75 Books That Build Character

by Allison McDonald

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The number one thing you can do as a  parent to help teach your child to read is to read to them. The number one thing as a parent you can do for the world is to raise your child to be a responsible, caring adult.  Parenting is a challenge on good days but mixing lessons not just about concepts but about character with reading time is a shortcut that works. Books are a wonderful tool to reinforce tough to grasp lessons and to open the door for discussions that we aren’t always sure how to approach with our kids.  All these books build character,  teach lessons, have messages or open the floor for discussions without being preachy. Click through titles for full reviews of theses 75 books that build character or click on the find it here affiliate link to find it on Amazon.

All our book lists include affiliate links.

1. Shelia Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes  –> Find it here

2.The Family Book by Todd Parr –>Find it here

3.Let Them Play by Margo Theis Raven –> Find it here

4.Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman –>Find it here

5.Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley –>Find it here

6.Apple Pie Fourth Of July by Janet S. Wong –>Find it here

7.A Chair For My Mother by Vera B Williams –>Find it here

8.The Gardener by Sarah Stewart –> Find it here

9.Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann –>Find it here

10. The Loudest Roar by Thomas Taylor –>Find it here

11.Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson –>Find it here

12.I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson –>

13.Looking For Sleepy by Meribeth Boelts –>Find it here

14.Pablo’s Tree by Pat Mora –>Find it here

15.The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn –>Find it here

16.The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza by Philomen Sturges –>Find it here

17.The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle –>Find it here

18.Murmel, Murmel, Murmel by Robert Munsch –>Find it here

19.Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel –>Find it here

20.Ordinary Amos And The Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes –>Find it here

21.Alexander And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst –>Find it here

22.Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch –>Find it here

23.Piglet and Papa by Margaret Wild –>Find it here

24.First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg –>Find it here

25.Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak –>Find it here

26.Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell –>Find it here

27.A Picture Book Of Helen Keller by David A. Adler –>Find it here

28.Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni –>Find it here

29. The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom  –> Find it here

30.Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse by Rebecca Janni –>Find it here

31.Bear Stays Up At Christmas  by Karma Wilson  –>Find it here

32.Duck On A Bike by David Shannon  –>Find it here

33.Cowboy Camp by Tammi Sauer –>Find it here

34.The List by Hazel Hutchins –>Find it here

35.Scaredy Squirrel Makes A Friend by Melanie Watt –>Find it here

36.Julius The Baby Of The World by Kevin Henkes –>Find it here

37.Rosa By Nikki Giovanni –>Find it here

38.The Pirate Of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon –>Find it here

39.Is There Really A Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis –>Find it here

40.A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow –>Find it here

41.Whoever You Are by Mem Fox –>Find it here

42.Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore –>Find it here

43.The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers –>Find it here

44.Sink or Swim by Valerie Coulman –>Find it here

45.The Princess and The Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch –>Find it here

46.I Want To Be A Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis –>Find it here

47.No! David by David Shannon –>Find it here

48.My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris –>Find it here

49.It’s Mine  by Leo Lionni –>Find it here

50.Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora –>Find it here

51.One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root –>Find it here

52.How To Catch A Star by Oliver Jeffers –>Find it here

53.My Best Friend Moved Away by Nancy Carlson –>Find it here

54.The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch –>Find it here

55.The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jennifer Wojtowicz –>Find it here

56.Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham –>Find it here

57.Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes –>Find it here

58.Music Over Manhattan by Mark Karlins –>

59.I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt –>Find it here

60.Zip, Zip… Homework by Nancy Poydar –>Find it here

61.Tacky The Penguin by Helen Lester –>Find it here

62. Did I Tell You I Love You Today? by Deloris Jordan –>Find it here

63.Hair For Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham –>Find it here

64.I Don’t Want To Go To Bed by Julia Sykes –>Find it here

65.Owen by Kevin Henkes –>Find it here

66.The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein –>Find it here

67.Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boyton –>Find it here

68.Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole –>Find it here

69.Dad, Jackie and Me by Myron Ulberg –>Find it here

70.Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae –>Find it here

71.Click Clack Moo , Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin –>Find it here

72.A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn –>Find it here

73.A Very Big Bunny by Marisabina Russo –>Find it here

74.The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards –>Find it here

75.One Green Apple by Eve Bunting –>Find it here

What books do you think should have made the list?

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        • Nick Avallone says

          Dr. Seuss’ books build character in ways that are woefully under-represented in our culture. When we think about books that “build character” we tend to think in terms of tangible behavioral lessons (e.g. sharing, acceptance, honesty, etc.) rather than developing a child’s imagination for it’s own sake. In books like “The Sleep Book” or “Happy Birthday To You” Dr. Seuss opens kids’ eyes to how unlimited the human imagination can be, a lesson which can have a huge impact on one’s creative intelligence throughout his or her life.

          • montssmad says

            I feel the need to reply on the Dr. Seuss comment, while I do agree that the books have a message they also contain a lot of fictional words and real word that are spelled incorrectly. Most of the books in this list are for younger readers, like to be read in a “circle” setting. Dr. S books are for more advantced readers that can follow the story line weaving in and out of reality and words they have heard.

          • MomOfBoys says

            Hum – I would encourage you not to worry about new words. Young children are bright and adaptive – sometimes they need words that we have not created yet. To this day my now almost teen boys create first of Octember lists to support the concept of delayed gradification. Also, Shakespeare invented many words. His imagination has served us all well. 🙂 To teach children to pull a definition from the surrounding context is a great lesson for learning to read. As they age, the skill can help them to understand when in a foreign land.

            Happy reading!

          • ReadingTutor says

            I agree with MomOfBoys on this one. I tutor kids with reading difficulties using a research-based, individualized program. One of the things we assess is how well kids are at using their skills – which includes a task designed to measure their ability to read made-up words. It’s a good thing for kids to practice using their skills to read words they’ve likely never seen before, it helps solidify their understanding of what sounds go with which letters. While Dr. Seuess books are ones that may be a little difficult for younger kids, don’t count them out!!

          • Mtncursed says

            Although I think maybe Dr. Seuss books might help with learning to read, but I fail to see how his books build character. Most of them are filled with gibberish.. Few have a message..

          • Laryssa says

            As a mother of special needs kiddos I must say…Suess’ books are NOT good for kids with special needs. Kids should only be exposed to excellent grammar & spelling during the formative years; for kids with special needs of any kind (dyslexia, autism spectrum, ADHD, etc) I would strongly suggest only the best. Dr. Seuss books, and other nonsensical whimsy, should be reserved for much later. Just my two cents. =)

          • Kes says

            I so agree, Nick. My son had a very difficult time trying new things, especially foods. Green Eggs and Ham opened up the idea to him that he might really enjoy new things. To this day he still quotes Green Eggs and Ham’s “you may like it, you will see” when trying new foods. We can’t discount the power of imaginatively colored foods and other “Suessical nonsense”

          • ashley says

            i also have always loved seuss books growing up, even the unconventional ones (daisy head maisy, wacky wednesday) i still have all my kids books that were well loved, and looked through them recently for a project.
            harry the dirty dog was great
            the little house by virginia lee burton is beautiful, and very disney-esque
            johnny lion books
            morris the moose goes to school!
            i could go on and on!
            i feel like a lot of the older books get forgotten about as new ones come out, but you cant beat a classic.

          • Karen says

            AMEN!! Dr Seuss is an awesome author, love the imagination that it represents and teaches.

          • Bekah says

            WOW reading through all the comments about Dr. Seuss makes my heart hurt. Books like the “Butter Battle Book” teach children that its okay to be different. And that its silly to fight and kill over simple differences. “The Grinch who stole Christmas” teaches acceptance, also teaches a little about Christmas “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!” How about “Horton Hatches the Egg” this book teaches children about keeping promises, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!” “Gertrude McFuzz” teaches about being happy with who you are, and not wanting to be like everyone else. Every one of his stories and books has a lesson that will build character. It just takes a little imagination to really appreciate them.

        • MrsHarlan says

          What a fantastic list! As a teacher, I have to disagree with the previous comment, mirror what a few others have said, and say almost every Dr. Seuss book has a character building message. Having a few on the new list would be great 🙂

          Some of my favorites:

          The Lorax – Environmental responsibility and awareness
          The Sneetches – Judgement/segregation based on physical characteristics
          Yurtle the Turtle – Respect/equality for all

          Even Green Eggs and Ham teaches not to be afraid to try new things, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish teaches children to use their imaginations and embrace the silliness and creativity that surrounds them daily. Dr. Seuss’ books are in invaluable character building resource.

          • Rex says

            Don’t leave out “Horton Hatches the Egg” – “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.” Or “Horton Hears a Who!” where Horton defies conventional wisdom and holds to his principles in the face of ridicule and danger ultimately to protect the most vulnerable.

        • Patricia says

          Just because your not a fan of Seuss it does. Not mean that the books don’t belong on a list of children’s books that build character. Dr. Seuss has an easy to read methodology and an out of the box style of art that encourages the imagination to wander. All key elements in building character. Dr. Seuss should be in every library.

        • MrsBev says

          Is the issue character building, or is the issue what you like? Dr. Seuss’s books work because they are entertaining both to read and to listen to, and they send messages without knocking one over the head that they are being asked serious questions about morality, behavior, and choices. The Cat in the Hat is full of fun and nonsense, but the last line of the book asks one to choose between the truth, the lie of omission, or, maybe, just a lie. Yes, most lists are subjective, but shouldn’t “educators” value objectivity, inclusiveness, relevance, completeness, and truth? “Maybe lists,” she said, “come from more than one mind. Maybe lists should include all the kinds you can find!”

          • Allison McDonald says

            I do value objectivity but that doesn’t mean that I must refrain from being subjective. I think the fact that I open the list to commenters and their suggestions is a perfect example of being open to objectivity while keeping this list full of books that I can recommend to my readers with positive reviews.

            I have always treated my readers as I would friends. If I sat down to write a list of books for my friend to use these are the ones that would be on that list. It will never be a definitive list.

    • Malynda says

      Hey, Al – Learning to make what you have better because sometimes the fantasy isn’t really that great.

      Eggbert the Slightly Cracked Egg – Learning to love and appreciate yourself for who you are.

      Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – There are reasons we are not always allowed to do everything we want to do and getting angry doesn’t make that any less important.

      Loved the Paper Bag Princess. So happy she made the list. Nice list.

    • says

      This is a great list! Other books that I think would make great additions include the
      1.Empty Pot
      2.The Quilt Maker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau: An old woman makes beautiful quilts for all of the poor and homeless people. The king finds out and wants one, but she refuses to give one to him unless he gives away his possessions.
      3. Jonathan James and the What If Monster by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt: A boy has a monster (inside his head, but he walks around in the book) that always tells him to be afraid of new things. What if he falls, what if everyone laughs, what if it tastes gross, what if he’s slow? etc…Then he changes his mindset and says, but What IF he climbs high and loves it, everyone cheers, it tastes great, he runs and is happy no matter what. It’s a great book that teaches kids (and adults) not to listen to the What If monster inside, but to try new things. You can even order a stuffed What If Monster to go with the book.

    • admin says

      Thank you very much for bringing up Rainbow Fish , lots of people adore that book.I purposefully didn’t mention it. I am not its biggest fan. I find it sad that Rainbow Fish gives away all his scales and loses his uniqueness. Any class I have ever read it to though it’s been a great book to start a discussion .

      What’s your take? What do you love about it?

      • CMH says

        Elmer by David McKee is similar to this story, but goes about the subject a much better way. It celebrates similarities and differences in the end.
        Check it out! It’s my all time favorite children’s book.

      • Chris says

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who does not like Rainbow Fish. I understand the message the book was trying to convey, but when I first read it I thought that it was awful he had to give all his shiny scales away in order for the other fish to like him. We’ll be your friends, but only if you give us stuff…um, no. Yes, he was mean and yes friends are more important than things, but I just thought this wasn’t the best way to show that message.

      • Leigh says

        I agree about Rainbow Fish and I feel the same way about Tikko (Lionne) Giving away what makes them special because people laugh at them/feel bad about themselves/are jealous is not a great message. However, it is a great conversation to have, because kids to feel that way (what is FAIR?) so having a book that speaks to that is nice.

      • Vanessa says

        Thank you for the great list! And this great let’s have fun while playing to learn! Thanks for sharing your take on “the Rainbow Fish.” It is good to see different points of view. What a great discussion question you pose “How do you share without losing you?”/ A professor shared a different point of view concerning “The Giving Tree”

          • Patti Allen says

            Thank you for the list. I will use it to begin a collection for our first grandchild who will be born in June. I am a retired teacher and one book that I loved to share with students and contains a valuable lesson about the value of the elderly is “Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge” by Mem Fox Illustrated by Julie Vivas. It is a precious story of the pure love of a child for the old people who lived next door. “He wasn’t very old either.”

      • says

        I think you missed the point of The Rainbow Fish. The Rainbow Fish thought she was better than everyone else because she was pretty and shiny. The book is about being nice and sharing and in the end she kept one scale for herself after sharing her scales with others. It’s important to teach children that what you look like on the outside isn’t the most important but your actions. Children will run into other children who are sick or have been hurt with permant lasting scars and they need to know that those children are just as beautiful even if they aren’t “shiny”.

      • Lynn M says

        My take on Rainbow Fish is that the fish gave of himself, with no thought to himself. It was a selfless act, giving away his colorful scales. And, if it made him happy to make others happy, that’s not a sad thing at all. My Christian faith teaches me to give without regard to myself. In the end, that’s love. 🙂

      • AnnieBananie says

        Rainbow Fish makes me sad. I believe it sends the wrong message. Namely, that it is not ok to be beautiful and that you must give away pieces of yourself until you are no longer fully you in order to be accepted.

      • Naomi Cartner says

        I have to agree – I dislike the Rainbow Fish. The fact that the ‘other fish’ wouldn’t be friends with him unless he GAVE them stuff is terrible. I had read it once or twice to my children when they pulled it out, being mesmerised by the shininess of the cover, but the story never sat well with me. Eventually I overheard my husband reading it to the kids again.. and finished the book with a ‘… and so you see Helena, you can always BUY your friends’. It was never read again.

      • says

        I agree with your opinion of The Rainbow Fish. I think the moral is quite terrible, actually: giving your beauty away to people/fish who cannot find their own beauty. I have always been puzzled as to why it has been so popular; perhaps because it has to do with “sharing”, although an over-the-top rendition of that principle.

      • Dawn Marie says

        I’ve read Rainbow Fish to my class in the past and thought the same thing “is it right that he had to change to earn friends when we tell kids that true friends will like you just the way you are”. I understand the idea of sharing but in the end he only had one scale left:(

      • says

        Thanks for this great list. I always feel so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books in the library, and lists like these give me a great place to start looking. In fact, our library shared your list on facebook today.

        I haven’t yet read Rainbow Fish, and will probably steer away from it based on the comments here. I feel the same way about The Giving Tree. Giving and giving of yourself until you have nothing left is not a good lesson to teach kids. Rather, we should be teaching them to fill themselves up first, and give from the fullness of who they are.

      • katie says

        i agree with the rainbow fish , i dont like it at all beside the pretty colours. I think its horrible that all the fish won’t play or be friendly with the rainbow fish unless he gives them all a scale which makes them all the same and takes away rainbow fish’s uniqueness. Think it sends a bad message to kids that its not okay to be individual and you need to become like everyone else or no one will like you. 🙂 my opinion. oh and i love dr. suess ! and one of my favs is the deliverance of the dancing bears by Elisabeth stanley

      • Donna says

        I agree with your comments on Rainbow Fish. I also do not like Rainbow Fish and will not read it to my first graders. Some people view Rainbow Fish as sharing his bright scales. I see Rainbow Fish as ‘buying’ his friends. In my first graders it is “I’ll give you a cookie if you be my friend.”

        No, Rainbow Fish is definitely off my list.

        • ingrid says

          thank you for NOT including Rainbow Fish – I agree. I was sad when I read the book and thought – why do we make someone give up parts of themselves in order to be liked? Making anyone lesser to make others happy is not good in my book.

  1. Stephanie KierysSmkierys says

    My daughter Story and I love to read at night before bedtime. We like to read Harold and the Purple Crayon, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, and The Monster at the End of the Book but the last book we read every night is The Going to Bed Book.

  2. says

    I was about to comment and say, “I’m so glad Rainbow Fish wasn’t on the list”! 🙂

    I do have to recommend “Miss Rumphius” though! Also “A Fairy Went A-Market.” Both books are absolutely wonderful with gorgeous art, lovely lessons, great writing, awesome role models and nothing beating kids over the head with preachiness. 🙂

    Great list!

    • elizabeth says

      miss rumphius! we LOVE book! my daughter is 12 now and we still read it. also, the country bunny and the little gold shoes. and the ladybug girl series are so good. another one we like is “the princess knight”. we love our strong confident girls!

  3. Ande Pena says

    I can’t wait to dig into this list, there are new books on here that we have not read 🙂 THANK YOU for sharing! Curious as to why you didn’t include The Giving Tree? We also really enjoy: Armando and the Blue Tarp School, Happy Birthday Moon, I Can Save the Earth has been really helpful in environmental awareness (turning off lights, water, etc.), and the bilingual books: In My Family/En Mi Familia and Gathering the Sun. It is so hard to limit it to just a few… I love your list though, again, thank you for sharing 🙂

    • admin says

      I have never read my kids The Giving Tree – shocking right?! I don’t own it and always forget to grab it at the library ( I am distracted by new books too often). I own a large collection of other Shel Silverstien and so enjoy him. It sounds like it deserves a spot!

      • says

        I respectfully disagree about The Giving Tree. I cannot stand that book! To my mind, it it a horrible story about a little boy who takes and takes and takes and a tree who gives of herself and allows herself to be bullied and abused until there is (almost literally) nothing left of her. I thnk we own every other piece Shel Silverstein ever wrote (including some of his very adult works), but NOT that one!

        • Kristen says

          I do agree about the story being very sad, but I use it as a teaching tool to show my kids that you can take and take unitl there is nothing left, and it is not the right thing to do. It also teaches that the tree truly loves the boys because she gives until there is nothing left. I feel like this book built more character in myself than any other growing up. In life, there will always be boys, and there will always be trees, unfortunately.

        • Sarah says

          I don’t think you can say that about The Giving Tree. If you are freely giving yourself, you aren’t being abused or bullied into it. The boy is not demanding anything from the tree. The tree is freely giving of itself because it loves the boy. Do you feel abused and bullied by your children when they ask you to give them things? No, you give because you love. This is a story that teaches to give in love and not in selfishness.

        • Karon says

          The Giving Tree is a story that I read to my students and my own children. While I can see how you feel, I have to share that my youngest son gave me a copy of the book for Christmas when he was in his early 20’s. I was a bit surprised. Then I read what he wrote to me in the front cover. He told me that he felt he needed to thank me for all that I had done for him through the years. And while he may still need my help throughout life, he wanted me to let me know that he loved me and thanked me for all I’d done for him. He wanted to let me know that he was aware of it and to let me know that he would be there for me too.It made my heart smile. <3

          • says

            (edited)Your comment made me tear up. I’ve always thought of the tree as a mother or grandmother to the boy. And as a mother, I know the feeling of giving everything to a child to make them happy. I DO think it cold easily be interpreted some of the other ways people see it, but I choose to see it the way you and your son have. I love that he did that for you, it just proves to me that you made a difference with your giving.

        • says

          I agree with the Giving Tree. The buy is selfish and ungrateful and sucks the life out of the tree until the bitter end. The relationship between the boy and the tree is actually wuite dysfunctional and if between two people, would be considered co-dependent. Very unhealthy and not a good message for anyone.

          • says

            I actually read The Giving Tree to my students every year, but not as a character-building book. I think it’s entirely too sad how the tree just wants to spend time with the boy and gives and gives and the boy takes and takes. Instead, I use it as part of my environmental/Earth Day unit, because it teaches us how the environment benefits us, and how we sometimes hurt it.

        • Renee says

          I think “The Giving Tree” can, and needs to be, understood on many levels. That is what makes it such an amazing story. We see the boy’s selfishness, but also his need, and the lonliness his actions bring, and we see the tree’s unconditional love. The story opens so many avenues for meaningful discussion between you and your children about love, kindness, selfishness, giving, and the complex relationships between all of these very human emotions. We come to see that it wrong and hurtful to be selfish, and that giving is commendable and good, but can be thankless. Good life lessons.

          • admin says

            I have been thinking a lot about The Giving Tree and I stand by the fact I dislike the book immensely but you have good points. It is a good cautionary tale and so true about so many relationships that our kids will encounter as both the role of the tree and the boy. I have been sidelined with heaps of work but I am still compiling a list of books mentioned in comments, others I didn’t include and this will be discussed in a future post.

          • says

            When we read books like The Giving Tree to children, why are we surprised that so many grow up to think that the world owes them and that they become so self-centered? It sounds terribly noble to be the tree, but I believe it sends a horrible message. Please don’t misunderstand me: my husband and I have sacrificed a lot for our children, and I don’t regret it. They’ve seen that this is what family is – mutual contribution. But in the book, the boy just takes it for granted. Do we really want our children to be like the little boy? I’ve always loathed this book and still do. If it’s used as a teaching tool – “Don’t be this way” – that’s one thing. I’ve just seen too many young adults who live like the little boy in the story and it creates heartache for everyone around them, including their own children.

          • admin says

            I think that many of us who have had someone in our lives in one capacity or another hurt us with actions like the little boy see this book that way. I know I see him very much as the epitome of what I do not what my children to be like so I get a very strong reaction of sadness and disgust. I do see the value of the cautionary tale in this book especially after reading all these comments but I like you will never like this particular book even though I love the author.

          • Jamie says

            I agree that The Giving Tree is a sad book — I find myself reading it in a very sad voice when I do. I think the book’s message is fitting in that in the end, the boy, now an old man, is lonely, dissatisfied, and just needs a place to rest. And the tree, though left with almost nothing after giving away so much so freely, finds purpose and satisfaction in giving what it has left to give. I think the characters in the story receive the ‘rewards’ of their actions throughout. The selfless giver finds purpose even at the end of its’ life, while the selfish taker ends alone and sad.

          • Heather says

            Here’s another take on The Giving Tree: The Tree is God and the Boy is us. We read this book a million years ago when I was in second grade in Catholic school and we were getting ready for First Reconciliation. The tree gives and gives and gives to the boy. The boy takes and takes and takes. Does he appreciate the tree? No, he takes it for granted. The more the tree gives, the more the boy wants. But all the tree wants, what makes the tree happy is just to be in the presence of the boy. The tree loves the boy without any condition whatsoever. In fact, like the father of the Prodigal Son, instead of being angered or hurt by the boy, as almost all of us would be, she celebrates his every return and offers him all that she has. When the boy leaves the tree, it’s like when we turn from God in sin. But when we return to God, each and every time, he forgives us and is always there with more to give his children. All God wants from us is for us to be with him, talk to him, cry to him, sit in his shade, play in his presence. Now, doesn’t this sound like a lesson you want your children to know?

  4. jacq says

    two books that i would like to see added or maybe on another list would be
    “My Princess Boy” by Cheryl Kilodavis and “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. They are incredible books!

  5. Striped Giraffe says

    Agree completely about Muss Rumphius and also The Empty Pot. Am not a big fan if Rainbow Fish or The Giving Tree – don’t care for the endings. How about Love You Forever and Just the Way You Are? And The Keeping Quilt? Along Came Eric ? And Gregory the Terrible Eater?

    I want to go read right now! 🙂

    My boys are 17 and 13 and still big readers. Amazing how I only recognize about half of these because fabulous books are coming out all the time. Thanks for this list!

          • Chris says

            I thought it was a little creepy at first, but my son fell in love with it. It’s been 4 years since we first read it together and he still tells me (and his father) every night, “Love you forever, like you forever.” Now that he’s older, and we are reading with his little sister, we just laugh like crazy at how silly his mom is for driving across town to his home. I mean really, she climbs a ladder!! They know it’s just a story 🙂

          • Chris says

            We like Fancy Nancy. The Fabulous Fashion Boutique, Splendiferous Christmas, and Bonjour Butterfly are good ones.

      • says

        “I Will Love You Forever” has always creeped me out…do we really want a symbiotic relationship with our parents? That’s how I took it…but I’m also aware that someone’s reaction to the book is very subjective. As a “girl” who just turned sixty, I don’t think I want my son creeping into my room and cradling me in his arms. I’d rather go peacefully and independently into the night, and hope my children remember my spirit rather than the “bag of bones” in their arms. Just saying.

          • Katie says

            How can anyone think I Love you Forever is creepy?! I love that book, I think the message is how much love the mother has for her son, and in return his love for his mom, and how no matter how old a person is that it never changes. Anyways just my opinion:)
            Another book we love is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams? Such a sweet story, I don’t know what life lesson it would teach but it’s a cute book regardless.

        • Jamie says

          Judith, thank you. 🙂 Your comment makes me smile. I found the book creepy from the first time I read it, which was on MY HONEYMOON, when my husband opened it as a gift from his mother. Um, awkward!?!? It felt like she was inserting herself into our new marriage, saying, “I will always be the most important woman in his life!”. 🙂 too funny. So maybe if I had been introduced to the book in any other context I might feel differently, but I gave away that book as soon as I could do it respectfully.

          • Rita Gilbreath says

            Horton Hatches the Egg should definitely be on the list!!!
            Love You Forever is also one of my favorites. The first time I read it was a year or more after I lost my mother. It made me think of wishing I could pick her up and rock her as she had done for me! I could not read it out loud for a very long time.

  6. says

    Thanks for this list. The timing is perfect since it is anti-bullying day on Wednesday. Instead of class discussions with the litany of don’t – don’t push, don’t use bad words, don’t budge, don’t kick – I want to read and talk about how to make good choices and live peaceably in community with others. I will be grabbing some of the books on your list from my shelves for reading together this week.

    I have mixed feelings about Rainbow Fish and The Giving Tree. I wish that Rainbow Fish could have kept his uniqueness while losing his sense of superiority. While The Giving Tree is beautifully written, it is a rather co-dependent relationship.

    A favourite of mine that was not on the list is The Quiltmaker’s Gift – beautifully written and illustrated story. I read it over a couple of days to my kindergarten kids every year.

  7. Tanya says

    I am wondering if you are aware of a book where a lead character (preferable girl) wears glasses. My daughter wears glasses and has recently been told by a friend during dress-up play that princesses don’t wear glasses. Now we are having issues with her not wanting to wear her glasses and she is noting that none of her favorite characters in movies or books wear glasses. I am trying to find a book with a girl lead that is a good role model that is not teased for wearing glasses. Any books I have found seem to be focused more on the lead character overcoming being teased for her glasses and I don’t want my daughter to come to expect that her glasses will mean that she will be teased.

    • Sandy Myers says

      Socrates by Rascal and Gert Bogaerts. Amazon says:
      Socrates’ parents have been snatched up by the dogcatcher, leaving him an orphan alone on the streets. Abandoned, hungry, and shunned by the other street dogs, Socrates wonders if he’ll ever have a home of his very own. And even more importantly, he wonders if he’ll ever have a friend. Then one day Socrates finds a curious object (eyeglasses), and from that moment on, everyone looks at him quite differently. Heartwarming and uplifting, the simple text is magnificently complemented by bold, textured oil paintings in this story of the universal search for friendship and acceptance that also works to initiate discussions on topics such as loneliness and homelessness.

    • Julee Lee says

      I recommend the book “Unique Monique” by Maria Rousaki. The girl in the book is trying to be unique throughout and one of the things she tries is wearing a really fun pair of glasses. The next day everyone comes in fun glasses and the principal banns them. She tries other things too. At the end of the book she gets to be unique, finally, because she gets braces. However, the picture on the front of the book is of Monique proudly wearing her glasses. (So they don’t give away the ending.) So the focus is not on the glasses but it does present them as something fun.

    • admin says

      I love you Stinky Face is on there- I just read it for the 400th time yesterday, it’s a fave! Kevin Henkes is probably my favorite author for this subject, his stories and messages are seamless. Kids enjoy them and learn.

      • Jennifer says

        I<3 you, stinky face, while entertaining, seems to me to encourage name calling and the use of impolite words. There are arguably better choices on the nature of this type of love, I think–including The Giving Tree, which is, apparently, controversial. In any case, I'm not sure that many of the "love" books fall into the category of "character building" (self esteem, maybe?)

        • admin says

          I see I Love You Stinky Face as a way to face adversity the child is challenging his mom not only to love unconditionally but how to deal with the realities of him being different and in many cases troublesome in each case.

    • Jillian says

      Chrysanthemum is one of my top 5 favorite books EVER. My poor first graders (or maybe they were lucky) probably heard that book about 6 times a year. We read it when things were just TOO MUCH. We read it when they had me at my limit. We read it when we just wanted an old friend.They could recite whole passages and loved it.

      I love this book so much that my wedding bouquet was all chrysanthemums.

  8. Angela says

    I love the Rainbow Fish personally: in a way, if you see it as a version of the traditional parable of the “talents”, he could be seen as having ‘talents’ (in the form of his scales) and by keeping them, others are losing out on being able to share in the expression of his talent. Another viewpoint is that its a haves/have nots notion: if you have a *lot* of something and you someone else with very little, it is a sign of a strong character if you share. I don’t think the book is too moralistic about it either, which is always good.

    On Munsch’s Love You Forever, it is another favourite of mine. This said, I know the back-story to why he wrote it and what it is about and that makes it near and dear to me as another who has gone through a similar experience. This said, I cannot read it without crying and it is more a book *for me* than for kids (I think it leaves *a lot* of questions for them).

    I personally *adore* The Kissing Hand–so happy to see it on your list–and the Scaredy Squirrel series too. My own add-on would be The Gruffalo, about the little tenacious mouse taking on his bigger “scarier” foes one at a time.

    • admin says

      I love love you forever as well and Kissing Hand was vital for teaching preschool, it helped countless children conquer separation anxiety in my classes. I like your take on Rainbow Fish as well, great perspective.

      The Gruffalo would be a wonderful addition the list .

  9. Marie says

    One of my favorites that I think teaches a great lesson is “The Big Orange Splot,” though the author escapes me at the moment. The man’s house is just like everyone else’s on the street, until a bird drops orange paint on his roof, eventually everyone changes their house to match their dreams and the things they love! Dare to be different!

  10. Paige W says

    Thank you so much for this! I haven’t heard of many of these books. I’m glad to find good company in the anti-rainbow fish club! Sometimes our talents set us apart and even isolate us and we have to learn how to deal with it in healthy ways.

    • Scootsmom says

      I have a problem with books that use words like “gonna.” I love the story, but bad grammar or spelling in books reinforces bad habits or confuses early reader/writers. There are several books out there that I “correct” as I read. Properly punctuated dialog is different, though. There *is* a difference between spoken and written language. (But I love this list – and the comments leading to more great books!)

  11. says

    One of our new favorites, that we just recently discovered, is “Bugs in a Blanket” by Beatrice Alemagna. It’s a sweet story about accepting people who are different from you, and embracing your own uniqueness.

    This is a great list !

  12. Nikki says

    Hello, love that I found your blog although being in UK means lots of the books are hard to get. A book that I think is beautiful and I would struggle reading outl loud is Badger’s parting gift. It’s a book about death but is very sensitively handled.

    • admin says

      Thank you Nikki – I get requests for books about death all the time and while I have some favorites that are simple to find in N. America having a title to check out that is accessible in the UK is so helpful for me. Thanks!

  13. Ruth says

    Frederick by Leo Lionni is my favorite book from my childhood.
    “While the other field mice work to gather grain and nuts for winter, Frederick sits on a sunny rock by himself. “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days,” he tells them. Another day he gathers “colors,” and then “words.” And when the food runs out, it is Frederick, the dreamer and poet, whose endless store of supplies warms the hearts of his fellow mice, and feeds their spirits during the darkest winter days.”

  14. jeanen says

    Don’t forget “the star bellies sneetches” by Dr. Suess
    It tells that some people put too much importance on appearance, and how everyone can play together no matter if they look the same or not. 🙂

  15. Jenetty77 says

    I love this list of books and have a few that could be added. I use these books every year in my classroom regardless of what grade I am teaching.

    The Golden Rule–it is presented from a boy’s point of view. He and his Grandfather are walking the city when they see “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You”…the boy starts wondering about this message, what it means and what the world would be like it everyone followed it. The author has included multicultural interpretations of the message.

    The Name Jar–a young girl and her family move to the United States from Korea. She is embarrassed about her Korean name because people struggle to pronounce it. Her first day at her new school, she decides not to tell her real name and the class helps her fill a “name jar” with suggestions that she “tries on” at home. I’ll let you read it to find out which name she picks.

    Have You Filled a Bucket Today?–a great way to talk to kids about the abstract concept of feelings. Each person has an invisible bucket, which holds their good feelings about themselves. You can add to someones bucket by being kind, etc. Or, you dip into someones bucket when you do/say unkind things. The colorful, whimsical illustrations bring this book and idea to life.

  16. says

    Wonderful list…but I feel there’s ONE or two missing books. What about One and Zero by Kathryn Otoshi? They are by far the best books I’ve come across to teach about respect for each others and respect for yourself. Both kids and adults love them — they are beautiful and powerful — which is why I encourage all elementary schools, including kindergarten and Pre-K, to use them.

  17. says

    Glad to see some of my faves were suggested: Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, Enemy Pie, and the Empty Pot. Would also suggest:

    Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
    The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
    Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister
    The Teddy Bear by David McPhail

    Great post idea!


    • Elizabeth says

      Ferdinand made such an impression on me that at the age of 29 I still call back on it when I need to remember to stay true to myself. Wonderful book for teaching kids that they are NOT whatever label or sterotype the world tries to cram them into.

  18. says

    I love so many of the books on this list! I also love The Name Jar, which was mentioned above, and my preschool students this year loved One by Kathryn Otoshi (about bullying for young children) and Bein’ With You This Way by W. Nicola Lisa (about appreciating diversity and other physical differences).

    • says

      We are huge One (by Kathryn Otoshi) fans in our house! I love the fact that the bully is included and loved in the end of the story, that there is room for everyone.

      Would also nominate other favorites that have been mentioned:
      Have you filled a Bucket (works with older kids as well!): kindness and encouragement
      A Bad Case of Stripes: confidence in being yourself
      The Quilt Maker’s Gift: generosity
      Mr. Peabody’s Apples: the power of the spoken word

      So many amazing books out there.
      Thanks for putting together this list.
      We’ll be going to the library tomorrow!!

  19. says

    Thank you for this, although you have by now seriously added to my already long list of library books that we check out weekly 😉 I’m always on the lookout for awesome books for my toddler, and I see some on your list that are new to us.

  20. Jenny says

    Thanks!! I’ll have to keep this sheet as a reference! I don’t mean to sound rude, but I was surprised Pinkalicious was on the list. That one is in our collection as a “fun” one – and an old favorite. If my kid ever reads someone elses’ copy, she’ll realize that our copy has 2 pages discretely glued together (where she nags her mother again and AGAIN). My daughter was very impressionable to stories at that age we got the book and would go out of her way to mimic the behaviors in books and movies, which is why I glued it 🙂

    I prefer the Rainbow Fish over Tico. I had gotten Tico from a thrift store and my daughter fell in love with it. I thought that birds’ “friends” were very selfish (and Tico was too concerned with their approval). “The Giving Tree” is another good book on giving of yourself until you are used up. It’s a touchy subject, though!

    • admin says

      I am so surprised you are the first to mention disliking Pinkalicious. I love that book but in my experience with it the kids I have read it to have always corrected her behavior . Kids have a strong sense of right and wrong and characters that are making bad choices are usually noted for being bad not being a role model. I see the book as a great message about self control, even if she comes off as a heck of a brat at times.

      But as a parent I understand your desire to limit and shape your child as needed. My son is very impressionable too with movies so we limit them greatly.

    • Rachelle says

      Thank you for taking time to compile this list. There are many wonderful books!

      However, I was also surprised that Pinkalicious made the list. I personally find that the character demonstrates appalling behavior that I wouldn’t want my children to emulate. I know the book is popular, but I don’t agree that the book is “character building”. I also wonder what character trait “No! David” is supposed to teach.

      On a separate note, what about William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow?

      • admin says

        I really like Pinkalicious mostly because I think kids relate to the bad behavior whether they have acted like that or not they know it’s not ok , also I think it’s a great lesson in caring for our bodies and being responsible. I actually expected more of a backlash on it than I have had so far.

        No David is a lesson in unconditional love, it’s all about boundaries and rules and that behavior can be bad but YOU are not. I used to read it to my classes before we sat down and wrote a class contract ( class rules) and the kids would see that rules aren’t arbitrary they are there for a reason and if you slip up it’s not a huge deal, it doesn’t mean you are bad but there are consequences.

        • says

          I think No, David is a fun and lovely book about a toddler who does normal toddler things (that we can laigh at) and his mama loves him anyway. It is simple and doesn’t need to be “read into” very much.

  21. Cami says

    I love Kevin Henkes and see you’ve included a lot of his books, however how could you not include Lily and Her Purple, Plastic Purse?! Also, Love You Forever used to creep me out, but now that my kids are older, I finally get it! However, Guess How Much I Love You is a much better choice to read to the kids.

  22. Ashlee says

    I know this is not a picture book, and the series is rather old but I loved Mrs Piggle Wiggle books as a child. I think some of these oldies but goodies are being passed over for some of the newer stuff that is coming out.
    This is a great list, I actually was excited that I have not read every single one although I have read many. It is so hard to limit children’s literature to only 100 books for a list, but thank goodness we don’t have to choose only 100 to read in our lives!

  23. Samantha says

    This is great, I’m always looking for good books to add to my son’s already huge book collection. We only have two on this list and he loves them both, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Way Back Home!

  24. Cathy Jones says

    A great list but, you are missing three from one of my daughters favorite authors, Dana Lehman.

    You must not have read them yet because one if not all would have made the list! Her first, “Adventures at Walnut Gove” is a lesson about teasing. Teaching children to treat others as they would like to be treated. Being accepting of our differences. Great for “Anti-Bullying lessons!” Teach them compassion at an early age.

    Then there is “I Double Dare You!” Which teaches children to take responsibility for their actions and that following their friends can sometimes lead to trouble.

    Her most recent book is “I Can Do It”. Which teaches how important it is to believe in yourself.

    All wonderful lessons wrapped up in entertaining adventures. Thank you for your list.

  25. says

    Tanya, how old is your daughter? My daughter got glasses at 14 months, and I have had the same issue with so many of the books about glasses out there. So many seem to present glasses as a bad thing, and have the kids being teased for their glasses. I’d definitely recommend Fancy Nancy Spectacular Spectacles or Princesses Wear Glasses.

    Fancy Nancy Spectacular Spectacles was my daughter’s favorite book for a while. The main character doesn’t get glasses, but her best friend Bree does. Bree talks to the class about why she needs glasses, and after reading the book, my daughter started talking a lot more about why she wore glasses. The main character, Fancy Nancy really wants to have sparkly purple glasses like her friend. There is no teasing, just celebrating how lovely glasses can be.

    There’s another book, Princesses Wear Glasses that is written by a mom whose daughter needed glasses. It’s available from Amazon and comes with a cape and a crown and glasses case. The princess already wears glasses and there’s no mention of it being a big deal for her. She saves a dragon who can’t see well by giving him her spare pair of glasses.

    The first Princess Peepers book does have her teased about her glasses. But the second book, Princess Peepers Picks a Pet has no teasing and it’s pretty sweet.

    • Queen Mommy says

      I couldn’t agree more with The Hundred Dresses. It’s kind of a cross between a picture book and an early chapter book. Along that vein, Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant is another excellent read. There are lots of pictures, but it’s more of an early chapter book. More picture books I love: “A Packet of Seeds” by Deborah Hopkinson, “The Rag Coat” by Lauren Mills, “The Ox-Cart Man” by Donald Hall, “Suki’s Kimono” by Chiere Uegaki, and “The Red Clogs” by Masako Matsuno, and as others have said, “Miss Rumphius.”

  26. says

    The Empty Pot, by Demi – Perseverance and Honesty;
    The Quiltmaker’s Gift, by Jeff Brumbeau – Generosity;
    Grandpa For Sale, by Dotti Enderle – People are priceless; and
    I Love You the Purplest, by Barbara M. Joosse – Mom loves her children equally, but in different ways

  27. Kimmy says

    I LOVE that you included Princess Smartypants, such a great book. Anything by Todd Parr is fantastic. I lost track through the tons of comments, the only other books I could think of were the Have you Filled a Bucket Today? books and On the Night You Were Born. A new all time favorite is Because of You by Barbara Hennessey. It is AMAZING, a great book for kids and families.

  28. Linda White says

    Love this list, now I have to go to work and see what titles I can add! (I’m a preschool teacher). but one book I recently got from a Scholastic book order (I buy books every month) is “A Tree Named Steve”. Can’t recall the author but it is such a sweet story about a family who adopts a tree in their yard and what happens over the years. It made me cry. And I’m glad someone mentioned “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf. My absolute favorite book from when I was a child and one of my favorite books to read to the kids. Oh, two newer ones, “Hugless Douglas” and “Don’t Worry Douglas”. Sweet, cute and funny to boot!

  29. Erin says

    I love Patricia Polacco’s books. So many of them discuss friendships between people of different ages, race, ethnicity, and religion. My favorite is Just Plain Fancy, in which two little girls learn that being different is something to be celebrated and is actually a gift. I also love Pink and Say, a true story, although it is not for very young children. It is a story of two young soldiers in the civil war and may be too upsetting and difficult to understand for many children. (I was eleven when I first read it)

  30. Kim says

    I am very excited to head to the library this week with my little guy in search of books on this list. I am going to make it a weekly trip and work our way through the whole list hopefully. Hoping to get my 12 year old to read with us. He can use the lessons that many of these books have as he prepares for middle school next year.

  31. Cricket says

    What a great list. Two of our favorites that weren’t mentioned are: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, in which Sylvester learns that the best thing he could wish for is to be himself and be with his family. And The Princess Knight, where the princess Violetta grows up being true to herself.

  32. says

    The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth is fantastic. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous too! Also by him – Zen Shorts, or by Mo Willems, Leonardo the Terrible Monster. If you are looking for beautiful illustrations and a bit of a deeper story there is Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. We read all of these with my son when he was very little and he still likes to read them now that he’s older.

  33. Samantha says

    Two books I would add to the list are Mouse, Mole and the Falling Star by A. H. Benjamin and John Bendell-Brunello as well as I Love You Because You’re You by Liza Barker. My son loves these books and I do too!

  34. Nicole says

    I love this list and it’s a great idea to make it for mothers! But where on earth is The Giving Tree??? Sweetest and best children’s book I’ve read and it teaches a great message.

  35. says

    I noticed that the Bible was left off the list. This book really should be at the top of a list of books that build character. There are so many stories that teach right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. Knowledge of these things are what build the character to be a strong and wise child and adult.
    I love a lot of these books- great stories, but emphasis should be first on building the foundation.

    Thanks for putting this list together.

  36. Tanya says

    Ann, Thank you so much for your suggestions. Our daughter just turned 4 and she got her glasses in October. She has never been teased for her glasses and I don’t expect she will be as I don’t think that happens often but she is noticing now that Disney princesses don’t wear glasses; this was pointed out to her by a friend recently. I don’t think it was malicious in any way as kids have a way with pointing out the obvious as they see it but it really stuck with her and now she has been stating that she thinks she looks ugly with her glasses and she can only be a princess if she doesn’t wear them. It seriously breaks my heart every time I have to tell her to put them back on. I will be purchasing your suggestions today and I can’t thank you enough.

  37. says

    Love the list you put together…the books that came to my mind that were not on the list…The Mitten Tree, A Bad Case of Stripes, Little Quack, Little Quack and His New Friend, The Empty Pot, Have You Filled a Bucket Today, Oh the Places You Will Go, Ferdinad the Bull, Winnie the Pooh

  38. Katherine says

    Verdi by Janell Cannon, and anything by Patricia Polacco.
    Also – I completely agree with you about Rainbow Fish – such a creepy book and there are so many better books out there that teach the value of sharing (items or talents) with others.
    Thanks for sharing this list!!

  39. Rae says

    We love is Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell – I have two unique girls who relate.
    And, Have You Filled A Bucket (and version for toddler/preschooler) is something my 3 & 4 year old really liked for the concept!!!
    Thanks for the list.

  40. ColtonsMommy says

    I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned these two books but they were given to my son by his aunt who is a kindergarten teacher and knows that they have good lessons in them.
    -Leo the Late Bloomer- by Robert Kraus and
    -Have You Filled a Bucket Today?- by Carol McCloud
    Even though the lessons may be a little hard for my two year old to understand, he still enjoys the story and the wonderfully colorful pictures and telling us how he thinks the people are feeling and why. Thank you for the wonderful list!

  41. Alicia says

    I love Kevin Henkes, his books are amazing and so fun to read aloud, although I like Lilly a lot better with her Purple Plastic Purse than in Julius Another favorite of ours is Dogger by Shirley Hughes, such a sweet story about siblings treating each other with kindness (without the usual fighting/name-calling typically found in stories about sibling relationships).

  42. Kim says

    I don’t see anything by Max Lucado and my son and I enjoyed his stories so much. I believe he truly learned life lessons from his stories. Another favorite was Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, where my son learned to be kind to others no matter how different. He is 13 now and befriends everyone who seems to be a little different from everyone else…makes me proud!

  43. lynn says

    I didn’t read every comment, and I apologize if someone already said this. Byrd Baylor’s The Table Where Rich People Sit is one of my all-time favorites to share with my upper-middle class students. It’s a great eye opener; every kid hears the lesson, but it’s not preachy.

  44. says

    Thank you for compiling this – I love this list – it includes many favourites but also many new-to-me books. I was wondering if you would consider putting the subject along with the title in the case of books covering specific issues – it would be helpful to know at a glance which books were on bullying or generosity or unconditional love etc rather than clicking through to 75 reviews and full descriptions.

  45. says

    Great List! Can’t wait to get stuck into some of these.
    For mine, Oh the places you’ll go is number one. I’m surprised there were only a few other mentions in the comments. I just love the message of you will have bad days but thats ok, pick yourself up, you’re rad! But also some of the littler messages sprinkled throughout. An absolute fave at our place!

    Thanks again for the list:)

  46. Sarah says

    Two of our faves are
    On Mother’s Lap, by Ann Herbert Scott-this is a great one about siblings… “there’s always room on mother’s lap”
    Mama Do You Love Me?, by Barbara M.Joosse- about unconditional love… “I would be scared, but still, I would love you”

  47. Amber says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle. It is a board book….” Thanks, little brother/said the Dump to Blue/ you helped me/ and they helped you. /Now i see/ a lot depends/on a helping hand/from a few good friends.” Great message on the importance of friends and helping others in need. Also the rythm/meter is fantastic for reading aloud. Features lots of farm animals for awesome sound effects as well. My 5 year old is still mesmerized by this book, and I take it in whenever I sub at my children’s preschool. Also now standard baby shower gift. 🙂

  48. RDVSLP says

    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss should have made the list. And the No David! books are not great, and I don’t see how they would build character IMHO.

    • admin says

      No! David has opened the floor for discussing responsibility , unconditional love and why we follow rules with every group of preschoolers I’ve ever read it to. Love it’s potential.

      • Janelle says

        I LOVE this list! Thank you for putting the time into it – I look forward to reading several selections that I have not heard of before.
        Giraffes Can’t Dance – an absolute favorite. What a wonderful way to open the doors to the discussion on empathy and how we treat others, with young children. My first graders learned a great deal from this discussion every year. I also smiled when seeing The Kissing Hand and A Kiss Goodbye.
        Milo and the Magical Stone is a book that I read with my students every year. It was followed with great discussions about choices and giving back.
        Leo the Late Bloomer reminds us that everyone can and will succeed, in their own time. It gives us grace and allows us to learn and grow at our own pace.
        Salt in his Shoes reminds us of the benefits of hard work and dedication to a goal.
        I hope someone finds these additional books useful. I am excited to share some of “new” titles from the list with my daughter.

  49. CMERR says

    Your list may just be picture books, but The Hundred Dresses….still have my copy from childhood and read it to my second graders every year that I taught! Love that Book! Love Love you Forever, too! Still sing that to my 19 and 22 year olds!

  50. sara says

    no dr. seuss??!
    the ‘pinkalicious’ books are seriously awful. that little girl is a naughty brat and the end does NOT justify the means.
    i do love what you have to say about the importance of reading to your kids, and am so glad you put that out there. i completely agree. you just can’t read to your kids enough!
    a couple of my favorites: a house for hermit crab by eric carle, and yertle the turtle by dr. seuss

  51. Anastasia says

    Not only Tacky, but any of the Helen Lester Books are wonderful for kids tripping along through youth – with topics including speech delay, self-confidence, bullying, lying, and more, presented in humorous and simple language.
    I would also add “Old Turtle and the Broken Truth” a fable about tolerance and treating others with love.

  52. Chris says

    My son came home with a book today from the media center that I think goes well with this discussion. It’s The Berenstain Bears and the Double Dare. Some of their books can be iffy; some I completely love and some I don’t. This one however was a good one, in which brother bear gets dared to steal a watermelon from Farmer Ben’s garden or else be labeled a chicken. It’s about gangs and bullys and the age old question, “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” We were able to talk about what brother bear could have/should have done and by the end we both decided we would rather be chickens than sheep 🙂

  53. Trish says

    Mr Peabody’s Apples by Madonna should be considered for your list–Such a great analogy in it about how spreading a rumor is like shaking the feathers out of a pillow into the wind. You can never really undo the damage you may cause by spreading a rumor–it teaches how very powerful words are.

  54. Cheryl says

    I can’t believe “The Little Engine That Could” did not make the list.
    I totally disagree with “Pinkalicious” as a character building book. She is a brat and those books are not allowed in my house. The books teach bad behavior.

  55. admin says

    I don’t think Pinkalicious teaches bad behavior at all. A braty main character does not equate with a how to lesson on misbehavior.

    Children relate to the mis-steps and braty reactions but in my experience reading that book children correct her and recognize it all as the wrong choice. They don’t see her as a role model. I think when we assume kids will see bad behavior and immediately choose to act like that we are underestimating our children. Use books like this as a launch pad for discussing choices, consequences and how we should behave. I think it’s a great lesson for that, for healthy choices that may not be the most fun to make but that are important. When we dismiss these books we are missing possible opportunities to connect and teach.

  56. Ashani says

    BRONTORINA by James Howe
    One of the best dancing/ballerina books. It is a book about following your dreams even when people tell you it is impossible and about being different (like a boy in an all girls dance class). It is about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina.

  57. Georgia says

    Great list!
    I would definitely add The Gruffalo which was a favourite of all 4 of my kids when they were little. And Ferdinand the Bull which some other commenters havealso mentioned.

    Another one I would add to the list is The Elephant and the Bad Baby, which is a delightful little English book about an Elephant and a Bad baby who go for a gallop around witht he bad baby asking for things but never saying please. In the end the Elephant teaches him the error of his ways and he learns to say please all the time. One of my son’s adored this book when he was around 2; it has delightful illustrations and a rhythmic language.

    I’d also include Possum Magic by Mem Fox, which is an Australian book. In this book the main character feels left out when his mother has more children and he turns invisible. He learns that of course he is loved even though his mother is busy with thenew babies. This was a really goodbook for my eldest (of 4), as he related very much to the main character, and gave us an opportunity to discuss those feelings.

    All my babies are teenagers now, and I really miss reading them books like this…can’t wait for grandchildren to get out our substantial book collection and discover new ones!

      • Kathryn says

        Just to clarify, “Koala Lou” by Mem Fox is the story about the eldest child feeling left out when new babies come along and then tries to win a competition so that she can feel her mum’s love. Ends with “But Koala Lou, I do love you!” again. Good for kids in that situation, but wouldn’t call it a character building book necessarily. “Possum Magic” is about grandma Poss who makes little Poss invisible to keep her safe. Then they travel Australia and try different foods to see what will make her visible again 🙂
        Read another good one last week called “The King and the Seed” by Eric Maddern. Is a retelling of a Chinese fable about a boy who is rewarded because of his honesty and courage to tell the king that the seed he was given (in a competition to choose the next king) didn’t grow anything. The king reveals that he boiled all the seeds so they shouldn’t have grown anything anyway (all the knights and nobles had produced fabulous plants) so he will become the next king.
        The original Thomas the Tank Engine stories by Rev W Awdry were written to be character stories and lessons as well – perfect for kids who love trains!

        • Kendra says

          I see that a couple of Mem Fox books were mentioned (Possum Magic and Koala Lou) but not the one I would have listed. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge is one of my two favorite children’s stories. It is about a little boy who goes to find memories for a neighbor who has lost her own. If you are looking for books to add to this list- that would be a good one! I can’t wait to look at the others you suggested!

  58. Connie says

    I love the book “Miss Tizzy”—every child should have someone like her in their lives who understands children and encourages them to be themselves, and who teaches them how to give and love.

  59. Shellie Zook says

    I’ll Love You Forever! This was one of my kids’ favorite books and teaches that parents take care of children and children take care of parents when they are old. I could never get through the book with out a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

  60. Heidi says

    What a great list. I was so happy to see Giraffes’ Can’t Dance included on this list! It encourages us to find our own music and believe in ourselves. As a mother of a child with autism, that message is especially appreciated in our house! I have to agree with many of the other readers, Guess How Much I Love You and Oh the Places You’ll Go are tops on our list here as well – please add them to Part 2 🙂

  61. Marcy says

    Thanks for the fabulous list – I’m definitely using it! We just read the book Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? A Guide to daily happiness for kids —- by Carol McCloud – Really great lessons about how we treat each other 🙂 Thanks!!

  62. Heather says

    I am a little staggered that there is not a single Dr. Suess book on your list. I would say that Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax, and The Sneeches, to name a few, all give wonderful lessons about character.


  63. Traci says

    I’ll admit I haven’t read all 219 replies, but I hope someone mentioned The Great Kapok Tree (taking care of our environment), The Tub People (the importance of family – and of taking care of your toys), and Sleepy Bears (mother addresses each of her many cubs individualities).

  64. Anita says

    I am wondering what books would be the “best” to start with for a 3yr old boy. My son really only likes “GO DOG GO.” and “Pete The Cat” he has both of those memorized. I would love to start more books. But honestly, when I go to the library I can feel overwhelmed. Thanks!

  65. says

    I saw other posters mention it, but one of our favorites is the giving tree. That tree has a lot to teach about selflessness, loyalty, and unconditional love, and that boy could certainly open up discussion on ungratefulness and taking things for granted.

    • admin says

      I like how you phrased that. The Giving Tree has sparked a lot of discussion in comments and I will be adding it to my list of reader suggested in the follow up. I like your take though, much like how I love books with naughty behavior, I think they teach as cautionary tales.

  66. Beverly Upchurch says

    “Who Are You” by Joan and Roger Bradfield published by Whitman 1966 & Illustrated by Winnie Fitch is one of the best books I’ve ever found for teaching individualism and Self-Awareness. I read it to my sister as a child, then to my children. I had been looking for it for years to read to my nephews and grandchildren and my son finally found me a copy on the web. It is a book of questions: Who are you? What’s your Name? Would you like to play a game? Let’s pretend we haven’t met, I’ll ask you questions now get set.
    Then ends with: When you comb your hair each day, do you grin that special way? Does your face smile back at you? Does it copy what you do? That looking glass upon the wall, shows how you look, but that’s not all. It says that you and only you can do the special things you do; can think your thoughts, can have your fun, for you are you, there’s only one!

    I would love to see this book back in publication. It’s one of the best!

    • Bruce says

      “When Mother calls you home for lunch, does she call you honey bunch? Or do you have a silly name, like Pickleoodleschmooglebane?”

      Loved that book when my mom read it to me in the mid-60’s.

  67. Erin says

    Two of my favorites growing up we’re Herbie’s Troubles and, of course, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I had a hard time dealing with problems that arose, either with other children at school or just plain bad luck. These books helped.

    • admin says

      I have a serious emotional connection to Alexander. I loved that book and still do, it’s one of my favorites to read to children. Herbie’s Troubles sounds oddly familiar , I need to search for it asap. Thanks!

  68. Queen Mommy says

    “The Great Kapok Tree” is excellent, as is “Possum Magic.” One I haven’t seen on this list yet is “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” It’s about the underground railroad. My kids and I really enjoyed this story.

  69. Addie says

    Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
    Another great book my kids and I love is The Little White Owl by Tracey Corderoy, it teaches kids that’s it’s not always what’s on the outside that matters but what’s on the inside as well.

  70. Janis says

    The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

    This book became one of my favorites while reading it in the bookstore and and after reading it once to my godson, became a favorite of his as well. Wonderful message, many talking points and visually engaging, no matter how many times you’ve read it.
    A uniquely illustrated story about patience, cooperation, forgiveness, perseverance, finding beauty in the not-so-beautiful places, and nurturing life where we find it.
    “Frog Belly Rat Bone! One! Two! Three! The specks in the earth are protected by me! You must be patient and then you will see!”

    • admin says

      I know there are a ton of comments but if you scroll through you’ll see many people and I think it’s a terrible story about giving up your uniqueness to gain friends. I know others think it’s a story about sharing but I just don’t like it, which is why it’s not here intentionally. I will mention it in the follow up though. What is your favorite thing about it?

    • Chris says

      My kids LOVE Go Away Big Green Monster and King Bidgood’s in the bathtub! My mother-in-law found them at goodwill years ago and I’ve read them a million times to each of my kids.

  71. Christina says

    Another good one is “the do-something day” by Joe Lasker. I’ve had it since I was a kid and now I’ve been finding my daughter reading it on her own a lot. It’s about a little boy whose family is busy so he feels that he is not needed. He ends up helping everyone around town and by the end he is also able to help his family.

  72. Truly Blessed says

    Good list but you left off “Ruby the Copycat” by Peggy Rathmann (individuality and being yourself)
    and “Something From Nothing” by Phoebe Gilman (resourcefulness), The Sneeches (individuality and being happy with who you are).

    “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is a toss up — good behavior on part of the tree, selfish behavior on the part of the boy/man.

    “I Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch creeps me out — a lovely sentiment shrouded by creepiness — yuck.

    • admin says

      Ruby the Copycat – is being put on hold today, can’t wait to check it out, thanks for the rec!

      Something From Nothing is a fave of mine and number 4 🙂 I found my copy in the basement of a used bookstore in St. Louis under a chair. I love it and every child I ever read it to did too.

      • Truly Blessed says

        Oops, totally missed seeing “Something from Nothing” — a long time favorite of all my kids, from the 21 year old down to the 5 year old. Glad it made the list!

        You’ll love “Ruby the Copycat!”

        • admin says

          It’s a long list I have to double check… in my 50 Outside Activities I had “Run Through A Sprinkler” twice. I didn’t notice until days later. A commenter left a note and I brainstormed another and fixed it from my phone at swim lessons.

  73. Kirsten says

    Just found your list through Pinterest – what a wonderful collection! Now I need to go to the library – there are a whole bunch on here that I haven’t read! One of my favorites that I didn’t see mentioned as I quickly browsed the comments is “Duck and Goose” by Tad Hills. A wonderful book about friendship. Probably my fave picture book right now.

  74. Wendy says

    I love “On a Tall Tall Cliff” by Andrew Murray, Weslandia by Paul Fleischman, Loop the Loop by Barbara Dugan, Wilfrid Gordon McDonals Partridge by Mem Fox, Brother Juniper by Diane Gibfried, and George the Dragon and the Princess by Chris Wormell. Thanks for this list.

  75. Nikki says

    Anything by Patricia Polacco! Her books include a message and usually a first hand account behind one of the characters. A fabulous one to start with is “Thank You Mr. Falker”. It is a great message about bullying and overcoming a learning disability. “Thundercake” is a great story about a little girl overcoming her fear of thunder. Many of them are focused around becoming educated. I highly recommend them!

  76. Cathy Mc says

    It’s a Book
    The joy of reading a real book,And not something on a computer or a Ipad. I love the joy of reading a book and smelling and hearing the crack of being the first one opens a book

  77. Kayleigh says

    I just can’t take any list serisouly if it doesn’t have The Giving Tree on It. And some of these comments crack me up! “This book is too sad” “This book punishes the character”. How are we to build our children’s character without letting them experience life? I feel like some of you on here are too sheltering. They are not too young to deal with these issues…… 5 year olds deal with bullies, three year olds encounter death, Four year olds deal with identity problems. What better way to face these issues head on than with a book?

    • admin says

      I will be addressing The Giving Tree in a follow up post- I’d never read it to my kids and I read these books to my kids first. After reading it to my son I remembered why I’d never grabbed it. But I will leave the rest of that to my follow up. I agree that kids need to experience it and that is probably why I love books with naughty kids… it’s realistic.

  78. Kelly says

    This is a great list; I read many of those books in my classroom and with my own children. Kevin Henkes is one of our favorites. I would add Mean Jean the Recess Queen; we use it to show a child how NOT to be a bully and how to respond to a bully. We also love to read Peach and Blue about friendship. I teach second grade and would also recommend Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco-every year as I read it, I cry…the kids love and relate to the book; they feel a connection after finding out that Mrs.l Polacco struggled with reading and writing.

    • admin says

      Kelly these are great suggestions! I could have put every single Henkes book on here, I just connect so well to him and his characters. I think every one has a valuable message.

  79. Ann says

    Thanks for the list. How about the book, “The Snail and the Whale? by Julia Donaldson. It delivers such a great message! One of my favorites. “The Pout Pout Fish” by Deborah Dieson is also good for building character.

    • admin says

      No but I will add it to my must read list. I read one called ” The Most Loved Girl in All The World ” at the library and I was weeping. So beautiful. Thanks for the rec Marnie!

  80. says

    Saw above that some folks found “I’ll Love You Forever” to be creepy, but it is a book my son and I absolutely love. We read it so often that I ended up making the main passage into a song that I would sing to him. He is nine now, and he has even surprised my by writing that message to me as a note that he hid in my work bag. When he says it, he changes the words to, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, your baby I’ll be…”

    I love that no matter what happens, how many changes or life passages they each pass through, the strong bond and love between the mother and the son endures. That book will always hold a special place for me!

  81. Jill says

    Oliver Button is a Sissy is one of my favorites about doing what makes you happy without worrying about what others think. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is an entertaining story about being happy with what you have.

  82. kathie nerelli says

    Please consider adding The Red Racer by Audrey Wood, Enemy Pie (can’t remember the author), Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen, The Empty Pot by Demi, and A Bargain for Frances by Lillian Hoban.

  83. AnnieBananie says

    I was surprised that none of Patricia Polacco’s books made it onto the list. “thank you Mr.Falker” and “the Junkyard Wonders” come to mind now, but she has written many powerful books that incorporate her own life story.

  84. Sabina says

    Love your list. Started going through and adding the ones people suggested but there are SO many comments that I think I only made it part way through March’s comments. 🙂 Anyhow, I put your list along with a few others from the comments into alphabetical order by author’s last name, for those of us who want to print off a list to take to the library… I will paste it here but maybe you can come up with a better way for people to view it so it doesn’t take up so much room. Thanks for all you share!
    We love “The Little Bit Scary People” by Emily Jenkins – shows that sometimes when we think someone is scary or mean, it’s b/c we don’t understand them. Love how it shows the humanity of everyone – we all have something good in us.

    Adler A Picture Book Of Helen Keller by David A. Adler
    Alemagna Bugs in a Blanket by Beatrice Alemagna
    Auch The Princess and The Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch
    Bloom The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom
    Boelts Looking For Sleepy by Meribeth Boelts
    Boyton Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boyton
    Bradfield Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield
    Bradley Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    Brisson I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson
    Bruel Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel
    Bunting One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
    Burningham Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham
    Carle The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
    Carlson My Best Friend Moved Away by Nancy Carlson
    Cole Princess Smartypants by Brenda Cole
    Coulman Sink or Swim by Valerie Coulman
    Danneberg First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
    Dismondy Spaghetti in a Hotdog Bun by Maria Dismondy
    Dismondy The Juicebox Bully by Maria Dismondy
    Edwards The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards
    Elmer Elmer by David McKee
    Farris My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris
    Fernandes Ordinary Amos And The Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes
    Fierstein The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein
    Fox Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
    Fox Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
    Gilman Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman
    Giovanni Rosa By Nikki Giovanni
    Grimm The Star Child by Brothers Grimm
    Henkes Shelia Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes
    Henkes Julius The Baby Of The World by Kevin Henkes
    Henkes Owen by Kevin Henkes
    Henkes Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
    Hutchins The List by Hazel Hutchins
    Isadora Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora
    Janni Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse by Rebecca Janni
    Jeffers How To Catch A Star by Oliver Jeffers
    Jeffers The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
    Jenkins The Little Bit Scary People by Emily Jenkins
    Jordan Did I Tell You I Love You Today? by Deloris Jordan
    Kann Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann
    Karlins Music Over Manhattan by Mark Karlins
    Kilodavis My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
    Lester Tacky The Penguin by Helen Lester
    Lionni It’s Mine by Leo Lionni
    Lionni Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni
    Lovell Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
    Lyon The Pirate Of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon
    McCourt I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
    Moore Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore
    Mora Pablo’s Tree by Pat Mora
    Munsch The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
    Munsch Murmel, Murmel, Murmel by Robert Munsch
    Munsch Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch
    Noble The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Noble
    Parr The Family Book by Todd Parr
    Penn A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn
    Penn The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
    Poydar Zip, Zip… Homework by Nancy Poydar
    Raven Let’s Them Play by Margo Theis Raven
    Richardson And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Rockwell Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell
    Root One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root
    Russo A Very Big Bunny by Marisabina Russo
    Sauer Cowboy Camp by Tammi Sauer
    Seuss The Lorax
    Shannon A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
    Shannon Duck On A Bike by David Shannon
    Stewart The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
    Sturges The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza by by Philomen Sturges
    Sykes I Don’t Want To Go To Bed by Julia Sykes
    Taylor The Loudest Roar by Thomas Taylor
    Tinkham Hair For Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham
    Ulberg Dad, Jackie and Me by Myron Ulberg
    Watt Scaredy Squirrel Makes A Friend by Melanie Watt
    Wild Piglet and Papa by Margaret Wild
    Williams A Chair For My Mother by Vera B Williams
    Willis I Want To Be A Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis
    Wilson Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson
    Wilson Bear Stays Up At Christmas by Karma Wilson
    Wojtowicz The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jennifer Wojtowicz
    Wong Apple Pie Fourth Of July by Janet S. Wong
    Zolotow A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow
    Zolotow William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow

    Unknown authors:
    The Quiltmaker’s Gift
    Crow Boy
    The Big Orange Splot
    A Sick Day for Amos McGee

  85. Sarah says

    I LOVE all the suggestions – we own a lot of these and the rest are on our never ending list. Any suggestions for books geared towards children of single moms with no fathers in their life?

    • admin says

      Let me think about that Sarah. The Family Book by Todd Parr doesn’t specifically mention it but has images of single parents. A Chair For My Mother has no dad in it… let me dig through my archives tonight !

      • Rebecca Meldrum says

        Loving the list! It would be great if it was somehow divided by age category.

        The Dr. Suss chat was interesting too, along with the Rainbow Fish comments. Love that the list has sparked so much debate.

        I would add Don’t Kiss The Frog to the list. It’s a good little collection of stories that are the antidote to the wet princess personer pushed by so many girls books.

        Also we like The Day Lois Got Eaten, all about ingenuity, problem solving and protecting those close to you (in this case your siblings).

    • Corynn says

      Love Is a Family by Roma Downey is a sweet book about a girl who doesn’t want to go to family night at school because her family (just she and her mother) isn’t like all the others. But when they get there, she sees that all families are different. My daughter loves this book!

  86. Nick Avallone says

    I’d like to also thank you for not including “The Giving Tree”. Not only is it unspeakably depressing, but the takeaway lesson is that it’s somehow heroic to destroy yourself for the sake of someone else’s whims. We’ve received several copies of it over the years and all of them have quietly been removed from the house. It’s toxic.

    Glad to see “Bear Stays Up Late for Christmas” on the list: it always chokes me up. “Bear Feels Sick” is also great.

    “The Art Lesson” by Tommie DePaola is an excellent book, and suggests the value of self-expression and individuality.

    “In A Minute” is an old favorite: it’s a lovely little story about being patient, with a bit of a twist.

    All the original Little Bear books (Minarik/Sendak) are fantastic for a variety of reasons. Each story delivers its own little message, and reading them is like being wrapped up in a warm blanket. I loved reading them with my mom around 40 years ago, and now my kids love them too.

    “Little Rabbit’s Christmas” by Harry Horse is also great. The main character starts off sort of spoiled and demanding, but ends up realizing the value of being a good friend.

    • admin says

      I will be addressing both my and my son’s reaction to The Giving Tree in our follow up. Thank you for your comments very thoughtful!

      Also I will be adding a few of them to my library list to check out 🙂

  87. Erin says

    Two books that I think could definately be added to this list is Something Beautiful and Strega Nona. I loved the list and have a few written down to add to check out at the library. Thanks for giving great suggestions

    • admin says

      Cierra – not sure if you have read the comments ( I know there are a lot) but there is a good discussion about it in there with differing opinions. I will address it in the follow up . I love Silverstein’s poetry but after re reading the giving tree I remembered why I have never before shared it with my kids. I am not the book’s biggest fan.

  88. says

    The Room of Wonders by Sergio Ruzzier is one of our favorite books. It is sad but he finds his happiness in the end and learns his lesson.

    Shhh! by Jeanne Willis is great too! It teaches kids their actions make a difference, even their silence. It’s a call for world peace.

    ♥ them both and no matter how old my kids get I think I will be keeping these two on my bookshelf.

  89. birchmeadow says

    What a great list. We LOVE books!!!!! One of our favs that I didn’t see here is Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski and Lee Harper. Woolbur is a young sheep who does things his own way and ignores criticism until everyone joins him. Great story!!!

  90. CTayeb says

    I love Patricia Polacco. Thank You, Mr. Falker and Thundercake are two of my favorites. The intergenerational themes, poignant relationships, and rich language and illustrations make her books a feast for the mind, soul, and eyes.

  91. Jenny says

    Thank you for your great list of books! I also appreciate your helpful comments about “Pinkalicious” I have never liked that book, and now I can see the good part of it and it is great to see it in a new way! 🙂 Would you please put on your next list, “Frog and Toad”? My kids and I have loved the sweet simple example of being good friends. Thanks!

  92. Elizabeth says

    A couple books I always use as a “beginning of the year” openers is “Enemy Pie” by Derek Munson and “Thank You Mr Falker” (which always makes me tear up) by Patricia Polacco.

    • Nick Avallone says

      Sylvester & The Magic Pebble is also Shel Silverstein and, like the epic bummer that is The Giving Tree, is also pretty depressing. Much of the book dwells on Sylvester’s parents’ grief as they mourn the mysterious and tragic loss of their son. My own son asks for it from time to time, even though it makes him sad, and I never look forward to reading it because the subject is about the last thing a parent wants to dwell on.

      • admin says

        Ok now I Have to read that too. I love that so many books have such a strong reaction ( positive or negative) with people. I have been putting off the follow up post to this one because the list is getting so long but I want to read each with at least one of my kids. This story sounds like it would put my son into hysterics. He bawled after I rad ” Mama for Owen” which is about loss. We’ll see I might read it solo.

  93. Christine says

    I did read all the posts and hope that I don’t repeat but off the top of my head, I would definitely include:

    Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin – Things happen but it’s not worth crying or being upset.
    Pete the Cat: Rocking in my School Shoes by Eric Letwin – All about starting in a new school.
    Little Blue Truck by Alic Schertle – Helping others. It’s done in rhyme and my two year old loves it.
    No Matter What by Debi Gliori – Our parents love us not matter what we do, or if we loose our tempers. It also talks about how it takes time and effort to mend broken feelings. Both my kids favourite book.
    Hunter’s Best Friend at School by Laura Malone Elliott – What to do if a friend is trying to make you do something that makes you feel bad about yourself or is wrong.

    Picture Books for Teens and Up:
    Pish Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch by Nancy Willard – Amazing Artwork! This book talks about how life may not be as you planned but it can still be fulfilling and you can make new plans. Definitely not for young children although my kids love the artwork. I’ve given it to adults who are going through a transition or tough time and I’ve always had very sincere and heartfelt thanks.

  94. jjolly310 says

    I definitely agree that, The Giving Tree is a a character builder. i read it to my second graders all the time and every year they got the message without me having to point it out. It is a book that means a lot to me. I even gave a copy to my dad for his birthday one year. The Places You’ll Go and The Lorax are important to. Letting kids know they have the whole world at their fingertips for TPYG,and The Lorax teaches some great environmental values.

  95. karen says

    Thanks for the list. I’ve read many, and will be checking out some new ones!
    One of my all time favorite books is “Because Brian Hugged his Mother” by David Rice.
    Everything we do has a consequence, and a single act of compassion can start a wave that goes beyond our immediate scope. Brian hugs his mom, and she in turn makes their favorite breakfast. His sister is in a good mood after spending extra time with mom, and helps her teacher in the morning. The teacher says something nice to the principal, and so on. The kindness spreads from one little act of kindness to the entire community.
    I read it once a month to my first graders.

  96. Michelle says

    Top 3 in my home (the ones I would grab in a fire:)

    1. Chanticleer and the Fox (teaches about being too prideful) *Caldecott Medal

    2. The First Forest, by John Gile (teaches forgiveness, as well reward and punishment- amazing book)

    3. The Talking Eggs, by Robert D. San Souci (teaches integrity, fortitude) *Caldecott Honor

    These are all books I have read to my son basically from birth on, there is no need to dumb down literature to children. I am not saying this list is dumbed down, but someone might pick up these 3 books and think “not yet, maybe in a few more years.” Yet they continually keep my sons full attention, and he asks for them on his own- even over Sponge Bob books (yes they make Sponge Bob books!)

  97. akpurchase says

    Wow what a great list! I just completed a long term sub position as a guidance counselor. Some of my favorite books I used on bullying were
    Bullies Never Win by Margery Cuyler
    My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
    Say Something by Peggy Moss
    Hey Little Ant by Phillip Hoose
    The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane Derolf and Michael Letzig
    Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

    Books on Death
    Badger’s Parting Gift by Susan Varley (I used this with a student who had just lost a parent)
    Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert

    Other books I used that I loved and students enjoyed
    Listen Buddy by Helen Lester
    What Have You Done Davey? by Brigitte Weninger
    Simon’s Hook by Karen Gedig Burnett
    Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna
    Because Brian Hugged His Mother by David Rice

    And one of my favorites that I haven’t seen in the comments, but could have missed it.
    Love Can Build a Bridge by Naomi Judd
    It’s the lyrics a song so I play the CD with the book but the illustrations move me.

  98. Sarah says

    I am surprised by some of your selections. I’ve noticed that the majority of your choices simplify or dumb down obstacles children face. Do you not find it important to teach children reality? I ask this because of your opinion of “The Giving Tree” and “Rainbow Fish”. I think you are doing children a disservice if you don’t expose, teach, and discuss what NOT to be as well as what to be. Anyhow, I love reading “Leo the Lop” by Stephen Crosgrove to little girls.

    • admin says

      I respectfully disagree. I don’t think that the selections dumb down anything for kids, but some aren’t overt or preachy in their approach. This list and blog is targeted at children 5 and under and I think that these books are spot on for the age group. As far as The Giving Tree and Rainbow Fish are concerned I simply do not like either of those books, but have never argued that they are not good cautionary tales. This list is very much a subjective list and many of the titles include lessons about what not to be. I encourage you to read through more of our book reviews and you will see that I agree very much with your view that kids need to be exposed to what not to do.

      Thanks for the suggestion too. I will check it out soon.

  99. Leslie says

    Sophies Masterpiece
    Mole Music
    Why by Nikolai Popov
    I Call My Hand Gentle
    These are just a few I can think of quickly. The first three are even good for upper grades and yet they are all picture books.

  100. Adele says

    Hi, as a teacher from the UK who is passionate about books I loved your list as so many books I ve never even heard of? This side of the pond we love The Gruffalo, The tiger who came to Tea, Norman the snail with the silly shell, Old bear, Sams Duck, Dig Dig Digging, My naughty little sister, You choose, George and Flora’s secret garden, Mr Gumpys outing, Pig in the pond!, Farmer Duck,
    In the foggy, foggy forest, Giraffes can’t dance, Princess Smartypants, What does Daddy do?, My sister is an alien, ……I could go on and on, but check these out for starters 🙂

  101. deidra says

    I’m a school counselor in an elementary school. I love “Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts and “The Secret Olivia Told Me” by E. N. Joy. I did a lesson with “Those Shoes” about being caring, and knowing that sometimes doing the right thing means giving up something to help others. I read “The Secret…” in the beginning of the year and even months later the students relate their rumor issues to the story. It’s great for discussion about what happens when you tell someone’s secret and how rumors should be handled.

  102. Jan says

    This is a great list and I as enjoyed the different opinions of so many people. I have grown children who still want (and receive) a children’s book each year for Christmas and other special occasions in their lives. They each a quite a personal library to share with their children someday and each one has a special memory. I would like to add:

    Any of Paticia Polacco books She is one of my favorite authors and my children have gotten several of her books to mark special occasions for me! I love the multicultural, family feeling I get with each of her stories. Just Plain Fancy is one of my favorites.

    Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. What better lessons to teach our children than to explore and do something to make the world more beautiful.

    The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski One of the books that always make me cry when I read it. A little boy to soften the hurt from a gruff but talented man.

    Wherever You Are my love will find you, by Nancy Tillman. This book was this year’s Christmas selection. It just says what every parent should say to every child and what every child should always hear.

    Clown of God and Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola Another one of my favorite authors and Clown of God is another one that brings out the tears. The clown gives everything he has. It does have a sad ending. And Strega Nona make a terrible mess into a celebration.

    Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig A lesson to Never give up and many times what you’re wishing for is right in front of you sometimes in a different form.

    The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. Story about taking care of the earth.

    The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper Lesson of “I think I can!”

    Momma Do You love me? by Barbara M. Joosse Motherly love and a child testing that love…In my opinion much better than the Robert Munch book.

    Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed Many adventures and an unlikely friendship. Both work through challenges together.

    Because I love you
    You are mine
    You Are Special all by Max Lucado Lessons of “You are loved for who you are not what other people think. I have a niece and nephew with learning disabilities and have certainly acquired some “colored dots” from less tolerant students. The book, You Are Special has been read to them numerous times and they are reminded that they are so loved and what other people think doesn’t matter.

    I want to weigh in on The Giving Tree. I have always thought of that story as a parent being the tree. Parents willingly give life to their children and will do anything for them. I don’t think of the child as being greedy, just accepting of that relationship.

    My sister read it to her son and new daughter-in-law on their wedding day. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place!

  103. Debbie says

    One of my favorite books is The Quiltmakers Gift. I read this to kids at school every year. The message is amazing. Another favorite is the George and Martha series by James Marshall. The pictures are hilarious. I also love the Mr. Putter and Tabby series, and the Poppleton series. Sweet characters and stories in each of these.

  104. Charlotte says

    Being from the UK many of the books on the list and subsequently suggested are unknown to me but I am definitely going to see if our local library has or can get as many as possible as my 3 children are huge book lovers. A book we love is The smartest giant in town by Julia Donaldson. It teaches a great lesson with a fun story and wonderful illustrations.

  105. Vanessa says

    I am glad others mentioned The Little Engine That Could! I don’t have any children yet, but as a child, it was my absolute favorite and it has been the inspiration for believing in myself to achieve what I set my mind to throughout my life. I’m in my 20s and I’ve never heard of any of the books on the list despite being an avid reader both as a child and currently, so I’m guessing from that and the titles that they are newer? I think The Little Engine That Could is a great one because it can still be relevant and inspirational for kids. I can think of no better children’s book!

  106. Charlotte says

    ‘Old Huhu’ is a wonderful book on death for kids by a New Zealand author, Kyle Mewburn. Gentle, but unafraid to show sadness, this story shows a young weta (native NZ insect) trying to find where his Old Huhu has gone.

  107. Jamie says

    A great read aloud chapter book that covers friendship, being true to yourself, and being unique is: We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes by Patrick Jennings. I read this one out loud to my class every year! It is told from the snake’s point of view.

  108. Meg says

    Love” Paper Bag Princess” and “Alexander and the THNVBD”!
    I suggest: “Chicken Sunday” or most any Polacco stories, “Rosie and Michael” by Viorst.
    Always been creeped out by “Love you Forever” and never been a fan of Seuss.
    Great list!

  109. says

    Thanks for putting out this list of books. It’s an important list. Reading to and with your children can help them build character. I hope you don’t mind a little shameless self promotion but my family and I have self published a series of books with positive, motivational themes for kids. They are called the Can Do Duck books. http://www.thecandoduck.com or the facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/thecandoduck. They’ve been used in schools around the world and by parents with their young children.
    Maybe some of the parents here have read them.
    Ducktor Morty

  110. robin says

    I teach in grades 3-5. I have recently become a tremendous fan of The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. It’s over the heads of primary kids, but works for this grade level when supported by teachers. Also, I love the book, “One” by Kathryn Otoshi to help children think about the effects of bullying and “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi to teach us about diversity and to be proud of who we are and of what we bring to the table as an individual.

  111. Chris says

    I’d like to suggest The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill. It was one of my favorites as a child and I made sure my girls had it too. It teaches that beauty is more than what you can see from the outside. And the little girl is brave enough to go her own way and stand up and do what she thinks is right even though it’s clearly not what her friends are doing.

  112. says

    I’d love to suggest Dogger by Shirley Hughes – the big sister’s selfless act on behalf of her little brother is gorgeous. The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is pretty amazing too but a real tear-jerker. I think the Lorax and Oh the Places You’ll Go as well as The Sneetches (even for non-Dr Seuss lovers are very worthwhile. Max Lucado’s book You Are Special is a lovely one about not having to impress others too. It’s great to see a list promoting tried and tested books. I was so pleased to see Giraffes Can’t Dance on there. Shaun Tan’s book The Red Tree is also a beautiful, slgihtly bleak book about hope – more for an older child. Another beautiful book is one called The Boat about a man and his animals separated from his community by fear and distrust until a storm, a boat and a boy change it all – the illustrations are incredible too as is the language. Can’t think of any more at the moment. Going to follow your blog now. Great post

  113. Kelly says

    How about classics, like The Little Red Hen, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Aesop’s Fables, The Three Little Pigs, so many more, all fabulous for building character, and they are timeless. Thank you for this list!

  114. Sharon says

    I find myself back at your website looking at your book recommendations again b/c Christmas is coming up and relatives are asking for gift ideas for my 1 and 4 year olds. I love compiling a list for people to choose from out of your recommendations. You give a lot of information on each book and the reasons WHY you like it or dislike it, plus the amazon links give me even more feedback to figure out if it’s right for my child. Thanks again!!

    • admin says

      I am so happy that my reviews are helpful as well as the links to Amazon. I never read the Amazon reviews until after I’ve written mine but I love reading them after. Some give me great new perspectives to re read the book, and some make me want to throw my laptop across the room !

  115. says

    I feel like this I have commented on this post 1000 times. In any event, I just read a new wonderful book in which you might be interested called BIG by Coleen Paratore and Ripple’s Effect by Shawn Achor & Amy Blankson. Check them out…

  116. Stacie says

    Your list is wonderful! Some of the titles really took me on a stroll down memory lane! But I was very surprised to see that author Barbara Joose didnt make the list of 75. Her book, “I love you the purplest” is by far one of the most moving and endearing children’s book I have ever read. The book starts out with the mom telling her boys how much she loves them, and it ends with how much they loved her. No matter how many times I read it, it still brings tears to my eyes!

  117. Eugenie says

    My son adored “The Snail and the Whale.” It is about a snail willing to take a chance and go on an adventure and then also helping the whale and finding others to help him help the whale. We started reading that book to him around 2 yrs old and it must have made such an impression that at 8, he still loves whales and wants to be a whale scientist. I also love “The Peanut Free Cafe.” My son is allergic to peanuts and it shows how the school adapted to the child’s medical condition without isolating him in a negative way.

  118. McGee says

    I CANNOT believe these comments…and I have read all
    401! The Giving Tree is a book that brings me to tears nearly every time I read it…
    My son is nine years old. I knew he was Autistic before he was two years old. He was diagnosed at age 3.
    For the first six years of his life, he was not potty trained, his vocabulary consisted of less than 100 words, his social maturity mirrored infancy rather than preschool nehaviors and my husband I wondered if we would ever hear our son utter the three little words that most parents hear from their children’s lips before two years of age. Reading was something we only dared to dream for his future….but still, we begged the school system, we read to him, we sought therapy and hoped for the best.
    This year, we pulled him from public school because they can’t keep up with the demands of his IQ. He is too high functioning for a special education setting but not socially mature enough to survive a setting with 32 students and 1 teacher.
    As a full time nurse, wife and mother of a twelve yr old girl in the public school system, I doubted my ability to homeschool my special needs child. When confronted with the notion, my son had only one request: he wanted our school to be named The Giving Tree Academy.

    You see, we don’t view it as being stripped as oneself at the whims of another….we have always read it to be a representation of love. My son knows that I will DO ANYTHING…go to the ends of the earth for him….not to lessen my own identity, but to strengthen it. Not because he TAKES from me, but because I give. The book is not titled The Taking Boy…it is titled The Giving Tree. A tree lives, gives, dies and becomes a part of a never-ending cycle….much like the parent who changes the diaper of a child only to have their diaper changed years later by that same child….WHY are you people looking so hard to turn something selfless and beautiful into something ugly? These are children….and stories….can we not, as parents, find something beautiful in leiu of something sinister? Why do you insist on believing that gthe Tree is miserable?
    I AM THAT TREE. I am educated and wise and strong and proud and hopeful….and one day, my children will be my tree….not because it is demanded or expected….but because it is how our family shows love. We give.

  119. says

    I would like to know more about The Empty Pot by Demi – A Book About Truth Telling. Also, are there any books about what happens in the “Real World” when one goes to Court and promises to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but a paid government worker tries his or her best to “TWIST” the truth. Thanks, I look forward to enlightening replies and helpful guides.

  120. Gebclue says

    Just found this list… two thoughts & then my suggestions.

    I just picked up The Rainbow Fish at the library, hearing it was supposed to be good. Even the librarian raved about it. As I sat there reading it to my daughter, who LOVED the shiny scales, I was sick to my stomach. Share, be kind – these are very nice messages, and when I saw the title of this list I just assumed this book about selflessness would be on it. I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who thinks this is an awful book that encourages losing oneself at the request of others (sounds a lot like peer pressure, to me).

    I always wondered why I seemed to be the only person in the world who was saddened by The Giving Tree, who thought the tree was horribly abused by this spoiled boy? Now I know I’m not alone. Thank you.

    I would add:
    The Story of Ferdinand
    A Sick Day for Amos Magee
    Boot and Shoe (probably not out when this list was written?)

    I love lists of books. Thank you for this one!

  121. Janelle says

    Going on a Bear Hunt was always a favourite with children when I read to 3-5’s at preschool. Bob Graham books embrace family, Let’s get a Pup, Rose and Mr Wintergarten, Our House to name a few. My most favourite children’s author though is Stephen Michael King he tends to deal with thought provoking issues. His books can be read just for the story but look below the surface and there are other issues for discussion with older children, Mutt Dog deals with homelessness, The Man Who Loved Boxes is a man who finds a different way to communicate his love to his son. The Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd have such wonderful rhyming that is always a hit with young children who are beginning to play with language. There are so many wonderful children’s storytellers that it is a real shame that there are still children who come out of our education system unable to read and appreciate what a great adventure a good book can be.

  122. Anna says

    Thank you for this list! I have already picked up or requested 40 of them on your list and I’m sure that we will tear through them quickly. We regularly max out the number of books that we can take out at our library and spend several hours a day reading aloud in our home. It never ceases to amaze me how many books we haven’t read. I was surprised that we have only read a small number of the books on your list! Great suggestions in the comments, too. I’m looking forward to spending lots of quality time on the couch with my kids reading these books.

  123. Dale says

    Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge: Mem Fox (Australian) A beautiful book about a little boy who befriends his neighbours in a nursing home, one of whom has dementia. Wilfred goes about finding her memory. A lovely story about caring for others and repsecting elderly people.

  124. Gebclue says

    A follow-up: my daughter picked out “The Rainbow Fish” & some others in the series at the library today. I was horrified (ugh – it’s a SERIES?!). But “Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea” is actually lovely. Beautiful pictures (which my daughter loves), and a great lesson about not fearing people or things because they’re different & new. A much better book than the original (which we conveniently left at the library).

  125. Lyn says

    Any of the bucket filling books by Carol McCloud and friends – especially the book that started it all – “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”! It’s got to be the easiest, most popular character education program in schools now. That book should be at the very top of the list!

  126. Kellie says

    I don’t know which age group this list is geared toward, but one of my favorite books growing up was, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”!!! It really built my imagination!

  127. Mary says

    Amazing list although there is one book missing that should be on your top 10. Have you read Declan Grows Up It’s Just Not Fair? My children ask for it every night and it has a wonderful lesson about finding and growing your gifts and talents. The book includes a discussion guide and questions to help reinforce the lesson and stimulate a nice conversation with your children about what they are good at and what they enjoy doing.

  128. says

    Little Croc’s Purse by Lizzie Finlay is a sweet, sweet story. On finding a purse, Little Croc resists the temptation to spend the money on himself or to be intimidated into handing it over to mean Murdock. Honesty, courtesy and common sense rule the day, and Little Croc is richly rewarded for his actions.

  129. says

    “The Dot” and “Ish” by Peter Reynolds books carry such a great message for kids who are artists, as well as those who think they aren’t because they don’t draw “perfectly.” They continue to be inspirational for my children as well as me.

  130. Dave Nice says

    Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. I think it’s by David Catrow.

    Chrysanthemum. I don’t know who the author is, but it’s a great book about how our words can hurt or make others feel good.

  131. Natalie says

    Have You Filled a Bucket Today? My kids totally understood this one in Kindergarten. They are in 3rd grade now and we still talk about filling buckets.

    I Love You Forever ~ Robert Munsch – A great opportunity to talk about loved ones – especially the elderly or recently gone. I have shed some tears but great book!!!

  132. Kelsey says

    ‘hope for the flowers’ by: Trina Paulus
    ‘Henry Works’ by: D.B. Johnson
    ‘The Little Prince’ by: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    ‘I Like You’ by: Sandol Stoddard Warburg

    I could go on and on…….

  133. molly says

    I’d add some Berenstain Bears books! Every lesson in life can be found in a Berenstain Bears book! My favorites: The Bully, Trouble With Money, Too Much Birthday, The Bad Habit, The Trouble With Friends, Get The Gimmies, and The In Crowd. Phew! That’s a lot! But I love them : )

  134. says

    My mom and dad wrote many children’s books to teach valuable lessons to my younger brother and sister. With titles like:

    RONNY THE RABIT: This story is about a rabbit that tries to be like all the other animals instead of focusing on his own God-given talents.
    ROBERTA THE ROBIN AND HER SHORTCUT NEST:This story is about a robin that thinks she is smarter than all the rest. She thinks she knows better than old-fashioned George. What will Roberta do when all her friends think her new style n