Building Your Home Library: 20 Great Picture Books

Written By Gi Hallmark

How do you build a great home library for your children? The answer is simple, but abstract at the same time....a great library is built, one book at a time.

What happens after your child outgrows the bountiful selection of board books you received even before he or she was born? Classics such as Goodnight Moon and Pat the Bunny have made the rotation countless number of times, and now you and your child (maybe you, more than your child) are ready to delve into the realm of picture books. You want to be extra careful in choosing, because their future success hinges on these early life decisions.

All joking aside, not every book you choose for your home library will be a good book, age appropriate, or even an instant favorite. But this is really part of the process.

Not every book needs to be a classic, what is more important is to offer your child a wide selection of books to choose from that stimulates their mind and heart. As their interests develop, their accessibility to those topics and characters they are interested in will foster a love for reading. Often, a book with no interest now may come back to be a favorite in a few years.

Picture books, in particular, will tend to be a fixture in your home library longer than you may expect. Generally, the text in picture books will be too difficult for beginning readers and so you will find yourself reading these to your child long after they begin to read themselves. Also, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear your child’s request for a read aloud of their favorite picture book long after they have learned to be independent readers. Fewer moments are more nostalgic than reading Library Lion to your 9-year old and remembering the first time you read it to them 5 years ago.

Here is a selection of 20 amazing picture books, among hundreds of others that would be a solid addition to any home library. All of these books are available at Charlotte’s local Park Road Books in paperback and/or hardback format. Ask for Sherri, she will point you in the right direction. And also, stay tuned for “Building Your Home Library: 20 Great Chapter Books for Early Readers.”

1 - Once I Ate a Pie, by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider

Celebrated Newberry Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan brings the loving, loyal and sometimes mischievous personalities of dogs to the center stage in this heartwarming book. Perfect for dog lovers and a great introduction to poetry for children.

2 - Big Red Lollipop

, by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Anyone with a sibling will relate to this story of sibling rivalry and birth order nonsense. Further introspection reveals the growing pains of an immigrant family as they assimilate into their adopted land. Readers of Ivy and Bean will also recognize Sophie Blackall’s adorable caricatured illustrations.

3 - The Empty Pot, by Demi

A beautiful adaption of a Chinese fable about inner strength and honesty. The illustrations and story are beautifully simple but the lessons are complex.

4 - Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems

Mo Willem’s classic tale of Trixie and her beloved Knuffle Bunny. Every parent has been there, the moment when the most important object in your child’s short life goes missing. Thankfully, in this story, there is a happy ending. Be sure to check out Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free as well.

5 - A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

A touching and beautifully illustrated example of how one good deed deserves another and the importance of friendships and kindness.

6 - George and Martha, by James Marshall

What happens when you tell stories about two hippos who happen to be best friends? Hilarity. James Marshall’s stories and illustrations about George and Martha will have you and your child rolling in laughter every time.

7 - Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

An adorable tongue-in-cheek account of a typical week in the life of a slow-moving, huggable Australian wombat.

8 - The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney

A beautiful wordless adaption of one of Aesop’s most well-known and beloved fables. The illustrations are expressive and striking.

9 -Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola

A classic series by master author and illustrator Tomie dePaola. Strega Nona (“grandma witch”) gives Big Anthony fair warning not to touch the pasta pot but Big Anthony is determined to make his own magic.

10 - Where is the Green Sheep, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek

A delightful rhyming book that your child will memorize and enjoy for years.

11 - The Three Questions, by Jon J Muth

What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? Jon Muth adapts Tolstoy’s three most important questions into a stunning and thought provoking book about mindfulness and relationships, relevant for adults and children.

12 - Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of everything. Melanie Watt conveys the seriousness of anxiety and worry in a humorous and endearing way via a charming squirrel.

13 - Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

What happens when the perfect baby with a perfect name starts school and gets teased for being different? School becomes difficult and life becomes complicated for Chrysanthemum, who eventually realizes that being different can be celebrated. Acclaimed author and illustrator Kevin Henkes tells a sensitive story about the delicate topic of being different in an especially beautiful way.

14 - Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

An all-time favorite about a kind and sometimes misunderstood lion who is welcomed at the most welcoming of places, the library. It is a heartwarming and gentle story about stereotypes, friendships, and heroism.

15 - Olivia, b Ian Falconer

Olivia is a lovable piglet, reminiscent of Eloise of The Plaza Hotel. She is spunky, full of energy and never runs short on finding enthusiastic adventures.

16 - A Visitor for Bear, by Bonnie Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

An enigmatic bear and a tenacious mouse are the perfect pair in this endearing and humorous series about friendship.

17 - The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

The perfect book for children starting a new adventure and suffering from separation anxiety. Audrey Penn address the topic in a gentle, heartwarming and sensitive way through the eyes of a nervous raccoon and his nurturing mother.

18 - The Pencil, by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman

This is a clever book about the adventures of a creative pencil that gets itself into a bit a trouble. Children and adults will appreciate and understand the irony and will enjoy reading it over and over again.

19 - For Just One Day, by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant

Enter this whimsically illustrated book and your child will begin the game of imagining themselves as variety of animals. The bright and captivating illustrations make it easy for children to imagine the possibilities.

20 - The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein

An entertaining and inspiring recount of Philippe Petit’s 1974 World Trade Center tightrope walk. Children will be captivated by the daring and dramatic feat told through equally dramatic and beautiful illustrations.

Gi Hallmark, creator of, is a freelance writer and mother of two lovely girls. For more information about, follow Gi on Twitter @thechildrnsblog.