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77 Captivating Caldecott Kids 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!

Top 10 Caldecott Books

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. Staccato

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.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend book
#3
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Written and illustrated by Dan Santat
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle. New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one's place in the world.

Make Way for Ducklings book
#4
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
#5
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.

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.

Madeline's Rescue book
#7
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?

Officer Buckle and Gloria book
#8
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.

Jumanji book
#9
Jumanji
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Left on their own for an afternoon, two bored and restless children find more excitement than they bargained for in a mysterious and mystical jungle adventure board game.

The Little House book
#10
The Little House
Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A country house is unhappy when the city, with all its buildings and traffic, grows up around her.

Books About Wordless & Caldecott

Noah's Ark book
#1
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 Lion & the Mouse book
#2
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.

Flotsam book
#3
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.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Tuesday - Frogs rise on their lily pads, float through the air, and explore nearby houses while their inhabitants sleep.

  2. Wolf in the Snow - 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.

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

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Table of Contents
  1. Top 10 Caldecott Books
  2. + wordless (6)
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