The 50 Best Children's Books

Here's a collection of timeless classics-and fresh new titles-that your kids will love to listen to again and again.

AGES 2-5

The Baby Beebee Bird, by Diane Redfield Massie (HarperCollins, 1963). The baby beebee bird likes to stay up all night singing, but the other animals in the zoo teach him that nighttime is really for sleeping.

Bunny Cakes, by Rosemary Wells (Dial, 1997).Too young to write, Max scribbles the ingredients for his cake on a shopping list, but the grocer can't read it--until Max figures out that he can draw what he needs instead.

Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina (HarperCollins, 1940). When a cap peddler wakes up from his nap under a tree, he discovers that a band of naughty monkeys has stolen his wares. His funny attempts to get the caps back bring to life the expression "Monkey see, monkey do."

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown (HarperCollins, 1947). This classic celebrates the comforting familiarity of a child's bedroom.

Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney (Candlewick, 1995). In this lovely book, which encourages children to articulate their feelings, Little Nutbrown Hare and his father take turns explaining how huge their love is for each other.

Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1954). This touching, cleverly rhymed book has an important message: "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Hug, by Jez Alborough (Candlewick, 2000). When Bobo the chimp sees all the other baby animals cuddling with their mothers, children are reminded that sometimes all you really need is a big hug from your mommy.

Jamberry, by Bruce Degen (HarperCollins, 1983). The exuberant illustrations of a world overflowing with berries will inspire your child's imagination.

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom (Aladdin, 1986). Jesse Bear wears lots of different outfits throughout his busy day, and the rhymes that he uses to describe them show how very much he loves his family and his routine.

Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus (HarperCollins, 1971). Leo, a tiger who doesn't talk, draw, or read as soon as his friends do, shows that everyone develops as his own pace.

Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik (HarperCollins, 1957). This gentle story, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, inspired the popular television series.

The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper (Platt & Munk, 1930). Who can forget the refrain of the determined little engine who refuses to give up until she has pulled the train full of toys over the mountain? "I think I can" becomes part of every child's vocabulary.

Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey (Viking, 1941). This Caldecott Medal winner follows a loving pair of ducks in search of the perfect place to raise their family. In the most famous scene, traffic comes to a stop as the mother leads her ducklings across the street to Boston Public Gardens, where they make their home.

Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag (Putnam, 1928). A classic tale about an old man who goes to get his lonely wife a pretty cat and comes home followed by millions. They decide to keep just one scrawny kitten, and then shower her with love.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin, 1939). This story of Mike Mulligan's loyalty to his trusty steam shovel illustrates the power of friendship and proves that old-fashioned doesn't necessarily mean obsolete.

The Mitten, by Jan Brett (Putnam, 1989). After Nicki loses one of his new white mittens in the snow, it stretches to become a home for increasingly large animals--even a bear. Based on a Ukrainian folktale, this story is lavishly illustrated with lots of details for observant little eyes to discover.

More More More Said the Baby, by Vera B. Williams (Greenwillow, 1990). First, a father throws his baby in the air, then a grandmother counts a baby's toes, and finally, a mother gently puts her baby to bed. Each family comes from a different culture, but the language of love is universal.

My Dad, by Anthony Browne (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000). In this tribute to fathers, a little boy is convinced that his dad is able to do absolutely anything-walk tightropes, wrestle with giants, and sing brilliantly.

The Napping House, by Audrey Wood (Harcourt Brace, 1984). The cumulative rhymes and soothing colors in this story about a family's interrupted snooze on a rainy day will have kids eager to turn the page to see what's next.

Olivia, by Ian Falconer (Atheneum, 2000). Like many preschoolers, Olivia the pig is incredibly energetic and imaginative. At the end of a long day, her mother's words ring true: "You really wear me out, but I love you anyway."

On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier (Harcourt Brace, 1991). This vividly illustrated book welcomes children to a world full of miracles.

Sammy and the Dinosaurs, by Ian Whybrow (Orchard, 1999). A perfect book for kids who are obsessed with dinosaurs and want to master all their tricky names.

Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon (Harcourt, 1993). When Stellaluna is just a baby fruit bat, she is orphaned and taken in by a kind mother bird. One day, she rejoins her own kind and discovers that although she and her adopted bird family are different, they can still be friends.

Strega Nona, by Tomie de Paola (Weston Woods, 1975). Strega Nona (Italian for "Grandma Witch") tells her assistant not to touch her magic pasta pot, but he does-and the town nearly drowns in spaghetti.

The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle (Philomel, 1984). Part of the beautiful series that includes The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Quiet Cricket, this multisensory book lets kids trace the spider and her raised web with their fingers.

When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry . . . by Molly Bang (Scholastic, 1999). Sophie is furious with her big sister, but she learns that she can find her own way to calm down.

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