Book Lists Picture Books

Where to Find Picture Books for Your Child

I’ve mentioned to people before that I almost NEVER just browse for books in the children’s section of the library. Nearly every book we bring home for Ella is one I’m specifically looking for.

Which means I get asked a lot, “How DO you find books for her?”

I’m so glad you asked:

  • The Horn Book. The magazine is quite expensive (if your library has it available for checkout, pick it up!), but their blog is a complete treasure trove. I like the “Recommended Books” section and especially the “Calling Caldecott” section that focuses exclusively on picture books (the comment section is always a jackpot too).
  • The Cybils Shortlists. Every year, a team of book bloggers reads an enormous pile of nominated books and comes up with 5-7 of the best books in a genre. Check out the picture book and non-fiction picture book lists for a whole slew of winners.
  • State Book Awards. I think it’s almost impossible to be a librarian who doesn’t love a good book list. And so many states put together tremendously good ones. For picture books, check out the Texas 2×2, Arkansas Diamond, Illinois Monarch, Iowa Goldfinch, Kansas Bill Martin Jr., South Dakota Prairie Bud, New Hampshire Lady Bug, Maine Chickadee, Delaware Diamonds, Indiana Young Hoosiers, Washington Children’s Choice, and Wyoming Buckaroo. Whew. And considering how many of these book awards have been going on for several or many years, you should be DROWNING in possibilities.
  • Houston Library Next Reads. The Houston library puts out a brief list every month of recommended books for kids, often on a theme.
  • The New York Times Notable Books. At the end of the year, the NYTimes puts out a list of their ten best illustrated books. Here is 2011 and 2010 and 2009. This was the 60th year of it, so just Google “NYTimes Best Illustrated Children’s Books” and the year you want.
  • ALA Notable Book List. The American Library Association (which awards the Caldecott and Newbery medals) puts out a much longer list every year of really great books, divided into younger readers, middle readers, older readers, and all ages. When I was in grad school, one of my professors was on the committee and I worked with her sorting, organizing and reading the hundreds of books that got sent to her by publishers. Pretty much the best job ever.
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook. If you’re looking for some solid lists of classic books, this is THE place to go.
  • Junior Library Guild. I won’t bore you with a long description of how this works (librarian nerd alert!), but they select one book each month in every category you can imagine. You could spend the rest of your life working your way through the back lists. Here is the Pre-K to K books, K-1st books, and a SECOND group of K-1st books (because you can’t just pick twelve a year).

Any other suggestions for where to find books that doesn’t involve pulling books at random off the shelf?

And, I’ll do a similar post about where to find chapter books in the next little while (which probably means sometime next summer. . . . ).

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  • Reply Just Jaime November 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Awesome! I always give my nieces and nephews books and need a good way to find them. Thank you!

  • Reply Kayris November 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Goodreads. I use it mostly for reading suggestions for myself, but it's good for kid books too.

    Also….mine both like to ask the children's librarian for books on subjects they enjoy. The librarian at one of our local branches has watched my kids grow up and knows what they like. She has been known to put books aside that she thinks they will like.

  • Reply Vanessa November 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Janssen! Oficially coming out of lurker-dom to ask what is apparently a burning question: where would one find children's books in Spanish? I thought that if anyone would know, you would. I'm from Mexico but live in the U.S. now, and I'm always looking for books to send to my niece (and, ok, hoard for potential future babies), but I have a hard time finding legitimately good ones in Spanish here.

  • Reply KT November 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    This is so very helpful. Thank you! I hate browsing the picture book shelves; I can never find anything and it takes forever.

    On a only very slightly related note: how can you tell the grade level for early readers? I picked up one that says Level 4, but what does that mean? It's obviously not for just barely learning to read kids, but it seems way too simple for 4th graders. I'm attempting to find a book for a nephew who's just barely learning to read.

  • Reply heather November 8, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    We have two other ways to narrow our book selection:
    1) Read books by an author, or, especially with picture books, illustrator that you love. Chances are, they are of similar quality.

    2) Ask your librarian! We've got some great children's librarians here in Cambridge. I ask one little question and they can guide me to fiction, non-fiction, poetry, ABC and counting books, read-aloud chapter books for my 4 year old, all within whatever topic I'm looking for. I'll also tell them some things we've liked and ask for suggestions in the same vein.

  • Reply MaggieO November 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for this! It's amazing how many crappy children's books there are out there, and these are great ways to avoid them. 🙂

  • Reply lindseycragun November 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Yay! I knew of a couple of these resources but thanks for sharing so many more!

  • Reply Lindsay November 9, 2012 at 4:40 am

    This is fantastic! I'm pinning it now so I have resources when I have my own kids. One place that does help me find great children's books is, because there are so many people who review the books — and if you like a certain book, Amazon can tell you that you might also like something else. Pretty simple, but it's helped me out.

  • Reply Heather November 9, 2012 at 5:01 am

    My mom is here and I was bragging about how you are responsible for all our fun library books around here. Tanner is totally excited for Houdini – great tip, and Annie adores It's a Tiger. Her new favorite book. Thanks again!

  • Reply Kim November 9, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Before the Internet, I started receiving a catalog called Chinaberry. The owner gave the most detailed descriptions of books for babies all the way to adults. Now of course, I read her website also, but still love the catalog. I have found some of my most treasured reads from her books lists and descriptions.

  • Reply Lisa November 14, 2012 at 3:48 am

    My best and laziest way to choose picture books is the return cart.

    We like to visit the library a couple hours after story time (right after lunch). Not only is the children's section less crowded, but there's usually 3 or 4 carts of newly returned books waiting to be reshelved.

    I get a greater variety of books in a smaller space, and they're much easier to sift through than scouring the shelves on my hands and knees. I like seeing what others are checking out, and if we find a book that we all like I will take the time to see what else that author has written.

  • Reply C November 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for this list! We usually just walk through the kids' section of the library and pick ones that capture our attention with cute pictures or a catchy title, lol. I pinned this list to come back to when we get stumped, but I also really value your book reviews! I've put numerous books on hold at the library after reading one of your reviews and they are always a hit with my 3-year-old girl 🙂

  • Reply floweringminds November 15, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    awesome post! Thanks.

  • Reply mary kinser November 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Great sources! I totally agree with the "ask your librarian" comment. Librarians can help you find some fantastic older gems that might not be listed on websites or in magazines, but are still worth reading.

    Also, check out kidlit blogs! There are loads of us out there who blog about children's books – you can find listings here (

    What's great about bloggers is many of us write on specific subjects, so you can find some terrific niche reads. For instance, my blog, Sprout's Bookshelf, features multicultural titles and books about adoption. Check us out at

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  • Reply Gary Puntman September 20, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I’ll have to look at book lists that have state book awards, like you suggested. It’s good to know that there are several books that have been winning awards for several years, like you said. My daughter always wants to read new books. I’ll have to find some for her birthday coming up.

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