What is a Classic Children’s Picture Book?
What features often distinguish a picture book as a classic? Scholastic points to these factors: “…beautiful illustrations, age-appropriate storytelling, and lyrical language.” Jim Trelease, known for The Read-Aloud Handbook, states, “The great Columbia University professor Mark Van Doren once defined a ‘classic’ as any book that stays in print. If they’re still around when others have disappeared, there must be something to them.”
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972 – Judith Viorst Author; Ray Cruz Illustrator)
Young Alexander is having a bad day, from gum in his hair upon awakening to lima means for dinner. Alexander thinks he may be the only one who faces these types of challenges, in this exploration of emotions and moods.
The Cat in the Hat (1957 – Dr. Seuss – Author and Illustrator)
Two children home alone are visited by a talking Cat who suggests all kinds of wacky fun, invites others into the house, and makes a big mess. Luckily, the Cat cleans up and leaves before their mother returns home.
Corduroy (1968 – Don Freeman – Author and Illustrator)
Teddy bear, Corduroy, is spotted on a shelf in a department store by a little girl, Lisa, who wants to buy the toy. Her mother points out his overalls are missing a button, which sends Corduroy on a quest during the night to find his lost button
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses (1978 – Paul Goble – Author and Illustrator)
A Native American girl holds a deep love for wild horses and helps her tribe by caring for them. One day during a storm, they stampede and carry her away with them, to be pursued by her parents for a safe return.
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (1983 – Lynley Dodd – Author and Illustrator)
In rhyme and rhythm, this book follows the adventures of Hairy Maclary, a mixed-breed dog, and his pack of canine pals. The group wanders into a nearby park and encounters a frightening cat, Scarface Claw.
Owl Moon (1987 – Jane Yolen Author; John Schoenherr Illustrator)
One winter night, a father takes his daughter into the woods owling. While they look for owls, other animals of the woods watch them pass by, and the two finally hear the owl’s call.
Possum Magic (1983 – Mem Fox Author; Julie Vivas Illustrator)
Two possums travel across Australia looking for magical food to make an invisible possum visible again. Find out if Grandma Poss and Hush are successful.
The Snowy Day (1962 – Ezra Jack Keats – Author and Illustrator)
A little boy, Peter, explores the wonders of an urban snowfall. In 2020, this book was revealed as the #1 circulating book in the New York Public Library since its opening in 1895.
Tar Beach (1991 – Faith Ringgold – Author and Illustrator)
A modern classic, this book portrays a young girl, Cassie, who lives in New York. She dreams of flying above the city while sleeping on the rooftop, her “tar beach.”
Umbrella (1958 – Taro Yashima – Author and Illustrator)
Young Momo has received new boots and an umbrella for her birthday. She now needs the patience to wait for a rainy day when she may use them.
Spanning the years from when Cat in the Hat appeared on the doorstep to the summer Cassie flew in her dreams, we hope you and your children enjoy these classic children’s books!