20 Children’s Picture Books from the 90s For Today’s Kids

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

May 2022

Reading with your kids is all about creating the kind of special bond that great stories inspire. Books help create lasting memories that stick with us through the years, and one of the most special ways to connect with your littles is by introducing them to your favorite books!

Many parents today grew up during the 1990s: a great decade for books! The urge to relive the nostalgic ’90s is even more enticing when linked to a favorite picture book. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 best children’s picture books from the ’90s so that parents can revisit treasured childhood classics, and kids can discover the joy of reading through the eyes of mom and dad.

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Award-Winning Picture Books From the ’90s

The Rainbow Fish Book Cover
The Rainbow Fish Book Pages

The Rainbow Fish

Marcus Pfister
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
The Rainbow fish has the most beautiful scales–blue, green, purple, silver, holographic. One day, after another fish asks if he can have one of his silver scales, the Rainbow Fish responds quite rudely and scares away his other friends with his sour attitude. The once stingy fish discovers through a magical journey that he must learn to be kind and generous to others and share his scales with other fish. 

The main message of this 1992 Christopher Award-winning picture book is that sharing even our most prized possessions with others will result in happiness, both for others and for ourselves. This book teaches children to share and look for ways to give to those in their community who might not be as fortunate as they are. In addition to these wonderful messages, we love this book because the illustrations are positively captivating for young children. With holographic segments and bright colors, they are sure to draw your child in during any read-aloud.

Oh The Places You'll Go Book Cover
The Butterfly House Book Pages

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Dr. Seuss
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Imagine all the places your little one will go! From soaring to high heights to seeing great sights, there is so much adventure in the world. Though there are ups and downs, every moment is made better by having people you love by your side.

This is a classic book to share with your kids.  Dr. Seuss is one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time, and his words captivate the imagination of children all around the world. Written in at the beginning of a new decade, this 1990 book helps kids imagine all of life’s possibilities. Above all, it has a great message of possibility and love, which make it a great way to inspire today’s readers, too.

Falling Up  Book Cover
Falling Up  Book Cover

Falling Up

Shel Silverstein 
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Meet fun characters, including Screamin’ Millie; Allison Beals and her twenty-five eels; Danny O’Dare, the dancin’ bear; the Human Balloon; and Headphone Harold, in this collection of poetry by Shel Silverstein. Simple Black and white illustrations and rhyming text will engage young readers and introduce fascinating topics about life.

This book, written by critically acclaimed author Shel Silverstein, was the recipient of the Booklist Editor’s Award. Published in 1996, parents will remember the magic and captivation of Silverstein’s storytelling and find that the joy of a well-written book transcends the decades.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Book Cover
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Book Pages

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Eric Carle
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
What a classic! This book follows a very hungry caterpillar as he eats his way through every fruit and vegetable under the sun, and is a must-have on every bookshelf. The vibrant colors of the illustrated foods and the holes this caterpillar leaves behind on each page create an interactive sensory experience for young readers. 

This is a wonderful addition to any family’s book collection, not only for its eye-catching artwork, but also for its ultimate lesson about transformation. The book’s staggered pages leave its readers eager to know what comes next. This beloved classic will remind parents of their own childhood and help establish storytime traditions that can be passed down for generations.

The Kissing Hand  Book Cover

The Kissing Hand

Audrey Penn
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
It’s the first day of school in the forest, but Chester Racoon is hesitant. He doesn’t want to leave his mother and his familiar home behind. Luckily, Mrs. Racoon teaches him a special trick that will help him remember how much she loves him all day long. With this family secret, a kiss on his hand will last all day long! 

Not only was Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand a New York Times Bestseller, but it also won the Ed Press Award for excellence in educational publishing. Parents and kids alike can remember the first day of school jitters. We love this classic for its encouraging message that it’s normal to be anxious, but a mother’s love can span long distances and times.

Chrysanthemum  Book Cover
Chrysanthemum  Book Pages


Kevin Henkes
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Chrysanthemum loves her name! It is unique and special and it makes her stand out. On her first day of school, however, she realizes that the kids at school don’t like it quite as much as she does. They tease her, saying “you are named after a flower,” and asking “what do you smell like?” Chrysanthemum wilts. Learn what it takes to make her bloom bright and vibrant once more. 

A classic story of self-esteem and navigating troublesome relationships with peers, Chrysanthemum is a must-read for parents and kids. It teaches littles that it’s normal to feel let down when you don’t fit in, but important to stay true to yourself. It also introduces an important and individualistic character in Chrysanthemum’s music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle, who affirms her inner beauty and encourages her to shine bright. This book, written in 1991 and awarded the ALA Notable Book Award, is a great choice for storytime.

Guess How Much I Love You Book Cover
Guess How Much I Love You Book Pages

Guess How Much I Love You

Sam McBratney
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Little Nutbrown Hare and his father, Big Nutbrown Hare, know they love each other very, very much. They want to share with the other just how much love they have in their heart. But, sometimes, love is a very hard thing to measure. Join the two sweet little hares on their journey to share how much they love each other. 

This book is a fantastic choice to read at bedtime. It depicts the kind of special love between parent and child that is sure to warm your loved ones’ heart. With soothing text and a wonderful message of love, Guess How Much I Love You has been published in 37 foreign languages and 8 dual languages since its initial release in 1994, and is the winner of the American Booksellers Book of the Year, an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, a Parenting Reading Magic Award, and a Child magazine’s Best Children’s Book.

Rapunzel Book Cover
Rapunzel Book Pages


Paul O. Zelinsky
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Rapunzel is a young girl, confined to an enchanted tower by a sorceress. Kept from the king this tower offers the princess plenty of space, but no interaction with the outside world. It is not until a prince discovers her tower and urges Rapunzel to let down her long, long hair that she is faced with the adventure of her lifetime. 

This Caldecott Award winner was published in 1997, and became an instant classic. Known for its fusion of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale and gorgeous Renaissance-style paintings, it is certainly a book ’90s kids would remember. The story stands apart from other picture books with its unforgettable illustrations that will draw little readers in.

Mirette on a High Wire Book Cover
Mirette on a High Wire Book Pages

Mirette on the High Wire

Emily Arnold McCully
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Mirette’s family welcomes all different kinds of strange and wonderful people into their boarding house. Bellini is one of the most fascinating to Mirette for his elegance when walking the clothesline and mysterious past of performance. Soon Mirette takes a risk, too, teaching Bellini and herself a great lesson in bravery. 

Another Caldecott Winner, Mirette on the High Wire is a unique story of perseverance and courage. Set in Paris, this story focuses on the challenging task of tightrope walking, painting the picture of this eclectic boarding house with lovely descriptions and soft watercolor illustrations. This book makes for a classic and memorable read. 


Tuesday Book Cover
Tuesday Book Pages


David Wiesner 
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
It’s early evening on a Tuesday, and the pond is very quiet. Suddenly, all the frogs begin to levitate on their lilypads and travel into town. They pass by an old woman watching TV and a man in his kitchen. Then their lilypads drop to the ground, and they hop back to the pond. What a mystery! Who knows which animals will begin levitating into town next? 

The 1991 winner of the Caldecott Medal, this book is truly one-of-a-kind. The story’s only text is the word “Tuesday” and the time of night. Other pages are filled with extremely detailed watercolor illustrations of the absurd that unfolds as readers follow along. This book is sure to be remembered by parents who grew up in the ’90s and sure to quickly become a favorite of kids today.

Tuesday Book Cover

Officer Buckle and Gloria

Peggy Rathmann
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Officer Buckle’s safety tips are not so fun! It’s not until he gets a new partner, Gloria the puppy, that the kids begin to love listening to his advice, but when Gloria tries to present on her own, the pair discover that it’s this twosome’s friendship that the kids love most of all. 

This 1995 award-winning picture book presents such a heartfelt story about an unlikely friendship. Gloria the dog is such a lovable character, and Officer Buckle’s safety tips will sound familiar to parents and kids alike: “don’t stand on a swivel chair,” and “always wipe up spills before someone slips and falls” are messages that ’90s kids and kids today will find valuable!

Stellaluna Book Cover

Bestselling Picture Books From the ’90s

Stellaluna Book Cover
Stellaluna Book Pages


Janell Cannon
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Stellaluna is a baby bat who has been separated from her family after a scary owl attack. While looking for her mother, she stumbles upon a birds’ nest and is welcomed in by a different kind of winged creature. Follow along on Stellaluna’s journey back home. 

Earning a place on the bestseller list for more than two years running, this 1993 classic is a quintessential ’90s book. It’s no wonder this picture book topped the charts in the ’90s! Embracing  what makes us special and welcoming those who are different is a timeless message that will undoubtedly  resonate with today’s kids, too.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type Book Cover
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type Book Pages

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type

Doreen Cronin 
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Farmer Brown’s cows are like other cows. They love to type! “Click, Clack, Moo!” is all he can hear coming from the barn. The real fun begins when the cows start leaving Farmer Brown notes. Who knew that cows that like to type could wreak such havoc?

What a funny story about a farm turned upside down! Click Clack, Moo is an unforgettable picture book that will leave kids and parents laughing at all the demands these cows have for Farmer Brown. This hilarious read is a great addition to your child’s bookshelf!

The Gruffalo Book Cover
The Gruffalo Book Pages

The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
A clever mouse makes his way through the deep dark woods, and meets three not-so-friendly creatures along the way. The fox, the owl, and the snake are all interested in having the mouse for dinner, but the mouse uses his imagination to think up the scariest creature of them all: the Gruffalo! Little does the mouse know that the big, scary Gruffalo exists outside of his imagination, too. 

This classic story is a fantastic read-aloud option for younger readers. The first in a collection of stories following the fantastical Gruffalo character, this book teaches kids that, even for an imaginative mouse, things aren’t always as they seem. The rhyme and rhythm of this storyline, along with its bright, colorful pictures keep children engaged and encourage them to use their own imaginations.

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin Cover
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin Pages

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin

Lloyd Moss
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Beginning with a trombone solo, members of the orchestra build on to the foundation of this musical ensemble as you flip through the pages of this lovely book. Full of exciting rhymes and verse, this book builds up into a swelling symphony that will leave the reader shouting encore when they reach the last page. 

This book is not only a superb introduction to the world of orchestras and classical music, but also a fun take on a counting book. The witty and playful illustrations give this story an upbeat feel. As instrumentalists join in on the musical moment, your child can practice their counting skills with fun and engaging rhymes.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly Cover

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

Simms Taback
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly! I don’t know why she swallowed a fly! Who knows what else she might swallow next? 

This 1997 picture book is a vibrant take on a 1940s American folktale. Sure to please readers born in all different decades, ’90s kids will definitely remember its die-cut illustrations and brightly colored pages. Not only is this story engaging to page through, but it also has a charming rhyme and rhythm that readers old and young will be chanting for hours and hours after they first read it.

Goodnight Gorilla Cover
Goodnight Gorilla Pages

Goodnight Gorilla

Peggy Rathmann
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
After all the guests go home, it’s time to say goodnight at the zoo. All the animals get ready to go to sleep…except for one mischievous gorilla. As a zookeeper walks around to make sure that everyone is tucked safe into bed, the gorilla follows him around and plays a trick or two on his old friend. 

This book is such a fun one to read with any child because there are so many surprises. The text is simple, allowing you and your child to say goodnight to each animal. Where there is no text, you can look towards the illustrations and talk your little through what is happening. This book provides such a great laugh and offers parents the opportunity to really interact with the book and reminisce alongside their children.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs Cover
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs Pages

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Jon Scieszka
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Think you know the story of the Three Little Pigs? Think again! Hear Alexander T. Wolf’s side of the ordeal. According to this wolf, affectionately known as ‘Al,’ he was framed. Will you believe that this big bad wolf is not as big and as bad as he seems?

Though technically published in 1989, this bestseller steadily gained popularity in the 1990s, and has been a beloved favorite ever since. Turning the classic story of the three little pigs on its head, this version favor’s the wolf’s side of the story. It is sure to subvert your expectations of a well-known tale in a charming and funny fashion.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse Cover
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse Pages

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Kevin Henkes
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Lilly loves all different kinds of things! Perhaps most of all, she loves her purple plastic purse. She loves it so much that she wants to bring it to school, but what happens when her teacher Mr. Slinger has to take away her most prized possession in the whole wide world? Lilly learns an important lesson about apologies. 

Published in 1996, this book was also written by author Kevin Henkes. Quickly sensationalized, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is a wonderful example of a book from the 90s that teaches kids a great lesson about respect and originality. We love Lilly’s spunk personality and the fun illustrations in this story.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World  Cover
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World Pages

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Marjorie Priceman
More Information: Google Books | Amazon
Have you ever wondered how to make an apple pie and see the world? This book might have all your answers! Learn what happens when the market is closed and you have to travel across the country to garner the ingredients for a delicious dessert. 

This book is not only fun and engaging for young readers, but also highly educational. Parents will remember when they were first introduced to all new places as they traveled the world via hot air balloon with the characters in this book. From Italy, to England, to Vermont—home of the freshest apples—older readers will remember beautiful illustrations and new readers will enjoy all the new sights!


What is the biggest difference between children’s books from the ’90s and picture books today?

While some parents might say that picture books today just aren’t quite the same as they used to be in the ’90s, we know that the very best children’s books are those that can be read together!  The great news is that no matter which decade we’re in, there will never be a shortage of amazing books.

Stellaluna Book Cover

Our Picks

At Elephant Books, we love and cherish the classics more than anyone, but we think that there are new and exciting titles being published every single year that could soon become classics. We search for the best new titles on the market to include in our subscription boxes, ones that we’re pretty sure aren’t already on your shelf but should be. Here are some of our subscription picks that just might remind parents of some familiar ’90s favorites!

Landmarks Cover
Landmarks Pages


Kate Wilson
What better way to teach children about historically significant landmarks than with child-like drawings of some of the most famous ones? With camels roaming a desert below a blazing sun to highlight the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt to traditional Italian architecture as the setting for the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, each destination is a lovely glimpse into important places around the world. Its one-of-a-kind colorful illustrations and adventurous energy makes this book a unique addition to an early learning collection.

I’ll Love You For Always Cover

I’ll Love You For Always

Peter Hinckley
With six opportunities for you to write a personalized message, this is a heartwarming book about the strength of a parent’s love for their child. The story transports your child through mountains and valleys, sunshine and darkness, but with the reassurance that your love will always be there alongside them. Along the way, messenger birds deliver your personalized letters to remind your child how loved they are.

This book is not only fun and engaging for young readers, but also highly educational. Parents will remember when they were first introduced to all new places as they traveled the world via hot air balloon with the characters in this book. From Italy, to England, to Vermont—home of the freshest apples—older readers will remember beautiful illustrations and new readers will enjoy all the new sights!

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