The most recommended nursery rhyme books

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to nursery rhyme, and here are their favorite nursery rhyme books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of nursery rhyme book?


Book cover of Down Under

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Sometimes a book comes completely out of nowhere. Such was the case with Trevor Conomy’s Down Under. Conomy was not an author with a pedigree in music journalism or anything like that, but when Down Under came out, in 2015, it spoke for itself. The life story of a song – Melbourne pub band Men At Work’s “Down Under” – what makes the book compelling is not so much the story of its fluky success, when in 1982 it become a huge hit all round the world, but rather the aftermath: How more than a quarter-century later the song went to court against a copyright infringement claim. That it lost the case was a travesty and a human tragedy, and Conomy’s short, punchy little book reveals why in all its gory detail.

By Trevor Conomy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the biography not of a person but of one of the most loved and controversial songs in the history of Australian music.

Originally released as a B-side in 1980, 'Down Under' made Men at Work the biggest band on the planet. The song became an alternative Australian anthem and its video (recorded on the sand dunes of Cronulla) became an image of Australia recognised the world over.

Even when Men at Work suddenly disappeared, 'Down Under' remained in the national psyche. Nearly three decades later, Spicks and Specks innocently revealed a link between the song and the tune…

Book cover of The Midnight Gang

Louise Blackwick Author Of 5 Stars

From Louise's 8-year-old's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Entrepreneur Illustrator Speed reader Philanthropist

Louise's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Louise's 6, 8, and 13-year-old's favorite books.

Louise Blackwick Why did Louise's 8-year-old love this book?

My friend’s kid adores The Midnight Gang. There is so much excitement, magic, and wholesomeness jumping from the page that your child will absolutely beg you to read them another page.

Since the story reframes a hospital ward as a place of adventure and thrill, where children can make their wildest dreams come true, this book is an ideal read during times of sickness or hospitalization.

The Midnight Gang is funny, adventurous, and thought-provoking, featuring Tom Charper, his gang of rebels, and their side-splitting shenanigans.

Children will especially love the book’s charming hand-drawn illustrations, which are sometimes mixed with puns and nursery rhymes.

By David Walliams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Midnight Gang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the Midnight Gang! Midnight is the time when all children are fast asleep, except of course for... the Midnight Gang. That is when their adventures are just beginning...

When Tom gets hit on the head by a cricket ball, he finds himself at Lord Funt Hospital, and is greeted by a terrifying-looking porter. Things go from bad to worse when he meets the wicked matron in charge of the children's ward... But Tom is about to embark on the most thrilling journey of a lifetime!

The Midnight Gang tells an extraordinarily heartwarming and, of course, funny story of…

Book cover of The Skin You Live in

Tanya Valentine Author Of Little Taco Truck

From my list on diversity & inclusion.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the white parent of both a white child and a child of color, the discrepancies of representation and inclusivity in children’s literature is an important conversation in our home. Seeing themselves in books allows all children to dream big, feel seen, and know there is a place in this world for them. I hope both of my books, All Bears Need Love and Little Taco Truck do exactly that. I know the list of brilliant books I’ve suggested here are wonderful examples of inclusivity and diversity that young readers need.

Tanya's book list on diversity & inclusion

Tanya Valentine Why did Tanya love this book?

Any book that represents red-headed & freckled boys as well as kids with “warm cocoa dream skin” was a hit with my kids when they were young as they saw themselves and would shout “That’s me!”. The easy rhyme and adorable art help this story share the important message of acceptance, diversity, and inclusion to young readers. Children will recognize their family members, friends, and themselves in the “wonderful hues” decorating every page.

By Michael Tyler, David Lee Csicsko (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Skin You Live in as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children's activities for all cultures, such as swimming in the ocean, hugging, catching butterflies, and eating birthday cake are also provided. This delightful picturebook offers a wonderful venue through which parents and teachers can discuss important social concepts with their children.

Book cover of The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon

Barbara Lehman Author Of Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake

From my list on upcycled tales for children all told with a twist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the experience of reading a book that combines a known (to me or not!) story combined with elements that make it new again. It could be a parody, a “fractured fairy tale,” or a new retelling, funny or serious. For my book Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake, I read so many nursery rhymes and fairy tales in order to populate the town with fun versions of recognizable characters for Little Red to encounter, it makes me appreciate these books even more.

Barbara's book list on upcycled tales for children all told with a twist

Barbara Lehman Why did Barbara love this book?

The author/illustrator of the truly hilarious Traction man is here! answers the burning question I know I have always had: what happened after the dish and spoon ran away? Spirited illustration and a rollicking storyline imagine the fate of the runaway kitchenware, leading to a final redemption after many wild adventures. A reminder that peripheral characters can have complex lives too.

By Mini Grey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Hey Diddle Diddle
The Cat and the Fiddle
The Cow jumped over the Moon.
The Little Dog laughed
To see such fun
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon

That's the bit we know - but have you ever wondered what happened next? Mini Grey, the creator of such favourites as Biscuit Bear and The Pea and the Princess, has this brilliantly funny and wonderfully inventive suggestion, narrated by one of the principal players - the Spoon himself.

Part love story, part crime caper, The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon is the rags-to-riches and back again tale…

Book cover of What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Amika Kroll Author Of Strut, Baby, Strut

From my list on encouraging girls to pursue self determination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love getting lost in books because I get to experience more adventures than I could possibly fit into one lifetime. Books invite the exploration of limitless possibilities—for everyone. When a book can fire my imagination, make me feel a connection, or just make me think deeplythat’s magic, whether it was meant to be fiction or not. I want to write books that do that for others. For this list specifically, I wanted to pick books that encourage girls to embrace the notions that they are allowed to dream really big dreams, that the goals they set for themselves are worth pursuing, and that we all deserve room to be our authentic selves.

Amika's book list on encouraging girls to pursue self determination

Amika Kroll Why did Amika love this book?

I found that many of the nursery rhymes in this book are very familiar, except…something is a little different. Georgie Porgie is no longer kissing the girls and making them cry, Little Miss Muffett is a heck of a lot tougher, and Mary, Mary quite contrary is embracing her right to change her mind. That’s right, these classic mini-stories have been revamped to have the female characters taking charge and living their best lives. Some nursery rhymes can be outdated and upsetting, but I say "don’t throw the baby out with the bath water." I think keeping the things about nursery rhymes that promote early literacy but changing up the words to reflect our values is a very cool way to carry the old rhymes into this century.

By Jeanne Willis, Isabelle Follath (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Are Little Girls Made Of? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Think you know your nursery rhymes? Then think again! In this witty reworking of some nursery rhymes, Georgie Porgie doesn’t dare to make the girls cry, Little Bo-Peep’s sheep are all present and accounted for, thank you, and it’s a female doctor, of course, who fixes Humpty Dumpty. With the combination of clever rhymes and charming, witty illustrations, this remixed nursery rhyme collection is the perfect gift book for any child (or adult!), to read aloud or enjoy alone.

Book cover of The Fourth Bear

Victoria Pearson Author Of Once Upon A Twisted Fairytale

From my list on dark fairytales.

Why am I passionate about this?

GK Chesterton reportedly said that "fairytales are more than true: not because they teach us that dragons are real, but because they teach us dragons can be beaten." This rings true to me; I've been fascinated by the darker side of fairytales since childhood, when I used them to escape and make sense of my own dark experiences. Stories that began as oral traditions are my favourite, a blend of entertainment for long nights around a fire, and cautionary tales that teach us to fear the wolf, and beware of that which seems too good to be true. Old stories teach us what it means to be human. I hope you enjoy these.

Victoria's book list on dark fairytales

Victoria Pearson Why did Victoria love this book?

The Fourth Bear is possibly too light to be included in a list of dark fairytales, but the main character is a classic, almost noir type detective, so maybe it's ok. Nursery Crime Division, to be exact. I think Jasper Fforde may be to blame for my desire to write Jack and the Beanstalk as a dark gritty courtroom drama (maybe one day!), he blends genres together so seamlessly, and I long to be able to do it as well as he does. There's a terrifying serial killer on the loose, and I was as on the edge of my seat as I am with any thriller, even though I knew that killer was The Gingerbread Man. It follows the plot of a standard police procedural/thriller, while including Punch and Judy, Goldilocks, an illegal porridge ring, and a murderous biscuit....or is The Gingerbread Man a cake? I absolutely adore the…

By Jasper Fforde,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Return to the world of the Nursery Crime Division in this novel from Jasper Fforde, the New York Times bestselling author of the Thursday Next series and The Constant Rabbit

The inimitable Jasper Fforde gives readers another delightful mash-up of detective fiction and nursery rhyme, returning to those mean streets where no character is innocent. The Gingerbreadman-sadist, psychopath, cookie-is on the loose in Reading, but that's not who Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary are after. Instead, they've been demoted to searching for missing journalist "Goldy" Hatchett. The last witnesses to see her alive were the reclusive Three Bears,…

Book cover of Monster Goose

Iza Trapani Author Of Haunted Party

From my list on rhyming Halloween books for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born in Poland, I have fond memories of sitting on my Grandma’s lap listening to stories and poems. A favorite poem was about a crow who ate Swiss cheese and only left the holes. The concept made my noggin spin and spurred my imagination. When I immigrated to the U.S. at age seven, I learned English by reading a Mother Goose collection. Captivated by the fun rhyming sounds and art, I dreamed of making children’s books someday. Years later, my dream came true, I became an author/illustrator, with the majority of my books being extensions of the nursery rhymes which inspired me when I was a child. 

Iza's book list on rhyming Halloween books for children

Iza Trapani Why did Iza love this book?

Judy Sierra, author of Wild About Books, is a brilliant rhymer. With a spot-on meter, witty wordplay, and humor, she creates enchanting poems. Monster Goose is a hilarious, slightly eerie but fun poetry collection featuring well-known nursery rhyme characters. The short verses, some of which are a bit gory, are sure to elicit some playful “yuks” and “eews.” Jack E. Davis’s illustrations are a  perfect match with their googly-eyed, silly characters. 

By Judy Sierra, Jack E. Davis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Monster Goose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Old Monster Goose has turned Mother Goose's world of nursery rhymes inside out! Here she presents twenty-five deliciously disgusting poems, filled with rodents and maggots, zombies and ghouls, spiders, and of course, monsters.Book Details:Format: PaperbackPublication Date: 9/1/2005Pages: 56Reading Level: Age 5 and Up

Book cover of Good Night, Sleep Tight

Alys Mendus Author Of Searching for the Ideal School Around the World: School Tourism and Performative Autoethnographic-We

From my list on picture books for a 2.5 year old.

Why am I passionate about this?

With our 2.5-year-old we read all the time. She is a great critic, letting us know if the book is to be read ‘again’ or to be put ‘away!’ As well as a PhD in Education, I am also a trained teacher, having worked with preschoolers running Steiner Waldorf inspired parent and child groups and playgroups, so I am fascinated by the power of story. I try and choose books that are inclusive and age-appropriate, keeping the child in a magical space, as well as allowing for lots of laughs! I also love to share books that I am happy to read three times in a row!

Alys' book list on picture books for a 2.5 year old

Alys Mendus Why did Alys love this book?

We adore this book and know it all off by heart! Our 2.5 year old can often be spotted sitting ‘reading’ this book to herself, reciting the poems! The simple repetitive story tells the tale of a babysitter (Skinny Doug – although for some reason he has always been known as Lanky Dave in our house!) singing nursery rhymes to Bonnie and Ben, the children he is looking after. Such a lovely book to share and we have even added in our own extra nursery rhymes for the picture of the moon at the end. Judy Horacek’s bright and cheerful and inclusive artwork makes this a family classic.

By Mem Fox, Judy Horacek (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Good Night, Sleep Tight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Already a bestseller as a picture book, Good Night, Sleep Tight from Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, the creators of Australia's bestseller, Where is the Green Sheep? is now a beautiful board book. Incorporating timeless nursery rhymes, this charming bedtime tale creates a wonderful, whimsical world, which young children will enjoy again and again.

Book cover of Little Bo Peep and More...

Elissa Brent Weissman Author Of Hanukkah Upside Down

From my list on New Zealand.

Why am I passionate about this?

My family and I moved from America to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2019. As a children’s author, one of the best parts has been discovering a new world of literature. New Zealand is a very small country, so bookstores, libraries, and schools are filled with books from the U.S., the UK, Australia, and more. As one New Zealander so eloquently put it, “Kiwi kids read the world.” On the flip side, it’s extremely rare for books from New Zealand publishers to make it to other parts of the world, no matter how great they are. I hope this introduction to Kiwi KidLit makes you eager to seek out even more!

Elissa's book list on New Zealand

Elissa Brent Weissman Why did Elissa love this book?

New Zealand is known for its sheep—there are five times more sheep than people!

In this book, popular author and illustrator Donovan Bixley takes four classic nursery rhymes about sheep and gives them a thoroughly modern treatment, full of energy and humor.

A (baa-baa) black sheep sees its wool knitted into an All Blacks rugby jersey, and Mary takes her little lamb on a dirt bike and to school, in uniform. From the farm to the dairy to the beach, these clever, boisterous illustrations celebrate the Aotearoa I’ve come to know and love with true Kiwi ingenuity.

By Donovan Bixley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Little Bo Peep and More... as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hop on board for a hay ride of fun, with four favourite sheepish nursery rhymes. Fun for the kids -- and fun for the adults!

Book cover of The Big Over Easy

Jane Tesh Author Of Over the Edge

From my list on readers who have had it with dystopian angst.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the great good fortune to be born into a wonderful Southern family whose idea of a good time was to gather on the front porch and tell jokes and stories. I was also blessed with a detailed fantasy life and a host of imaginary friends who developed into characters for my books. My favorite books to read have a good balance of humor and drama, nothing too grim, please, and if they are inventive and clever, then I’m all in. As for my own books, I strive to keep that balance of light and dark. I’m very lucky to have six fantasy novels published so far.

Jane's book list on readers who have had it with dystopian angst

Jane Tesh Why did Jane love this book?

Jasper Fforde is an author whose works defy description. Mystery, fantasy, time travel, and delightful humor are all found in his work, plus there is enough wordplay and literary references to please an English major like me. I had the opportunity to hear him speak, and he is just as entertaining as his books. My favorite is The Big Over Easy. Jack Spratt and Mary Mary of the Nursery Crime Division investigate the death of Humpty Dumpty. Did he fall or was he pushed? Add the evil Goliath Company, friendly aliens, and a rampaging Gingerbread Man, and you will see every nursery rhyme and fairy tale character in a totally new light. If you are looking for something completely original, try the Nursery Crime Division series!

By Jasper Fforde,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Big Over Easy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's Easter in Reading - a bad time for eggs - and no one can remember the last sunny day. Humpty Dumpty, well-known nursery favourite, large egg, ex-convict and former millionaire philanthropist is found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby area of town.

Following the pathologist's careful reconstruction of Humpty's shell, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergeant Mary Mary are soon grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, the illegal Bearnaise sauce market, corporate politics and the cut and thrust world of international Chiropody.

As Jack and Mary stumble around the streets of Reading in Jack's…