The job of picking ten of the best Caldecott books of all time is no easy task. Thousands of children’s books are published every year. Caldecott does a phenomenal job identifying those that dramatically attract the attention of children either by word, verse, or vivid colors.
Suffice it to say, that if you are looking for a children’s book for your school, as a gift, or to share special time with your child, look for the Caldecott Medal imprint on the front cover of the book. It’s almost a guarantee that you and your child will love the winner.
In selecting the top ten Caldecott books of all time, I’m choosing those that have stood the test of time. The children’s books we return to again and again. I have my personal favorites, and you will, too. One thing we agree on is that Caldecott award winners are the best among children’s books.
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
This is the first Caldecott book I remember reading as a child. We had others on the shelf, but adventures in the snow always made this book appealing. I’ve since shared it with children on snow days and during winter learning units in preschool and kindergarten. They enjoy the simple story of exploration in the snow.
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
Make Way for Ducklings has become a collectible Caldecott classic. Inviting illustrations combined with crisp words, makes this children’s story come to life. Children empathize with Mr. and Mrs. Duck as they seek out safe housing for their family of ducklings. The search for a home and the conclusion make for a charming read.
Ms Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney
In a magnificently written children’s book, the concept of a grandfather’s influence and wisdom is central to the work. Ms Rumphius , who once sat on her grandfather’s knee, grows old and loses herself and her meaning in life. Once she remembers her grandfather’s sage advice, she begins to make changes that affect her own life and the lives of others. Children will beg to hear this book over and again.
Inch by Inch, by Leo Lionni
Inch by Inch won a Caldecott honor, but in my opinion, is as good as any Caldecott winner. The book is a vivid description in both word and illustration of the pride of an inchworm. The inchworms first success is to avoid being eaten by a hungry robin. It is then that we learn about the inchworms special ability.
Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen; illustrated by John Schoenherr
A magical walk through the woods one winter night, just a girl and her Pa, is the premise of this luring children’s book. You’ll see and feel the crunch of snow. Vivid imagery brings the woods beside their farm to life. You’ll feel as if you spot the fieldmouse, deer, and other animals out and about on the snowy night. Then, listen as Pa calls for the owl. This is an adventure that most kids dream off. It is a well written and captivating children’s book.
Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann
If you are looking for a fresh story with colorful visual images, Officer Buckle and Gloria, offers a sensational story for the young ears and the senses. This book is sure to become a favorite. It is fun to read aloud. None of the kids will be drifting as you read this refreshing story of friendship.
The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles, by Maud Petersham and Miska Petersham
This Caldecott award winning children’s book is a preservation of American heritage. The nursery rhymes, jingles, and short stories with which you grew up are preserved in this little book. Illustrations are vivid and complementary to the text. This is a must-have so that the rhymes and stories of our youth will be carried on to our children and their children.
Marshmallow, by Clare Turley Newberry
Oliver the cat is in charge of the home, until a rabbit, Marshmallow moves in. Oliver feels Marshmallow is in the way, but just like the bunny will win your heart he wins the heart of Oliver the cat. This is a sweet story of learning to get along. It is a long time Caldecott favorite children’s book.
The Little Island, by Golden MacDonald; illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
What happens on a little island, all alone in the sea? Trace the island’s changes in this beautifully illustrated book written with rich, imaginative language that will engage children.
Sam, Bang & Moonshine, by Evaline Ness
“Moonshine,” that’s what Samantha’s father calls her big dreams. When her cat, Bang, and best friend, Thomas, are affected by her tall tales, Sam learns the importance of separating dreams and reality. This Caldecott winner offers a story from which everyone can learn. We all have a little “Moonshine” and must learn to live in present reality without giving up on our dreams.
Use the Caldecott Medal or Caldecott Honor emblem to help choose top quality children’s books that are well written and well illustrated.
ALA, Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938 – Present, ala.org