Lists of best-selling children’s books are great tools for writers. They show us what publishers and consumers are buying, and we learn about our craft from reading other authors.
Last week we listed the current frontlist fiction for children in middle grades and up. This week we reveal the 30 best-selling picture books in the US. The list is of hardcover titles that have sold more than 750,000 copies and paperback books with sales over one million copies.
The first one on the list, The Poky Little Puppy, was one of my favorites as a child and also a story our daughter wanted read over and over. The rhyming word play is delightful, but not overdone. We understand why the curious puppy wants to explore, but we don’t want him to miss out again. So we keep reading. It’s a classic full of heart.
When you read some of the titles, analyze why you think each book is successful. What makes the story come alive? What makes you care? Notice the imagery and details and how the author uses word play— patterns, rhyme or repetition. What gives the story universal appeal? What makes it charming to a wide range of ages? Do you want to turn the page? Why?
1. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey (Golden, 1942) 14,898,341
2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (Frederick Warne, 1902) 9,380,274
3. Tootle by Gertrude Crampton (Golden, 1945) 8,560,277
4. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1960) 8,143,088
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic/Levine, 2000)
6. Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (Golden, 1940) 7,562,710
7. Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn and Byron Jackson (Golden, 1947) 7,476,395
8. Scuffy the Tugboat by Gertrude Crampton (Golden, 1955) 7,366,073
9. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1957) 7,220,982
10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic/Levine,
11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic/ Levine,
12. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1974) 6,228,042
13. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1960)
14. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1964) 5,603,187
15. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell (Children’s Press/Ideals, 1946) 5,471,709
16. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1963) 5,420,890
17. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1990) 5,353,426
18. Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1960) 5,187,656
19. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic/Levine, 1998)
20. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Philomel, 1969) 4,849,704
21. The Children’s Bible (Golden, 1965) 4,281,314
22. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1981) 4,269,048
23. The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter (Frederick Warne, 1904)
24. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (Random House, 1960) 4,135,762
25. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (North-South, 1992) 4,082,500
26. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1958) 4,043,578
27. Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book by Richard Scarry (Golden, 1963) 3,981,291
28. Disney’s the Lion King adapted by Justine Korman (Golden, 1994) 3,900,150
29. The Tale of Jemina Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter (Frederick Warne, 1908)
30. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (Platt & Munk, 1930) 3,757,178
Now about your book—that one you’ve been thinking of writing. Get started on it and use what you learned from best-selling authors. And please let us help. We welcome your questions and comments. And we think our workbook, Write a Marketable Children’s Book in 7 Weeks, is a great aid. Please give it a look.