Family Favorites: Picture Books

A friend suggested that I do a series of posts about our Family Favorites. I’m not sure that anybody will care much about our faves, but on the other hand, it could be fun. Plus, you can add your family favorites in the comments and then we’ll have a nice resource going for everyone.

We are a book-loving family, so I decided to start off with something that my kids could participate in, Favorite Picture Books. We’ve got a hefty collection of them and have spent hours reading these old favorites. A few have been loved so much that we are on second or third copies.

Rusty decided to get technical and set up an online poll which made my survey feel much more official. We brainstormed a list of picture books we have enjoyed over the years and I emailed the poll to all of my big kids. The younger six don’t have email accounts, but I helped them add their votes.

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Here they are, in order:

1. Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes

This is a funny book for all ages, even adults. We bought our first copy in 1991 and have not grown tired of it.

2. Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

This is another funny book, and is extra humorous to us because my brother-in-law is a police officer. We gave this book to our nephew, Jack, for his second birthday.

3. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

I love the message about extended families featured in this book. I’m not a huge fan of the illustrations, but the story is good enough to make up for them. Some of my kids love the silly illustrations, which may explain why they voted it #3.

4. Island Boy and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Lovely illustrations and touching stories are featured in these two books. Island Boy is Russ’ all time favorite picture book. Last year I found a hard copy being sold by a man in Maine who included a personal note and a photo of the actual location of the story. I was so excited to give it to Russ for Christmas. Miss Rumphius is a long time favorite; we always think of the Lupine Lady when we see lupines.

5. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Another favorite by Kevin Henkes; I guess we appreciate his sense of humor! This is a perfect book for children who have unusual names.

6. The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward

Originally published in 1953, this book probably wouldn’t be a Caldecott winner today due to its non-PC storyline…but we like it! The illustrations are especially wonderful.

7. Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Both of these stories feature kind relationships between people and animals that will make you smile. When we lived in Ithaca, NY, we traveled to Boston where we saw the sweet little duckling statues in the Boston Public Garden. I have photos of Sweet Pea and Mimi sitting on the backs of the ducklings.

8. Jamberry by Bruce Degen

This was Eby’s favorite book for the first year he was home and I read it many, many times.

9. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Dimples likes this book!

10. The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook by Shirley Hughes

I love all of the books in this list, but I can still remember the day many years ago when I discovered the books of Shirley Hughes tucked on a bottom shelf in the Ithaca library. Her sweet illustrations and simple stories appealed to me and before long we had read all of the books available. We own at least four of her books and I always look for them at books sales and in used bookstores.

It was downright painful to limit myself to ten favorites (and I managed to squeeze in two extras), so I am compelled to include the other books from our original list: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Angelina Ballerina, Angelina’s Birthday, Corduroy, Curious George Goes to the Hospital, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Honeybee wanted to vote too, but didn’t know all of these books. She voted for a few and then added two of her favorites, Green Eggs and Ham, and Laura’s Christmas. Both are for much younger children, but she loves reading Dr. Seuss to the little boys and has been drawn to Laura’s Christmas and other books in that series since she arrived home.

I have a few personal favorites that didn’t make the cut, mostly due to the fact that we found them after our older kids were beyond picture books. Boo and I love Flora’s Blanket and checked it out from the library many times when she was three and four. We also have enjoyed THE GUINEA PIG ABC, a slightly quirky ABC book, but it is out of print and not always easy to find.

I recognize that I haven’t listed the books that are new to us since our Ethiopian children joined our family, especially books featuring black children, African culture, and adoption. I think those deserve a post all their own. If you have suggestions for that list, send them my way.

We also haven’t touched on Bible storybooks, chapter books, non-fiction, my bookgroup reads, the list goes on and on. I love books, I only wish I had more time to read…

I hope you’ll find a new friend on this list that you can pick up next time you go to the library.

Leave a comment with your favorite picture books!

Coming up next week: Favorite Bedtime Songs


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Shelli
    November 16, 2009

    My 13 year old daughter's all time favorite book is Ethiopian Voices: Tsion's Life. She reads this book over and over and is planning to take it to school to teach her 7th grade Global Studies class about Ethiopia. This book has helped in some healing, too, as it has helped her remember important details that she struggled to remember about life before the orphanage.
    You can order it from

  2. Eileen
    November 16, 2009

    Shirley Hughes is one of our favorites too! Alfie's Feet, Alfie Gets in First, Dogger, An Evening at Alfies…my kids loved them all.

    Chrysanthemum has a special place in our hearts. It was one of my kids favorite storybooks when we were expecting our third child. They desperately wanted to name their new little sister Chrysanthemum, but we compromised with a middle name of "Rose"–it was floral at least! A few years later, we got the referral for our youngest daughter from China. Her name was Qiu Ju, which means "Autumn Chrysanthemum". The kids had finally gotten their sister Chrysanthemum…and she's absolutely perfect!

  3. Gretchen
    November 16, 2009

    The book, "Love you forever" It has a song in it that reads, I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." So sweet!!!

  4. Anonymous
    November 16, 2009

    Wow! I'm a book girl, so this is a post I love….Just hard to limit down to fav's I'd recommend.

    Here goes…BTW, I'm a sucker for illustrations, so most of these books have GREAT artwork…

    1)"Just Plain Fancy" & "Babushka's Doll" and "Mommies Say Shhh!" by Patricia Polacco. Gorgeous illustrations!

    2) All of the`"Olivia" books by Ian Falconer….I love books like these that make both parents and children laugh!

    3)"Click, Clack, Moo" by Betsy Cronin.

    4)Toot and Puddle books by Holly Hobby.

    5)"Cookies" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

    6)"The Mitten" and "The Hat" by Jan Brett.

    That's all that comes to mind for now, but I'll check my shelves and see if there are any other "must haves"….

    Lisa H.

  5. Staci
    November 16, 2009

    I did a post awhile back with all the cool books I've found depicting kids from othe races and cultures. Here is the link to that post:

    Loved your list. I

  6. Jillian and Crew
    November 16, 2009

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favorite here too, and once the boys saw it done in ASL online they loved it even more…(way cooler than mom's signed version! this guy used props and ate everything the caterpillar did!)…

    Right now the girls are really into the "5 little monnkey" books and froggie books…and ANYTHING OLIVIA is GOLD in our house! All 4 kids think she is SO FUNNY!

  7. Thankfulmom
    November 16, 2009

    I'm loving all of the book suggestions! Keep them coming everyone…yes, come forth out of "lurkdom" and share your favorites.

    Eileen, that is just about the sweetest baby naming story I've heard. You'll never guess what one of my daughters is named…think of a little girl playing with "Dernard".

    I love Jan Brett, too. In fact our most recent copy of The Mitten just fell apart. I think we are going to need a new one.
    I need to give Olivia a try, and I had forgotten all about "I'll Love You Forever".

    Shelli, thank you for the suggestion. I bet my Honeybee would love it.

    Staci, thanks for jumpstarting a post on books "of color".


  8. Bear Creek Mama
    November 17, 2009

    Oh it has been such fun to pull out and re-read the books we poured over when my older two were younger! What a blessing that we've kept them.
    Here's our list – not in any particular order – it's impossible to say which we like best!
    1)Robert McClosky books – I have to 2nd your opinion on these books. Our ET children can't quite follow the story lines yet, but they seem to have an inner sense of the quality there and they pour over Make Way for Ducklings studying the pictures.
    2) Angelina books – I discovered these over 10 years ago at the library and after falling in love with them searched used book lists for our own copies, then they came back in print!
    3) Courduroy – was memorized by both of my older children and they used to fill in the words as we read together.
    4) Eeny, Meeny, Miny Mole by Jane Yolen – I am an illustration freak and these are some of my favorite and the story's beautiful language really captured my children. It's out of print now – maybe the library…
    5)Hugs & Kisses by Christoph Lupy – is a new discovery for us but oh so delightful! I recently sent it to my 3 year old neice as a gift!
    6)Paper Princess – our copy is falling apart it's been read SO MANY times.
    7) The Magic Hat by Tricia Tusa – one of our most favorite!
    8) Wilfred Gorden McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox – an old favorite story of friendship – a young boy's with the seniors at a neighboring home.
    9)Elmer by David MacKee – a colorful favorite story of what it's like looking different.
    10) The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, and Quick as a Cricket both by Don and Audrey Wood. These sweet and simply delightful stories have been read and reread so many times and our new children love them too!
    11) I was planning on only 10 but I must chime in a 2nd on Lisa's recommendation of Miss Rumphius. We have enjoyed this book for 10 years now and it will always be on our shelf.

  9. Bear Creek Mama
    November 17, 2009

    Ooops! I forgot –

    Ethiopian Voices::Tsion's Life has really been loved by our ET girls. They love practicing their Amharic "reading" (really memorizing) and seeing the familiar way of life. I would definitely recommend this fabulous book!

    A great resource for lots of things Ethiopian including books is Amharic Kids – that's where I got our copy.

  10. Mary Katherine
    November 17, 2009

    I have no idea why, but I cried my way through this post–from "Island Boy," to the last word.

    Maybe it's just that sentimental time of year. And growing up is hard.


  11. Elizabeth
    November 18, 2009

    Off the top of my head….as a child I loved "The Chalk Box" and "Rain Makes Applesauce". I found them online last year – used – and ordered them. I was so excited when they arrived and was even more excited to share them with my kids. "Rain Makes Applesauce" was well received, "The Chalk Box" became an instant hit! There is another book that I loved as a child, but I have had a hard time remembering what it is called. Something about the butcher, the baker and more…I remember it was about a little boy who had a shopping list and had to go to all these different places and it had great illustrations. Anyone remember this book? I'm sure you read it to me 100 times Lisa. Maybe Laura will see this and remember? I so adore books!!

  12. Ann
    November 22, 2009

    Have to chime in with a few:

    The Seven Silly Eaters–esp. fun for big families!

    Anything by Bill Peet

    The Little House

    Little Bear

    Runaway Bunny

    Guess How Much I Love You

    The Mitten

    Hungry Caterpillar

    Brown Bear, Brown Bear

    Goodnight Moon

    Dr. Suess books

    some newer favorites:
    Walter the Farting Dog

    I Stink

    Scaredy Squirrel

    So many books, so little time! I'm a bit of a book freak so it's hard to not go on and on 🙂


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