50+ Classic Children’s Picture Books

For many of us, there are books from our own childhoods that we remember with true fondness and look forward to sharing with our own children and grandchildren. I recently asked the Childhood 101 community to share the titles they most enjoyed as children. With literally hundreds of suggestions to share, I begin today with over fifty classic children’s picture books from the 1920s-1960s.

50 Classic Children's Books from the 1920s to the 1970s

50+ Classic Children’s Books from the 1920s-60s

These are the picture books that have stood the test of time. They are still in publication today, even though some are now close to 100 years old! The are the stories that end up ragged and dogeared on our bookshelves from being read over and over again.

Many of these iconic children’s books are award winners and while some may be considered controversial, and others not conforming with our changing social values, they each certainly provide us with a platform for enjoying the process of reading with our children, and for opening discussion about life and the many issues we face as inhabitants of the world we live in.

Of course, picture books are not just for tiny tots, some of these stories are more suited to children in the early and even middle years of elementary/primary school.

RELATED: Looking for a classic that isn’t quite this old? Check out our big list of the Best Children’s Books from the 80s and 90s.

Each title is linked to an Amazon page (these are affiliate links) where you can find reviews and age recommendations for those titles you might not be personally familiar with.

Classic Children’s Picture Books from the 1920s and 30s

The velveteen rabbit classic childrens book

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
First published 1922.
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” The stuffed toy rabbit’s journey to become real through the wisdom and experience of love.

Millions of Cats classic kids book 1920s

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
First published 1928.
Millions of Cats is the tale of a lonely couple who decide to take in a cat for company. The old man sets off to find the most beautiful cat of all but when he cannot choose from the millions of cats he finds he decides to bring them all home. The cats are asked to choose the most worthy amongst themselves and a huge cat fight erupts. Who will be chosen?

The Story About Ping

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
First published 1933.
On a day like any other, a small duck, Ping, sets off from the boat he calls home with his family in search of “pleasant things to eat.” He is accidentally left behind when the boat leaves but undaunted heads out onto the Yangtze in search of his family, only to discover new friends and adventures around every bend.

The Story of Ferdinand classic childrens book from the 1930s

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
First published 1936.
The story of Ferdinand, a bull who would much rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights!

Caps for Sale classic childrens books from the 1930s

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
First published 1938.
In this fun, repetitive story a peddler sits down under a tree to take a nap, with all his wares still on his head. When he awakens, all the caps but his own are gone – stolen by a troop of monkeys! How will he get them back?

The Five Chinese Brothers classic childrens book 1930s

The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
First published 1938.
Five brothers, each with a special and unique power, rescue the First Brother from being unfairly put to death.

Madeline 1930s classic kids book

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
First published 1939.
“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines …” Including the very brave Madeline. Nothing frightens Madeline—not tigers, not mice, not even getting sick, in fact, to Madeline a trip to the hospital is a grand adventure.

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
First published 1939.
Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Mary Anne make quite a team but the introduction of gasoline, electric, and diesel shovels means big trouble for Mike and Mary Anne. No one wants an old-fashioned steam shovel like Mary Anne when a modern shovel can do the digging in half the time!.

Classic Children’s Picture Books from the 1940s

Make Way for Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky
First published in 1941.
Mrs Mallard is sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens will be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live. But how wash she to get them there through the busy streets of Boston? With a little help from the Boston police, Mrs Mallard, Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arrive safely at their new home.

Curious George classic childrens book from the 1940s

Curious George by H. A. Rey
First published 1941.
In the original book in the popular series about the curious monkey, George is taken from the jungle by the man in the yellow hat to live in a new home, but oh no, what happened! Join George on his adventures as he unintentionally wreaks havoc on his new city home.

The Poky Little Puppy

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
First published 1942.
This curious little puppy was the star of the single all-time best-selling hardcover children’s book in the US, having sold nearly 15 million copies by 2011.

The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen by Little Golden Books
First published 1942.
When the Little Red Hen asks her farmyard friends to help her make the bread, they all refuse! A great resource for talking to children about teamwork.

Goodnight Moon: Classic Children's Books

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
First published 1947.
In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny who poetically wishes goodnight, one by one, to everything he sees.

Blueberries for Sal childrens book from the 1940s

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
First published 1948.
Sal and her mother set off in search of blueberries for the winter at the same time as a mother bear and her cub. A quiet comedy of errors ensues when the young ones wander off and absentmindedly trail the wrong mothers.

An Extraordinary Egg

An Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni
First published in 1948.
In a very funny case of mistaken identity, three frogs are sure they have found a chicken’s egg. When it hatches and a long, green creature emerges…it must be a chicken!

50 Classic Kid's Books from the 1920s to the 1970s

Classic Children’s Picture Books from the 1950s

Grandpa Bunny classic childrens picture book 1950s

Grandpa Bunny by Jane Werner Watson
First published 1953.
Grandpa Bunny teaches his adoring brood to decorate nature, knowing he will “go away” soon he prepares a surprise for them (a sunset). Only the youngest bunnies know of the surprise, but when the sunset comes, all the bunnies are comforted.

Harold and the Purple Crayon childrens book from the 1950s

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
First published 1955.
Harold, is a curious four-year-old boy who, with the help of his purple crayon, has the power to create a world of his own simply by drawing it.

Miffy childrens book 1950s

Miffy by Dick Bruna
First published 1955.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny want a baby bunny more than anything, and one day they’re visited by an angel who gives them good news – the first book in the popular Miffy series by Dick Bruna.

Harry the Dirty Dog_ classic books for kids

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
First published 1956.
Harry hates bathtime so he buries the bathtub scrubber and runs away from home. Harry gets so dirty that when he returns home his family does not recognise him. How will he get them to realise it is him?

The Cat in the Hat

Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
First published 1957.
Poor Dick and Sally. It’s cold and wet and they’re stuck in the house with nothing to do and mother away…until the Cat in a Hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure.

Little Blue and Little Yellow classic childrens book from the 1950s

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
First published in 1959.
Little Blue and Little Yellow are best friends but one day they can’t find each other. When they finally do, they give each other such a big hug that they turn green! Will they ever find their true colors again?

Classic Children’s Picture Books from the 1960s

Are You My Mother? classic picture book 1950s

Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman
First published 1960.
A lost baby bird asks cows, planes, and steam shovels the Big Question – are you my mother? before he is happily reunited with his maternal parent.

Bedtime for Frances classic kids book

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban
First published in 1960.
The first title in Hoban’s popular Frances series makes a sweet bedtime read to share with toddlers and preschoolers.

Green eggs and ham classic book from the 1960s

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
First published 1960.
“Do you like green eggs and ham?” asks Sam-I-am in this famous Seuss title. With Seuss’ signature rhyming style and fabulous characters and illustrations this much loved children’s classic has been a favorite for many, many generations.

A Fish Out of Water classic 1960s childrens book

A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer Geisel
First published 1961.
“Never feed him a lot. Never more than a spot! Or something may happen. You never know what.” When the boy ignores these instructions out of compassion for his new fish, Otto begins to outgrow his fishbowl with humorous results!

The Snowy Day classic kids book

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
First published 1962.
The sweet adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

The Big Honey Hunt 1960s picture book

The Big Honey Hunt by Stan and Jan Berenstain
First published 1962.
The first in the series of over 300 titles in The Berenstain Bears series about a family of grizzly bears named Berenstain. Each title discusses a moral or safely related lesson.

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
First published 1963.
When Max is sent to his bed without supper for wreaking havoc at home a forest grows in his room and he continues his wild rumpus accompanied by the Wild Things! Will he return home or stay to continue his romping as King of the Wild Things?

Swimmy: Classic Kids Picture Books

Swimmy by Leo Lionni
First published 1963.
Swimmy, one tiny fish, teaches his friends that if they work together they needn’t be afraid of the dangers in the sea.

Amelia Bedelia book from the 1960s

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
First published 1963.
When Mrs. Rogers leaves Amelia Bedelia alone in the house on her first day of work, anything can happen. And it does! For when Amelia Bedelia draws the drapes and dresses a chicken, the results are very very different than might be expected!

Whistle for Willie 1960s childrens book

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
First published 1964.
Peter wants to learn to whistle in order to call his dog Willie. Peter tries so hard to whistle that his cheeks hurt, but he doesn’t give up.

Brown Bear Brown Bear board book

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr
First published 1967.
Familiar animals, bold colors and a rhyming question-and-response text delight young readers and listeners to participate actively in this fun book.

Rosies Walk 1960s classic picture book

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
First published 1968.
Rosie the hen is enjoying a leisurely walk around the farm, but the stroll isn’t nearly as pleasant for the fox who is trying – unsuccessfully – to navigate the obstacle course Rosie is unknowingly leading him through.

Corduroy: Classic Children's Picture Books

Corduroy by Don Freeman
First published 1968.
The adventures of a small, soft toy bear who, after being left on the shelf by a discerning buyer, decides to search the store to find his missing button once all of the customers have gone for the day.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
First published 1968.
A tiger with a voracious appetite arrives unexpectedly to join Sophie and her mum for afternoon tea.

What People Do All Day classic childrens book

What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
First published 1968.
In classic Richard Scarry style, we are introduced to the citizens of BusyTown, their occupations and daily activities.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar classic kids book

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
First published 1969.
This beloved title features a very hungry caterpillar who eats its way through a wide variety of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a butterfly. The die cut holes in the pages, counting and simple story promise to engage readers of all ages.

The Elephant and the Bad Baby

The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipoint
First published 1969.
The Elephant takes the Bad Baby for a ride and they go ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta down the road.’ They help themselves to ice creams, pies, buns, crisps, biscuits, lollipops and apples! And the unhappy shopkeepers follow them down the road!

50 Great Picture Book Classics to read aloud with children of all ages

Classic Children’s Picture Books from the 1970s

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing classic 1970s picture book

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett
First published 1970.
Animals should definitely not wear clothing…. because a snake would lose it, a billy goat would eat it for lunch, and it would always be wet on a walrus!

Meg and Mog classic children's book from the 1970s

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll
First published 1970.
Meg is a well-meaning witch who lives with her cat, Mog and her owl. When Meg flies off to meet her witch friends for some spell-making at a Halloween Party her spell does not go exactly to plan.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas classic kids book

The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M Scarry
First published 1970.
Little Bear can smell that Christmas is coming. The air is filled with the aroma of gingerbread cookies, minty candy canes, the piney Christmas tree, and yummy hot apple pie. Celebrate the holiday season with this classic Golden storybook which includes six scratch-and-sniff scents.

The Monster at the End of This Book

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone
First published 1971.
Sesame Street favorite, Grover will do whatever he can to stop the reader from discovering the monster at the end of the book, begging the reader not to finish it so as to avoid the monster!

Mr Tickle: Picture books from the 70s

Mr Tickle by Roger Hargreaves
First published 1971.
The first of the Mr Men and Little Miss series of over 90 books; when Mr Tickle decides it is a tickling kind of day, you never know who he might tickle next. It may even be you!

Tikki Tikki Tembo 1970s picture book

Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
First published 1971.
First born (with a grand and honorable name) Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo (which means “the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world”) and his brother Chang (which means “little or nothing”) get into trouble with a well, are saved by the Old Man with the Ladder, and change history while they’re at it.

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Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voirst
First published 1972.
Alexander knew it was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with gum in this hair – from the moment he wakes up EVERYTHING goes wrong for Alexander and he may just pack up and move to Australia! A fabulous read for everyone who has ever had a bad day.

Bad Jelly The Witch

Bad Jelly the Witch: A Fairy Story by Spike Milligan
First published 1973.
Badjelly The Witch can turn children into sausages or chop them up to make boy-girl soup. She can turn policemen into apple trees or bananas into mice and she is the wickedest witch in all the world!

Where the Sidewalk Ends 1970s childrens book

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
First published 1974.
Come in, for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins. A very special collection of Silverstein poems and drawings.

The Wind Blew: Kids Books from the 70s

The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins
First published 1974.
The wind blew! It blew so hard, it took everything with it: Mr. White’s umbrella, Priscilla’s balloon, the twins’ scarves, even the wig on the judge’s head. But just when the wind was about to carry everything out to sea, it changed its mind!

The Big Orange Splot 1970s kids book

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
First published 1977.
When Mr. Plumbeans’ house is splashed with bright orange paint he decides a multi-colored house would make a nice change, upsetting the neighbors living in identical brown houses with gray roofs and green shutters! “My house is me and I am it. My house…looks like all my dreams,”  Mr Pumbean shares with interesting results.

Hippos Go Berserk 1970s kids book

Hippos Go Beserk by Sandra Boynton
First published 1977.
How dull, to be one hippo all alone… until the one calls two other hippos on the phone. Soon three more hippos are at the door, bringing along another four. Before the night is through, a houseful of hippos has joined the one hippo for a boisterous bash.

Grug: Australian books for toddlers

Grug by Ted Prior
First published 1979.
Grug is a curious fictional character, fascinated by the world around him and very resourceful. He solves everyday problems creatively and without fuss. For example, when dancing instructions are too difficult to understand, Grug invents his own dance and calls it ‘The Grug.’.

But No Elephants

But No Elephants by Jerry Smath
First published 1979.
When the pet man comes to visit Grandma Tildy she’s happy to buy a canary, a beaver and a tortoise – “but no elephants”, she always says. Then one cold winter day the pet man comes again and this time the only pet left is an elephant. And Grandma Tildy just can’t leave it out in the cold.

I hope this list re-connects you with a story or two that you had forgotten all about and that you will take pleasure in re-visiting with the children in your life.

More Fabulous Children’s Booklists

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  1. Ah! Great post! I love Harry The Dirty Dog I think I still have it at my parents place!

  2. Nell Ward says:

    I think you’ve done exceptionally well. Only a few books on here that I didn’t know and love. Personally I could never see what was so special about grug or the Mr Men series but I know that others loved them.

  3. Nell Ward says:

    Forgot to add; what about a few newer favourites; “Possum Magic”, “Wombat Stew”, “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear” and just about anything Martin Waddell or Christian Birmingham!

    1. Heaps of our favourites are in your suggestions but this list was very much pre-1980s publication 🙂

  4. Whst a lovely list! I would love to see a top 50 of books first published in the last thirty years

    1. Great idea, Meredith, will have to put that one on my to do list. And of course you are right about Brown Bear!

  5. For some reason, only the first half of my comment posted… Anyway, I wanted to mention that “Brown Bear” was actually written by Bill Martin Jr. Eric Carle was the illustrator.

  6. Mrs Salar says:

    How can I get all these books n guide me to facilitate my daughter for reading picture and discription

  7. Love the list choices.
    Interesting how many of these older books are being reissued now( often in s slightly larger size), as parents (and grandparents) have such wonderful memories of them.

  8. Jodie timms says:

    I love this list
    Can you please help me with a book that haunts my brain space
    Its a book about an orange seed that bounces around on adventures. I thought it was called the scarlett pimpernul but no. In my brain the cover of the book is just this big orange seed
    Love any help on this one xx

    1. Hi Jodie, could it be James and the Giant Peach? I will think further but that is what comes to mind first 🙂

  9. Hi,
    Any idea what the book is called about a very quiet man who then gets a very noisy bird. I feel like I have turned into this character and think about that book often. I had the book in the late 60’s, early 70’s. The name of it is driving me crazy. Thanks!

  10. I hope you can help me find my favorite childhood book. Of course I can’t remember the name. It was a hardcover, picture book. The little girl in the story (i think home alone) discovered that whatever she planted, that kind of tree would grow. She planted a balloon tree, and the next day a tree full of balloons was out back. Then their was a present tree, lollipop (i think) tree, etc. thx for any help. I feel like the cover was a pale yellow background.

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