12 Classic Picture Books to Study

We write by the light of every book we have ever read.  – Richard Peck


Seriously, where would a writer be without the books they've read? I could never mention all the picture books I love. That number grows every week! So I've narrowed the list to primarily classic books that have impacted my own writing in a significant way:


I love JAMBERRY by Bruce Degan because it's a celebration of berries and bears, two of my favorite things. This rollicking book demonstrates how to think outside the box, have fun with rhyme, and exude joy on every page.   


In OWL MOON, Jane Yolen creates beauty, peace, mystery, and hope in an enchanting and very poetic first person narrative. I like to turn off the lights and read this suspenseful story by flashlight!


THE OTHER SIDE by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis beautifully captures the innocence and honesty of childhood while addressing social issues. The story is a reminder of how important and powerful books can be.


In A HOUSE IS A HOUSE FOR ME, Mary Ann Hoberman expands a single concept as wide as it will stretch – and then some! This clever, fun-to-read rhyming book runs wild and exemplifies the magic of thoroughly exploring a seemingly uncomplicated idea.



Ezra Jack Keats's SNOWY DAY, on the other hand, shows the wonder of sweet simplicity. Children can easily relate to its adorable little character, dressed in a snowsuit, out for a day in the snow!


I love everything by the Woods, but JUBAL'S WISH tops them all with expressive illustrations, a bit of fantasy, and a story laced with wisdom. Whenever I read it, I am reminded to carefully consider my themes.


Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaffer (the GRUFFALO team) present a few fun twists at the end of WHERE'S MY MOM?. I always enjoy being tricked by a picture book, and this one gets my little listeners laughing every time I read it! 


CAPS FOR SALE by Esphyr Slobodkina is also a favorite read-aloud. Children delight in the predictability and repetition –  and NEVER tire of hearing it read again and again.



Jan Brett transports me to another world in all of her gorgeous books, but MOSSY particularly captures my heart because I appreciate the great pond science it includes. What makes her books really fun for kids, however, is the little "sneak-peak windows" that appear on almost every page. Kids love anticipating what will come next!


Optimism, predictability, and repetition make PETE THE CAT a popular choice, and his first book, I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES, is my all-time favorite. (FYI I'm too scared to buy white shoes because they ALWAYS get dirty on the first day - so I guess I have a lot to learn  from Pete!)


CITY FROG, COUNTRY DOG by Mo Willems and Jon J. Murth  makes me cry EVERY TIME I read it. It's probably the most emotional picture book I've encountered and it's taught me the power of the wordless spread. Seriously, I'm choking up just thinking about it!


Finally, ROSIE'S WALK by Pat Hutchins allows the pictures to tell most of the story and reminds the writer in me to hold back. Less is definitely more!

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