My Favorite Picture Books

Oh, the drama. The worry. The pinched brow, lost in deep thought. The putting this post off until the last moment hoping that wisdom would flood my soul and enlighten my keyboard. School Library Journal’s Elizabeth Bird asked me (well, all of us) for my top ten list of picture books. How!?! Just ten? And in order?

My initial list was forty-two. I had to devise a system to order them, to determine which was the most important. Important? To whom?

To me. These are my PERSONAL favorites (with reasoning duly noted):

1. Where the Wild Things Are: written & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
I did name this site after it, after all! The message is so much sweeter when it’s subtle. Look for this one to win. We all see its genius, even if Sendak cannot.
Favorite passage: “and it was still hot.”

2. Olivia: written & illustrated by Ian Falconer
I love this girl. I collect this girl. The epitome of girl power!
Favorite passage: “ When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, 'You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.' And Olivia gives her a kiss back and says, 'I love you anyway too.'”

3. Possum Come A-Knockin': written by Nancy Van Laan & illustrated by George Booth

Great rhyming tale about a family from my neck of the woods. I LOVE to read this book aloud with my Hoosier twang in full glory.
Favorite passage: “ And I was just a sittin’
And a lookin’ out the winder
When I saw what I saw
Scoot up the old oak tree.”

4. Elizabeth and Larry: written by Marilyn Sadler & illustrated by Roger Bollen

Why is this one is out of print!?! It's soooo timely, cute and heartwarming. I just can’t understand. An amazing, witty story of acceptance and friendship.
Favorite Passage: ”They talked for hours over tea and told each other things they had never told anyone.”

5. Dogzilla: by Dav Pilkey
Way before he diverged into potty town, Pilkey made a spoof movie (in book form) filled with puns. Great teaching tool. Funny clever, not funny stupid. Makes you forgive underpants.
Favorite Passage: “The Big Cheese tried to catch up to the hot dog with all the relish he could muster.”

6. Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas: written & illustrated by Hollie Hobby
One of my favorite Christmas songs made even better by two adorable pig friends (one’s an adventurer, one’s a homebody). Can you tell I have a thing for pigs?
Favorite Passage: “ Toot told his friend of his adventure and how he finally got back to Woodcock Pocket. ‘I loved the sleigh ride,’ he said. ‘ It felt like we were flying.’ ‘I wonder who the driver was,’ said Puddle.”

7. Escape of Marvin the Ape: written by Caralyn Buehner & illustrated by Mark Buehner
A surprise ending, an ape with manners & charm, hidden cats & bunnies! This simple book is anything but.
Favorite passage: “Feeling rather hungry, Marvin stopped for a bite. ‘Ah, the Jungle Fruit Platter,’ said the waiter. ‘An excellent choice!’”

My final three books will not feature personal photos because I no longer own them. My children have taken them, along with my heart, into adulthood. I am choosing them purely for  personal reasons; only remember them as emotion and not as writing or illustration.

8. Just Grandma and Me: written & illustrated by Mercer Mayer
For my oldest son (age 27). He loved all the Little Critter books and records (yes, little 45s were included with the books in the 80's & I can still sing the accompanying song!) I chose this particular one because as Grandma & Critter sit on their beach towel, a crab runs up and clicks his claws. I can still picture my son's surprise-filled toddler face every single time that crab appeared.

9. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales: written & illustrated by Jon Scieszka
For my daughter (age 25). She loved this story for its play on fairy tales and rollicking silliness. She liked being ‘in’ on the joke and was never a happily-ever-after sort of gal. She read it into teen-dom and, in fact, may still be reading it while attending veterinary med. school.

10.Moon Mouse : written & illustrated by Adelaide Holl - (also out of print). For my youngest son (age 21). He was enamored with the moon from birth. His first word, after Mama & Dada was, “Moon.” I think he really thought that one day he might climb a ladder to the moon himself!

As I planned this post I fell in love all over again. Thank you, Ms. Bird, for this great idea!
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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