The best children’s book authors are those who can get inside a child’s mind to really excite their imagination. Some stories may be told almost entirely through illustrations, some stories may include an important moral lesson, and some are just plain fun. The authors on this list are the best to ever write tales for children.

Famous Children’s Book Authors

arnold lobel Arnold Lobel: Some of his most famous books include the Frog and Toad series, and Mouse Soup, which earned him the Garden State Children’s Book Award. In fact, he won several awards over his career, including the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1981 for Fables. In addition to writing his own books, he also illustrated books for other authors. Mr. Lobel passed away in 1987, but he left behind several unpublished manuscripts. His daughter began publishing them in 2009, and added her own unique watercolors. Overall his stories are sweet, whimsical, and almost always focus on small animals and their hidden world.
beatrix potter Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of the most beloved of all books for children, and was written by Helen Beatrix Potter. She was an English author, who also illustrated her own books, and was also a natural scientist and conservationist. In total, she wrote 23 books, and many of them are still in print today. They’ve been translated to many different languages, and have been retold on the stage, on film, in animation, and even through ballet. In addition to her writing, she also owned a large amount of farm land, on which she raised prize-winning sheep.
bill martin jr Bill Martin Jr: Mr. Martin really had a lot on his plate. In addition to being the author of more than three hundred books, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, he was also a teacher and publishing executive. As a child himself, Bill Martin Jr. was not a very good reader. In fact, it wasn’t until he got to college and learned to memorize poems as they were read to him that he began to interact with words on the page. Once he became a voracious reader, he dedicated his life to teaching children to love literature.
c.s. lewis C.S. Lewis: His given name was Clive Staples Lewis, but his most famous books were published under his initials C.S. Lewis. Of course, his most famous set of books were the Narnia series of books, which included The Chronicles of Narnia, amongst others. He was famously close friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, the author who brought us the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, they were both faculty members at Oxford University, and were both very active in the “Inklings,” which was an Oxford literary group. Many of C.S Lewis’ books have subtle Christian themes, as his faith was extremely important to him.
chris van allsburg Chris Van Allsburg: Like many of the children’s books authors on this list, Chris Van Allsburg did not set out to be an author and illustrator. Instead, he was a sculptor until the day his wife showed his drawings to an editor of children’s literature. He got off to a slow start, but eventually wrote and illustrated books like Jumanji and The Polar Express – both of which received the Caldecott Medal. They were also both developed for the big screen and became immensely popular movies. He’s worked as an illustrator outside of his own books, most famously on one particular edition of The Chronicles of Narnia.
cynthia rylant Cynthia Rylant: With more than one hundred books under her belts, Cynthia Rylant is quite prolific. Her books have won a host of awards, including the Newberry Honor for A Fine White Dust and the Newberry Medal for When I Was Young in the Mountains. She also received Caldecott Honors for The Relatives Came. Many of her stories focus on her own experiences growing up as the child of divorced parents, and without running water or electricity in her home. She’s also had three separate books be named “Best Book of the Year for Young Adults” by the American Library Association.
dav pilkey Dav Pilkey: Mr. Pilkey, who’s also known by the pseudonym Sue Denim, is quite an interesting author indeed. His best known work is the Captain Underpants series, which follows the adventures of a young hero clad in his underpants. He has also published books under the names George Beard and Harold Hutchins. His series of dragon books was turned into an animated series in the ’90s, and his Dumb Bunnies series has been optioned to be made into a movie. He names The Stupids as one of the main influences of Dumb Bunnies. He is a much more modern author than many on the list.
david kirk David Kirk: David Kirk was born in Ohio and has written around 10 books in total. Many will know him by his Miss Spider series, which focused on the adventures of a little lady spider. Those books were published by Scholastic, one of the largest publishers of children’s books authors, and the books were later adapted to a television show. It was called Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends and followed the antics of both Miss Spider and her pals. Eventually a video game was also made, which was called Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends – Harvest Time Hop and Fly.
david wiesner David Wiesner: His career began as an illustrator, but soon David Wiesner moved on from illustrating books like Honest Andrew to co-authoring books with his wife. In 1987 he broke out and wrote a book on his own, Free Fall, which received much praise, including the Caldecott Honor Medal. It was the first of many books in the same vein, all of which tell fantastical, dream-like stories using only illustrations. He went on to win three Caldecott Medals and another Caldecott Honor. He continues to write books for children and is expected to be releasing a new one soon.
don freeman Don Freeman: A jack of all trades, Don Freeman was an accomplished painter, print maker, cartoonist, children’s books author, illustrator and jazz musician. Initially his illustrations depicted daily life in New York City, and he left no one out of his drawings. As his career went on, he began to draw more light hearted subjects and eventually begin illustrating books for children’s. His wife was also an accomplished artist, but she typically authored the books and let her husband illustrate them. Together they eventually released more than 20 books, including Chuggy and the Blue Caboose and Pet of the Met. They believed that simplicity was the key to creating excellent books.
doreen cronin Doreen Cronin: Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type is the most recognizable book written by Doreen Cronin. In fact, it won several awards, including the Caldecott Medal. She did not intend to become a professional children’s author. Instead, she went to law school and actually finished her schooling around the same time her fist book came out – which was the famous Clack Clack Moo: Cows That Type. She has written more than a dozen books and continues to write them. She was born in New York City, stayed there for school, and still lives there with her husband and their daughter.
eric carle Eric Carle: Some children’s literature illustrators use different styles in different books, but Eric Carle has a very distinctive style that is immediately recognizable in all his books. He uses what’s known as a collage technique, where he paints paper by hand, and then cuts and layers it to create dynamic images. His most famous book is likely The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is currently in more than 50 different languages. It was first published in 1969 and since then he’s illustrated more than 70 books. Many of them have been bestsellers, and he wrote most of them. In total, all his books have sold more than 103 million copies.
h.a. rey H.A. Rey: This is another author who worked closely with his wife. While they worked on dozens of books together, they are certainly most well known for their collaboration on the Curious George series. They had quite an interesting life together and lived in numerous countries, but when they wrote the first Curious George book, it was an instant success. Initially they thought they’d use watercolor for the illustrations of these books, but because they were inevitably responsible for the color separation, they chose to stick with the cartoon-like drawings that are now so easily identifiable as being from this beloved series.
jan brett Jan Brett: Jan Brett is quite the unique author. While her illustrations are known for being bright and colorful, it’s the detailed descriptions in the stories themselves that really set her apart. She writes about a wide range of different animals and human cultures. From Scandinavia to Africa, her books tell stories that other books aren’t telling. Her best-known books are The Hat, The Mitten, Gingerbread Baby, and Snow Bears. She also does extensive research for her books to ensure that they accurately portray the animals and cultures she writes about. In fact, she traveled all the way to the Arctic Circle to research her book The Three Snow Bears.
jane o’connor Jane O’Connor: Her first book, Fancy Nancy, was on the New York Times list of bestselling picture books for a full nighty-eight weeks. After this unprecedented success, Jane O’Connor went on to write several more books in the series. In total she’s written more than 30 books for kids, but she’s recently started writing books for adults as well. In addition to her writing, she works 3 days a week at a major New York publishing house. She gets to decide which children’s books authors will be published, and which won’t ever make it to the shelves. This gives her a very inside view of the latest trends in the genre.
jane yolen Jane Yolen: With over 300 books under her belt, Jane Yolen has written and/or edited in about every genre under the sun. From folklore to fantasy, from science fiction to literature for children, she has done it all. She won the Nebula Award for Sister Emily’s Lightship and again for Lost Girls. She won the Caldecott Medal twice, once for Owl Moon and again for The Emperor and the Kite. Her most famous book though may be How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, which is a lovely bedtime book. In 2010 she was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Awards committee.
jeff kinney Jeff Kinney: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series is one of the most popular series of books from the last decade, and more books are planned for the coming decade. It came from the mind of Jeff Kinney, who has a rich background in designing video games, creating cartoons, producing animated films, and finally writing this beloved series. He also worked to create a children-oriented website where kids can learn about a wide range of topics in fun, engaging ways. The movie version of one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, “Rodrick Rules,” featured a cameo from the author himself.
jon scieszka Jon Scieszka: Mr. Scieszka is best known for his collaborations with the famous illustrator Lane Smith. In addition to writing fantastic books like The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Jon is also a relentless advocate for literacy. In fact, he was named the 2008 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Librarian of Congress. He’s also created a Time Warp Trio series, which works to help make history interesting for kids, and which as been adapted into a popular television show. He says his biggest motivation to write is to make kids laugh.
judith viorst Judith Viorst: This author has quite the diverse background. She has written many books for children but she’s also a journalist for a newspaper and a psychoanalysis researcher. Her most famous books are The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, which deals with the death of a pet, and the Alexander series, which is a set of short picture books. The narrator of these books is a 5 year old boy who lives with two brothers, who are named after the author’s own sons. She’s also written a collection of poems, Sad Underwear, which deals with a wide range of feelings children go through.
kate dicamillo Kate DiCamillo: Kate won the Newberry Medal for her book The Tale of the Despereaux, and the Newberry Honor for Because of Winn-Dixie and Mercy Watson. She’s also won many other awards and honors, and is one of the most successful authors of children’s literature. The Tale of Despereaux was famously based on a suggestion from a friend’s son, who wanted to read a book about a hero who has incredibly large ears. Several of her books have been made into movies, including Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, and she has several more adaptations in the works.
kevin henkes Kevin Henkes: Kevin has won quite an impressive list of awards, including the Caldecott Medal and the Newberry Honor. He writes and illustrates books for children, such as Kitten’s First Full Moon, but he also writes young-adult fiction. In fact, the first book he ever wrote was completed during his Freshman year of college. That book deals with how it can be nice to have solitude, and that theme continues to appear in many of his later books. He has said that most of the plots of his books have come from his own wacky experiences growing up in Racine, Wisconsin.
laura numeroff Laura Numeroff: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is easily the best well-known book by this highly awarded author. Ms. Numeroff knew from the age of 9 that she wanted to write children’s literature, and she names Stuart Little and Eloise as her biggest influences. Many times a children’s book author will stick with one illustrator throughout their careers, but Laura Numeroff has worked with dozens of illustrators. She did her own illustrations on the first nine books she published, but later books were worked on by collaborators. She’s also written an autobiography at a second grade reading level so her young fans can enjoy it.
lauren child Lauren Child: Both an author and illustrator, Lauren Child is best known for her series Charlie and Lola and the Clarice Bean series of novels. Before becoming a full-time author, she started her own business making exotic lampshades. In 1999 she started publishing her books, and immediately won both commercial success and many awards, including the Nestle Smarties Book Prize. She’s also been shortlisted for the prestigious British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year. Her illustrations are quite unique in that they include many mediums, such as watercolors, photography, collage and more. This gives a richness and humor to her books that you don’t see anywhere else.
lemony snicket Lemony Snicket: Born Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket is the pen name of the author of the series of books aptly titled A Series of Unfortunate Events. Snicket also appears as a character within the book, so the name actually refers both to the character and the author. The books follow the trials of Snicket, who is a writer who’s been falsely accused of a number of crimes. It takes him quite a lot of years to clear his name, and when he finally does, well, you can bet the finale is quite the blast (literally!). The author is due out with a new series in 2012.
lois lowry Lois Lowry: Lois Lowry started out as a photographer and journalist, which caught the attention of the powerhouse literary publisher Houghton Mifflin. After their encouragement, she wrote her first book, A Summer to Die. Since then, she’s penned upwards of 30 books for kids plus her own autobiography. Two of her books won the Newberry Meda. They were Number the Stars which deals with the Holocaust, and The Giver. She is known as an author that helps children understand difficult issues such as illness and racism. With a lyrical voice and the utmost of sensitivity, her books are much deeper than many other examples of children’s literature.
ludwig bemelmans Ludwig Bemelmans: Ludwig started out as a gourmet chef, but wrote and illustrated a series of books named after his wife, Madeleine. These came to be some of the best selling children’s books of all time. Each one followed a little girl named Madeleine who lived in an orphanage in Paris. During his life he published six installments of the series. After his death, a 7th book was discovered and was eventually published in 1999. He initially submitted his work to the publisher Viking but was rejected. Eventually Simon and Schuster pulblished his work – and to their great gain!
marcus pfister Marcus Pfister: Marcus Pfister is from Bern, Switzerland, and has written and illustrated books that have been translated into more than 80 different languages. Together his books have sold 15 million copies worldwide. The most successful have been his Rainbow Fish books, which focus on teaching children who much happiness can be found by sharing with friends. They were not only translated into more than 80 languages, but they were also turned into a 26 episode cartoon series. It originally aired on HBO in 2000. He continues to write and illustrate books and is currently working on a new television program.
margaret wise brown Margaret Wise Brown: Many fans of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny are surprised to learn just how long ago they were written. Despite their contemporary feel, both were written by Margaret Wise Brown in the 1940s. When Ms. Brown passed away in 1952, more than 70 manuscripts were found. None of them had been published, and her sister set out to find publishers for them. Many of Brown’s books have since been issued as re-releases with brand new illustrations. Her books are one of the first examples of children’s bedtime stories, and they have a rich, warm feeling to them.
maurice sendak Maurice Sendak: Many children and parents alike find Where the Wild Things Are to be one of the most unique examples of children’s literature. That classic tale was written by Maurice Sendak and published in 1963. One of the reasons his work is so unique is because he draws from a wide range of influences. Many authors and illustrators have a single style, but Mr. Sendak pulls from many painters, musicians and authors. There are also many contemporary authors who have stated that Maurice was their biggest influence. He has been quite the outspoken author regarding encouraging a child’s imagination.
mercer mayer Mercer Mayer: With over 300 books written, Mercer Mayer has certainly been quite prolific. His books use a wide range of styles, both in illustrations and the text. It’s likely that most people know him from his book Little Critter or perhaps his Little Monster series. He decided early on that he wanted to illustrate books, and in fact spent much of his time in college trying to sell his portfolio page by page. Despite his instructors telling him that he might not have what it takes to be a professional, he was never dissuaded and he continued to write and illustrate his own work.
mo willems Mo Willems: Mo Willems is definitely a unique character! When he graduated from college, he set off and spent a year traveling around the world. Each day he drew a different cartoon, all of which were eventually published in the book You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons. He then went to work as both a writer and animator for Sesame Street. He earned 6 Emmy Awards for writing during his 9 year career with them. He now does a variety of work in animating and children’s writing. As far as a children’s book goes, he is probably most famous for the series of Pigeon picture books, such as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!.
p.d. eastman P.D. Eastman: Philip Dey Eastman, who typically published under P.D. Eastman, was a screenwriter, illustrator, and writer of books for children. He worked for 5 years in the story department for the famous Walt Disney Productions, and went on to work for Warner Brothers Cartoons and United Productions of America. He worked on famous films like “Mr. Maggo,” amongst others. As an author, much of his influence came from his mentor Dr. Seuss. He did write under the same brand of Random House as Dr. Seuss, but had his own unique style on books like Go, Dog, Go! and Are You My Mother?
patricia polacco Patricia Polacco: Patricia struggled while she was in school and was actually not able to read until she was 14 years old. She was finally diagnosed with dyslexia, a disorder that makes it difficult to read words on a page. She found relief from her difficulties through becoming involved in art. Her most famous book Thank You, Mr. Falker is based on her own true story of hiding her disability and dealing with being incessantly teased, until finally a teacher discovered that she could not read and helped her learn not just how to read, but taught her to enjoy it.
richard scarry Richard Scarry: When it comes to anthropomorphic animals, that is, animals who dress and act like people, many people think immediately of Richard Scarry’s series of books. Most of them took place in Busytown, where a large cast of critters lived, including beavers, hippos, rhinos, hyenas, baboons, cats, foxes, apes, dogs, cats and many more. Each of them had human characteristics combined with their own animal ways. Many of his best books were converted into animated videos, which are still sold on DVD and VHS. Overall, he sold more than 100 million copies of his books and they have been translated into more than 20 different languages.
rick riordan Rick Riordan: Best known for the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, Rick Riordan also wrote the Tres Navarre series of mystery books for adults, and has helped to edit Demigods and Monsters. Almost a dozen of the famous The 39 Clues series books were developed and edited by him, and in fact he wrote the entirety of the first book, The Maze of Bones. At the moment he’s working on two new series, one of which is centered on Egyptian mythology and the other is based on Greek and Roman mythology. Most of his books include important history lessons alongside fast-paced adventure.
roald dahl Roald Dahl: Often referred to as one of the greatest children’s storytellers of the 20th century, Roald Dahl had something unique that’s difficult to pinpoint. His stories are often written with more intelligence than are other books for children, and sometimes their themes could be somewhat dark. While many picture books are very sentimental, his are not, and are instead quite serious at times. In addition to writing for children, he was also a member of the Royal Air Force during World War II and he wrote books for adults as well. He was one of the best-selling authors of his time.
robert munsch Robert Munsch: Robert Munsch was born in America, but spent his adult life in Canada. He is known for his strange storytelling methods, which include manic story lines and illustrations with exaggerated expressions. His style of writing is different than most – he actually makes up the stories in front of a live audience. His editing is done by repeatedly telling the story to get to a final draft he’s happy with. He’s noted that it can take 200 tellings for his stories to really get good. Munsch was made a Member of the Order of Canada and has received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
sandra boynton Sandra Boynton: Sandra Boynton’s very first book, Hippos Go Beserk!, was a smash success and she’s done nothing but create best sellers ever since. In total, she’s written more than 40 books, some of which were written for adults and some for children. She also owns a greeting card company and has written more than 4,000 greeting cards in total. She does not license her characters to be sold or adapted in anyway, but she’s created some really fun and interactive products like calendars, bedding, clothing and even jewelry. She’s won a number of awards, including the Irma Simonton Black Award and a Grammy Award.
shel silverstein Shel Silverstein: Most people who are at least passingly familiar with children’s book authors will know who Shel Silverstein is, or will at least recognize his classics like Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree. However, many people don’t realize just how vast his range was. For example, he won a Grammy in 1970 for penning the famous song “A Boy Named Sue” which was recorded by Johnny Cash. He was also nominated for Oscars and Golden Globe awards for other songs, and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His style of writing and illustrating is quite unique and immediately recognizable.
tomie depaola Tomie dePaola: Some of Tomie dePaola’s most famous works include What the Mailman Brought and Giorgio’s Village. In total he’s written more than 200 books for kids, and has also done the illustrations for each one. He’s won a ton of awards, from the Caldecott Hnor, to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the 2000 Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. Mr. dePaola was always interested in art from a very early age, and has said his family was extremely supportive of his interest. He’s written a book about his best friend and little sister, called The Baby Sister.

Authors of children’s books are as varied as are the books available. Some have wanted to be authors their entire lives, while others took a very different path until they ended up as respected authors. The writers on this list are considered the most innovative and successful of the bunch.

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