Top 10 Picture Books I Just Can’t Live Without!

 @CathyMere and @MandyRobek are presenting their second annual #pb10for10.

It’s a challenge for teachers, inviting them to blog about their top ten picture books – the ones they can’t live without.  I have some trouble narrowing them down to 10. Another Tweep suggested trying for the top 10 you start the year with. That may be where I start my blog post.


  1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin is my favorite first day of school book. I’ve already read it to this incoming class. We shared it on the day they visited me in June. I will read it with them again when next we meet and they’ll be able to make the connection with something familiar. They’ll also be more ready to chime in with some choral reading. Later in the day, we’ll take a tour of the building hunting for the Brown Bear characters and finding them at each of our stops. I can see that in her Twitter photo above, Mandy is sharing this book.
  2. Day 2 brings the next classic. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. In this story, young Chester is heading off to kindergarten and is worried about missing his Mom. Acknowledging this very real emotion as part of the kindergarten experience helps us to navigate our own emotions surrounding school. We will do lots of talking about emotions in the coming weeks and this book helps bring everyone together. I usually make some cute heart stamped paw cookies as an extra special treat.
  3.   “With a smile as bright as sunshine, a bullfrog named Jubal sets out to share the joy of a beautiful day with his friends.” and “How Jubal wishes he could do something to make his friends as happy as he is on this glorious day…” That’s one way Audrey Wood introduces Jubal’s Wish. An interesting thing about this story is it was missing from my library for years and I wanted to read it very much. I was ready to buy a new copy. For that reason alone, I know it fits well in here as a book I can’t live without.
  4.  Tikki Tikki Tembo – In 1968, Arlene Mosel retold this story of two brothers in China, one with a very long and important name and Chang, the younger brother. It’s a story I look forward to every year and use it to open yet another conversation on multi-cultural learning. The story may in fact have Japanese origins but the flavor of the Orient makes this a wonderful read aloud with plenty of choral reading by the class as they chime in.
  5. White Snow, Blue Feather   is the title of a lovely winter story by Julie Downing. A young boy finds a blue feather and explores the snowy world around him. The images of him walking through the snow and crawling under the heavy boughs of a pine tree, provide lots of great comprehension questions about the story. We can talk about: how might the boy feel at each moment of the story?   is he cold?   where are the other people and what are they doing?   what will he do with the feather?   why did the author choose to write this story?   what did the author need to learn in order to write it?
  6. There is absolutely no way I can choose only one book by Jan Brett. She is simply brilliant! ALL of her books are amazing and I enjoy sharing them with children whenever a new one is released. The Hat is a great book with the familiar character, Hedgie. In this one, he finds a stocking that has flown off the clothesline and being a curious hedgehog, the stocking gets stuck on his head. I have taken advantage of Jan’s generosity and printed up some of the illustrations she provides for us in Reader’s Theater. The students assume the roles of each animal and we dramatize it for more comprehension. Of course my favorite thing about Jan Brett is the way she adds colorful borders to her books which give us clues about what will happen next or show us what’s happening at the same time, outside of the story itself.
  7. This is another classic winter time story by Jane Yolen. Clicking on her name will take you to her page of links (submitted by others) to ideas for expanding our thinking for using her texts. In much the same way I use White Snow, Blue Feather, the imagery of the text and illustrations create tremendous teaching and learning opportunities. Read the story with a soft voice.
  8.    Staying with the winter theme here, my next “must-have” book is Polar Express. I have to admit that the movie version has added so much color and imagery that I have even more fondness for this beautiful book. Chris vanAllsburg is an incredible illustrator and I’m a sucker for beautiful illustrations. Click on his name to visit his site with tons of great art and interaction.
  9. The Leprechaun’s Gold is a fun book to read around St. Patrick’s Day. You are going to get a kick out of trying to read with an Irish brogue; be sure to try it out. The story is written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole. It’s the story of Old Pat and Young Tom who  set off to a contest for the title as the finest harpest in all of Ireland. It’s a story of character and fair play. It’s also a story of leprechaun magic. The kids will love it.
  10. And last but certainly not least is one of my favorite Tomie dePaola stories. I could have chosen any one of the over 200 stories he has written and/or illustrated.  But Strega Nona is another story of magic and I am still a kid about these things. We get to meet Big Anthony, who volunteers to help Strega Nona with some chores. She instructs him not to touch her magic pasta pot. Well, you can imagine what happens!

So that’s my list of picture books not to be missed.

What books are on your top ten list?

Okay, so it’s impossible to only list 10. Here are some more of my favorites.

The Story About Ping

Numbah One Day of Christmas

Fancy Nancy series

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Picture Books I Just Can’t Live Without!

  1. I still use “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” by Van Allsburg and a picture book version of “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and assorted Dr. Seuss during the year with the sixth graders. They still love to hear and see picture books, and the visual-text connection is a strong one.

  2. Hi, I definitely agree that a top ten list is hard to write. It was interesting reading your top ten as they are books I have not seen. I will need to look them up and read them.
    My top ten (in no particular order) Silly Billy by Anthony Browne, The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle, The wonky donkey by Craig Smith, The Gruffelo by Julia Donaldson, Millicent and Belonging by Jeanie Baker, Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak, Piano Rock by Gavin Bishop, Taniwha by Robyn kahukiwa and The paper bag princess by Robert Munsch

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You have also listed some books I’m not familiar with. It’ll be fun checking on the many new titles people are sharing via Twitter and the #pb10for10 party..

  3. Jan Brett is a marvel. Her books give kids lots of opportunities to engage — story, illustrations and related activities.
    Thanks for the recommendations.
    Apples with Many Seeds

    • Thanks to you and Cathy for organizing it. There are so many great books out there and they serve a variety of purposes (besides being fun for us to read!) In the early years especially, reading comprehension is often taught through Interactive Read Aloud. White Snow, Blue Feather is just such a vehicle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>