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Top 10 Illustrated Children's Books

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris Children's literature has never looked this good! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Illustrated Children’s Books! For this list, we're looking at individual, illustrated books that aren't part of an extended series – so there's no room for the likes of the Berenstein Bears, or for Clifford the Big Red Dog. Special thanks to our users Dancing Bear and CarlLucas for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Sean Harris

Top 10 Illustrated Children's Books


Children's literature has never looked this good! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Illustrated Children’s Books!

For this list, we’re looking at individual, illustrated books that aren’t part of an extended series – so there’s no room for the likes of the Berenstain Bears, or for Clifford the Big Red Dog. We’re also focusing on books that are fully illustrated on every page, and therefore omitting works such as “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” or any of the Roald Dahl books, despite Quentin Blake’s brilliance!

#10: “Guess How Much I Love You” (1994)
Sam McBratney & Anita Jeram

A simple tale-taking place between two Nutbrown Hares, the plot for our first picture book begins when Little Nutbrown Hare asks Big Nutbrown the titular question; ‘guess how much I love you?’ The pair then seeks to measure their amount of love for the other, always outdoing the measurement previously given. A charming story on its own, though there is also an animated series inspired by it, kids love the repetition and the overall message in this book. It explains to them, in language they understand, the endlessness of love.

#9: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (1972)
Judith Viorst & Ray Cruz

Many kids’ books tell tall tales of fantastical happenings we could only hope to experience; this is no such book! A boy who most definitely woke up on the wrong side of bed, Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day involves gum in hair, cavities and lima beans – all of which encourage our titular boy to wish to move Down Under! A black-and-white award-winner for grades K through 2, its moral is simple: some days are just terrible, horrible, no good and very bad – but that’s okay.

#8: “Make Way for Ducklings” (1941)
Robert McCloskey

A story that would suffer without its author’s charcoal illustrations, McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings” has been in print since it first hit shelves in 1941. Inspired by the author’s time in the Boston Public Garden as a young art student, it’s the tale of a Mallard family searching for a permanent home. With a heartwarming trek through Boston and two loving yet independent characters at its core, the book has sold well over 2 million copies, has been immortalized as a statue in the Boston Public Garden and was named the official children’s book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, proving that parental love transcends species.

#7: “Go, Dog. Go!” (1961)
P. D. Eastman

Dr. Seuss edited and approved, this classic, colorfully illustrated kids’ book teaches as much as it tickles the funny bone! A Beginner Book for ages 3-7 penned by P.D. Eastman – and not Seuss himself, as many believe! – its simple text communicates lessons about colors, life, diversity and even romance, all while telling a playful parable with few-syllabled words. The dogs go in; the dogs go out; the dogs are big; the dogs are little; the dogs are red; the dogs are blue! Teachers love it, parents love it and kids love it too!

#6: “Goodnight Moon” (1947)
Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd

Bedtime stories are an essential part of childhood, and “Goodnight Moon” is probably one of the greatest bedtime stories ever written. A ritualistic account of an anthropomorphic bunny’s bedtime routine, it’s about bidding goodnight to all of the important things in a child’s life; from the bears to the chairs, the kittens to the mittens. It works especially well as a picture book because kids can look for the things mentioned themselves, both on the page and off of it, inside their own rooms.

#5: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (1969)
Eric Carle

A picture book recognized with awards for graphic design, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is a twentieth century literature phenomenon. With over 30 million books sold worldwide, Eric Carle’s classic has been bought more than once every minute, since publication. And that’s before various toys and merchandise are taken into account. Not bad for a story that entered into its author’s head one day while he was using a hole puncher. The rest is number-learning, appetite-inducing history, and the quirkiest caterpillar-to-butterfly tale ever told.

#4: “The Giving Tree” (1964)
Shel Silverstein

One of the more controversial picture books in existence, interpretations of “The Giving Tree” are divided. The story sees a little boy grow into an old man, under the watchful eyes of the eponymous tree. The changes that occur in their relationship have critics unsure whether the message is positive, or negative. Either way, this book gets children thinking, and adults too. Silverstein’s poem collection, “Where the Sidewallk Ends”, almost featured here, but “The Giving Tree” gets our vote.

#3: “Love You Forever” (1986)
Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Another cyclical story, “Love You Forever” deals with the passing of time and the stages of life, preparing kids for the adulthood that they will eventually encounter. The message is both simple and thought-provoking, especially as the mother/son roles are reversed toward the book’s conclusion. Robert Munsch could’ve featured for “Paper Bag Princess” as well, but “Love You Forever” will likely never be beaten in terms of being a picture book that brings tears to your eyes. Just ask the cast of “Friends”.

#2: “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963)
Maurice Sendak

A story of just 338 words, it’s testament to the weight of those words, and the detail of the accompanying illustrations, that “Where the Wild Things Are” has a reputation as one of the most vibrant, imaginative and emotional children’s stories ever written. The plot centers on a young boy named Max, who, after being naughty, is sent to bed without his supper. Max then embarks into an anger-inspired make-believe world, literally journeying to ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. But, after all of his adventures, nothing beats the ‘warmth’ of a parent’s love.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Polar Express” (1985)
Chris Van Allsburg

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (1978)
Judi & Ron Barrett

“Animalia” (1986)
Graeme Base

#1: “The Cat in the Hat” (1957)
Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss, is rightly regarded as a legendary picture book writer and illustrator. “Green Eggs and Ham” is an absolute essential title of his, but our top spot’s taken by “The Cat in the Hat” – a story which Geisel himself admits to being ‘proudest’ of. “The Cat in the Hat” was written at a time when children’s literature was at a crossroads. Publishers wanted to do away with what they called ‘Dick and Jane’ traditions, replacing them with something new, original, educational and funny. “The Cat” was exactly that.

Do you agree with our list? Which book brings back your childhood? For more nostalgic top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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