Classic Picture Books

Share these classic picture books from your childhood and generations past!  We've chosen thirty of what we consider the best children's picture books of the Twentieth Century!

Each of these have stood the test of time; they are books that stick in memories of our childhoods and worth reading again, and again, and again!

Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 from Pexels

Even if you haven't read some of these classic picture books, many will be familiar because they have been made into movies or TV shows.  What better reason to go back and read the books now with your kids!

I have been able to find copies of most of these classic picture books at thrift stores or garage sales; they should also be available at your local library.  Online discounted options are or used sales on Amazon.

Classic Picture Books - 1930s & 1940s

1930 - The Little Engine that Could
by Watty Piper

How often do we find this classic  come to our mind when we are encouraging someone not to give up.  We say, "You can do it!" and "Just believe in yourself!"

Take time to read this gem to your children and instill in them memory of- "I think I can-I think I can-I think I can-I think I can."

1930 - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
by Virginia Lee Burton

This book may not be as familiar as others, but it is a wonderful book!  Sometimes in life our purpose may change, but that doesn't mean we've become useless.  And sometimes it may take creative thinking to solve a problem and keep what's important.  Little boys will especially be drawn to this classic.

1936 - The Story of Ferdinand
by Munro Leaf

Before the movie, there was the book, and as we all know, the book is always better!  This book about being who you were created to be and doing what you love and are good at will speak to any child, youth or adult.  We don't have to be like everyone else; we each were created special.  This also a great story to broach the topics of peer pressure and bullying.

1939 - Madeline
by Ludwig Bemelmans

The perfect book for any child going to the doctor or about to have a surgery.  Madeline was the smallest but also the bravest.  She becomes sick and has to be taken to the hospital to have her appendix removed.  All was right though and in the end, all the other eleven little girls want to have theirs removed too!  I also love that every other set of illustrated pages are black, white and if you're teaching your preschooler the color yellow!

1939 - Little Toot
by Hardie Granatky

From the "little toot" sound he made to his small size and silly actions the little tugboat is made fun of and not taken seriously until a great storm came and what he could do was needed!  With his small size, his little toot, his silly actions and even his little smoke puffs, Little Toot was able to do what the others could not and saves the day for all!  Little Toot grows into what he can do and no longer worries about what he can't nor what others say.

1940 - Caps for Sale
by Esphyr Slobodkina

The subtile tells it all - "A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business"!  This is one of my favorites I remember from my own childhood and children of today love it too!  Kids will love speaking for the monkeys with a "Tsz, tsz, tsz!"  It's also fun to allow them to point out the different color caps while reading or afterwards practice balancing things on their own head or sorting items like the peddler.

1941 - Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey

Awarded the Caldecott Medal as "The most distinguished American picture book for children" in 1041, this picture book classic tells the story of a family of ducks who take up residence in the city of Boston.  It's a fun journey past many landmarks of the city as policemen and others make sure the newly hatched ducklings and their mother make it back to their home in the Public Garden.

1942 - The Little House 
by Virginia Lee Burton

Another of the classic picture books by Virginia Lee Burton tells the story of a little house almost forgotten in the midst of progress similar to Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.  Little House learns a lesson though about being careful what you wish for.

This is also a great book to go along with teaching the four seasons.

1942 - The Poky Little Puppy
by Janette Sebring Lowrey

One of the treasured Golden Book titles, this story is a little lesson in obedience.  Along the way though discoveries are made through poky little puppy's senses and sometimes it's good to stop and smell the roses, but he also learns that the consequences of disobedience will catch up to you.

1945 - The Carrot Seed
by Ruth Kraus

One of the shortest classic picture books teaches a big lesson of perseverance and hope! A little boy plants a carrot seed.  Although his parents, brother and others don't think it will come up, this little boy continues watering and doing what needs to be done even though he can't see anything changing.  He doesn't give up!  And then one day...

1947 - Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown

A classic bedtime book that takes you through a little bunny telling everything goodnight - even the moon.  With its rhythmic rhyme it's like rocking a child to sleep with kittens & mittens, and nursery rhymes.  Goodnight Moon is a wonderful short read for babies on up with wonderful lessons hidden within its pages.

1947 - Curious George Takes a Job
by H.A. & Margaret Rey

There are 7 original Curious George books with publication from 1941-1966.  They are:

Curious George, Curious George Takes a Job, Curious George Rides a Bike, Curious George Gets a Medal, Curious George Flies a Kite, Curious George Learns the Alphabet, and Curious George Goes to the Hospital.

For more information about the authors and creation of Curious George along with fun activities and lessons visit - Curious George Website

The Rey's life story is a fascinating one with tales of not only monkeys but also an escape during WWII.

1948 - Blueberries for Sal
by Robert McCloskey

Wandering on a day of picking blueberries leads one little girl and one little bear to become lost from their mothers.  This could be used as a story of warning, but it comes with the happiest of endings!  Robert McCloskey's timeless illustrations are life-like and accurate and readers will feel as if they are a part of a normal day out in the country with a little adventure.

Classic Picture Books - 1950-1960

More classic picture books from 1950-1960 coming soon!