Best Children's Books About Caldecott

The Best 76 Caldecott Books

Updated Apr. 24, 2019

As one of two of the most prestigious awards given in the United States for children's literature, the Randolph Caldecott Medal is given to the "most distinguished American picture book for children" (Caldecott Medal Home Page) With that in mind, we have a great list of books below that you will want to make sure your children have read at least once. What makes these books great? The pictures. Take a look and decide what your favorite might be!

Where the Wild Things Are book
#1
Where the Wild Things Are
Written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from Grammy

I really love this book! I have a copy from when my children were little and I have copies for each of their households when collecting children's books starts to be relevant. Over the years I have heard of some of the criticism people have addressed toward this book but none of it has really resonated with me. Sendak's story and illustrations appeal to children in the same way that fairy tales do--none of those is mild and sweet. For children, the world is really black and white, and filled with extremes; either everything is fantastic, or it is terrible. Children can relate to Max, having all experienced that separation from vigorous activity to solitude, with imaginations still running wild. It is excellent that Max is not afraid of the monsters, being master of his imaginary world, and fitting that when he has finished his adventures he returns to the safety and security of home.

In the forty years since Max first cried "Let the wild rumpus start," Maurice Sendak's classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children's books of all time. Now, in celebration of this special anniversary, introduce a new generation to Max's imaginative journey to where the wild things are.

The Polar Express book
#2
The Polar Express
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from Mr. Stacatto

What's not to love about this classic story about believing! Seeing this book always makes me nostalgic for Christmases long past and excited for those to come.

A magical train ride on Christmas Eve takes a boy to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa Claus.

Make Way for Ducklings book
#3
Make Way for Ducklings
Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is absolutely wonderful and is a favorite from my childhood! Robert McCloskey's award-winning, signature illustration style is beautifully detailed and charming, and beautifully tells the heart-warming story of the duck family with their adorable ducklings... whose names just trip off the tongue!

Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live. The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston. But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arive safely at their new home. This brilliantly illustrated, amusingly observed tale of Mallards on the move has won the hearts of generations of readers. Awarded the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 1941, it has since become a favorite of millions.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble book
#4
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Written and illustrated by William Steig
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I loved this book growing up and still love it! It's so sad when Sylvester panics and turns himself into a rock when he sees a lion, and then he can't reach his magic pebble to turn himself back. When his parents go for a picnic and place the pebble on Sylvester the rock, he's able to turn back again and be with his family. I love the message at the end that they didn't need the rock to wish for anything else, because family is all they needed.

On a rainy day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble that can make wishes come true. But when a lion frightens him on his way home, Sylvester makes a wish that brings unexpected results. How Sylvester is eventually reunited with his loving family and restored to his true self makes a story that is beautifully tender and filled with true magic. Illustrated with William Steig's glowing pictures, this is a modern classic beloved by children everywhere. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a winner of the Caldecott Medal.

Officer Buckle and Gloria book
#5
Officer Buckle and Gloria
Written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Grammy

It has been easily more than a decade since I read this book aloud and yet whenever someone brings up the book Officer Buckle and Gloria, I immediately think, "Always stick with your buddy." Officer Buckle is a roundish, straightish, serious police officer who makes a career of giving school presentations on safety tips. Once Gloria, a precocious and animated K-9, becomes his partner, their presentations get really entertaining. While the tips themselves are a little droll in their obviousness, Gloria's charades and Peggy Rathman's imaginative illustrations will have them laughing in the aisles. Officer Buckle and Gloria are much better together than singly; they learn how important it is to stick together.

The children at Napville Elementary School always ignore Officer Buckle's safety tips, until a police dog named Gloria accompanies him when he gives his safety speeches.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee book
#6
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is beautifully told through both words and illustrations. I love how the story comes full circle from Amos visiting the animals and helping them every day to the animals coming to visit Amos on his sick day, demonstrating that true friendship goes both ways!

THE BEST SICK DAY EVER and the animals in the zoo feature in this striking picture book debut. Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee's case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it's time they returned the favor. A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year and the winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal. This title has Common Core connections.

Noah's Ark book
#7
Noah's Ark
Written and illustrated by Peter Spier
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from Grammy

Peter Spier is a genius and this is one of his best. I love the details in every illustration. He incorporates spare text from the Old Testament, complemented by the inclusion of a seventeenth-century poem, which he translated from the Dutch original. (For a real treat, look up the book on youtube, James Earl Jones reads the poem!) The first time I read this I was stunned by how many of the unexplained details of the Flood story Spier had contemplated and included for the reader's consideration. One illustration, in particular, has stayed with me for nearly a quarter century: one of a group of elephants standing in thigh-high water. There is so much to look at and talk about on every single page. This book is a joy to read!

Retells in pictures how a pair of every manner of creature climbed on board Noah's ark and thereby survived the Flood.

The Snowy Day book
#8
The Snowy Day
Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Celebrate a major anniversary of a true classic! In 1962, a little boy named Peter put on his snowsuit and stepped out of his house and into the hearts of millions of readers. The Snowy Day transformed children’s literature with its pioneering portrayal of an African-American child and the charming story and artwork that won it the Caldecott Medal. Fifty years later, Viking proudly celebrates Peter’s adventure in this very special edition. Featuring eight pages of bonus material and a festive cover, this oversized edition of Keats’s beloved book is a must-have.

The Lion & the Mouse book
#9
The Lion & the Mouse
Written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

In this wordless retelling of an Aesop fable set in the African Serengeti, an adventuresome mouse proves that even small creatures are capable of great deeds when she rescues the King of the Jungle.

The Three Pigs book
#10
The Three Pigs
Written and illustrated by David Wiesner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This take on the story of the "Three Little Pigs" is imaginative and fun! I love that it uses the illustrations to tell a big part of the story. The book starts out with the original tale of the wolf blowing down the pigs' houses, but the pigs escape out of the story, go visit others' stories and help characters there, and then, altogether, they fix the ending of their own story with the wolf and live happily ever after.

This picture book begins placidly (and familiarly) enough, with three pigs collecting materials and going off to build houses of straw, sticks, and bricks. But the wolf’s huffing and puffing blows the first pig right out of the story . . . and into the realm of pure imagination. The transition signals the start of a freewheeling adventure with characteristic David Wiesner effects—cinematic flow, astonishing shifts of perspective, and sly humor, as well as episodes of flight. Satisfying both as a story and as an exploration of the nature of story, The Three Pigs takes visual narrative to a new level. Dialogue balloons, text excerpts, and a wide variety of illustration styles guide the reader through a dazzling fantasy universe to the surprising and happy ending. Fans of Tuesday’s frogs and Sector 7’s clouds will be captivated by old friends—the Three Pigs of nursery fame and their companions—in a new guise.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat book
#11
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Written and illustrated by Simms Taback
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A very old overcoat is recycled numerous times into a variety of garments.

Flotsam book
#12
Flotsam
Written and illustrated by David Wiesner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

When a young boy discovers a camera on the beach and develops the film, he finds with his microscope many layers of pictures within the photographs.

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters book
#13
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
Written and illustrated by John Steptoe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Mufaro was a happy man. Everyone agreed that his two daughters were very beautiful. Nyasha was kind and considerate as well as beautiful, but everyone -- except Mufaro -- knew that Manyara was selfish, badtempered, and spoiled. When the king decided to take a wife and invited "The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land" to appear before him, Mufaro declared proudly that only the king could choose between Nyasha and Manyara. Manyara, of course, didn't agree, and set out to make certain that she would be chosen. John Steptoe has created a memorable modem fable of pride going before a fall, in keeping with the moral of the folktale that was his inspiration. He has illustrated it with stunning paintings that glow with the beauty, warmth, and internal vision of the land and people of his ancestors.

Madeline's Rescue book
#14
Madeline's Rescue
Written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

In the Madeline series, this book is about the dog, Genevieve, who rescued Madeline from her fall to the river. When Genevieve is lost, the girls try to find her. Genevieve ends up back home, and all of the girls want Genevieve to sleep in their bed! It turns out that Genevieve has a bunch of pups, so all the girls get their wish to have a dog in their bed at night. :)

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines the smallest one was Madeline.” Nothing frightens Madeline—not tigers, not even mice. With its endearing, courageous heroine, cheerful humor, and wonderful, whimsical drawings of Paris, the Madeline stories are true classics that continue to charm readers even after 75 years! When Madeline falls into the river Seine and nearly drowns, a courageous canine comes to her rescue. Now Genevieve the dog is Madeline’s cherished pet, and the envy of all the other girls. What can be done when there’s just not enough hound to go around?

Kitten's First Full Moon book
#15
Kitten's First Full Moon
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Kevin Henkes's acclaimed national bestseller about a kitten, the moon, and a bowl of milk was awarded the Caldecott Medal and was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. This sturdy board book edition is perfect for little hands! Kitten's First Full Moon is an acclaimed modern classic, from one of the most celebrated and beloved picture book creators working in the field today. This memorable character and her suspenseful adventure are just right for the very youngest child. It is Kitten's first full moon, and when she sees it she thinks it is a bowl of milk in the sky. And she wants it. Does she get it? Well, no . . . and yes. What a night! A concise story, large type, and luminescent pictures play second fiddle to the true star of this book: a brave young kitten who sets out into the world on a quest that leaves her bruised, bewildered, and hungry, but that ultimately leads her back home, where something special is waiting just for her. This perfectly sized board book edition introduces Kitten to a new generation of the youngest readers. Winner of the Caldecott Medal, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award.

Tuesday book
#16
Tuesday
Written and illustrated by David Wiesner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Frogs rise on their lily pads, float through the air, and explore nearby houses while their inhabitants sleep.

Song and Dance Man book
#17
Song and Dance Man
Written by Karen Ackerman and illustrated by Stephen Gammell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Illus. in full color. "In this affectionate story, three children follow their grandfather up to the attic, where he pulls out his old bowler hat, gold-tipped cane, and his tap shoes. Grandpa once danced on the vaudeville stage, and as he glides across the floor, the children can see what it was like to be a song and dance man. Gammell captures all the story's inherent joie de vivre with color pencil renderings that leap off the pages. Bespectacled, enthusiastic Grandpa clearly exudes the message that you're only as old as you feel, but the children respond—as will readers—to the nostalgia of the moment. Utterly original."—(starred) Booklist.

Owl Moon book
#18
Owl Moon
Written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Celebrating 30 years of the beloved classic Owl Moon from renowned children’s book author Jane Yolen and Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator John Schoenherr! Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But there is no answer. Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is.

One Fine Day book
#19
One Fine Day
Written and illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This little fox gets in trouble when he drinks up an old woman's milk. In order to pay her back to get his tail back, he has to go through quite the chain of events and favors. I think this book full of a ripple effect of events is alright, but not one that I love or want to read again and again, though I did like how it displayed that one kind person willing to give without receiving makes all the difference.

Awarded the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of 1971 "One fine day a fox traveled through the great forest. When he reached the other side he was very thirsty." The jaunty red fox stole milk from an old farm woman, lost his tail under the annoyed woman's knife, and spent the day bargaining to get it back. This humorous retelling of a favorite Armenian folktale is a story small children will follow and "read along" with ease.

Wolf in the Snow book
#20
Wolf in the Snow
Written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home? Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.

Mirette on the High Wire book
#21
Mirette on the High Wire
Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold Mccully
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Mirette learns tightrope walking from Monsieur Bellini, a guest in her mother's boarding house, not knowing that he is a celebrated tightrope artist who has withdrawn from performing because of fear.

The Hello, Goodbye Window book
#22
The Hello, Goodbye Window
Written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Looking through the kitchen window, a little girl and her doting grandparents watch stars, play games, and, most importantly, say hello and goodbye.

Locomotive book
#23
Locomotive
Written and illustrated by Brian Floca
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-10

All aboard! From the creator of the “stunning” (Booklist) Moonshot, a rich and detailed sensory exploration of America’s early railroads. It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean. Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

A Ball for Daisy book
#24
A Ball for Daisy
Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A wordless picture book shows the fun a dog has with her ball, and what happens when it is lost.

This is Not My Hat book
#25
This is Not My Hat
Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A little fish thinks he can get away with stealing a hat.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.