Classic Picture Books That Still Work November 23, 2018 – Posted in: Book News

At least once a week we have proud grandparents coming to our shop, looking for classic picture books that they used to read to their children, and would now love to pass on to their grandchildren. So, inspired by the grandparents, we started drawing up a list of the picture books we all grew up with (including some newer ones that were published slightly more recently, but are now considered “classic” by the younger generation).

This trip down memory lane was great fun, but has proven to be harder than I thought -not because I couldn’t find enough great picture books, but because there are so many which my colleagues and I love! And that’s why this piece, which started off as a short list, became quite a long list… But at least this means that all the grandchildren out there won’t run out of great classic reading material for a while!

Rosie’s Walk

Rosie the hen goes for a walk. She doesn’t notice the fox following her, but the reader does. We can see him getting one comeuppance after the other, but Rosie is oblivious to it till the end. This story contains only 31 words, but still manages to greatly entertain readers.

Very Hungry Caterpillar

A little egg hatches on a leaf and becomes a very, very hungry caterpillar. So he eats his way through the holes on the pages, until he finally turns into a beautiful butterfly. With collage pictures and rhythmic text, this book has been around for almost 50 years, and is still as popular as ever.

Each Peach Pear Plum

This is a timeless picture book, encouraging young children to find fairy tale and nursery rhymes characters on each page. Beautiful detailed illustrations are bound to enchant everyone.

Where’s Spot?

Every child’s favourite puppy in his first adventure. There are lots of flaps to open to find Spot’s hiding place in this short story with simple, but engaging text.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Bright illustrations, simple text and many favourite animals make this book special. Introducing young readers to colours, this is a story that is always followed by a single word: “Again!”

Dear Zoo

A child’s writes to the zoo for a pet. But everything they send him has to be sent back: the animals are too big, too scary, too tall … Until the right one shows up. This book introduced us to the lift-the-flap format and is still delighting young and old.


Who doesn’t remember this ingenious, witty book about a baby’s day? Follow him by peeping through a series of holes which give you a taste of what’s to come next.

Meg and Mog

The first book about the goodhearted witch Meg and her long-suffering cat Mog, in which they attend a party where Meg unintentionally turns all her friends into mice. The text is very short and the illustrations simple, but a combination of the two brings the readers much fun.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt 

Join in the family’s excitement as they make their way across grass, water and mud in search of a bear, only to discover a surprise at the end of their journey. Great rhythm and rhyme make this book every child’s favourite!

Lost and Found

A boy meets a lost sad penguin and decides to help him return home. But when they finally part ways, he realises that the penguin was just in search of a friend. This is a beautiful story about friendship.


A story about a lovable dog who’s trying to tidy up his bed, until he discovers there’s nothing better than his cosy old basket. This book’s comical illustrations definitely make children laugh, depicting Kipper’s struggle to find a good place to sleep.

Owl Babies

On a dark night, three baby owls are sitting alone in their tree, waiting for Mummy owl to return. As the night stretches on, the owls are growing more anxious, until finally, with a triumphant turn of the page, mother returns. This enormously popular book explores childhood anxieties.


Elmer is different – he is not elephant colour. And that is why, in his opinion, other elephants laugh at him – he doesn’t realise that he makes them laugh by being who he is. A great story about being yourself, with colourful illustrations.

Mister Magnolia

Mr Magnolia has only one boot, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying himself. The children read about series of adventures that Mr Magnolia has, until finally a parcel arrives – it is one more boot! Now he can go splashing in the puddles too. A rhyming story with the author’s signature illustrations.

Handa’s Surprise

Handa is taking a basket of fruit to her friend Akeyo, but without her noticing, mischievous animals steal the fruit. All is not lost though, thanks to a rowdy goat. This tale, set in Africa, is simply told, but young readers will enjoy the joke and vibrant illustrations.

Mog the Forgetful Cat

This is the first story about the nation’s favourite cat, whose forgetfulness always gets her into trouble. But one day Mog saves the day, precisely because she forgot something … A definite classic, I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t know Mog.

Burglar Bill

A delightful story about Burglar Bill, whose life of thieving gets interrupted by two events – stealing a box which contains a Baby, and being burgled himself by the equally bad Burglar Betty. Find out what lengths these two go through to return the stolen items in this lovely story with detailed illustrations, perfect to read aloud.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

Hairy Maclary and his doggy friends go on a walk together, but they see something so terrifying, they all run away. What scary monster could it be? Funny, repetitive rhymes make this amusing classic a favourite with young children.

Avocado Baby

The Hargreaves’ new baby is as scrawny as the rest of the family, and doesn’t want to eat anything. But the an avocado is placed in from of him and strange things start to happen. Super-strange things … A brilliant book for picky eaters and superhero fans.

Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?

In the dark bear cave, Little Bear can’t fall asleep – it is just too dark. Big Bear keeps bringing him different sized lanterns, but none of them are big enough – until he finds the brightest light of all, the Moon. A perfect bedtime story, it’s been helping children fall asleep for 30 years.

The Snowman

On a snowy day, a small boy builds a friend in his garden. So begins their marvellous adventure, when the snowman comes to life and even whisks the boy away on a magical journey through the sky. A wordless picture book that captures the wonder and innocence of childhood.

Guess How Much I Love You

A modern classic for children and their families across the world, this tender picture book tells the story of two hares expressing their love for each other, finding bigger and bigger comparisons – stretching all the way to the moon and back!

Where the Wild Things Are

Max is sent to his room without supper for behaving like a “wild thing”. In the night a forest grows in his room, and Max comes to a land of wild things, which he atmes and becomes their king. But when Max is away in this fantasy land, he becomes lonely and wishes he was back home. A story about anger and a great way to learn about what (and who) is really important.

Old Bear

Old Bear has been up in the attic for a long time, but he hasn’t been forgotten. Now his friends decide to bring him back to the nursery. The rescue operation isn’t easy, but they manage it in the end. The illustrations in this book look almost like photographs, containing many little details – this is not surprising, as all the characters are based on the author’s real toys.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Sophie and her mother are sitting down for tea, when a tiger knocks on the door. He sits down at the table and then proceeds to eat and drink until there’s nothing left in the house. A reassuring and humorous story which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The Jolly Postman

The Jolly Postman delivers letters to various fairy-tale characters, so their children get to meet many favourites in one book – Cinderela, Goldilocks, and Jack (of the beanstalk fame) are just a few. There are six envelopes in this gorgeously illustrated book, each containing letters, cards, etc.

Alfie Gets in First

After a walk, Alfie slams the front door behind him – thus locking himself in, and everyone else out. But while friends and neighbours gather outside, trying to help, Alfie comes up with a solution all on his own. Timeless illustrations adorn this classic.

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Gerald the tall giraffe would love to join in with the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but everyone knows that giraffes can’t dance … or can they? This funny and touching picture book has been delighting children for over 20 years.

Green Eggs and Ham

Sam-I-am is convinced he doesn’t like green eggs and ham, and will not eat them – here or there, in a house or with a mouse, on a boat or with a goat … Great rhymes and funny illustrations are sure to continue to delight young readers, as they have done for almost 60 years.

Not Now, Bernard

Bernard’s parents are too busy to spend any time with Bernard, and even when he informs them of a monster in the garden, their response is “Not Now, Bernard!” They don’t even notice when the monster takes their son’s place in the house … Full of compassion for children who feel as lonely and bored as Bernard.

The Runaway Train

When Duffy the train driver oversleeps, he is in a rush to start his red train engine and the result is a runaway train! A great read, as well as a work of art, this book features detailed illustrations, where young readers will spot many interesting scenes you wouldn’t see at first glance.


Dogger was a stuffed toy dog, and he belonged to Dogger. Than one day Dogger disappeared … Luckily for Dave, his big sister Bella managed to save the day. Written and illustrated by one of the country’s favourite children’s authors, this book shows us the minute details of a child’s life and is another great bedtime story.

The Gruffalo

A mouse scares of three animals who threaten to eat him by telling them that he is going to meet the scary “gruffalo” – a creature he’s just made up. To the mouse’s horror he comes across the real Gruffalo, who is as terrifying as he’s described him! The award-winning novel has amazing illustrations and text that will stick with you forever.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch

Mr Grinling, the lighthouse keeper, really loves the lunch his wife packs for him each day. Unfortunately, so do the seagulls! What will Mrs Grinling do to stop them? Splendid illustrations adorn this story for everyone who loves food and lighthouses.

On the Way Home

Claire has hurt her knee so she sets off home to tell her mum all about it. On the way she meets her friends and tells them how the fall happened. But just how did it happen …? A fantastic journey of the imagination which every child can relate to.

The Giant Jam Sandwich

The little village of Itching Down was invaded by wasps, and the villagers decide to get rid of them by trapping them in a giant jam sandwich. Read all about this unusual mission in this widely translated picture book.

Katie Morag Delivers the Mail

The post on the Island of Struay got all muddled up and it’s up to the feisty and independent Katie to save the day. Katie Morag is definitely one of the best-loved picture book characters.

Princess Smartypants

Princess Smartypants doesn’t want to get married and fights her suitors in every way imaginable. A riotously funny picture book for every child who knows it’s best to just be yourself.


Beegu accidentally crashed her spaceship on Earth and found herself all alone. All she wants is a friend, but grown-up Earthlings aren’t friendly at all. Good thing Beegu finally meets the special people – children. A special picture book about loneliness and being different.


The first picture book about the lovable bear from Peru. The Browns found him at Paddington station and decided to adopt him – and that’s when the fun really began. A definite classic and a must for every child’s bookshelf.

A Piece of Cake

Mrs Large is feeling a bit wibbly-wobbly – so she decides that the whole family is going on a diet. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately?) there is a piece of cake in the kitchen that might just cause some problems for the family. A funny, warm story that every child loves.


Hannah wants nothing more than to have a real gorilla – and then her toy gorilla comes to life one night, and takes her for a magical outing to the zoo. A story that celebrates the power of imagination.

The Mousehole Cat

A traditional Cornish story about a fisherman and his cat Mowzer, who set out and brave the fury of the storm to help the hungry villagers. Beautiful, detailed illustrations accompany this longer picture book, and it’s a perfect read around Christmas time.

Fungus the Bogeyman

Fungus is a hardworking man, a Bogeyman who comes to our world at night to bring snot, stains, smells and all other things no-one wants. A whole new world in this sophisticated picture book, where readers of all ages can revel in its grossness.

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