The best picture books for children

Filled with witty, uplifting stories and brilliant illustrations, these children’s picture books are sure to become storytime favourites.

01/12/2020
9 minutes to read

Whether you’re reading to your child, or they’re learning to read by themselves, kids will want to return to these picture books again and again. Full of loveable characters, playful stories, and beautiful illustrations, these are just some of the best picture books for children of all ages.

For more inspiration, don’t miss the best books for babies and the best bedtime stories for kids. And our edit of the best sticker and activity books will keep little minds engaged for hours.   

If you're looking for more wonderful children's books this festive season, browse our kids Christmas gift guide. 

Picture books for babies and toddlers

Dear Santa

by Rod Campbell

Book cover for 9781447261551

A festive picture book with bright, bold illustrations from the creator of Dear Zoo. With Dear Santa, little hands can unwrap a present on each page by lifting the flaps to discover what Santa has sent. This children’s Christmas book is a festive classic.

My Magical Snowman

by Yujin Shin

Book cover for 9781529025415

This wonderfully festive picture book has push, pull and turn mechanisms and a sparkly foil cover wheel which are sure to keep little ones entertained and engaged.

Fruits

by Valerie Bloom

Book cover for 9781529007565

This award-winning picture book is a fun and educational counting poem from Valerie Bloom, with beautiful illustrations by David Axtell. How much fruit can one little girl eat? Count from one to ten, learning the names of different Caribbean fruits. The rhyming text helps little ones learn to count while exploring the Caribbean’s many delicious fruits.  

Freddy the Frog

by Axel Scheffler

Book cover for 9781529023329

Follow Freddy the frog as he squelches in slime, races his friends and croaks all day! Lile ones will love this colourful board book with sliders to pull, tabs to push and a gentle rhyming text to enjoy together.

Five More Minutes

by Marta Altés

Book cover for 9781509866038

A little fox gives his time-poor dad some advice about what 'time' really means and how to make the most of it in this charming and funny story from award-winning picture book creator Marta Altés.

We're Going on a Lion Hunt

by David Axtell

Book cover for 9781529007558

Full of David Axtell’s beautiful illustrations of magnificent animals, this picture book adventure through the African savanna is a rendition of a well-known children’s poem. Two sisters go looking for a lion that lives on the African savanna. They go through swishy swashy long grass, a splishy splashy lake and a big dark cave – but when they finally meet the lion they have to run, run, run all the way home. 

It's Mine!

by Rod Campbell

Book cover for 9781529000566

From the creator of beloved pre-school classic, Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell's It's Mine! is a hide-and-seek story that little ones will love. Packed full of bright, bold illustrations and exciting jungle animals, the best is saved for last with its surprise pop-up ending, and its thick card pages make it the perfect baby book for children who love to explore through touch.

There's an Owl in My Towel

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for 9781447251804

This beautifully illustrated book is full of gentle humour as baby’s every activity is thwarted by a variety of unexpected animals. It’s difficult to have breakfast with a mole in your bowl, but who wouldn’t like a ted in their bed?

WOW! Said the Owl

by Tim Hopgood

Book cover for 9780230701045

Tim Hopgood's bold, engaging, beautiful picture books will help children learn about colours.

When it's time for us to go to bed, owls are just waking up. But one curious little owl decides to stay awake all day and discovers a world bursting with colour! Yet when the night-time comes around again, the stars above her head are still the most beautiful of all.

Illustrated spread of Owl and butterflies from WOW Said the Owl

With My Mummy

by James Brown

Book cover for 9781509834402

This touching celebration of the special relationship between mother and child is told in gentle rhyme by James Brown, while charming illustrations by Cally Johnson-Issacs bring the story this beautiful picture book to life.

Picture books for children aged 3 - 5 years

Merry Christmas, Gus

by Chris Chatterton

Book cover for 9781509854370

This hilarious Christmas picture book for kids stars the wonderfully grumpy Gus. Gus doesn’t like carols, or cake, or Christmas jumpers. And he certainly doesn't like mistletoe. To Gus, a tree is only good for one thing, and it's not for hanging baubles on. Will Gus ever learn to love the festive season?

Meerkat Christmas

by Emily Gravett

Book cover for 9781509857302

Join Sunny the Meerkat on his search for a white Christmas in this interactive and heartwarming festive picture book from the creator of Meerkat Mail. This tale of family and festive fun is full of Christmas cards to read as you follow Sunny’s journey from the Kalahari desert as he looks for his perfect Christmas.

How Winston Delivered Christmas

by Alex T. Smith

Book cover for 9781529010862

Join little Winston the mouse as he embarks on his mission to deliver a last-minute letter to Santa that got lost along the way. This charming festive picture book has a chapter for each day of advent and is full of Christmassy things to make and do. 

Get crafty this Christmas with Winston's festive activities for kids.

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland

by Carys Bexington

Book cover for 9781509882212

This festive mashup of two classic children’s books begins with Santa, not Alice, falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Join the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and a few of Santa's reindeer for a tea party and find out if Santa can charm the Queen of Hearts (who hates Christmas, naturally) and put the Merry back into Christmas in Wonderland. If you’re looking for a fun Christmas picture book with a twist, here it is!

Coming to England

by Floella Benjamin

Book cover for 9781529009415

Baroness Floella Benjamin travelled from Trinidad to London with her older sister and two younger brothers when she was just ten years old, as part of the Windrush generation. This is her inspiring true story. Arriving in England to be reunited with the rest of her family, cold and unfriendly London wasn’t quite what Floella expected. This beautifully illustrated and powerful true story about overcoming adversity is full of Floella’s trademark optimism and joy.

Watch David Olusoga, historian and author of  Black and British: A short, essential history, read Coming to England for CBeebies Bedtime Stories:

M is for Melanin

by Tiffany Rose

Book cover for 9781529062502

This joyful and empowering alphabet book teaches children their ABC and celebrates Black children, encouraging all kids to love the skin they’re in. Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, black-positive messages, from E is for Empowerment, to L is for Lead to W is for Worthy.

I Can Catch a Monster

by Bethan Woollvin

Book cover for 9781509889808

Bo the Brave is a rebellious little girl on the hunt for a fearsome monster. Her brothers say she’s too little to catch a monster, but Bo is smart, strong and has big ideas of her own. She sets out to catch a beast, but can she defeat the furious griffin, the hideous kraken and the big scary dragon? Or, will she find herself some new friends instead? This is a vibrant picture book with an empowering message about standing up for yourself and not judging by appearance. 

Just One of Those Days

by Jill Murphy

Book cover for 9781529021370

Fans of Jill Murphy’s classic picture book Peace at Last will love this new story featuring Mr Bear, Mrs Bear and Baby Bear.Mr and Mrs Bear wake up late, and it’s raining. The Mrs Bear breaks her glasses and Mr Bear spills his coffee. It’s just one of those days, but the Bear family muddle through, and there’s even a surprise for Baby Bear at the end of the day. 

Counting Creatures

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for 9781529040517

Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai

This stunning picture book is a fun, interactive counting book with peep-through pages, fold-out flaps and bright, beautiful artwork. Little ones will love comparing the creatures, exploring their habitats and learning the proper names for all the baby animals.

The Little War Cat

by Hiba Noor Khan

Book cover for 9781529032130

This beautifully illustrated picture book was inspired by a true story. A little grey cat is caught amongst the bangs and crashes of the humans in boots who have changed the city of Aleppo into one she struggles to recognise. But then an unlikely friend appears and shows her that there is still plenty of kindness in the world. And soon the little grey cat realises how she can make a difference too. 

Cave Baby

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for 9781529027778

This special tenth-anniversary edition of this wonderful adventure story is a must-have picture book for little Julia Donaldson fans. A hairy mammoth takes a little baby on a thrilling journey. On the way they meet a sabre-toothed tiger, a leaping hare, a laughing hyena and even, just maybe, by a big brown bear. But where are they going? And what has it got to do with the scribbles baby made on the cave wall?

Monkey Puzzle 20th Anniversary Edition

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for 9781529027785

Help Monkey find his mum in this special twentieth-anniversary edition of Monkey Puzzle, with special never-seen-before content. It’s not much fun being lost in the jungle, and Monky just wants to find his mum. Can the kindly butterfly help?

Arlo The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep

by Catherine Rayner

Book cover for 9781509804207

This beautifully illustrated bedtime story from Catherine Rayner has a gentle mindfulness message which is especially helpful for little ones who have trouble going to sleep. Arlo the lion is exhausted, but he just can’t fall asleep, no matter what he tries. But then he meets Owl, who can sleep all through the day. Can she teach Arlo some special tricks?

Poo! Is That You?

by Clare Helen Welsh

Book cover for 9781529030471

This is the stinkingly funny story of Lenny the Lemur who has gone on holiday to the Amazon rainforest. He’s just about to settle down for a snooze when he gets a waft of a very yucky smell. What could it be? Lenny decides to track down the source of the smell and meets lots of stinky creatures along the way, finding out all about how they smell and why.

Albert Talbot: Master of Disguise

by Ben Manley

Book cover for 9781509882243

From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night, Albert faces many challenges. But by imagining himself as powerful heroes, from Rusti Buffels the Fearless Mountainer to Zandrian Delaclair the Antarctic Submariner, he can feel brave as he faces adversity. This fun and playful story celebrates the joy of imaginative play and the freedom to be whoever you want.

My Dad Is A Grizzly Bear

by Swapna Haddow

Book cover for 9781529013979

Could Dad be a grizzly bear? He has fuzzy fur, big paws and he loves the outdoors. He sleeps a lot, and he ate all the honey. What else could he be? Sometimes, when it's scary at night, there's nothing better than a big bear hug.

What the Ladybird Heard at the Seaside

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for 9781529023145

The adventure continues for the little ladybird in Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks's much-loved children's picture book series. The clever little ladybird is off for a day out at the beach, but those two bad men, Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh, are up to no good again. Join the ladybird as she meets a cast of sea creatures and stops Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh from getting up to their usual tricks. Animal-mad little ones will love spotting the story’s seaside inhabitants in this glittery seaside adventure. 

Starbird

by Sharon King-Chai

Book cover for 9781509899579

Starbird is an original fable about freedom and love, stunningly illustrated by Sharon King-Chai. Starbird’s songs delight all who hear them, but when the Moon King traps Starbird in a cage as a gift for his daughter, all the colour and life in his voice begins to drain away. With beautiful illustrations and shiny silver foil throughout, this stunning picture book is an exquisite gift for any child or adult.

The Grizzly Itch

by Victoria Cassanell

Book cover for 9781529013566

Victoria Casanell's delightful story of a bear who can't scratch his post-hibernation itch will teach children about the importance of friendship and helping others. Readers of all ages will enjoy spotting the animals in each painted scene as they follow Bear's mission to scratch his Grizzly Itch once and for all. 

I am not an Elephant

by Karl Newson

Book cover for 9781529008562

Laugh out loud at the adventures of bold, imaginative little Mouse, who is accused of being an elephant by a gecko. Mouse is quite certain this isn't true, but what else could Mouse be? An owl? A sheep? A yak? A cow? Mouse persuades the others that it's what's on the inside that counts in this vibrant and characterful picture book.

Kiki and Jax

by Marie Kondo

Book cover for 9781529032116

Kiki and Jax is a charming picture book story from tidying superstar Marie Kondo about how tidying up can spark joy in the lives of young children. Kiki and Jax are best friends – Jax enjoys sorting, but Kiki enjoys collecting and gathers lots of stuff. When Kiki’s home becomes too full of things for the friends to play in, Jax teaches Kiki how to sort everything, and to only keep those things that spark joy!

The Truth About Old People

by Elina Ellis

Book cover for 9781509882274

This funny, loveable picture book is a tribute to grandparents and old people. When you’re small, everyone bigger than you seems really old. But being older doesn’t mean being boring, slow or quiet! From Elina Ellis, winner of the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, The Truth About Old People tackles ageism without being preachy.

The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water

by Gemma Merino

Book cover for 9781447214717

Everybody knows that crocodiles love water, but this little crocodile is different. He doesn’t like water at all. In fact, he prefers climbing trees! Could it be this little crocodile isn’t a crocodile at all? He might just be a DRAGON!

The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water is a funny and uplifting story proving that being different can be fun!

Illustrated spread from The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water

I Am Perfectly Designed

by Karamo Brown

Book cover for 9781529036152

This empowering picture book about loving who you are comes from Karamo Brown, star of the hit Netflix series Queer Eye, and his son Jason. Follow a boy and his father as they spend the day in the city together, talking about all the ways they are perfectly designed for each other.

The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for 9781509804757

Have you met the Gruffalo? With his terrible tusks and terrible claws? Join the quick-witted mouse as he takes a stroll through the deep dark wood and avoids being a tasty meal for a fox, an owl, a snake and even the Gruffalo!

The Gruffalo is an undisputed modern classic with gentle rhyming words that will improve your child's phonetic skills. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's children's picture books are loved around the world.

Axel Scheffler's Illustrated spread of Gruffalo and Mouse from The Gruffalo

I am a Tiger

by Karl Newson

Book cover for 9781509855155

This is a hilarious and original picture book about a little mouse with big ideas. The bold little mouse manages to convince the other animals that he is not a mouse, but a tiger. But when a real tiger turns up, will the fearless little rodent be able to persuade the tiger that he’s not a tiger but a mouse?

Brenda Is a Sheep

by Morag Hood

Book cover for 9781509842964

Brenda says she’s a sheep, but she looks very different from her woolly friends. All the sheep love Brenda, but Brenda is very hungry, and doesn’t like the taste of grass . . . She soon begins planning a delicious feast, but will the sheep notice she’s not quite the same as them? A hilarious story about being accepted, from the award-winning Morag Hood.

The Giant of Jum

by Elli Woollard

Book cover for 9781509829927

Fe fi fo fum, here comes the hungry Giant of Jum and he's off in search of the tastiest snack of all. But Jack and his friends don't see a scary giant, they see a wonderfully tall man who can rescue cats from trees and give them a lift home on his shoulders. Perhaps this giant isn't grumpy or grizzly after all . . . 

Children will love this big-hearted twist on a classic fairytale.

Illustrated spread from The Giant of Jum

I'm Actually Really Grown-Up Now

by Maisie Paradise Shearring

Book cover for 9781509834556

Meena wants to join in when the adults have a party, but only grown-ups get to stay up late. So the next day Meena decides, “I’m actually really grown-up now!” She has lots of fun planning her own grown-up party, going to work and experimenting with fashion, but she soon finds out being a grown-up isn’t as easy as it seems.

There Is a Tribe of Kids

by Lane Smith

Book cover for 9781509814008

Legendary illustrator Lane Smith takes children on a colourful adventure through the natural world, following a child as he weaves through the jungle, dives under the ocean and soars into the sky. Along the way he makes friends and causes mischief with a dazzling array of creatures, but can he find a tribe of his own?

A witty and playful exploration of curiosity, discovery and what it means to belong.

Illustrated spread of girl and penguins from There Is a Tribe of Kids

The Twelve Days of Christmas

by

Book cover for 9781529043372

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Or Grandma is Overly Generous is a witty new take on the festive classic The Twelve Days of Christmas, accompanied by beautiful full-colour illustrations. In this gorgeous gift book Grandma's presents start off sensibly – a partridge is easy enough to take care of – but her generosity soon gets wildly out of hand . . .

Picture books for children aged 5+

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Book cover for 9781529002461

This beautiful edition presents Costa Award and Kate Greenaway Medal winner Chris Riddell's gorgeous new visual interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s classic story. Featuring a foiled jacket, head and tail bands and a ribbon marker, and with lavish colour illustrations throughout, this gorgeous hardback will be treasured for years to come. This is a picture book every Alice fan should have on their bookshelves.

Wild City

by Ben Hoare

Book cover for 9780753446102

Little readers can travel the globe and meet the creatures that share our urban spaces in this beautifully illustrated picture book. With lyrical and factual text written by award-winning natural history journalist Ben Hoare and stunning illustrations by Lucy Rose, budding natural historians will be enthralled.

This is Our World

by Tracey Turner

Book cover for 9780753445792

This beautiful gift book is an unforgettable journey through twenty places around the world, vividly bringing to life the people, customs and wildlife. Children from Australia’s dusty Red Centre to bustling Beijing guide us through the place they call home. This is Our World is a colourful celebration of our planet’s cultural and environmental diversity. 

One Day in Wonderland

by Kathleen Krull

Book cover for 9781509878611

This joyful celebration of Lewis Carroll’s love of language is a wonderful introduction to his life and the origin of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Award-winning author Katherine Krull uses many of Carroll’s own words, from brillig and uglification to frumious and chortle, to tell the story of a man who’s legacy continues to delight children today. One Day in Wonderland is strikingly illustrated by Júlia Sardà, making this a book to treasure.

The Misadventures of Frederick

by Ben Manley

Book cover for 9781509851539

Frederick lives in a mansion surrounded by lakes and forest, but he is bored. His life has been very sheltered, so when his friend Emily invites him to play outside he has to say no – what if he hurts himself? But Emily won’t take no for an answer . . .

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Book cover for 9781509897582

This elegant edition of one of the most-loved children’s stories breathes new life into Alice’s famous tale. Beautifully illustrated with shiny gold embossing on the cover, this picture book is the perfect gift for Alice fans big and small.