The Top Ten Picture Books and Early Readers for the Elementary Classroom (and Beyond)


As a pre-K–5th grade librarian, I get asked all the time, “What is your favorite book?” I always answer, “That is like trying to choose a favorite star in the sky!” My favorite book changes daily, sometimes hourly. And this is good because it means that the world of children’s literature is alive and well. Rather than promise that the books reviewed here are the brightest stars ever to shine in the picture book and early reader galaxy, I can merely say that these are the stars that have caught my eye for the moment.

  1. Atkinson, Cale. Explorers of the Wild. Disney-Hyperion, 2016.

Bear and Boy are both great explorers who love adventure. They know the joy of picking up stones, rolling down hills, and looking under logs. Bear’s and Boy’s stories are told in parallel until they meet in the woods. They are terrified of each other but quickly discover that they are both explorers and that exploring with a friend is more enjoyable than exploring alone. This book is a delight and provides and great opportunity for comparing and contrasting. Be sure to find the snail hidden on every page.



  1. Cummins, Lucy Ruth. A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016.

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals is a picture book that will delight students in upper grades. A great vocabulary lesson starts with the title: What do the words “dwindling” and “assortment” mean? Suddenly, students have predictions about what is going to happen in this story. The story starts out, “Once upon a time, there was a hungry lion” and then lists a collection of adorable animals, but the author has to keep revising the list of adorable animals because they seem to be disappearing. Cummins has created a book filled with unexpected plot twists that keep readers guessing until the very last page. I would not necessarily read this book to preschool or kindergarten classes due to the fact that the assortment of animals is dwindling.


  1. Ellis, Carson. Du Iz Tak? Candlewick, 2016.

A 2017 Caldecott Honor Book, Du Iz Tak? is a wildly imaginative and fun book. Written entirely in an invented language, readers use the pictures to figure out what is happening and what is being said. When a mysterious shoot sprouts, the local bugs wonder, “Du iz tak?” (What is that?). As the shoot grows taller, some young bugs come along and use the shoot to build a tree fort until winter comes and kills the plant. This book is wonderful to use for making inferences and predictions. Students of all ages will enjoy this book and will notice small details on each beautifully illustrated page.


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