An ABCs of Must Read Children’s Book Authors

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ABCChildrensBookAuthors

I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.” -C.S. Lewis

In solidarity with C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, I decided to compile a list of children’s book authors that my children love and whose books I love reading aloud over and over. Instead of searching for new titles with three kids in tow at the library (yikes!), I often go straight to the sections where our favorite authors’ books are shelved and we’re rarely disappointed with the new titles we bring home when they’re written or illustrated by one of our favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

A is for Jim Arnosky

Always stunning illustrations of beautiful animals and natural environments: the desert, the swamp, etc.  with simple, but memorable stories. We love Slow Down for Manatees, Babies in the Bayou, Grandfather Buffalo, and I See Animals Hiding.

B is for Jan Brett

Her illustrations are exquisite, intricate, and very recognizable and her original stories and re-tellings of folk and fairy tales are wonderful. We love Beauty and the Beast, The Mitten, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Trouble with Trolls, Hedgie’s Surprise, and The Mother’s Day Mice.

C is for Eric Carle

Classic board books and picture books with colorful and distinctive illustrations. We love Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Very Busy Spider.

D is for Tomie dePaola

Perhaps my very favorite children’s book author/illustrator, dePaola draws from legends and tales from all over the world and especially from the Catholic tradition. We love all of them but some of our favorites are Strega Nona, The Clown of God, Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories, and The Night of Las Posadas.

E is for P.D. Eastman

Are You My Mother? and Go, Dog. Go! are classics for every child’s home library.

F is for Don Freeman

We love the Cordoroy books!

G is for Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is charming and timeless (and one of our old friend C.S. Lewis’s favorites!).

H is for Margaret Hodges

I haven’t found a Margaret Hodges book that I don’t love. She doesn’t illustrate her own stories, but she always chooses wonderful illustrators. St. George and the Dragon is a favorite over here and we also love The Boy Who Drew Cats, Saint Patrick and the Peddler,  Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid, and The Wee Christmas Cabin.

I is for Rachel Isadora

A former ballerina, Isadora creates lovely books with her gorgeous illustrations. We love The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Little Mermaid and On Your Toes: A Ballet ABC.

J is for Brian Jacques

While we wait for our young children to be ready for his amazing Redwall series of chapter books, we’re enjoying The Tale of Urso Brunov and The Great Redwall Feast.

K is for Ruth Krauss

Teaming up with Maurice Sendak as her illustrator, Ruth Krauss is just so charming. We adore A Hole Is to Dig and you will, too.

L is for Monro Leaf

I didn’t read his books when I was growing up, but I’m so glad we discovered Wee Gillis to read with our kids. The Story of Ferdinand is another classic.

M is for Robert McCloskey

I always love reading McCloskey’s books even if it’s for the millionth time (and we probably have read them that many times because our kids LOVE them). Blueberries for Sale, Make Way for Ducklings, and One Morning in Maine are particularly wonderful.

N is for Laura Numeroff

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Numeroff’s other If You Give a…. books are delightful. But our favorite is If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

O is for Helen Oxenbury

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a fun classic, but my favorite is King Jack and the Dragon.

P is for Patricia Polacco

Love her illustrations, love her stories, love everything about her. Some of our favorites are Thunder Cake, The Bee Tree,  Emma Kate, and G is for Goat. Prepare to cry through An Orange for Frankie!

Q is for Mary Quattlebaum

It wasn’t easy finding a children’s book author that begins with Q, but we discovered Quattlebaum’s Sparks Fly High at the library and loved it.

R is for Cynthia Rylant

Our five-year-old requests When the Relatives Came at least once a week and we also love Snow.

S is for Maurice Sendak

In my opinion, no child’s library is complete without Where the Wild Things Are. We also love the books in the Nutshell Library.

T is for Tasha Tudor

Tudor makes you stop and notice the beauty of simplicity. Her books have the sweetest illustrations. We love Pumpkin Moonshine and A is for Annabelle.

U is for Janice May Udry

Some of our favorite are A Tree is Nice and Let’s Be Enemies.

V is for Chris Van Allsburg

Gorgeous illustrations and enduring stories. The Polar Express and Jumanji are wonderful.

W is for Karma Wilson

I read Bear Snores On  over and over when our firstborn was a toddler, but it’s so charming that I didn’t mind. We also love Bear Stays up for Christmas and the Mortimer series, especially Mortimer’s Christmas Manger and Mortimer’s First Garden.

X is for Antoine de Saint-eXupery

OK, so it’s a bit of a stretch, but do you know how hard it is to find a children’s book author whose name starts with X? Thanks to reader, Melissa for thinking of Antoine de Saint-Exupery! The Little Prince is a must.

Y is for Jane Yolen

Owl Moon is simply beautiful and we also love the How Dinosaurs series. Particularly, How Dinosaurs Say I Love You.

Z is for Paul O. Zelinsky

His illustrations are incredible and we love his re-tellings of fairytales like Rapunzel and Rumplestiltskin.

Narrowing this list down to our very favorites was torturous! I wish I could have included:

And many more!

Who is you favorite children’s book author? Any suggestions to add in the comments?

Thanks for reading!

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Comments

  1. says

    I love this, and have been aching to add to the girls’ library. Thank you for the recommendations and the inspiration! P.D. Eastman (and his son Peter Eastman) are favorites in our house. We can read Go, Dog, Go! and Fred & Ted Like to Fly in our sleep. :)
    I loved dePaola’s books as a little girl, and excited to get some for our girls. We also love Sandra Boynton’s board books–don’t think we will grow out of those, haha. :)

  2. says

    The post came just in time as I’m compiling an amazon wish list of books for my daughter’s first birthday! The Redwall books and Hodges’ Saint George and the Dragon were favorites of mine growing up. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe is also a really great children’s book, gorgeous illustrations and a beautiful story!

  3. Karissa says

    Wonderful list! I’m so glad Beatrix was on the Honorable Mentions. I have a slight obsession with her. And so glad to see some of my favorites – Munro Leaf, Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg (from my hometown!) – on there too! I think I would have to nominate Antoine de Saint-Exupery solely and entirely because of “The Little Prince”, as well as A.A. Milne (or E.H. Shepard for illustration) because the “Winnie the Pooh” collection warms my heart. Oh, and Julie Fogliano + Erin Stead for author+illustrator combo! “If You Want to See a Whale” is so lovely in picture AND prose… and I’m dying to read “And Then It’s Spring”. If you haven’t looked them up… do!

    …Now I see why narrowing down a list is torturous!

    • Haley says

      Oh wonderful additions! I definitely should have put Antoine de Saint-Exupery on there and I had Winnie the Pooh in the picture and then forgot to add A.A. Milne to the list! Thank you, Karissa!

      • Karissa says

        Love coming across lists like this. And Roald Dahl! D’oh! Although I’ll forgive myself for forgetting him since my head was so focused on the “picture book” category…
        Another I’ve been curious about – have you read any of Tomi Ungerer’s? I’ve only read Fog Island, which I really enjoyed – but I listened to a fascinating interview with him, shortly after Maurice Sendak’s death – with whom he was very good friends.
        He’s a strong believer in neither depriving children’s stories of “scary” elements nor sugar-coating, which I totally agree with.

    • Karissa says

      And after submitting that, I came across “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” on Amazon’s Look Inside!, which Erin Stead illustrated and her husband wrote… Want! She has the most lovely style.

  4. says

    Super good list! I agree with Tasha Tudor– she is one of my most favorite favorite people/artists/old timey lady covered in paint and dogs EVER ;)
    I’d also add Lane Smith. LOVE his books and illustrations, I interviewed him for a newspaper a few years ago for his book “John, Paul, George and Ben” which is SO CUTE.

    • Haley says

      I remember being a little girl and my mom getting one of the coffee table books about Tasha Tudor with amazing photographs. She is splendid. And I’ll have to check out Lane Smith!

  5. says

    As a youth services librarian, I love this list you put together! I noticed that all your links go to Amazon – have you heard of WorldCat.org? It’s a global library catalog that uses your zip code to find the book at your closest library. And in each record, there’s a permalink button on the right hand side to use for hyperlinks. It’s a great recourse, especially when you’re trying to track down hard-to-find books!

    Oh, and Jon Klassen is another amazing illustrator. He won the 2013 Caldecott Medal for “This is Not My Hat.” And he’s just so humble and sweet!

    • Haley says

      That is very cool! I usually link to Amazon when I do book lists because they have an affiliate program (when someone purchases through my link, I receive a small portion of sale to buy books with). And I completely forgot to say that at the bottom of the posts like I usually do! I have it in my disclosure statement on my sidebar, but I like to be upfront about it in every post. So, I’m glad you asked so that I could go back and add that!

      We borrowed This Is Not My Hat from the library recently and my oldest really liked it! Great addition :)

  6. says

    This. is. amazing. I can’t imagine the work you must have put into compiling this list … but I’m super grateful because all the rest of us get to benefit! I’m bookmarking this forever!

    • Haley says

      Haha! Tess, it took WAY longer than I thought it would. I was about to tear my hair out adding the bajillion links. But, ta da! ;)

  7. says

    Oh man, I wept probably the first three times I read “The Clown of God.” Fwiw, I met Tomie de Paola last yet and told him that, and he thanked me and said it’s one of his personal favorites of his work. (I mean, I guess he could say that about anything…but I was pleased :)

    I heartily recommend anything by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock, especially any of their projects together w/ McClintock as illustrator.

    Finally, have you read Karma Wilson’s “Who Goes There?” Spoiler: It’s dedicated to C.S. Lewis :) Get thee to a library!

    • Haley says

      I CANNOT read Clown of God without bursting into tears. I have to pause and collect myself while the kids say, “Mom…..why’d you stop reading?” YOU MET TOMIE DEPAOLA! I’m such a fangirl. I want to give him the biggest hug ever.

      I think I’ve heard of McClintock but not Ayleswroth! Thanks so much for the recommendations. And yes! I have to find Who Goes There. Never read it!

  8. says

    Thank you for this! I love everything illustrated my Marla Frazee — The Seven Silly Eaters, Babies Everywhere, All the World, and her own books like The Boss Baby and Boot and Shoe. She’s my illustration idol :-)

      • Sarah Doll says

        You would LOVE Marla Frazee, she’s great! On The Morn of Mayfest and Hush Little Baby are really great books illustrated by her. I think she’s on the top I my list and I’m pretty picky!

  9. Ashley Dawson says

    My favorite children’s book growing up was Corduroy, and my husband’s was Make Way for Ducklings! I can’t wait to share those with our future children! I also really liked Shel Silverstein and The Bernstein Bears series. Lots of “steins” I suppose, haha!

    Great list! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Diana Calabro says

    Thank you for this list Haley. I’m always looking for books to add to my godson’s library. I’m so thankful he loves to be read to and enjoys a good story. These are great gift ideas for Easter and his birthday that are coming up. Thank you!

  11. says

    Great list! And I’m a former children’s librarian so I know one when i see one:) I’ve always loved Polacco’s Thunder Cake. In elementary school I did a book report on it and made the cake to share with the class and no one would try it because one of the ingredients was a tomato!

  12. Kate says

    I take my 92 year old gran, my 22 month old, my 3 year old and my very pregnant belly to the library weekly. And we’ve just moved across country so it’s a new library to orientate myself in. I am going to be thinking “thank you Hayley” on Monday as I try handle all in tows demands!

  13. Leah R. says

    I appreciate you sharing this list (which includes many I love and some that are new to me). I’d like to recommend “The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith” by Josephine Nobisso to your readers. Also, Jennie Bishop, especially her titles “The Princess and the Kiss” and the “Knight and the Scroll.” These are all books that encourage children to be virtuous and generous to others.

  14. says

    We received a couple of Sandra Boynton board books as baby gifts, and they have been our 4-month-old’s favorited basically since the day he was born. He grins and laughs out loud. I want to get all of them!
    I love this list. Looking forward to checking out the ones we don’t know!

  15. says

    When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I devoured the Redwall series. When I have kids, I’m certain that I’m going to read that aloud pretty frequently.

  16. Anna says

    Thanks so much. This list should keep us busy at the library for a while. Many of our favorites are on here but plenty are new. We love James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small fame) Barbara McClintock, Grahame Base and Don and Audrey Wood. Walter Wick’s search and find books aren’t really stories (some of them kind of are..) but still fun for looking at for hours and hours. His books were highly motivational for my son when he was learning to read.

    I’m curious about your opinion of Jennifer Adams and Allison Oliver’s Babylit series, and also Jack and Holman Wang’s Cozy Classics. I love these because they hold my attention as well as my children’s but I have found that many people who are more literate than I have mixed reviews.

    • Haley says

      Ooo! I look forward to checking out those authors, thanks, Anna! And as for the Babylit series (I’m not familiar with Cozy Classics) I love them. I mean, no you can’t capture a classic novel in a tiny board book, but they’re fun! The Pride and Prejudice one is my favorite ;)

      • Anna says

        Pride and Prejudice is the best of the Cozy Classics also. Probably because Pride and Prejudice is the best novel. I also wanted to add that Dinotopia by James Gurney is nice and thick and lush with highly detailed illustrations that are really captivating for children. I can’t speak for the story because I haven’t read it, friends have told me it’s good but it’s still beyond my 5 year old’s level, Even so it’s worth a check out, just for the illustrations. But only if you have a dinosaur lover.

  17. says

    I absolutely love this list! I will be writing down some of these titles for our next library visit!

    Just as a quick caution- we love Patricia Polacco too, but she does have a book about a family with two mothers (In Our Mothers’ House).

  18. Emily Cihlar says

    Haley! If I lived in Fl, we would book swapping constantly – GREAT list! I can’t say you read my mind, because I wasn’t specifically needing or looking for this post, but I have recently pinpointed that my deep love for books and stories started with children’s books…and has somewhat stayed there! Perfect quote from C.S. Lewis – awesome. I’d love to talk about children’s authors, since you pulled my leg…:)

    I would like to nominate for your list, in no particular order:

    - Kate DiCamillo (I have never read anything by her that I didn’t absolutely love!)
    - E.B. White
    - Roald Dahl (I’ve seen others mention him, too, but he’s worth the repeat!)
    - Beverly Cleary (I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle when I was younger)
    - Gertrude Chandler Warner (I will happily admit to having an enormous collection of the Boxcar Children series!!)
    - Mary Pope Osbourne (her Magic Treehouse series is adventurous and fun, Benjamin may really enjoy those)

    I am not as up to snuff on my children’s illustrators as I would like to be, so I really appreciate your list including your recommendations for illustrators, too.

    Thanks for the recommendation on the Redwall series. They were a favorite of my husband’s growing up, and I am sorry to say I haven’t read a single one! Needless to say they’re on my list, but a reminder to bump them higher never hurts. :)

    P.S. I had a dream last night that the Edel gathering was in my hometown. You, Dwija, Grace, (I think Cari, and then one other person(?)), and I were all crammed in a jeep, going somewhere…I woke up laughing, and it was awesome! (I have been thinking of it often because for as MUCH as I wish I could be there, our first little peanut is due July 16th, and we’re in WI – just isn’t happenin’ this year!)

    Love from Wisconsin.

  19. deltaflute says

    You sent me on a mission. I was hoping to find someone with a Chinese name since they commonly start with X. I’ll keep looking, but I found someone who starts with X. X.J. Kennedy.

  20. Emily Cihlar says

    P.P.S. I second Anna’s recommendation for Don and Audrey Wood – “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear” is one of my absolute favorites that I always forget about!

  21. clare says

    Is Shirley Hughes known in the States at all? Surprised not to see her mentioned in any comments.. writes & illustrates just the most lovely stories, she’s my absolute favourite children’s author. Dogger is my favourite by her (I can’t get through it without crying) but her Alfie series are amazing too.

    Great list though I’ll be looking some of these up!

  22. says

    You have such fabulous taste in children’s books and mentioned many of our favorites! You’ve received so many more recommendations from your readers (!) I can’t imagine you’ll be hard pressed for ideas next time you’re at the library. However… for the day when you DO need some picture book suggestions, we LOVE Brian Wildsmith and Dahlov Ipcar. They are both good authors, but it’s their illustrations that really steal the show. Wildsmith has many illustrated Bible stories and of Ipcar’s books, the best (totally subjective, right?!) are Lobsterman, One Horse Farm, Hardscrabble Harvest, and Cat at Ngiht, and… fine they’re all good :) Hope you get to check them out! Thanks for your book lists, Haley! Book lists = love!

  23. Erin says

    Thanks for some new blood for the old library list. I wish I could let my oldest choose his own reading material, but like any kid he gravitates toward the flashiest and usually most obnoxious book on the shelf. It seems like a lot of modern children’s books I’ve tried lack, well, a plot. And characters. The old stuff, like the Frances books by Russell Hoban (whom you mentioned), inspire my kids’ imaginations in a way that a lot of recent books don’t. So thanks, and I can’t wait to try some of your suggestions!

  24. Celia says

    What a wonderful list! I’d add EB White. I LOVE Shel Silverstein’s poetry, too.

    Tomie de Paola and Maurice Sendak are my favorites. I frequently cry, though, when I read their books to my kids. They probably think I’ve gone completely off my rocker.

  25. Hafsa says

    One of my favorite books growing up was A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett and the illustrations were done by Tasha Tudor. Beautifully drawn.

  26. narniaelf says

    Someone you might want to check out is elsa beskow! Her illustrations are wonderful. The princess and the kiss by Jennie Bishop was one of my favorite books when I was younger, and is so enjoyable with new meaning now that I’m older. There is a similar book for boys by her.

  27. says

    Excellent list! Robert McCloskey and Patricia Polacco are two of our favorites, as is Cynthia Rylant. Have you read her Mr. Putter and Tabby books? They’re wonderful! Mo Willems is another author we check on regularly. Elephant and Piggie, Amanda and her Alligator, Knuffle Bunny–all classics in our home.

    There are some names here that are unfamiliar to me, so I’ll have to keep my eyes open for their books!

  28. Sarah says

    Hi,

    A little late to this delightful children’s author party, but I thought I’d throw a few more names into this already great list. Someone mentioned author/illustrator Elsa Beskow, and Sibylle von Olfers is also (so, so, so) wonderful. They both wrote in the earlier part of the 20th century, and their stories have a gentle, classic quality with amazing illustrations to boot. We also love the Piggie and Elephant books by Mo Willems. They are hilarious.

    Now that we’re beginning to read chapter books with our 1st grader, we’re loving George MacDonald’s The Princess & the Goblin and The Princess & Curdie. Of course Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series is beloved. For our toddler, we’re constantly returning to Peggy Rathman (Goodnight Gorilla, 10 Minutes til Bedtime, Officer Buckle and Gloria), Beatrix Potter, and Rosemary Wells (we particularly love Voyage to the Bunny Planet).

    Funny how the English major within loves to geek out on children’s books now that we’re moms? :)

  29. Laura says

    If you haven’t already read it, ‘Brother Juniper’ by Diane Gibfried is a wonderful story. I had to choke back a tear or two when reading it to my 4 year old.

  30. Laura says

    Thank you so much for the wonderful list! I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time. We will definitely request some of these from our library.

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