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Tom Mason

Professional Children's Books Expert

Classic Books

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Ever wonder what happened to that book your parents used to read to you? It’s still here, still available and ready for a new generation of children.

There are lots of great children’s picture books, but not all of them can be considered classics. Classics are ones that never seem old or dated, regardless of the year they were published. Classics remain in print for each generation to discover. Your grandparents might have read them to you just as you are reading them to your own children. When you find them on a bookshelf or see a familiar illustration, it brings back happy memories and a wistful smile. Whether they’re about pigs, dogs, teddy bears or wild things, these books retain their storytelling power and artistic style years after their original publication so that new generations of kids can discover their wonders.

Best Classic Preschool Picture Books by Tom Mason

The Best You Can Get

  • Where the Wild Things Are

    Tom says: When mischievous Max is sent to his room without supper, his imagination takes over and he visits the land of Wild Things. Eventually, he’s made their king, but he soon longs to return home. More than 40 years after its original publication, “Where the Wild Things Are” remains a classic for both young and old. Sendak’s drawings are delightful fun and the Wild Things are completely original creations that are humorously scary. A mischievous little book that’s fun to re-read.

    • by Maurice Sendak
    • First published in 1963
    • Ages 4-8
    • Caldecott Medal winner
    • Soon to be a major motion picture
  • Olivia

    Tom says: Olivia is a very busy little pig. From the time she gets up in the morning ‘til the time she refuses to go to bed at night, she runs, jumps, skips rope, moves cats, tries on clothes, builds giant sand sculptures, visits museums, paints, and read books. Starring in her very first book, New Yorker illustrator Ian Falconer creates a fun, winning and confident little pig who wins hearts even when she gets into trouble by imitating Jackson Pollock.

    • by Ian Falconer
    • First published in 2000
    • Ages 3-7
    • Junior Library Guild Selection
    • New Yorker illustrator
  • Rolie Polie Olie

    Tom says: Can a book that’s less than 10 years old be considered a classic? It can, especially if it’s “Rolie Polie Olie” by William Joyce. With snappy rhymes and retro-cartooning inspired by the round-and-rubbery animated cartoons of the 1930s, Joyce spins a madcap day in the life of Olie, a really swell guy who lives on a little round planet in the Rolie Polie Sky. He recharges his head, dances in his underpants, does chores with the family, plays games and learns a lesson when he breaks something that belongs to his sister. A thoroughly winning and fun book with artwork that makes the characters appear to bounce on the page.

    • by William Joyce
    • First published in 1999
    • Ages 4-8
    • Spawned hit cartoon series
    • Co-created the movie “Robots”
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar

    Tom says: A week in the life of a caterpillar as depicted by the cut-out style artwork of Eric Carle. The caterpillar emerges from its egg and eats its way through a huge amount of food on each day of the week as it journeys to transform itself into a butterfly. Told in Carle’s ingenious illustrative style and complete with die-cut pages and actual holes indicating where the caterpillar ate, Carle’s book has delighted children for almost 40 years.

    • by Eric Carle
    • First published in 1969
    • Ages 3-6
    • Caterpillars!
    • Over 12 million copies sold
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

    Tom says: There’s a lot of fun happening at the top of the coconut tree as the 26 letters of the alphabet try to climb it and hang on. A lively tale with letters as the main characters, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” teaches the alphabet with a bouncy beat and infectious rhymes that will have you singing the words in no time.

    • by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert
    • First published in 1989
    • Ages 2-6
    • Horn Book Honor Award winner
    • ALA Notable Book

You will be happy with any of these

  • Mr. Gumpy's Outing

    Tom says: On a beautiful day, Mr. Gumpy decides to take his boat downriver. A pleasant and easy-going man, he starts picking up passengers along the way: children, a rabbit, a cat, a dog, and many others. With each passenger, he makes a deal that they won’t disrupt the happy journey. Unfortunately, the animals break that promise and the packed boat tips over! A wonderful, good-natured story with colorful, scratchy linework by Burningham.

    • by John Burningham
    • First published in 1970
    • Ages 2-6
    • ALA Notable Children’s Book
    • Kate Greenaway Medal winner
  • Corduroy

    Tom says: Corduroy is a stuffed bear for sale in a department store. When he realizes no one wants to buy him because his overalls are missing a button, Corduroy takes a midnight trip around to store to find a replacement. His adventure is soon interrupted by the security guard and he’s returned to his shelf where the next morning, he’s discovered by a little girl who needs a friend. Don Freeman’s gentle and sweet tale will bring a smile to everyone.

    • by Don Freeman
    • First published in 1968
    • Ages 3-8
    • Teddy Bears!
  • Harry the Dirty Dog

    Tom says: Despite the fact that he’s a white dog with black spots, Harry is just like a little kid. He doesn’t want to take a bath, so he hides the scrub brush and runs away. Unfortunately, he gets so dirty on his misadventure that he becomes a black dog with white spots! When he returns home, his owners don’t recognize him…until he takes a bath! Bold linework and a classical illustrative style help take Harry from dirty to dirtiest and back again.

    • by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham
    • First published in 1956
    • Ages 3-8
    • Dogs!
    • Two-time Caldecott Honor winner
  • Caps for Sale

    Tom says: A cap peddler wears his inventory stacked on his head as he travels from town to town. After a long day without a sale, he takes a nap under a shady tree. When he wakes up, his caps are gone! They’re now being worn by the monkeys who live in the tree. Unable to get his caps back from the playful simians, his frustration builds until he finds the perfect way. Simple line drawings and working with just three colors Esphyr Slobodkina’s artwork is well-suited to this classic folktale. A great story with a funny twist ending that’s also fun to read aloud.

    • by Esphyr Slobodkina
    • First published in 1947
    • Ages 4-8
    • Monkeys!
    • Based on a folktale
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon

    Tom says: Harold goes for a walk in the moonlight created by the moon he drew with his purple crayon. He then goes as far as his imagination can take him. Whenever Harold needs something like a boat or an apple tree, he draws it with his crayon. When he gets into trouble, he remains calm as he draws his way out. Simply, yet delightfully, illustrated by Crockett Johnson, Harold’s adventures are sure to inspire kids to pick up their own crayons and create their own story. What more could you ask from a classic book?

    • by Crockett Johnson
    • First published in 1955
    • Ages 4-8
    • Crayons!

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