The best picture books for seeing magic in the world around us

Bethanie Deeney Murguia Author Of Do You Believe in Unicorns?
By Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Who am I?

I’m a writer and illustrator of picture books who is always seeking magic in the world around me. I love to daydream, wander, wonder, and get lost in nature as much as possible. I’m also an avid reader of books that celebrate the natural world, animals, and imagination. Happy reading!


I wrote...

Do You Believe in Unicorns?

By Bethanie Deeney Murguia,

Book cover of Do You Believe in Unicorns?

What is my book about?

Is believing in magic the key to seeing a unicorn? If you keep your eyes open to wonder, the possibilities are endless. Look closely as you read. Is that a horse wearing a hat? It’s definitely not a unicorn in disguise—that would be ridiculous, right? It’s probably just a horse that’s having a bad hair day. Or trying to keep the sun out of its eyes. Follow it long enough, and maybe you’ll finally know for sure. It’s all a matter of perspective in this story about seeing magic in the everyday.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

This Is Sadie

By Sara O’Leary, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Book cover of This Is Sadie

Why this book?

Sadie sees possibility everywhere she goes. She transforms boxes into ships, lives inside stories, and (of course) she has wings. This book is filled with imagination and the best kind of play. Plus, there are foxes and wolves! Horses! Mermaids! I want to be Sadie when I grow up.

This Is Sadie

By Sara O’Leary, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Is Sadie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in board book, the beloved story about a little girl with a big imagination from the award-winning team of Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad.

Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She has been a girl who lived under
the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and
visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks
to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but
that always bring her home again. She likes to make things…


Frederick

By Leo Lionni,

Book cover of Frederick

Why this book?

Frederick is a classic that continues to speak to me. Frederick is a creative mouse who gathers beauty from the world—he’s a daydreamer and a poet. His talents aren’t appreciated by the other mice at first. By the end of the story, though, they realize that his talents are essential to their survival. I love how this book celebrates creativity and difference.

Frederick

By Leo Lionni,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frederick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leo Lionni’s Caldecott Honor–winning story about a little mouse who gathers something unusual for the long winter is turning fifty! Celebrate this beloved favorite, which now includes a special introduction from noted children’s book historian Leonard Marcus.
 
Winter is coming, and all the mice are gathering food . . . except for Frederick. But when the days grow short and the snow begins to fall, it’s Frederick’s stories that warm the hearts and spirits of his fellow field mice. Winner of a 1967 Caldecott Honor, Frederick has been cherished by generations of readers.
 
“A splendid achievement.” —School Library Journal, starred…


If You Want to See a Whale

By Julie Fogliano, Erin E. Stead (illustrator),

Book cover of If You Want to See a Whale

Why this book?

This is a book about the importance of looking and wondering. It speaks to patience while seeking magic—in this case, a whale. It’s beautifully illustrated in wood block carvings that echo the quiet, meditative quality of the text. It perfectly captures the simple pleasures of looking and the sublime joy of discovery.

If You Want to See a Whale

By Julie Fogliano, Erin E. Stead (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If You Want to See a Whale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you want to see a whale, you will need to know what not to look at.
Pink roses, pelicans, possible pirates...
If you want to see a whale, you have to keep your eyes on the sea, and wait... and wait... and wait...

In this quiet and beautiful picture book by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead, the team that created the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book And Then It's Spring, a boy learns exactly what it takes to catch a glimpse of an elusive whale.


On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Book cover of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Why this book?

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day celebrates nature, weather, and all that can be found outside and just beyond a screen. The main character, at first, is distraught about the prospect of a rainy day spent without her video game. But it takes very little time for her to become immersed in the world outside her door, finding magic at every turn.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked On a Magical Do-Nothing Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A compelling, magical picture book with whimsical, stunning art and heartfelt, charming text, from award-winning illustrator Beatrice Alemagna. "Hands down, Beatrice Alemagna is my favorite contemporary illustrator," said the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street, Christian Robinson. All I want to do on a rainy day like today is play my game. My mom says it's a waste of time, but without my game, nothing is fun! On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong about that...While reading On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, one gets the sense that the illustrator became lost in her drawings, and as a…


They All Saw a Cat

By Brendan Wenzel,

Book cover of They All Saw a Cat

Why this book?

This book speaks beautifully to perspective. It’s a fantastic reminder that we all view the world through our own lenses. Throughout the story, a cat is seen from many different viewpoints. A child sees a cuddly creature. A dog sees a suspicious creature. A mouse sees a terrifying creature. It’s a truly satisfying read and great conversation starter.

They All Saw a Cat

By Brendan Wenzel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked They All Saw a Cat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel - New York Times bestseller and 2017 Caldecott Medal and Honor Book

"An ingenious idea, gorgeously realized." -Shelf Awareness, starred review
"Both simple and ingenious in concept, Wenzel's book feels like a game changer." -The Huffington Post

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . . In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

If you and your child…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in imagination, winter, and cats?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about imagination, winter, and cats.

Imagination Explore 77 books about imagination
Winter Explore 18 books about winter
Cats Explore 134 books about cats

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Rabbit Listened, The Three Pigs, and The Honeybee if you like this list.