Picture Books for the Very Young (Library Builders Series)

Here are five picture books for the very young that my family has especially enjoyed over the years!  They are  wonderful read-alouds for tiny toddlers, and they are stories that your children will love to hear over and over again.  They are books meant to be read leisurely, turning the pages slowly so that your child, and you, can enjoy the lovely illustrations.  As your children grow and become independent readers, they will enjoy reading for themselves these stories that have been favorites from having heard them countless times before.

One of my favorite aspects of reading these over and over again stories, is the way that children will remember a particular phrase and will “read” it out loud with you.  For example, when Will and I read The Story About Ping together when he was still very young, every time I would come to the words, “the Yangtze river”,  I would pause and he would say those three words out loud to fill them into the story.  I can still hear his precious, very young voice saying, “the Yangtze river” over and over each time we read this story together!

Your children will remember parts that they especially enjoy, and you will know that as soon as you speak the words they will giggle with glee, or they will smile up at you each and every time.  In Ping, my Will always got a kick out of the fact that the last duck to cross into the boat each night got a “spank on the back” from the boatman.  He giggled every time!!  These books are all about making precious memories!

  • Katy No-Pocket, Story by Emmy Payne, and Pictures by H.A. Rey.  Katy No-Pocket is the fanciful tale of a mother kangaroo without a pocket to carry, Freddy,  her baby in.  She consults the other animals about how she might go about carrying her baby, but their methods don’t work very well for her.  She heads to the city and sees a man with a multi-pocketed carpenter’s apron.  Through his kindness and generosity, her problem is solved, and she can now carry not only Freddy, but she has pockets just the right size for all of the other young animals, too.
  • The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, Pictures by Clement Hurd.  A wee young rabbit tells his mother, on a whim, that he intends to run away.  Mother’s love, however, comes into play and where the little bunny says that he will go, Mother gently lets him know that she will be right there, too.  “If you become a sailboat and sail away from me,” said his mother, “I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.”  In the end, the young bunny decides, quite wisely, that he might as well stay home, and Mother offers him a yummy snack.
  • The Three Little Kittens, illustrated by Paul Galdone.  This is a favorite picture book version of a classic Mother Goose rhyme. The rhyme and rhythm draw a child into this beloved story.  This is the only story that I remember my mother ever reading aloud to me, and perhaps that is why I love reading it to my own children, and now grandchildren, so much.  The story of the kittens who are so proud of their new mittens, but then, as children will do, alternately soil and them lose them, is familiar to most of us.  These kittens do manage to fix all of their mistakes, and mother, who has scolded them for being “naughty”, also praises them when they have done well, “What! Found your mittens, you good little kittens, Then you shall have some pie”
  • Henny Penny, Retold and illustrated by Paul Galdone. My first grade class learned and recited this classic tale in French when I was very young!  I don’t remember a word of it, of course; but I remember standing on the risers reciting it!  I consider this an important book for children because of the cultural references in it.  It’s important that our children understand where such terms as “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” really come from. (No, they didn’t originate with the movie Chicken Little!)  This is a beloved read aloud that includes a lot of repetition, which delights the very young, and will keep you on your toes as you recite the ever growing list of characters off to tell the king that the “the sky is falling”.  These silly critters all meet with a sad end, though; but my children and grandbabies have always been more than delighted with this tale.
  • The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese. Ping is a young duck, living with “his mother and his father and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and his forty-two cousins” in “a boat with two wise eyes on the Yangtze river” in China. One day, Ping misses the evening call by the boatman to return home and finds himself all alone on the river. He is snatched up by a boy who lives on a houseboat and spends some time thinking that he might become their dinner. All ends well for Ping, and he returns to his home, with his very large family. Again, this is a book with several repetitive phrases that are endearing to children (as well as adults), and it is also a lovely look at life on China’s Yangtze river.

This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive list of wonderful books for the very young, and I am sure that I will feature more books for this age group in the future.


Paul Galdone has quickly become one of our favorite illustrators.  Look for his name in future Library Builder posts.  In the meantime, I also recommend the following classic children’s picture books for the very young re-told and/or illustrated by Paul Galdone.

For a current list of the Library Builder articles to date, please visit the Library Builders page of my web site.

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households!
Proverbs 31:27


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8 comments to Picture Books for the Very Young (Library Builders Series)

  • I still do not read and can not read the Billy Goats gruff book! I was so scared of that book when I was little and I still remember how I did NOT want my mom to even show me that one. My sister of course loved it! I was just thinking of “Ping” yesterday. I was thinking of how I would love to get that one from the library to read to my three. Thank you for your suggestions. My children already enjoy a few of the ones you mentioned. I love “popping” in here everyday to see what you are up to. I just do not know how you can keep going and can keep everything running so smoothly. I try and try and it seems like I will take one step forward and three steps back! Maybe once my children are older and my health is better things will run smoother? Thank you for your suggestions. I am having a hard time still with the budget. We have one. At I always go over. I just need to learn to be more thrifty and be able to separate wants from needs…It is difficult too with three of us having food allergies and four of us being sensitive to certain foods and ingrediants. Thank you for your advice and help and keep it coming. I need all the help I can get!!! LOL. 🙂

  • Thanks for such a wonderful post. I remember reading these books as a child and can’t believe I over looked them when it came time to start on own on book collection, so thank you for reminding me of some wonderful titles that I just know my girls will love listening to. I don’t know if you have read this book, but my daughters love “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.


  • I think TJ would love the Paul Galdone books…and Ping because of the repeatative phrases. I will being my christmas list for him. I also want to add a couple of books here, for Grandma story time.

  • Cheryl, 

    I love all of these books!  Mr. Galdone is such a gifted illustrator!   Jenn

  • HomemakingMama – Yes, we LOVE Eric Carle around here!  You can look for a future Library Builders post featuring just him! 

    As I said, this was not meant to be an exhaustive list!  It’s not even anywhere CLOSE to all of the picture books I would recommend for the very young.  I had to start somewhere, though, and this first list was it.

  • Paul Galdone turned into a family favorite when my big boys were little and we found ourselves checking out his books at the library all the time. I am glad to hear someone else likes him. I need to do a post like this. I have a post in my folder to go about favorite picture books but I can never get my act together enough to pick out our favorites.

  • Oh, Cindy!!  Post it!!  I know what you mean about picking favorites.  I did this post yesterday, but it really doesn’t reflect our favorite picture books at all.  You should see the stacks of books I pulled out for future Library Builder posts!  And those stacks are just from my picture books bookcase!  I just have such a heart for folks building their own libraries, and hope to pass just a bit of my passion for it along to others. 

  • I LOVED Ping when I was little!!!! My friend just gave me a copy but not 2 days later I wondered why my 3 year old (who we nicknamed “the destroyer” when she was a baby 😉 ) was so quiet. Yep, totally destroyed it 😥