The children’s books that you give as gifts or buy for your family won’t be enough to read once or twice. If you were a child, you might have read these books. When your kids outgrow them, they’ll be hard to let go of. If you have visiting nieces and nephews, you might keep these books around “just in case.” You might also keep them around long enough to read them to your grandchildren. It’s what we call “classic,” and that’s what we mean by that.
Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey
Young people will fall in love with the vividly drawn characters of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, their adorable children, and their exciting trip around Boston. For the next decade or so, be ready to call every mallard you see in real life “Mr. or Mrs. Mallard,” with a lot of love.
by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone
It was the only mouse in all of France who was happy and content: Anatole. Until, that is, Anatole learns that people don’t like mice. Horrified, Anatole comes up with a fun way to get his pride back and pay back the people who gave him food.
Blueberries for Sal
by Robert McCloskey
With her mother, Sal and a young bear and its mother pick blueberries. A lovely story about a summer day in Maine and the small adventures that can happen in the middle of the day.
by Don Freeman
A sweet story about a teddy bear and the girl who wants to buy him with her piggy bank money. “You have to be a friend. Having a friend has always been on Corduroy’s wish list.
The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats
Seeing things through the eyes of a little boy who is curious about the world around him makes them seem even more amazing than they are. The simplicity is amazing.
The Story of Ferdinand
by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson
One bull isn’t like the other bulls that play rough. Gentle Ferdinand likes to lay under the cork tree and smell the flowers. But in the most surprising of ways, Ferdinand is chosen to be a bullfighter in Madrid. A beautiful way to show how much we love and accept ourselves and our children as they are.
by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
It’s finally the young narrator’s turn to look for owls with his father, long after it should be bedtime. Journeying in silence is a sensory adventure that shows how close parents and children can be to each other, as well as the wonder of nature, in the cold winter woods.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
One of the most popular books ever written by Eric Carle is not enough for a child’s bookshelf. Follow the hungry caterpillar as he eats through the days of the week and more and more food. This special anniversary edition comes with extras like sketches, photos, a history of the Caterpillar, and letters from the author and Dolly Parton, so it’s a good idea to get it.
The Poky Little Puppy
by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenngren
If you want to see what’s outside, the little puppy and his siblings dig a hole under your fence. As one of the first Little Golden Books, it’s one of the best-known books for kids. One of the best picture books of all time was based on this sweet story.
Are You My Mother?
by P.D. Eastman
When a baby bird is born and he can’t find his mother, he goes out and looks for her. None of them is his mother. He meets a kitten, a dog, cow, and Snort. This early-reader classic is a great gift for baby showers and other special events. It was first published in 1960.
Just Me and My Dad (Little Critter)
by Mercer Meyer
People both young and old love this story about Little Critter and his dad going camping in the woods. Mishaps they have in the wilderness are both funny and heartwarming. They set up their tent, then launch their canoe.
Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?
by Richard Scarry
Richard Scarry is one of the few picture book authors who has made his world so famous and well-known. Young people can go on a tour of Busytown in this picture book. All of us have a job to do. Firefighters to farmers, everyone has a job to do.
Dr. Seuss’s ABC
by Dr. Seuss
I bet you’ve read this ABC book to your kids if you have kids. It is in Dr. Seuss’ unique and zany way that he teaches kids about the alphabet. Is one of the funniest alphabet books ever written. It’s a popular gift for baby showers and birthday parties because it is so interesting.
The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams, illustrated by Sarah Massini
Children who like longer books will enjoy the classic story of the toy rabbit that came to life. Velveteen Rabbit is not liked by other toys or rabbits. But the Boy loves him even though he is not liked by the other toys or rabbits During a heartbreaking breakup, a fairy turns the toy rabbit into a real rabbit and reminds him of the Boy’s love.
Scuffy the Tugboat
by Gertrude Crampton, illustrated by Tibor Gergely
It was first published in 1946 and has never been out of print. It still has a lot of fans today. He leaves the people who love him and sails down the river. He finds out that all he wants to do is go home.
So what really makes a children’s book a classic? It’s not simply amusement value. It’s not pop-ups nor holograms nor any other fun gimmick. No, it’s a book’s ability to evoke the essence of childhood — what it is to view the world through a child’s eyes and to feel the world with a child’s heart. It’s giving voice and stories to children without condescension and with uncommon understanding. And, if we are not hardened beyond recognition, it can even speak to that part of us that remembers what it was to be young.