Age 3-5 yrs Children's picture books you've (probably) never heard of.

Published on October 7th, 2014 | by Bright Kids Books


20 great children’s picture books you’ve (probably) never heard of

Here are 20 great children’s picture books you’ve (probably) never heard of. The kids books that aren’t (yet) famous, but probably should be. 

So if you’re looking for a children’s picture book that isn’t found on everyone else’s bookshelf… or you’re simply curious about authors and illustrators who may not be getting the attention they deserve… then this list is for you. Best of all, each and every one of these brilliant, thoughtful and original children’s picture books is worthy of becoming a part of your child’s reading journey. Enjoy!

20 great children’s picture books you’ve (probably) never heard of


1. And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson (Author), Peter Parnell (Author) and Henry Cole (Illustrator)

Based on a true story about a penguin family living in New York City’s Central Park Zoo will warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are “a little bit different.” They cuddle and share a nest like the other penguin couples, and when all the others start hatching eggs, they want to be parents, too. Determined and hopeful, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it. Unsurprisingly, they have little luck. That is until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their adorable little daughter. And the family of three can still be seen at the zoo today. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations set the tone for this wonderfully uplifting story, and you’ll will find it hard to resist the penguins’ often comical expressions. A children’s picture book to treasure.


2. Diary of a Wombat
by Jackie French (Author) and Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)

This life of a wombat (as told by a wombat) is simply delightful. For those who don’t know, wombats are a cuddly-looking, slow-moving Australian mammal. Their favorite activities are eating, sleeping, and digging holes. Here, in the words of one unusually articulate wombat, is the tongue-in-cheek account of a busy week spent eating, sleeping, digging holes . . . and training its new neighbors, a family of humans, to produce treats on demand. Kids (and parents) may recognise some qualities they share with this determined furry wombat!


3. The Hole
by Øyvind Torseter

Comic yet philosophical, simple yet deeply expressive, The Hole is quite simply – brilliant! The protagonist of The Hole has discovered a hole in his apartment and tries to find an explanation for it. He seeks expert advice. But not everything can be explained. Perhaps he’ll just have to accept that the hole is there? The Hole has simple, expressive drawings created by pen and computer, and there’s a hole punched right through the book, so it really exists, even if it can’t be explained. One of our personal favorite children’s picture books.


4. Half a World Away
By Libby Gleeson (Author), Freya Blackwood (Illustrator)

Amy and Louis are the best of friends. They do everything together and go everywhere together. They build towers as high as the sky, they look for magical creatures in clouds, and they always greet one another with their special call: “Coo-ee!”

But when Amy’s family moves far across the ocean, the color drains out of their lives – until Louie finds a way to restore their special bond. This book is so sweet that anyone who has a distant friend will either tear up, arrange a Skype session or both! Not well known (yet!), but one of our favorite children’s books that will probably make you teary.


5. Elmer
by David McKee

Elmer the elephant is different to the other elephants. He’s a colourful character because of his patchwork hide – and sense of humor. And though he tries to blend in with the herd, he soon realizes that he’s happiest just being himself. A modern classic, with over two million copies sold worldwide, Elmer’s subtle message, that it is ok to be different, resonates with children (and adults) across the world. One of those children’s picture books with a message you want your children to absorb.


6. The Great Paper Caper
by Oliver Jeffers

The animals’ homes are disappearing. Tree by tree, the forest is being cut down. Clues! There must be clues. For instance – there is a mysterious bear carrying an ax! But what would a bear want with so many trees? Perhaps the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor are a piece of the puzzle?

Oliver Jeffers’ quirky, childlike humor and lovable illustrations are in full effect in this funny whodunit featuring a winning cast of animals and a message about the importance of conservation and recycling.


7. The Terrible Plop
by Ursula Dubosarsky (Author), Andrew Joyner (Illustrator)

An unexplained noise leads to pandemonium among the animals. The fox, the elephant, and even the big brown bear prove no match for the Terrible Plop. Only the littlest bunny learns not to panic when the sky – or something else up there – is falling.

Bright, energetic illustrations and a lively rhyming text combine to make this a perfect read-aloud story for little ones needing assurance that plops in the day or bumps in the night aren’t as scary as they might seem.


8. Journey
by Aaron Becker

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure and danger abound. Red marker pen in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon and a flying carpet which carry her on a spectacular journey …who knows where? In this exquisitely illustrated, wordless picture book, an ordinary child is launched on an extraordinary, magical journey towards her greatest and most rewarding adventure. Children’s picture books don’t come more imaginative or beautiful than this gem from Aaron Becker.


9. Art and Max
by David Wiesner

With eye-popping illustrations, three-time Caldecott medalist David Wiesner takes readers on a stunning journey through the art world. Art & Max is the story of two artists: Art, a collared lizard who is studiously painting a portrait when we first meet him, and Max, who is learning to paint. What follows is a magical journey of explosive color, where acrylic paints, watercolor, and line drawings, are deconstructed and re-invented. Combining minimal text with remarkable images, this is a book about friendship and art to be cherished and pored over – inspiring the artist in all of us.


10. This Moose Belongs to Me
by Oliver Jeffers

Wilfred wants a pet, so when a moose just happens to wander by, the boy claims him as his own and dedicates a lot of time to teaching Marcel the rules of being a good one. They fill their days exploring the countryside and taking long walks. One day, however, Wilfred discovers that his moose might have a whole other life that he knows nothing about. He must figure out how to process this shocking discovery and decide if he can accept the fact that he must alter the boundaries of their friendship. A beautifully-illustrated children’s picture book, with a witty and thought-provoking story, exploring the concept of ownership – and friendship.


11. Beegu
by Alexis Deacon

Beegu is not supposed to be on Earth. Her spacecraft is stranded and now she is lost. She is a friendly little creature, but the Earth beings don’t seem very welcoming at all. Rabbits don’t seem to understand her; windblown leaves won’t stay still to listen. But at last, on a school playground, Beegu discovers a group of fantastic companions who are happy to let her join their games. A simply delightful children’s picture book that kids will relate to. And adults will adore.


12. Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty (Author), David Roberts (Illustrator)

When we discovered Rosie Revere, Engineer, we literally whooped for joy. Rosie is quiet and shy, and always trying to solve problems with her inventions. She keeps her dreams and creations to herself, until one day her great-great-aunt Rose visits and mentions that she has always dreamed of flying. So Rosie sets about building a contraption to help make her aunt’s dream come true. Her invention hovers then crashes – a complete disaster – or is it? Aunt Rose helps Rosie see that the only way to fail is to quit. The whimsical, charming illustrations and rhyming text complement the inspiring message at the heart of this book. No glitter, no fairies, no princesses, only the faintest touch of pink, and a special appearance by Rosie the Riveter. This book about learning from mistakes and trying again is on high rotation in our household. And to prove that not all children’s books that make you cry are due to sadness… at each reading of Rosie Revere, Engineer I’m failing to hold back tears of joy. A simply delightful children’s picture book.


13. Alpha Oops – The Day Z Went First
by Alethea Kontis (Author), Bob Kolar (Illustrator)

This is one of the funniest books for parents and kids we’ve found. ‘Z’ is tired of always having to be last when the alphabet family lines up. He is demanding fair and equal treatment! The letters (more or less) agree to go backwards, but it’s not long before P has some ideas of his own. And so does H, for that matter. In fact, it seems as if almost every letter has a different opinion about how the alphabet should be arranged. It’s chaos! This hugely entertaining romp is not your average alphabet book. But be warned… it’s also very, very funny!


14. Zero
by Kathryn Otoshi

Zero is a big round number. When she looks at herself, she just sees a hole right in her center. Every day she watches the other numbers line up to count: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 …!” “Those numbers have value. That’s why they count,” she thinks. But how could a number worth nothing become something? Zero feels empty inside. She watches One having fun with the other numbers. One has bold strokes and squared corners. Zero is big and round with no corners at all. “If I were like One, then I can count too,” she thinks. So she pushes and pulls, stretches and straightens, forces and flattens herself, but in the end she realizes that she can only be Zero. As budding young readers learn about numbers and counting, they are also introduced to accepting different body types, developing social skills and character, and learning what it means to find value in yourself and in others. Simply a brilliant children’s picture book.


15. One Gorilla
by Anthony Browne

In this elegant counting book, the author-illustrator outdoes himself with a vivid presentation of primates from gorillas to gibbons, macaques to mandrills, ring-tailed lemurs to spider monkeys. With his striking palette, exquisite attention to detail, and quirky flair for facial expressions, Anthony Browne slyly extends the basic number concept into a look at similarities and differences — portraying an extended family we can count ourselves part of. One of those stunning children’s picture books you’ll wish you’d discovered sooner!


16. An Awesome Book
by Dallas Clayton

Based on the simple concept of dreaming big, An Awesome Book! is the inspiring debut work of Los Angeles writer/artist Dallas Clayton. An Awesome Book! encourages kids not to limit their dreams and to dream ‘… not a million quiet dreams’ but ‘a million dreams that roar’. The illustrations are creative and highly stylized – complementing the lyrical prose perfectly. Best of all, adults will love reading this over and over… while being reminded that they too have the capacity to dream big! Dallas Clayton’s first kids’ picture book, and still one of his best.


17. Harry’s Coin
by Sally Symes (Author), Maddy McClellan (Illustrator)

This ingenious interactive follow-the-coin adventure is not only an entertaining story, but also a chance to learn how money works. Follow the wild and wonderful adventure of Harry’s Coin as it travels from place to place and person to person. With bold, colorful illustrations, and a whimsical, engaging text, it’s one of those picture books your kids will want to enjoy over and over again.


18. Have You Ever Seen A Sneep?
by Tasha Pym (Author) and Joel Stewart (Illustrator)

Have you ever set out a picnic in a truly splendid spot, turned your back for just one second …to find a Sneep has pinched the lot? Oscar is looking forward to the perfect day out. He’ll have a picnic, read his book and build a den. But things don’t go entirely according to plan. From one hair-raising surprise to the next, Oscar explains his monster troubles to us. Laugh-out-loud funny and illustrated in a whimsical and witty style.


19. If I Built A Car
by Chris Van Dusen

A young boy decides to design a better car than the old family station wagon. Driven by a robot, his sleek, supercharged vehicle can drive underwater and fly, and the interior includes a snack bar and swimming pool. The story is told in jaunty rhyming couplets, but the fun really comes from the illustrations, which perfectly parody a 1950s vision of the future, as depicted in magazines like Popular Mechanics. The car glides past neat suburban homes with wide and perfect lawns, where everything is bathed in pastels. This may appeal more to parents (or, perhaps more accurately, to grandparents) who remember these renderings of technological dream worlds. If I Built a Car is one of those rare children’s picture books that simultaneously manages to seem old-fashioned AND futuristic.


20. The Book with No Pictures
by B.J. Novak

What’s a book with no pictures doing in a list of ‘the greatest children’s picture books you’ve (probably) never heard of’ we hear you ask? Quite simply, this book is brilliant and original. The author, B.J. Novak –  an award winning actor, writer and comedian – set out to write a children’s book that focused on words… and the joy of reading. And what fun it is!

Here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say…BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, you and your kids will just love reading The Book with No Pictures.


About the Author

- thinking kids can change the world.

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