Best Picture Books for Toddlers

My eldest daughter Lucy loved pulling books from the little shelf in our apartment living room as a toddler. She would sit with them tucked between her chubby knees and turn the pages continually.

IMG_0617 copy
Circa 2015

The books began to tear from her daily routine. My first instinct was to put them high where she could not reach them so they could be preserved for her future siblings.

It took me a few years–and two more children–to realize that often the best picture books are the ones that end up torn, taped, re-taped, and broken at the binding from being opened so many times. They are the ones that end up in my lap for the tenth day in a row with the words, “Mama, book?”

So many memories shared between the pages of our duct-taped binding of Blueberries for Sal.

Here is a list of the books that have been beloved by my toddler-aged children:


Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter


Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman


Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes


Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle


Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina


Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter


Corduroy by Don Freeman


Diggers Go by Steve Light


Freight Train by Donald Crews


The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone


Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison


Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman


Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann


Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson


Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri


The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson


I am a Bunny by Richard Scarry


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff


Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy Carlstrom


The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper


Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans


Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey


Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton


Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss


My First Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (poetry)


My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie


The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood


1 is One by Tasha Tudor


Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) by Dorothy Kunhardt


Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow


A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober, and others in the “Mini Masters” series


Poems to Read to the Very Young by Josette Frank, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin


Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire


Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever by Richard Scarry


A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats


The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter


Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins


The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr


The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats


Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa



Which picture books does your toddler pull off the shelf again and again? Please share in the comments below.



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The Princess and the Goblin

Today’s book recommendation comes from the brilliant English writer, Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

Quote from the introduction written by G.K. Chesterton for George MacDonald and His Wife by Greville M. MacDonald (full essay available on

Chesterton was not the only author who adored George MacDonald’s writings. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both loved and were influenced by MacDonald’s fairy tales.


The full text of The Princess and the Goblin is available on, which has free downloadable books from the public domain.

Memoria Press has published a printed copy of the book with Jessie Willcox Smith’s illustrations (in my opinion, the very best!). 


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Poetry Recommendation: Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris


“The Children’s Hour”

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

I discovered this poem in a collection of poetry titled Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris. The pastel yellow book accompanies me most days to the homeschooling table and in the brief moments of quiet when my children are huddled over their work, I mark poems I would like to read-aloud to them or assign for their memorization work.

The collection is comprehensive (the book itself is almost 600 pages) and includes poems from authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter de la Mare, Christina Rossetti, Alfred Tennyson, William Shakespeare, Edward Lear, and J.R.R. Tolkien. The poems are divided into categories with playful titles like “My Almanac,” “It’s Fun to Play,” “Bird-watcher,” “From the Family Scrapbook, and “Almost Any Time is Laughing Time.” The double-page introducing each category is illustrated with attractive line drawings by the talented Leonard Weisgard. Since the poems themselves are not illustrated, the book is best for a graduating young reader who wants to digest more poetry or for reading-aloud to children of multiple ages.

I will not add this to my nursery classics booklist until I have read through it in its entirety, but I have a strong suspicion it will earn a place.


Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

Have you discovered any wonderful poetry collections? Please share in the comments below.

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One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey


This week’s featured title is . . .

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey

Sal, her younger sister Jane, and parents enjoy their summer months at their seaside home in Maine. An ordinary day–which includes digging clams for supper and taking a boat to the nearest town for supplies–becomes exciting when Sal loses her first tooth, in more ways than one!

Robert McCloskey is a children’s book author with an excellent corpus. His endearing stories are pulled off the shelf by my children constantly and I enjoy reading them as often as I am asked.


My children appreciate most McCloskey’s memorable and relatable characters, especially the older sister in One Morning in Maine, Sal. Much of the humor of One Morning in Maine is Sal’s reaction to the loss of her first tooth and how she attempts to make her “lost tooth wish” come true despite physically losing the tooth in a clam-filled mud pile. McCloskey understands the thought processes of a child so well it was no surprise for me to learn that Sal and her younger sister, Jane, are based on McCloskey’s own children.

Along with his excellent storytelling are McCloskey’s impressive charcoal illustrations. The illustrations in One Morning in Maine, in particular a double-page spread of Buck Harbor, are some of his finest work. When combined with the text’s vivid descriptions you can almost smell the sea air and feel the muddy sand on your fingers while Sal digs for clams with her father or the water splashing your face from the sides of their boat.

Another praiseworthy element of One Morning in Maine is the portrayal of Jane and Sal’s relationship as sisters. I am always pleased to find a book with a loving sibling interaction because my children imitate what they read. The final exchange between the two sisters—where Sal steps into the role of taking more responsibility for her younger sister—is the final note of the story, teaching a child that the milestones of life are opportunities for growth and maturity.

Longer than most picture books, I recommend this book for ages 4+. Children around this age also can begin to look forward to their first tooth falling out!

Other delightful books by Robert McCloskey:

Blueberries for Sal

Make Way for Ducklings


Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man


Read more about the life and work of Robert McCloskey here. I was delighted to learn that McCloskey bought live ducks from a local market to use as models for Make Way for Ducklings. He would observe them as they waddled around his studio!

Looking for more book recommendations? Access all of the booklists on the main menu or click here.


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The Empty Pot by Demi


This week’s featured title is . . .

The Empty Pot by Demi

An aging Chinese emperor gives each child in his country a flower seed and after a year’s time the child with the most beautiful pot of flowers will be named his successor.

A young boy named Ping tends to the seed with care all year, but is unable to grow any blooms. Will Ping present his pot to the emperor?

The Empty Pot, through its timeless tale and exquisite illustrations, teaches children the importance of honesty and integrity.

Recommended for ages 4-7.


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