Since 1967, International Children’s Book Day has been celebrated every April 2nd on Danish Author Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. Andersen wrote many of the famous childhood classics we’ve come to love. He wrote The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, and The Princess and the Pea. The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), an international non-profit, sponsors the yearly event to inspire children to pick up a book and discover their love for reading. IBBY was originally founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 1953. We celebrate our love for books with a trip down memory lane with some of our favorite childhood classics, and some new books recommended by teachers and parents. Here are some of our top 10 favorite children’s books.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
This beloved tale is a favorite among various audiences, possibly because it made bedtime a kid’s favorite activity. There’s nothing like reading a good book before you go to bed, especially one that helps put your kids to sleep. Goodnight Moon is a short poem book where a young rabbit prepares for sleep and avoids it by saying goodnight to every object he sees. The illustrations by Clement Hurd allow kid’s to search for the Rabbit’s many things, like a pesky reappearing mouse. The poem is a sweet ode to bedtime and will surely help your little ones have sweet dreams.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
One of the most well-known children’s books, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, is a must-have on your child’s bookshelf. Similar to Goodnight Moon, the illustrations guide the pace of this Award-winning picture book. The story follows the sensitive main character, Max, who dresses as a wolf and causes chaos throughout his house. As a result of his behavior, his mother sends him to bed. Instead, Max embarks on a journey to an island inhabited by the Wild Things. Here, Max feels accepted as the wild things name him king and participate in his wild behavior. However, the smell of a hot dinner brings him back home. The main character turns his tantrum into a lesson-learned journey. He learns that his parents still love him, even with his wild side and emotions. Many generations have passed this book down to their children. The lessons of acceptance and parental love have made it a popular classic.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom is a stunning picture book illustrated by Michaela Goade that combines the representation of Indigenous culture with the urgency to safeguard the Earth’s water from corruption. This book was mainly inspired by Indigenous-led movements across North America. It teaches children the importance of protecting our natural resources. Children can experience the inspiring story of one young water protector through thoughtful lyrical verses. A black snake threatens to destroy Earth by poisoning its water. However, the water protector chooses to defend her community’s most sacred resource, water. This children’s book provides many valuable lessons on the importance of clean natural resources for everyone and their overall effect on our well-being.
Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin
Watercress by Andrea Wang is an autobiographical storybook that depicts a child of immigrants who embarks on a journey to discover and learn more about her Chinese heritage. While on a nice drive with her parents, they stop by the side of the road when they notice watercress growing in a ditch. The young girl is initially embarrassed by the muddied watercress. However, after her mother shares the story of her first time in China, the girl begins to appreciate the fresh food they forage. Jason Chin’s illustrations beautifully display the intimate moment the young girl shares with her mother in the watercress. This book teaches children the value of learning about their heritage and being proud of it.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is one of the cutest children’s books out. This book encourages children to be creative and to use their imaginations. When the main character Duncan wants to color, he is surprised that his crayon box has had enough of coloring. Blue crayon wants a break from coloring bodies of water, Black crayon wants to do more than an outline, and Orange and Yellow crayon are no longer on speaking terms. They disagree on which emulates the sun. Duncan tries to find a way to make all of the crayons get along again. This book comes with fun activities, and funny scenarios for kid’s to manage through creative problem-solving. The children’s book is perfect for kids that have a passion for art or drawing in any capacity.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho is a gorgeous picture book that teaches children an important message about self-love and appreciation. It is a book that will resonate with readers of all ages. The story follows a young Asian girl who notices that her eyes look different from her friends or people she knows. Her eyes look like her mother’s, grandmother’s, and sisters. Joanna Ho describes the young girl as having “eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.” This story is a sweet tribute to Asian women and young girls learning to love themselves in all forms with stunning illustrations by Dung Ho. The path to self-love and empowerment can be tricky, but Joanna Ho wrote the most beautiful children’s book to help us to get there quicker.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
Similar to Where the Wild Things Are, here comes another book about acceptance and parental love. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin celebrates the unconditional love parents have for their children and is a lyrical ode to what they will be. Through endearing rhymes and beautiful illustrations, children will be inspired by the many things they can be. This book is a perfect bedtime story for parents to read to their kids. Martin invites readers with the idea that a child’s life is just the beginning of a lifetime of love. The thoughtful rhymes consist of all the loving things parents think of when they look at their children. This book may become a classic among many families for its beautiful message and dedication to accepting your child for who they are and who they’ll become.
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson lifts readers to new heights with stunning lyrical verse writing and vibrant illustrations by Rafael Lopez. In this story, two siblings are stuck inside on a dreary day. However, their grandmother advises them to let their minds soar to a world where imagination can take them. In no time, they lift their heads to unique imagination and see that it can take us to places we never knew we needed to go. In this tale, the siblings learn that a brilliant mind is something special that they can use wherever they go in life. They learned to leave feelings of anger or sadness behind simply by going to the place that makes them happy. We celebrate this book for its ability to encourage children to utilize their imaginations. It also teaches children how to be resilient in the toughest of situations.
This Could Be You by Cindy Williams Schrauben
This empowering picture book has struck the hearts of many teachers, parents, and children. This Could Be You by Cindy Williams Schrauben uses lyrical rhymes in different scenarios where children can be whoever they want to be. Julia Seals displays colorful illustrations to depict the power of being a dreamer. While teaching children to reach for the stars, Schrauben also teaches them to be confident in pursuing their dreams no matter how big or small they may seem. No matter a child’s background or ability, the book inspires children to believe in themselves. He ideally says, “This could be you,” to every aspiration they have, whether it’s to be a teacher, astronaut, or scientist. The lesson of following your dreams is one you can never learn too early or too late.
Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Growing up as a girl can come with insecurities or self-doubt, but that doesn’t mean it has to. Vanessa Brantley-Newton sheds light on this with her gorgeous children’s book, Just Like Me. The book comes with a collection of poetry that depicts uplifting mini-stories about all kinds of girls. Newton displays girls with all emotions: girls who feel happy, sad, scared, and powerful. Additionally, she highlights the girls who love their bodies and girls who don’t, girls from different places, girls who love their mothers, and girls who wish they had a father. Just Like Me comes with stunning portraits of all different kinds of girls to display the beauty in our differences. It is a kind invitation for young children to find themselves in pages and emphasizes that representation matters.
We often forget how children’s books have impacted our lives. We learn some of our greatest lessons when we are children. There are so many authors and illustrators to thank for that. To celebrate International Children’s Book Day, grab a book for your little one or take a trip down memory lane of all the books that lead you to the books you love today.
For more children’s books, keep reading here!