famous book, The Snowy Day (which I love too).
- LMNO Peas by Keith Baker. The best part of this fun alphabet book is finding the ladybug hidden on each page.
- Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak. Little Bear is one lucky bear to have a Mother Bear who is always ready to help in his adventures, whether he’s going to the moon or out to play in the snow.
- Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. When Gerald gets an ice cream cone, he deliberates so long about whether or not to share with Piggie that his ice cream cone melts completely. Now what will he do?
- Jamberry by Bruce Degen. This delightful rhyming book about a bear and a boy doesn’t really have a plot – it’s just full of fun rhymes and bright pictures. You’ll probably want a blueberry afterward.
- Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox and Lydia Monks. This is Rapunzel as you’ve never read it, with the prince calling for Rapunzel to throw down her hair and her various misunderstandings of what he’s asking for.
- The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers. When trees start getting cut down all around the forest, the animals get concerned. Who is chopping down the trees and, more importantly, why?
- Parts by Tedd Arnold. A small hypochondriac is certain his body is falling apart – how else could you explain belly button lint, ear wax and hair loss?
- Along a Long Road by Frank Viva. The shiny yellow road in this book stretches across all the pages, making it perfect to trace through towns, countrysides, and along the sea, and the retro illustrations are super fun.
- Olivia by Ian Falconer. Before there was the television show and all the merchandise, there was just the first Olivia book. And it was perfect.
- Mix It Up by Herve Tullet. On the heels of Press Here, this book encourages hands-on color mixing. Inventive and instructive, it is just as fun as its predecessor.
- Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera. One of my favorite new books, Polar Bear can’t find his underwear. Where could it have gone?
- The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes. A strict librarian makes sure all the rules in the library are kept. But when a lion shows up, everyone is perplexed – there aren’t any rules about lions in the library!
- Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler. Two pigs love going to the beach, but don’t dare go into the water. But when a surfboard washes ashore, everything changes.
- Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta and Ed Young. A little ninja just wants a midnight snack. But sadly for him, little ninjas have mothers who are on to their nighttime shenanigans.
- One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and David Small. When Elliot goes to the aquarium, he returns with a penguin which he proceeds to care for in the bathroom of the house he shares with his oblivious father.
- Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes. This beautiful science book is full of cool facts and gorgeous illustrations, and can be as in-depth or basic as you want.
- Chalk by Bill Thomson. When chalk drawings come to life, a day at the playground turns pretty magical.
- Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora. When the Bunny family adopts a wolf left on their doorstep, the youngest bunny is sure the whole family is going to get eaten.
- I Spy with My Little Eye by Edward Gibbs. A cut-out and clue on each page lets you guess which animal will be coming next.
- Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. When a little boy gets a kite stuck in the tree, he throws something up to get it unstuck. But then that gets stuck too until practically the whole house has been thrown up (and gotten stuck!) in that tree.
- Hair Love by Matthew Cherry. Zuri’s hair curls in every which way and she loves it! But when her dad steps in to do it, he has some things to learn. This is such a fun story of a daddy/ daughter relationship.
- Amos and Boris by William Steig. When a whale rescues a mouse, he never expects that the mouse will someday be able to repay the favor.
- Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes. Penny comes home from school with a song to share with her parents, but will she ever get to perform it?
- Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd. Hairy Maclary goes for a little stroll, with his other doggy friends joining him. But when they come across the scariest cat around, everyone heads for home.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. This classic never loses its appeal – everyone has a little bit of a wild thing somewhere in them.
- The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes. Make room next to your beloved copy of Goodnight Moon; this bedtime story is an instant classic.
- Bad Bye Good Bye by Deborah Underwood and Jonathan Bean. When you don’t want to leave your house, your neighborhood, or your friends, it’s all a BAD bye, not a goodbye.
- Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel. Owl lives in a cozy house where he can’t figure out how to be upstairs and downstairs at the same time, makes friends with the moon, and brews himself some tear water tea. Charming and a little quirky, this book is classic Arnold Lobel.
- Free Fall by David Wiesner. This wordless book about a boy drifting off to sleep has so many fun details to catch as the elements of his bedroom infiltrate his dreams. How many of them can you spot?
- Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen and Jeff Mack. Bovine Cindy Moo is very familiar with the nursery rhyme about the cow jumping over the moon and is determined to do it herself, even if her barn friends are certain she can’t.
- Backseat A-B-See by Maria van Lieshout. For your vehicle loving child, this is the perfect ABC book, with traffic and street signs demonstrating various letters. Plus the black backgrounds are really striking.
- Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder. A family wants to go to the zoo but one of the daughters is afraid of. . .something. Can her family help her figure out what it is?
- Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown. When the animals start tapping their toes, it isn’t long before the farmer comes out to investigate and soon it’s a full on barnyard dance.
- Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin. These twins look alike but they aren’t the same in EVERY way.
- The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faría. Done with raised lines, alongside Braille and English text, this book describes colors without using color. Amazing and beautiful.
- Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. When the cows get ahold of a typewriter, they start making demands from the farmer. Who will win this battle of wills?
- First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. What’s first? In this cut-out book, you’ll find out. Maybe.
P.S. If you’d like even more picture book suggestions, I share daily recommendations over on Instagram.
Jen P says
Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for list. I'm going to my library site now to request several of them. I have a hard time finding great books for the boys and this will be so helpful.
This is awesome. Thank you! (and I was really hoping you would do another summer reading list this year)
We're exploring "going to kindergarten" and "facing your fear of people and new things" books. I have Kindergarten Here I Come! and I've ordered Planet Kindergarten and The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. Let me know if you have any other suggestions?
Deborah Starling says
Thank you for creating this list! I have added quite a few to my family's TBR pile at home 🙂 I would like to recommend a book that my kids and I have been reading entitled "The Little Brown Animal" by author DiMari Bailey (http://www.dimaribailey.com) It seems like all the best children s stories are old classics and the recent selection just isn't up to snuff (in my experience). Little Brown Animal is most certainly an exception. As children reach a certain age they begin to become self aware, they start to compare themselves to others and even occasionally start becoming critical of themselves. This is a crucial time to teach them that being unique is a blessing and something to be embraced. This book perfectly captures this lesson and lays it out in a way that children relate to, and it is a really fun read to boot.
Kristen Miles says
The work that went into this list is incredible! Thank you for doing this. I've been reading some of your adult recommendations and I've been pleased with most of them. I have to return "Slim by Design" and "You have more time than you think" today and I'm kinda sad to see them go! Great work!
LOVE good book recommendations. Thank you!
I'm so excited about this list! Your blog is one of my favorites, but I never had much use for the children's book recommendations (since I don't have children of my own). In February I started to nanny a girl (6) and a boy (4) and now I scour your Instagram and blog for all your book recommendations! Thanks for all the hard work you've put into this.
This post is wonderful and PERFECT timing! I honestly was just going to email you and ask if you had a list of favorite picture books – I'm back in the states just for a week and we obviously don't have an English library in China, so I wanted to make sure whatever picture books I bought to bring back with us were going to be ones we'd want to read again and again. Picked up several of these today and can't wait to read them to my little guy! (Forget the fact that he can barely focus his eyes at this point haha.)
Until I had a child I had no idea how many boring or terrible picture books there were! I appreciate your recommendations here and on instagram – thanks for this addition of a super long list!
Reading this list brought back such fond memories with books I haven't seen for a while (Doctor De Soto for one). Fabulous. I'm excited to print out the list. And Bink and Golly—absolute darling illustrations.
Jacqueline Rhoades says
I am so happy to discover this blog. I did share your post on my blog jacquierhoades.blogspot.com. Wishng you an excellent summer and good reading. Jacquie
Sherrill S. Cannon says
Sorry to not see any of my award-winning picture books on this list. If you'd like me to send you one of them, please let me know. The Magic Word is a favorite with little girls. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Love this list! Pleased to see that we either own or have read at least 1/2.
This list is so great! I run a monthly children't book subscription service (Bookroo) and we're always looking for recommendations of picture books to send out–I just grabbed this list as a reference!
David LaRochelle says
What an honor to find two of my books on your list, Jessica. Thank you very much! And I discovered a few titles I haven't heard of before. Even though I don't have kids of my own, I'm always on the lookout for good picture books!
P.S. And for April who was looking for a good book for starting kindergarten, I would highly recommend DAD'S FIRST DAY by Mike Wohnoutka. It won't be out till July, but it has already received strong reviews in the publishing journals and I've had a chance to read an advance copy, and I think it is very funny!
Ms B says
Good mix of old and new titles!
I put your list into a table so we can check off the boxes every time we read a book. It has been our favorite summer activity so far. Thank you!
Caden Dahl says
That is quite a list of books you have listed here. Now I don’t know if I would be able to go through all of them with my son, but I do think it would be a good idea to read a good amount of them. Even though there are 100 books here, I’ll see about adding some more to the list as you can never have enough books to read!