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10 Great Picture Books for Preschoolers, from Author Sue Fliess

10 Great Picture Books for Preschoolers, from Author Sue Fliess

Reading to your child every day is easy when you have a stash of wonderful books on hand. To help you build a library of winners, we asked children's writer Sue Fliess, author of the new picture book, Shoes for Me!, to list her all-time favorites. Enjoy!

- The Circle of Moms Editors

Running a half-marathon was hard. Giving birth to my two sons—extremely difficult. But choosing only 10 of my favorite books to recommend? Nearly impossible. That said, my 10 favorite books right now, in no particular order, range from whimsical to philosophical—a few walking the line between both. Many of these are new, while some have been out for awhile and remain among my faves.  

1. Stars

by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee

I read this and immediately said those six words many of my fellow writers often think: I wish I had written that. Its simplicity in text and illustrations is what makes this book so beautiful. Shining light on all-things stars, the charming text reminds us how stars are part of our every day. “Put a star on a stick and you’ve made a wand. If you hold a wand the right way, you might see a wish come true. Not always. Only sometimes. You never know about a wish.” Frazee’s sparse, whimsical illustrations, set against large pages, echo what it’s like to be standing on earth, looking up at the stars light years away.


 2. A Balloon for Isabel

by Deborah Underwood

Life isn’t fair. And Isabel and her brother, Walter, feel that the world is conspiring against them. Porcupines aren’t allowed to have balloons like the rest of the class – for obvious reasons. Instead, they get bookmarks. Told with humor and heart, you’ll be rooting for Isabel and her plan to get the balloon she’s always wanted. Where there’s a quill, there’s a way.  

3. Weslandia

by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Wesley marches to the beat of his own drummer. But after learning in school about civilizations and how they need their own staple food crop, Wesley decides to plant his own. An outcast from the rest, at first everyone wonders what he’s doing. By the end, everyone – even his tormentors – want to be part of the civilization he’s created: Weslandia. Such a creative and different book and the illustrations are wonderful.  

4. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig

I never tire of this story from my childhood. It’s the one I go back to when I’m stumped in my own writing and need to remember all the elements that go into a great picture book—the most important to me being heart. Sylvester is a good donkey, and loves collecting pebbles. One day, he finds a magic pebble. But when Sylvester runs into trouble (a lion), he accidentally turns himself into a rock and wonders if he’ll ever see his family again. Filled with suspense, it’s really a book about hope.


 5. Snip Snap! What’s That?

by Mara Bergman, illustrated by Nick Maland

There’s an alligator on the loose in the apartment building. Three frightened children encounter it, run, and hide. But pretty soon, they’re fed up with being scared and stand up the alligator: “The children decided they’d had enough / of all this scary alligator stuff” sending it home with its tail between its legs. Not for kids easily scared as the alligator’s face grows to epic proportions, (love it!) but this story is action-packed from page one and keeps you on the edge, wondering just how close the gator will get. A unique way of showing how you can be brave in the face of danger.  

6. Mostly Monsterly

by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Bernadette has a secret. She’s a monster with a soft side – and at the Monster Academy, that just won’t do. She tries every which way to win her classmates over – hugs, cupcakes, you name it – but the other monsters are grossed out by her sweetness. It’s not until she gives them something ooey and gooey, that she turns them all to mush. A playful story on navigating how we all fit in in the world.   

7. He Came with the Couch

by David Slonim

I love quirky picture books, and this one takes the prize. A family needs a new couch. But the one they find comes with a blue “guy” on it. The story follows the hilarious trial and error of the parents exhausting every attempt to oust the blue creature from the couch, while the child makes friends with him, of course. The illustrations are spectacularly clever (there are suddenly couches everywhere!). A one-of-a-kind book with a warm and surprising ending.


8. Leonardo the Terrible Monster

by Mo Willems
Yes, he’s the guy best known for pigeons, Knuffle bunnies and elephant and piggy. But this one of Mo Willems’ stories, to me, is the true gem. Have you ever thought you were meant to be really good at something – born to be – only to discover you’re terrible at it? All this little monster wants to do is scare the tuna salad out of someone. At least, until he meets Sam. In this laugh-out-loud picture book, find out how sweet a terrible monster can be.

 9. My Kitten

by Margaret O’Hair, illustrated by Tammie Lyon
A perfect read-aloud, this story follows the day of a girl and her frolicking kitten, in sweet, clever rhyme. The little kitten gets into trouble several times (claws the couch, gets stuck in a tree) and the girl gently guides her out of it. It will be one that you’ll be asked to, (and you’ll want to) – read again and again.  

10. Library Lion

by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
I have read this story hundreds of times. It makes me smile, and cry, and gives me goosebumps. Every. Single. Time. It makes me want to live in a library and want a lion for a pet. It’s about following the rules, but figuring out when it’s okay to break them. I want to wrap this story around me like a blanket and roll down a grassy hill – to my pet lion. A perfect book.  

Sue Fliess is a children’s book author, a senior copywriter for eBay, a marketing consultant, a freelance writer, and a mom of two amazing boys, ages 6 and 8. Her first book, Shoes for Me! (Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books), available now, is the story of a little hippo going shoe-shopping with her mom. She has two forthcoming books, A Dress for Me! (Cavendish, March 2012) and Tons of Trucks (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2012). She lives in northern California with her family, their lab, Teddy, and a guinea pig named Mocha. Follow her on Twitter @SueFliess, Facebook, or

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Image Source: Amy Fliess
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