8 Iconic Children’s Book Authors Reveal Their Favorite Picture Books

Fond of Goodnight Moon but looking to mix things up a bit? Real Simple asked 8 beloved children’s book authors which page-turners deserve a place in the read-it-again-Mommy stack.


Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell

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“At a time in picture book publishing when so many illustrators seem to be mimicking television, or digital animation, and lacking individuality, it is refreshing to see art that is so personal and fresh. Mr. Campbell’s enormous talent is bursting off each page. I really want to HUG him.”

Recommended by Tomie dePaola, author of Strega Nona and 26 Fairmont Avenue. The Magical World of Strega Nona: A Treasury ($35, amazon.com) comes out in October.

To buy: $17, amazon.com.


My Bus, by Byron Barton

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“With few, carefully chosen words and simple, brightly colored illustrations, My Bus is a gem of a picture book. It has everything a preschooler could want—dogs, cats, a boat, a train, a plane, and of course, a bus. The ending is a joyous, perfect surprise, but perfection is no surprise from Bryon Barton.”

Recommended by Kevin Henkes, author of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and Kitten’s First Full Moon. His next book Waiting ($18, amazon.com) comes out in September.

To buy: $17, amazon.com.


A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant

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“Not enough children’s books address the subject of creativity as this book celebrates the power of our imagination. Melissa Sweet’s energetic and clever illustrations invite a child to explore the rich details of each page. Sadly, as the arts disappear from our nation’s schools, books like this are a valuable way to show children that creativity is all about connecting things.”

Recommended by Marc Brown, author of the Arthur book series. He is the illustrator of The Little Shop of Monsters ($17, amazon.com), which comes out in August.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.


When You Are Happy, by Eileen Spinelli

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“This may seem like nepotism, but my wife’s picture book is my favorite. It gets my vote as ‘World’s Most Beautiful Book’ as it scores top marks in three categories: text, illustration, and message. Rarely has so much humanity been packed into so few pages.”

Recommended by Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee, Wringer, and most recently, the picture book Mama Seeton’s Whistle ($17, amazon.com).

To buy: $19, amazon.com.


The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau, by Jon Agee

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“My children responded enthusiastically to this fanciful story about the extraordinary canvases of an exceptionally gifted painter. They may, in part, have been reacting to my own enthusiasm for this clever, well-told tale. It is accompanied by illustrations that are both charming and comical, and are perfectly suited to the story’s Parisian setting.”

Recommended by Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express, Jumanji, and most recently, The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie ($19, amazon.com).

To buy: $8, amazon.com.


My Pen, by Christopher Myers

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“On the cover of this stunning book, a hand is drawing a boy on a newspaper boat. What young child doesn’t dream this dreamto be the captain of your every fateto draw yourself into your own universe? My Pen sweeps readers into the beautiful world of pen and ink drawings and minimal text, letting the pictures tell the story. Love it!”

Recommended by Jacqueline Woodson, author Miracle’s Boys and most recently, the memoir Brown Girl Dreaming ($17, amazon.com).

To buy: $17, amazon.com.


Fraidy Zoo, by Thyra Heder

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“It’s a very clever twist on alphabetical animal picture books with fun and creative illustrations, and a really funny surprise ending. I admire how Heder shows the whole family playfully animating animals they made themselves out of found, everyday objects. It’s inspiring to read a book that encourages children to get up and make things and to actively use their imaginations.”

Recommended by Laura Numeroff, author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the upcoming book series, Work for Biscuits.

To buy: $17, amazon.com.


The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt

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“My granddaughter can’t get enough of this book. What I love about the idea of crayons having personalities is this is how all kids see and use the various colors of crayons. Totally original and hilarious!”

Recommended by Rosemary Wells, author of the Max and Ruby series, Noisy Nora and most recently, Use Your Words, Sophie! ($17, amazon.com).

To buy: $18, amazon.com.