Best Picture Books for Kids Ages 3 to 8

From ages 3 to 8, children are learning to read and improving comprehension. Consider stocking their library with these winning picture books, which are filled with intriguing stories and captivating illustrations.

An image of a child reading on the floor.
Photo: Getty Images. Parents.
01 of 12

Outside, Inside

Outside, Inside book
Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Sparse prose and bright illustrations juxtapose outdoor and indoor scenes from around the world during the height of the pandemic, helping kids process their experiences. Young reviewers felt the message deeply. As one 8-year-old told us, "I'm going to save this book for my kids so they can see how we stayed away from our friends to keep each other safe."

All ages

02 of 12

Stella's Stellar Hair

Stella’s Stellar Hair book
Courtesy of Imprint

Written and illustrated by Yesenia Moises

A colorful celebration of Black girls' hair, this "zippy read-aloud blends STEM and self-esteem into a narrative as artful and creative as any of Stella's hairstyles," says judge Liv Hanson, youth content curator at the Chicago Public Library.

Ages 4 to 8

03 of 12

Uma Wimple Charts Her House

Uma Wimple Charts Her House book
Courtesy of Anne Schwartz Books

Written by Reif Larsen, illustrated by Ben Gibson

Kid reviewers related to the pressure that Uma, who creates charts for fun, feels when she's tasked with making one about her house for a school assignment. "My girls understood what it was like for Uma," said one dad. This cautionary tale of perfectionism ends with a heartfelt message of what genuinely makes a house a home. Kids requested a second read to take a closer look at the book's smattering of actual graphs in their many forms, like the bar chart "Who Holds Hands?"

Ages 4 to 8

04 of 12

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race book
Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop

Written by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, illustrated by Isabel Roxas

A diversity expert and an early-literacy advocate teamed up to help parents explain race, equity, and inclusion to young kids. "I've tried to talk to my children about these topics, and I ended up confusing them," said one mom. "But not with this book. My 7-year-old loved the questions that got him to look at the nuances of our skin and those around us and the scientific reasons why skin has the shades it does. It spoke to race without judgment, and he felt empowered after knowing he had the tools to better understand the beauty that is in each of us."

Ages 2 to 8

05 of 12

Chez Bob

Chez Bob book
Courtesy of Brown Books for Young Readers

Written and illustrated by Bob Shea

"One of the funniest picture books of the year," according to judge Betsy Bird, a librarian in Evanston, Illinois, also happens to be a story about kindness and making better choices. A lazy but wily alligator tries to open a restaurant on his nose to trick birds into getting close to his mouth. While he doesn't end up eating the birdies after all, our kid reviewers devoured the shenanigans, cheeky illustrations, and sweet ending.

Ages 4 to 8

06 of 12

Bicycle Bash

Bicycle Bash book
Courtesy of Chronicle Books

Written and illustrated by Alison Farrell

Even families who aren't "bicycle people" pored over this extra-large, multilayered book centered on a mysterious birthday invitation. It ushers readers inside a cool bicycle museum and takes on a Where's Waldo? vibe. Kids aren't just looking for things, they're learning about them. Said one parent: "The facts about the history of bikes fascinated my daughter."

Ages 3 to 6

07 of 12

The Olphabet: "O" No! An Alphabet Revolt

The Olphabet: “O” No! An Alphabet Revolt book
Courtesy of Running Press Kids

Written by Jess M. Brallier, illustrated by Nichola Cowdery

The letter O wants to move to the front of the alphabet, an amusing plot that helped our kid reviewers learn the true order. "The book brilliantly uses a different color to highlight the first letter of some words so a child will recognize them," a mom said.

Ages 3 to 6

08 of 12

Stick and Stone: Best Friends Forever!

Stick and Stone: Best Friends Forever! book
Courtesy of Clarion Books

Written by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Stick can't wait to see his "family tree," so he ventures into the forest with his pal, Stone, to find it. But when he comes up empty-handed, Stone reassures him that friends can be family, too, a message that kid reviewers appreciated.

Ages 4 to 7

09 of 12

Milo Imagines the World

Milo Imagines the World book
Courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Told from the perspective of a boy whose mom is incarcerated, "this nuanced tale about the fallacies of first impressions is sweet but never cloying," says judge Julie Danielson, creator of the literature blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Ages 4 to 8

10 of 12


Maybe... book
Courtesy of Candlewick

Written and illustrated by Chris Haughton

With plenty of artistry and humor, this story starring mischievous, mango-loving monkeys teaches kids what can happen when they don't heed their parents' advice. "It expertly captures how it feels to be a child wanting to take a risk or simply sneak an extra cookie," said one parent.

Ages 3 to 7

11 of 12

Mel Fell

Mel Fell book
Courtesy of Balzer + Bray

Written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor

A bird who has never flown keeps kids on the edge of their seat as she plunges downward but then soars into the sky—which the book's innovative design makes even more dramatic. In this story of determination and bravery, there's plenty of humor as well.

Ages 4 to 8

12 of 12

Bear Is a Bear

Bear Is a Bear book
Courtesy of Balzer + Bray

Written by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Dan Santat

The twisty ending sold kid reviewers on this story of a girl and a bear who's her "soft warm pillow" and "brave protector" until she grows up. Parents, you'll have all the feels from this emotional arc, which shows that while childhood is fleeting, the next generation will bring joy too.

Ages 4 to 8

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles