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Simply Beautiful Picture Books

Kate Coombs
The list author says: "Some books are just so beautiful they leave you breathless. The emphasis of this list is the illustrations, but in many cases, the words are just as beautiful as the art. There are so many reasons to fall in love with children's books!"
The Lion & the Mouse
The Lion & the Mouse
"The latest Caldecott winner (January 2010), this retelling of the well-known fable by a grandmaster of illustration, Jerry Pinkney, is rich and wordless. Set in the Serengeti, painted with a warm palette."
Many Moons (A Harcourt Brace contemporary classic)
Many Moons (A Harcourt Brace contemporary classic)
"I've always loved Thurber's tongue-in-cheek princess story, and Marc Simont's delicate watercolors suit it perfectly."
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (Sidman, Joyce)
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (Sidman, Joyce)
"Fresh and slightly Chagall-esque illustrations of a wonderful poem about the beauty of the seasons, with a more rollicking feel than you might expect from the subject. 2010 Caldecott Honor winner."
How to Heal a Broken Wing
How to Heal a Broken Wing
"This book is lovely and poignant, the story of a little boy who finds a hurt pigeon in a busy city and takes it home to heal. AMAZING art!"
The Curious Garden
The Curious Garden
"Peter Brown's simple fable about beautifying a city will please eco-enthusiasts and gardeners, but anyone can appreciate the growth of Liam's urban-exploring new acquaintance."
Flotsam
Flotsam
"The newest of Wiesner's beautifully illustrated, award-winning, whimsical yet thought-provoking books, another Caldecott Medalist. See also Sector 7, The Three Pigs, Tuesday, and June 29, 1999."
The Whole Green World
The Whole Green World
"Elise Kleven's art isn't just beautiful, it's joyful, and Tony Johnston's seemingly simple rhymed text is actually brilliantly crafted. Such a happy book!"
My Light
My Light
"A breathtaking book. Hard to believe it's nonfiction, or that the concepts of light and electricity could be so poetically illustrated!"
The Fortune-Tellers (Picture Puffin Books)
The Fortune-Tellers (Picture Puffin Books)
"Trina Schart Hyman is best known for her illustrations of Grimms' fairy tales, but I like her artwork for Lloyd Alexander's story. Hyman set it in Cameroon in honor of her son-in-law and grandchildren. Look for her Red Riding Hood, Bearskin, and many others."
Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
"Kinuko Craft is the new Trina Schart Hyman of fairy tale illustration. Take a look at her striking illustrations for this Russian tale with its dreadful witch. See also Craft's Sleeping Beauty, Cupid and Psyche, Cinderella, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses."
The Arrival
The Arrival
"Shaun Tan's picture books are for ages 8-adult. This wordless book is about the universal immigrant experience and is probably the most beautiful, moving book I've ever owned. (I've owned thousands of books.)"
The Red Tree
The Red Tree
"A symbol-laden book that's pretty much for grown-ups, but older children and teens will appreciate it, as well. It's about hopelessnes--and hope. Each individual illustration can be savored in its own right."
Frida (English Language Edition)
Frida (English Language Edition)
"This biography of Frida Kahlo is probably my second favorite picture book of all time simply for illustration (after The Arrival). I especially love Ana Juan's use of Mexican folk art figures as symbolic characters and the wonderful, poignant spread showing Frida's pain after her accident."
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood
"Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations are just perfect. Look for her other illustrated folk and fairy tales, and her Caldecott-winning St. George and the Dragon, as well."
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (Book and Musical CD)
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (Book and Musical CD)
"The Woods are wildly talented, but King Bidgood is still my favorite--each of Don Wood's spreads invites careful examination and enjoyment. See also Heckedy Peg, The Napping House, and Quick as a Cricket."
To Every Thing There Is A Season
To Every Thing There Is A Season
"A treasured book in my collection. The incredible Leo and Diane Dillon illustrate a famous Bible passage using a series of styles from art history the world over. (Their books are ALWAYS beautiful, but you should share this one with everyone you know.)"
The Dinosaurs Of Waterhouse Hawkins
The Dinosaurs Of Waterhouse Hawkins
"You'll be surprised by the story and pleased by Brian Selznick's glowing art. Nonfiction about the man who first created life-size models of dinosaurs."
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Portfolio Edition)
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Portfolio Edition)
"Van Allsburg has created a number of beautiful books, but none quite so intriguing as this one. Teachers throughout the country use the art and captions as story starters (hence the portfolio--but look for the book edition if you prefer)."
The Magic Nesting Doll
The Magic Nesting Doll
"Laurel Long's art is rich and dark, suiting this tale inspired by Russian folk art. See also The Lady and the Lion, a Beauty and the Beast retelling by the same author and illustrator."
Show Way
Show Way
"This award-winning book illustrated by Hudson Talbot is an epic in a small package, a beautiful, poetic quilt of symbolism and family love spanning the generations of both a single African American family and black history in America."
An Egg Is Quiet
An Egg Is Quiet
"Such a gorgeous book, illustrated by Sylvia Long. Be sure to compare the front and back endpapers. The second book, A Seed Is Sleepy, is also lovely. (Both nonfiction.)"
East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon (Works in Translation)
East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon (Works in Translation)
"Take a look at P.J. Lynch's rendition of a less well-known, Scandinavian version of Beauty and the Beast--especially his illustrations of the winds. I also recommend Mercer Mayer's out-of-print version of this story."
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor Book)
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor Book)
"This lovingly rendered biography of Harriet Tubman has an inspiring/spiritual tone. See also Kadir Nelson's illustrations for Abe's Honest Words, a new biography of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport, and Nelson's own We Are the Ship, among others."
My Very First Mother Goose
My Very First Mother Goose
"Rosemary Wells deserves a prize for her palette alone in this book (and its sequel). Also the design! Knocked all my other Mother Goose collections right off the shelf--permanently."
Leaf Man
Leaf Man
"Lois Ehlert's paper art books have been impressing me for years, but this one stands out even among all her successes. I especially like how she turns leaves into birds and other objects that flow naturally with the narrative."
The Talking Eggs
The Talking Eggs
"This story was a favorite of my first grade students a few years back. It's an old fairy tale set in the American South, and Jerry Pinkney's art is the perfect fit."
At Night
At Night
"This is one of those deceptively simple books they call "a small gem." See also Bean's art for The Apple Pie That Papa Baked (author Lauren Thompson)--it's partly an homage to Wanda Gag and Virginia Lee Burton."
Rain Makes Applesauce
Rain Makes Applesauce
"Yay, it's back in print! A mostly nonsense book tied together by an odd-sounding truth. Marvin Bileck's illustrations are quirky, too."
Up
Up
"LaMarche creates a quiet story of a boy who wants to grow up and instead turns his yearning into a magical power. See also The Rainbabies (author Laura Krauss Melmed), among others."
If You Decide To Go To The Moon
If You Decide To Go To The Moon
"Stephen Kellogg's art is usually thought of as comical, and most of it is, but his award-winning illustrations for a boy's imagined trip to the moon are powerful."
Dove Isabeau
Dove Isabeau
"Nobody paints stones like Dennis Nolan. Dove Isabeau is the powerful story of a girl turned into a dragon by her stepmother. (Note: Some of the most beautiful books in my collection are out of print. Scout around for inexpensive editions, as some are astronomically priced.)"
Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch
Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch
"The whole book is written in verse. Medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch is best known for his fantastical creatures--here the poet and illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon imagine those creatures being real, annoying pets to a slightly mad, yet lovable artist."
Snow White
Snow White
"Find a cheaper version or go to the library! But this is my favorite Snow White--Angela Barrett's illustrations are haunting. And Josephine Poole is a very talented writer/reteller."
Snow White
Snow White
"Charles Santore's version recently went out of print. Take a look--especially at his illustration of Snow White fallen on the floor of the dwarves' cottage. (Another overpriced used book--scout around or check the library.)"
The Language of Birds
The Language of Birds
"A gorgeous, adventurous folktale about two brothers. I don't know which I like better, the storytelling or Susan Gabor's art. Wonderful colors, brushstrokes and textures."
Creation
Creation
"Very few people could illustrate something as grand as the creation of the world with such power and simplicity. A stunning book."
The Story of the Creation
The Story of the Creation
"And while we're at it, Jane Ray's folk art style gives us another memorable take on the creation story."
The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams
The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams
"This gentle allegory is illustrated in rich, dark color by British artist James Mayhew. Be sure to look at his cover and endpapers, where he created a real fabric "cloth of dreams" to match the story."
A Weave Of Words
A Weave Of Words
"We have access to a lot of European fairy tales, but what about an adventurous tale from Armenia with a heroic young queen? This one is illustrated by Raul Colon in his striking style and recognizably warm palette."
Pockets
Pockets
"Illustrator Mary Grandpre is best known for the Harry Potter covers, but I really like this magical tale about practical people butting heads with a dreamer in a prairie town."