100 Most Inspiring Children’s Books

Isn’t it about time children hear inspirational, life-affirming and fun stories for a change? Our list of the top “100 Most Inspiring Children’s Books” is sure to give you some great ideas for funny stories, poignant stories and unique stories that inspire children to reach out and touch the stars.

100 Most Inspiring Children's Books

If you are looking for more children’s books, check out our popular 100 Best Children’s Books of All-Time list.

Top 10

oh the places you'll go by dr. seuss
Oh The Places You’ll Go By Dr. Seuss: Oh the Places You’ll Go was the last published book written and illustrated by the legendary children’s storyteller Dr. Seuss. Written in the rhyming style of his favorites such as Green Eggs and Ham, it tells the story of an unnamed protagonist who wants to leave town, and ends up traveling to many bizarre places that are geometrical and polychromatically correct. It is one of the few books that uses 2nd person narration (referring to you, the unnamed protagonist). The book concludes on a happy and open-ended note, as the protagonist continues to explore new places and things—many of which will be in the future.

an awesome book! by dallas clayton
An Awesome Book! By Dallas Clayton: The debut of self-published author turned mainstream hit Dallas Clayton, An Awesome Book! started the series of the always-happy children’s book written in a classic, timeless style that is reminiscent of fairy tales of yesterday. The book is based on the concept of “dreaming big.” It is a book of whimsy, rhyme and matching full color illustrations. The book concludes positively, with the moral of the story being not to lose the gift of imagination as one grows up. The story, though intended for a child’s impressionable and curious mind, is of sentimental interest to adults who never grew up and never stopped dreaming of jelly bean-powered cars.

extra yarn by mac barnett
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and with illustrations by Jon Klassen tells the story of a monochrome town that suddenly gets a change of color thanks to a little girl named Annabelle and her box of yarn. Her box of yarn never seems to run out and so Annabelle knits clothing for everyone who asks, including people, animals, and all sorts of new friends. The story concludes upon resolving the conflict brought by the clothes-greedy archduke who tries to steal the box of yarn for himself. Children and adults alike will enjoy this book, particularly those who remember characters from the children’s book, I Want My Hat Back, written and illustrated by Klassen.

have you filled a bucket today? by carol mccloud
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is a vividly illustrated children’s book that teaches the benefits of being kind through the metaphor of a bucket. The book is ideal for older children, as some of the concepts are complex, though they are ultimately about spreading happiness and understanding the behavior of negative thinkers. The book gives examples to children on how to become bucket fillers in their own lives, namely, by doing nice things for other people, and how to avoid emptying the buckets of others by being unkind. This is a learning aid that will prove very helpful in teaching moral behavior.

tuesday by david wiesner
Tuesday by David Wiesner: Tuesday is David Wiesner’s children’s book illustrated with watercolor paintings. Only recently have new book editions come to recreate his paintings in the same vivid detail. The story covers a specific Tuesday in which frogs are mysteriously taken from their pond and float on lily pads to a different village. Before the book concludes, they perplex local villagers and have a series of funny encounters with humans and animals alike. Tuesday received one of the highest honors of any children’s book by winning the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1992. It is a great children’s adventure, as whimsical in voice as it is surreal in visuals

b by sarah kay
B by Sarah Kay: “B” was published in 2011, full of inspiring poetry by the young American poet Sarah Kay. The title poem is from the perspective of a mother to a daughter, and manages to be a promise, secret and even a thank you all in one. This is a good choice for anyone looking for some of the best poetry and illustrations of today.

where the wild things are by maurice sendak
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: This book is a true classic in children’s literature. The story, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak tells the tale of Max, who upset with his mother sails away to an island inhabited by “Wild Things”. This is a story about an emotion rarely touched on in children’s books, anger. It manages to deal with that emotion in a way children understand and yet comes back around to that of love.

a bad case of the stripes by david shannon
A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon: This book was written by Davis Shannon and published by Scholastic Press in 1998. The story is one of non-conformity, and features a girl named Camilla Cream who wakes up one morning covered in stripes. She turns into numerous things at the suggestions of others including a pill, fungus, and even her own bedroom. This is a vividly illustrated book with a good message for young ones.

the dot by peter h. reynolds
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds: This is a story for anyone who has been afraid to express themselves and really let their inner talents out. The story features a young girl, Vashti, who tells her teacher she cannot draw. The teacher replies with”make a mark and see where it takes you” and that is the start of the girls wonderful journey.

press here by hervetullet
Press Here by Herve Tullet: Press Here is a truly interactive book that gives instructions to follow such as pressing the dots, tilting the book or even shaking it! This book is all about inspiring the imagination in young readers as it has a little glimpse of magic for those that are up for some make-believe.

11 to 20

beautiful oops! by barney saltzberg
Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg: Beautiful Oops! is a story teaching that mistakes will happen, but that it is ok, and sometimes even for the best. This book shows how mistakes such as tears and smudges can be transformed into a discovery. It features pop-ups and flaps to keep children highly engaged and learning the important lesson.

hug time by patrick mcdonnell
Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell: Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the beloved Mutts comic strip, has now put his unique writing and drawing down in a children’s book. This is a tale about Jules, a kitten who wants to give hugs to everyone. It is a good tale about love and the power of a hug.

i believe in me: a book of affirmations by connie brown
I Believe In Me: A Book Of Affirmations By Connie Brown: Connie Brown’s book of affirmations has been named one of the most inspiring books for children to date. It features colorful illustrations that will captivate its young audience as they read affirmations such as “I believe in me”, “I am filled with greatness”, “I am blessed” and more. Blank pages at the end of the book leave space for children to writ in their own happy affirmations and drawings.

where the sidewalk ends by shel silverstein
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: This beloved collection of poetry for children was written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein and published back in 1974. This is a book that helps to address children’s worries, evoke their imaginations, and give them something to gross out their parent’s with. You’ll meet Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, Dirty Dan, and a list of other fun and fanciful characters and worlds.

the three questions by jon j. muth
The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth: Inner peace can be elusive even for adults, yet that really is the main topic of Jon J. Muth’s latest children’s book. The three questions–what is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? Turn out to be the lessons for a young boy named Nikolai. This work is based on the story by Leo Tolstoy, but with vivid illustrations and a story children will love.

one by kathryn otoshi
One by Kathryn Otoshi: One is a color and counting book that also packs a big message about bullying, and how one person, one voice, can change things. Blue is getting picked on by red and the other colors don’t know what to do. Then along comes One who stands up to Red. The lesson of the strength of numbers begins.

the fantastic flying books of mr. morris lessmore by william joyce
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce: This children’s book is based on the short film that won the academy award for best short film in 2011. The book is just as magical in actual book form as the vivid illustrations really come to life. The story is about a man who loves books but who endures a personal loss. Through the power of the books he reads he finds healing and his happy ending.

not a box by antoinette portis
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis: If you have ever found the wonder in the simple things of life then this story by Antoinette Portis is sure to touch your heart. It is about how a box can become wonderful things with just a little bit of imagination. The main character sees it as a robot, a car and other amazing things. This book is a great way to spark young children’s imaginations.

henry's freedom box by ellen levine
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine: This inspiring story tells the true life tale of a slave who dreams of freedom, and finds his means of escape, he mails himself in a crate to the north where men were free. There are many serious issues touched on in this book, but older children are sure to understand the lessons, that of the importance of freedom, justice, and perseverance.

a color of his own by leo lionni
A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni: A Color of His Own is a fitting title for a book about a color changing chameleon who is distressed by his ever fluctuating appearance. The lesson children will take away from this book is not only is it ok to be different, but that making friends can help us through life’s difficult spots. Leo Lionni is a world renowned children’s author, one look at his expressive images and charming tales and you are sure to understand why.

21 to 30

how to catch a star by oliver jeffers
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers: How to Catch a Star is the first time effort of new children’s author Oliver Jeffers. This is a charming tale of a young boy who is so in love with the twinkling stars that he wants to get one for his very own. This is a fun whimsical tale with a good moral for children, that things may not always be what we expect, but that reaching for the stars (our dreams) is always a good idea.

the little engine that could by watty piper
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper: This is a classic tale that dates all the way back to 1930, but it’s lessons of hard work and “I think I can” optimism stay as true today as they were then. Many people today grew up having this charming story told to them, and it is now a tradition to read it to their own children.

yay, you!: moving out, moving up, moving on by sandra boynton
Yay, You!: Moving Out, Moving Up, Moving On by Sandra Boynton: This is a book for the older children in your life, those of graduating age that may be facing a lot of upcoming stresses and joys of life. This is a funny little book of insights, inspirations, and even a bit of good advice, joined by funny illustrations that help drive the points home.

on the night you were born by nancy tillman
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman: Every baby is special, and that is the exact sentiment On the Night You Were Born is conveying to young listeners. Illustrations of dancing polar bears and smiling moons help with the magical experience, and help little ones know how unique they are as they book says “there had never been anyone like you…ever in the world”.

if the world were a village by david j. smith
If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith: Few books out there today can tackle subjects such as culture, geography, customs, religions, and education while still remaining fun and fascinating. The story of “If the World Were a Village” breaks down these subjects to an understandable and relatable tale by having the whole world represented by 100 people in a single village. This will help children have a better global understanding, one which even some adults could use!

cloudy with a chance of meatballs by judi barrett
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett: Long before the hit movie there was the beloved children’s book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. This is sure to be a book to stir up the imagination of children as the questions such as what would it be like if it snowed mashed potatoes, or if meatballs rained from the sky? Judi Barrett’s fun story coupled with Ron Barrett’s expressive drawings make this a favorite book of many.

i have a dream by martin luther king jr.
I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr.: Racial equality is an important topic for everyone to understand, but especially our children who are the future of the world. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is now available in paperback book form, fully illustrated with heart moving images that will help drive the point home to young readers.

the wump world by bill peet
The Wump World by Bill Peet: The message of this book has never been more urgent than now, that is of taking care of the world we live in. The Wump World is about creatures known as Wumps who are driven out of their homes by a species known as the Pollutions. It may be a sad tale, but it ends on a positive note about the power of nature. Parents who are trying to “go green” will enjoy reading this book to their children.

zoom by istvanbanyai
Zoom by IstvanBanyai: This is a picture book that relies only in its colorful, fanciful illustrations to tell its tale. This is a tale about perspectives. First you are a little boy on a ship, but further out you see that the image was just a on a bus, and then it is reveled it is just an image on a TV. Children will enjoy seeing all the visual tricks as big reveal after big reveal are shown.

woolbur by leslie helakoski
Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski: Woolbur is a tale all about being true to who you are and not following “the herd”. Woolbur is a different kind of sheep, he dyes his wool blue, and hangs out with dogs. Woolbur has an unconventional approach for sure, and this causes stress to his parents who worry about his acceptance. Before long, Woolbur is the leader of the flock, which is a sterling example for children who dare to be different.

31 to 40

the man who walked between the towers by mordicai gerstein
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein: Mordicai Gerstein’s book tells the tells of French aerialist Philippe Petit as he suspended a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and walked across all the while dancing and doing tricks. The book captures the images of the event sets it to poetry and poignant painting. This book won the 2004 Caldecott Medal for Picture Books.

dream: a tale of wonder, wisdom & wishes by susan v. bosak
Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes by Susan V. Bosak: You’re never too old to dream is author Susan Bosak’s theme, as she explores the story of inspirational fables in free verse poetry along with original artwork. She tells the story as several stages of life, each time with an elder narrating the experience and ascribing a color to each stage of development. Even as grey sets on in adulthood, dreams arrive and add splashes of joyful green to a person’s life.

the circus ship by chris van dusen
The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen: The Circus Ship tells the story of a circus ship running of course, leaving its inhabitants—animals—on their own to survive the coast. They are forced to wander around until they meet the townspeople. The animals blend in very well and are reluctant to go back when the circus owner finds them. This rhyming verse and illustrated story emphasizes the bonds of community for a child’s mind.

the giving tree by shel silverstein
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: This classic book from 1964 tells the story of a boy and a tree. The tree provides everything the lad needs when he’s young, the lumber he needs when he’s an adult, and the stump he needs when he is older and ready to settle down. Silverstein’s memorable book has been translated into 30 languages and is a favorite among eachers and parents.

only one you by linda kranz
Only One You by Linda Kranz: There is only one “you” in the world and this issue is explored through the eyes of Adri, and his mama and papa as they share their wisdom. The book is vibrantly colorful as rockfish and blue ocean come to life. The sea of life journey is well represented in Kranz’s uplifting message book.

abe lincoln's dream by lane smith
Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith: Everyone knows Abe Lincoln but they haven’t heard Lane Smith’s story of Quincy, a schoolgirl who gets separated from a White House tour, and who accidentally journeys to Lincoln’s bedroom, only to find his ghost. However, Abe’s ghost is helpful and answers questions about the United States and about life.

i love you stinky face by lisa mccourt
I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa Mccourt: This illustrated bedtime fable well describes the bond that exists between mothers and children, as mama answers questions from her inquisitive and pessimistic son. The imaginative son not only imagines himself as Stinky Face but as a dinosaur and other monsters, though his mother’s love, nor her patience for silly scenarios, ever runs out.

red knit cap girl by naoko stoop
Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop: Red Knit Cap Girl tells the story of a girl who dreams big. She lives in an enchanted forest and wants to meet the Moon. The story follows her journey and adventures as she finally achieves her goal of a conversation with one very big moon. The artwork is set upon beautiful wood grain.

the curious garden by peter brown
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown: The Curious Garden tells the story of one boy and his quest to find a “greener world”. He starts small by finding a struggling garden and decides to care for it. Shortly after, the garden thrives and spreads throughout the darkened, grey-looking city. The environmentally friendly book touches upon very important themes through Liam, the innocent protagonist.

the gift of nothing by patrick mcdonnel
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnel: This Christmas book, starring the funny newspaper characters from Mutts, Mooch and Earl, tells the story of the perfect gift. Mooch the Cat gives Earl the Dog—who has everything—the gift of nothing. The artwork here is reminiscent of the newspaper funnies and the theme of friendship will be well received.

41 to 50

grandpa green by lane smith
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith: Grandpa Green tells the story of Grandpa, who is a gardener now, but was once just a boy on a farm. Grandpa Green’s grandson learns about his grandfather’s life by touring a garden of memories, filled with topiary trees and imagination. Lane Smith’s book describes a timeless story of family history and a legacy of respect and love.

cookies: bite-size life lessons by amy krouse rosenthal
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Rouse Rosenthal: Rosenthal’s book tells the tale of cookies! We all know cookies are delicious but it turns out they also have something to say about humanity and existence. The book is a fun dictionary exercise that brings together cookie loving, easy definitions that kids can relate to, inspirational life lessons and positive learning.

snowflake bentley by jacqueline briggs martin
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin: Snowflake Bentley, a woodcut picture book, tells the story of Wilson Bentley, a farmer in the 1800s that loved snow. The man seeks to learn everything about snowflakes, despite the objections of others around him. As the story concludes, the real life Bentley becomes world-renowned as the world’s foremost expert on snowflakes and is even welcomed by museums.

an awesome book of thanks by dallas clayton
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton: How often do we give thanks? This is the issue Dallas Clayton’s book explores, as he takes children through a magical world of unicorns, dinosaur robots, and other whimsical adventures. He also takes great joy in discussing the minutia of life. This story, at once, teaches impressionable minds how to feel thankful, how to express thanks and how to look at the world around them.

the cloud spinner by alison jay
The Cloud Spinner by Alison Jay: This charming tale tells of one small boy who has the gift of weaving cloud cloth. When the sun is out he weaves gold, and when the evening comes he weaves crimson. He creates a scarf out of joy, but eventually is pressured to make things for kings and others in the kingdom. The story tackles issues of nature appreciation and the courage needed to protect our world.

squish rabbit by katherine battersby
Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby: Battersby’s Squish rabbit fable tells the story of being little and how one little rabbit faces challenges when interacting with others. However, when the little one notices something huge, he has a golden opportunity to make a difference and help others. The artwork is simplistic and yet collage-inspired and a joy to behold.

ish by peter reynolds
Ish by Peter Reynolds: Ish is a story about Ramon, a boy who loved to draw always and anytime. However, his older sibling Leon makes a remark that challenges his mindset and robs him of joy. His little sister Marisol helps him to open his eyes to something far more valuable than getting things perfect. This inspirational love story is a must-read for artistically inclined children.

baseball saved us by ken mochizuki
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki: Baseball Saved Us tells the true life story of Ken Mochizuki, a Japanese-American boy during World War II who are sent to an internment camp after Pearl Harbor. The family has little but gives much, pulling the camp together and creating a baseball league. This poignant and historical story has a better than happy ending: he returns home and eventually becomes a baseball player.

just a second by steve jenkins
Just a Second by Steve Jenkins: Just a Second is a book aimed at young readers interested in science. The author takes on the issue of time and explains various principles in simple children’s language while also providing facts about animals, objects and people. The underlying theme is all of the things happening in time within just one second.

if i built a car by chris van dusen
If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen: If I Built a Car tells the auto fantasy of a lifetime: Jack building his perfect vehicle. He is not content with road innovations, but takes inspiration from planes, trains, and even zeppelins. The book takes you from construction to an interior tour and then off on adventures with Robert the Robot, Jack and his dad.

51 to 60

paper bag princess by robert n. munsch
Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch: Paper Bag Princess is not your usual princess story. Princess Elizabeth is scheduled to marry a prince but is interrupted by a dragon. Her prince is kidnapped but she rescues him…only to discover he isn’t too happy about her very anti-princess behavior. This book is humorous, sophisticated and full of vibrant artwork.

little pea by amy krouse rosenthal
Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: The story of Little Pea, who doesn’t eat all of his sweets, but longs for vegetables is a mind bender and will provide great entertainment for kids. The artwork is minimal and charming, and the text is spare adding to a delirious and wondrous story that will make children do a double take on their dinner plate.

balloons over broadway by melissa sweet
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet: Balloons over Broadway celebrates the life and talents of puppeteer Tony Sarg, who designed those huge upside down puppets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The book takes a look at some of the art with collage illustrations, as well as a personal glimpse into his life–all according to a child’s perspective.

one love by cedella marley
One Love by Cedella Marley: One Love is based on Bob Marley’s song and is actually written by his first child Cedella. One Love tells the musical story of a girl who asks her community to help create a better neighborhood. The heartwarming story features artwork by Vanessa Newton and gives us amazing visuals of a prospering community.

chalk by bill thomson
Chalk by Bill Thomson: Chalk tells us a wordless story that has plenty going on, including a rainy days, kids in a park, a dinosaur and, as the title suggests, a bag of chalk. This book emphasizes imagination and showcases some amazing hand painted visuals made with acrylic paint and colored pencils. This exercise in story telling is as cerebral as it is emotional.

me…jane by patrick mcdonnell
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell: If you enjoyed Gorillas in the Midst, then your kids are sure to love the story of young Jane Goodall as we see the bond between she and her toy chimpanzee Jubilee. The young Jane dreams because of Jubilee’s influence and sees a future of helping others, including animal life. This book is based on Goodall’s autobiography.

iggy peck, architect by andrea beaty
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty: Iggy Peck is written in Beaty’s unique style and will delight children with a learning lesson of building. Iggy’s parents are proud of his creations though they are alarmed at just how creative he is: why he even created towers out of diapers! This rhyming and illustrated children’s tale is sure to delight creative children who love using their hands and industrious minds.

giraffes can't dance by giles andrae
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrae: Andrae’s story of a child with dreams is beloved, and partly because of Gerald the Giraffe. Gerald wants to dance but finds it hard because of his long neck and skinny legs. Even the other animals seem to be against him. However, a cricket helps him learn to dance by swaying to his unique own tune.

the garden of abdul gasazi by chris van allsburg
The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg: Allsburg’s book is bizarre, eerie and yet amazing for an imaginative child to behold. The book explores the garden of Abdul Gasazi, which Alan finds. Even after escaping this otherworldly world, Alan begins to see Gasazi everywhere, particularly the strong topiary trees. This artistic book is surreal and thrilling for older children.

how i became a pirate by melinda long
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long: Jeremy Jacob, a lad, joins Captain Braid Beard and embarks upon a pirate adventure. Jeremy gets to experience the real pirate life but quickly longs for home, when he learns that there are no books for bedtime or goodnight hugs and kisses from parents. This pirate-loving tale, written with over-the-top pirate humor and prose, and deliciously illustrated, is a great one.

61 to 70

sector 7 by david wiesner
Sector 7 by David Wiesner: Sector 7 is by David Wiesner of Tuesday fame, and tells the story of a school trip to the Empire State Building. There, a young boy makes friends with a precocious cloud who takes him to the Cloud Dispatch Center for Sector 7. He later meets other clouds who are bored with their shapes and who look forward to the boy’s new designs. This wordless book is an excellent experiment in imagery storytelling.

perfect square by michael hall
Perfect Square by Michael Hall: A Perfect Square is a perfectly simple book that starts with the basic shape of a square. Then, it tells of how one square can lead to new shapes, and eventually new things and new places. The book transports the reader to a brand new place deep within the mind of a child, and ends with an applicable lesson of how to build greatness from simplicity.

freedom summer by deborah wiles
Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles: This charming tale describes the story of Joe and John Henry, who are similar in personality and hobbies, but who are different because one is black and the other is white. The story touches upon 1960s racism, but ends with an uplifting and poetic message about changing the hearts of people.

so many colored days by dr. seuss
So Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss: Experience the magic of Dr. Seuss once again with So Many Colored Days, a book that transcends the usual Seuss experience. The doctor wanted to collaborate with an artist and base his story on presented illustrations. The book has striking and surreal images introducing bizarre creatures, each with its own mood that reflects the human experience.

swirl by swirl: : spirals in nature by joyce sidman
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman: Swirl by Swirl is a tribute to nature and asks existential questions with a child’s perspective. The theme is “swirls” and the shape is observed in all sorts of animate and inanimate objects—even as far away as the open universe. The book teaches vital lessons about nature and about looking for beauty in the world around one’s self.

stars by mary lyn ray
Stars by Mary Lyn Ray: Stars is a shiny book all right, bringing us junior philosophers as they speculate what and why stars are. The tone of the prose is meditational though it has plenty of quirk. Author Ray and artist Frazee take turns capture the beauty and endlessness of the universe, through the metaphor of a star shape.

spaghetti in a hot dog: having the courage to be whuo you are by maria dismondy
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy: Self-confidence is important to children and author Maria Dismondy explores the issue in Spaghetti in a Hot Dog, a story of courage and good choices. Lucy is the unique protagonist, while Ralph is the antagonist who eventually needs her help. This is a story about growing beyond the bullying experience.

enemy pie by derek munson
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson: Enemy Pie is the story of the perfect summer, seen through the eyes of a boy and through the antagonist Jeremy Ross. The boy and his dad devise a way to get rid of enemies once and for all: making them into best friends. Enemy Pie is about the challenges and the rewards of making new friends.

mike mulligan and his steam shovel by virginia lee burton
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton: This tale is every bit as meaningful now as it was back in the late 1930s. This book tells the story of Mike and his trusty steam shovel named Mary Anne. They travel together for a time but soon face challenges coming from industrial America. The story concludes with a lesson to friendship, hard work and community.

blackout by john rocco
Blackout by John Rocco: Blackout is a timely little book that describes the experience of an electrical blackout in the city. What will a boy and his family do when the computers, TVs and cooking devices go out? It turns out, according to the vision of John Rocco, that no electricity for a short time is a wonderful opportunity to spend family time together.

71 to 80

a day's work by eve bunting
A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting: This cultural story describes Francisco, a young man trying to find work for his grandfather who has just come from Mexico. He finds a gardener named Ben who wants to hire the grandfather. Trouble ensues when plants are stripped and payment is held up; but in the end, it’s a charming story of work ethic and respect, with brilliant gestural watercolors in the artwork.

bear has a story to tell by philip c. stead
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead: This story of friendship introduces us to archetypical characters like Bear, his friend Mouse, and friend of a friend Duck, and even Toad. The gang is getting ready for winter, and Bear has a story to tell. This story about patience and the virtues of friendship is a charming follow up to the popular book A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

wiener wolf by jeff crosby
Wiener Wolf by Jeff Crosby: The only thing funnier and cuter than a wiener dog is a wiener wolf. The story follows a wiener dog living a rather dull home life. However, when he hears the call of the wild he follows his wolf instincts. This is a great story to share with children who love their pets.

we are the ship: the story of negro league baseball by kadir nelson
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson: This is an amazing story, written at a child’s comprehension level, concerning Negro league baseball, and the challenges the sportsmen faced in early Black American history. The players who overcame segregation and played ball is an inspiration to all children and parents who strive to teach children morals and acceptance.

along a long road by frank viva
Along a Long Road by Frank Vivac: Viva’s books are certainly all about the viva! This book follows a bicycle ride along a bold yellow road and we eventually pass the sea, a town, and miles of country. The artwork is colorfully simplistic but joyously drawn, and matches the rhythmic prose for a brief book about a never-ending journey.

peaceful piggy meditation by kerry lee maclean
Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee Maclean: Teach the rewarding and relaxing process of meditation while children are young, so says certified children’s meditation instructor and author Maclean. With Peaceful Piggy Meditation, the principles are kept simple and accompanied by charming drawings and descriptions of stress-free piggies. The prose is sweet and the images are calming and exquisite.

on my way to a happy life by deepak chopra
On My Way to a Happy Life by Deepak Chopra: Deepak Chopra is known for his soulful, inspirational writings and with this child’s fable, he turns his attention to children, teaching them how to enjoy and comprehend life. The book explores simple concepts of universal law and spirituality, making it easy to accept love and joy into their ever-growing existence.

the snail and the whale by julia donaldson
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson: This charming fable tells of the encounter between a tiny snail and a humpback whale. Before long, the two new friends travel off to an unknown territory and fulfill their dreams. However, conflict ensues when the whale comes in too close to the shore. What can his tiny friend do to save the day?

all the world by liz garton scanlon
All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon: This story relates the time together between a circle of family and friends through the course of one day, from morning till nightfall. We follow them as we are introduced to a farmer’s market, a café, a quiet night and a rainy interlude. The prose has a lyrical quality while watercolor and Prismacolor pencil illustrations make the grand images of day and night come to life.

did i ever tell you how lucky you are? by dr. seuss
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? By Dr. Seuss: Dr. Seuss is surely the most beloved children’s writer, and with this episode—in which we all meet Harry Haddow—we learn a valuable lesson about realizing our own blessings and our potential. The colorful and zany illustrations only heighten the mood and inspirational message of Seuss, who believed in encouraging children through their life journeys.

spoon by amy krouse rosenthal
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Spoon is not as simple as it sounds, as it relates the story of a spoon who has become blasé with its role in the silverware drawer. Spoon starts to think that all of his contemporaries, like Fork, Knife and Chopsticks have life so much better. However, they have their own views on the matter. Spoon is all about celebrating what we have, a nice lesson for children.

81 to 90

so few of me by peter h. reynolds
So Few of Me by Peter H. Reynolds: So Few of Me tells the story of Leo and his list of things to do—which just gets bigger and bigger. He decides to create two of himself. However, complication ensues when multiple Leos are created and eventually original Leo has much more on his agenda. The story concludes with the stirring anthem that it’s time to stop and take time to dream a little dream.

incredible you! 10 ways to let your greatness shine through by wayne dyer
Incredible You! 10 Ways to Let Your Greatness Shine Through by Wayne Dyer: This book may sound like a self-help article but it’s advice from a doctor interpreted for children. Doctor Dryer believes in positive reinforcement and thus describes in this book 10 rhyming concepts, along with illustrations, that teach children how to realize their unique identities and potential. Each concept ends with questions that parents can read to tie ideas to personal situations.

i ain't gonna paint no more! by karen beaumont
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! By Karen Beaumont: I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! sounds just as it reads—a musical rhythm and colors everywhere. The prose matches the famous tune and tells the story of a boy who floods his world with paint and eventually paints himself. An exciting, child’s point of view of an artist in the making.

the man in the moon by william joyce
The Man in the Moon by William Joyce: This book, twenty years in the making, tells the tale of the Man in the Moon. In the story, we discover the moon’s origins, where bad dreams come from and memorable characters like Nightlight and Pitch, the King of Nightmares. The story concludes with Nightlight inspiring the Man in the Moon to become a guardian to children on earth.

Flotsam by David Wiesner: Flotsam tells the tale of a scientific young mind that travels to the beach to collect flotsam, which is floating things that have been washed up to shore. Along the way, he finds odds and ends but then he finds a truly amazing discovery: a barnacle encrusted underwater camera with a secret!

miss rumphius by barbara cooney
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: Miss Rumphius tells the story of the fictional character Miss Alice Rumphius, a woman who wanted to make the world beautiful, and who did just that by planting lupine in the wild. This is a teacher’s favorite (Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children) and National Book Award winner that was even turned into a movie.

the woods by paul hoppe
The Woods by Paul Hoppe: In the Woods by Paul Hoppe, the young protagonist is afraid of the dark but that doesn’t stop him from courageously exploring the woods, looking for his precious stuffed bunny. By the end of the story, all of the boy’s scary woodland friends turn out to be just like him, creatures united in their quest for comfort. This picture book is written and drawn in classic European style and is a delight.

limu: the blue turtle by kimo armitage
Limu: The Blue Turtle by Kimo Armitage: Limu tells the story of a blue Hawaiian sea turtle who is mocked by other sea turtles because of his unusual color. The story explores how Limu finds joy despite being different, as he makes new friends, and earns respect for the good turtle he is on the inside. An inspiration story for youngsters who are afraid to stand out.

passage to freedom: the sugihara story by ken mochizuki
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki: Passage to Freedom is not a traditional children’s tale, but it’s a gem of literature parents are using as an education and historical aid. The story relates a portrait of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in the 1940s who used his powers to save thousands of Jews escaping the holocaust. The language is simple for children and focuses on the inspirational actions that saved lives.

twinkle, twinkle little star by jerry pinkney
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkney: Watercolor artist and author Pinkney delights children and adults in this story of a little chipmunk that leaves his nest in order to visit the twilight. He embarks on a dreamlike quest to reach the stars, as we experience the loving arms of nature every step of the way, seeing through darkness and light.

91 to 100

just a dream by chris van allsburg
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg: Modernistic writer Allsburg relates the story of Walter, a boy that imagines the future vividly and happily despite being a litterbug of sort. The story sees Water travel to the future in sleep where he finds a trash-filled earth that is quite bleak. The surreal paintings reflect the visions he sees, which scare the boy straight and also teach readers a valuable lesson.

all in a day by cynthia rylant
All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant: It’s all in a day for author Cynthia Rylant, who relates through poetry and art the come and go opportunities that exists within a day’s time. The verse is gorgeous enough for children and subtle enough for adults to understand the lesson: that time is fleeting. The illustrations are made with crafted cut-paper art, enhancing the experience beautifully.

the name jar by yangsook choi
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi: The Name Jar opens with a scenario that many can relate to: being the new kid in school. The protagonist Unhei is from Korea and is anxious about how she will fit into the new school. She devised a plan to remain nameless and to choose a name by the end of the next week. By the time the story concludes, her “name jar” has disappeared and Unhei learns an inspiring lesson about making friends.

what i be by michael franti
What I Be by Michael Franti: What I Be is a book by Spearhead’s Michael Franti, and a story that explores the topic of self-acceptance. The illustrated book is about nature and how it relates to being human and the exploration of “self.” While it’s just heady enough, the story concludes with a message of sharing, laughter, joy and the ability to help others.

i think, i am! by louise l. hay
I Think, I Am! By Louise L. Hay: The power of affirmations is the subject of I Think, I Am! The author teaches the important message that children do have control over their thoughts and words. The differences and fruitages of positive and negative thoughts is explored with fun illustrations and a gentle prose. Louise L. Hay’s educational journey is a study in inner happiness.

can we save the tiger? by martin jenkins
Can We Save the Tiger? By Martin Jenkins: Can We Save the Tiger is a grand children’s book that illustrated and describes the beauty of animals, from tigers to vultures to even snails. Along with appreciation, we are also reminded that some animals are endangered, while others are already extinct. A great learning experience with beautiful artwork of rarely seen animals.

lost and found by oliver jeffers
Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers: Lost and Found tells the story of a boy who finds a lost penguin on his doorstep. The boy has some considerable trouble returning the little creature, as the South Pole is a long distance away. However, the boy makes the journey and tells the anxious penguin stories to pass the time. One final plot twist makes this kid’s tale a modern classic.

plant a kiss by amy krouse rosenthal
Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Plant a Kiss is a story about love, life and the spirit of giving. The book follows the literal idea of “planting a kiss” through the eyes of Little Miss, a girl who plants a kiss in the ground and makes it grow. When it’s ready to grow, the kiss is harvested and given to the rest of the world.

billy twitters and his blue whale problem by mac barnett
Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett: Barnett’s story follows Billy Twitters, the protagonist boy who is given a blue whale as a punishment by his parents. The whale blends into city life albeit with moments of awkwardness involving traffic, telephone poles and schools. It makes for a terrible pet but a whale of a learning experience.

those shoes by maribeth boelts
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts: Jeremy wants a pair of shoes, the ones that all the boys at school have. However, his grandma tells him the difference between want and need—even though Jeremy is determined to get those shoes. Eventually, Jeremy learns a lesson and realizes that the all of the things he has and needs, were better than the one thing he wanted all along.

That’s quite a few children’s book recommendations. All of these books score an “A” for imagination and heart and will be remembered by your children years after the first reading. Reading books enhances an impressionable mind and evokes deeper emotions than television, Internet and video games could ever bring. Combine education, morality and family togetherness by reading a good book!

We Want to Know: What children’s books are you most inspired by?

100 Most Inspiring Children's Books

16 Responses to “100 Most Inspiring Children’s Books”

  1. Nancy Stapleton says:

    Be A Gem, Let Your Goodness Shine is my favorite book because I authored it! It’s full of great life lessons and facts about gems.

  2. Andrea Beaty says:

    I am so pleased that you have chosen IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT to be in such great company! Thank you!
    Andrea Beaty
    (author of IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT)

  3. Michelle says:

    The Boy Who Changed The World by Andy Andrews!
    My students love it and it shows and tells the story of how everything we do matters! This is a book you don’t want to miss!

  4. Jonathan Kover says:

    Am I aging out of relevance? I liked “Harold and the Purple Crayon”, and as is the lesson regarding expectations, felt a little disappointed it was not here. And what about “The Little Prince”? Feeling at home to my geezerhood over here!

  5. Jessica says:

    Dear Mili by Grimm and illustrated by Sendak is an all time favorite in my house along with Septamus Bean and His Amazing Machine, Witches Three and Pickle Things!

  6. Trish says:


    I would like to add:

    10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert,
    The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf,
    The General by Michael Foreman, and
    Nobody Owns the Moon by Tohby Riddle.

    These lists are always controversial, in a good way.


  7. Hajnalka Molloy says:

    The Lorax. Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better, it’s not.

  8. Katlyn says:

    I Love You the Purplest by Barbra M. Joosse. Each child is an individual and special in his or her own way.

  9. Colleen Gross says:

    I’d like to add any book by Kevin Henkes! The stories are sweet, funny and a lesson to be learned in everyone!

  10. Anne Barr says:

    The Junkyard Wonders and Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco!! Wonderful encouragement for students who struggle.

  11. Robyn says:

    Ordinary Mary ‘s Extraordinary Deed is a great book to inspire all that kind deeds truly can change the world

    the Rag Coat has lots of good lessons taught by the main character in a lovely way

  12. Julie says:

    Some of my favorites!!! You did a great job with this list and I will be sure to share!
    Happy Reading!

  13. Jan says:

    I would add
    I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe
    Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (actually any title of hers)
    The Arrival (author’s name escapes me…Ang, Tang?)

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