13 Amazing Children’s Picture Books About Magic

There are a ton of children’s picture books about magic, but these are our family’s absolute favorites. These books are really well written, and the art is beautiful and interesting. What’s not to love? I’d even hand them to an adult looking for a light read. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

My picture book posts were originally published and then occasionally expanded between 2012-2015, with reviews based on reading with my kiddo between preschool age and about eight years old. As of 2023-24, I’m freshening up my lists and adding more recs.

Tuesday (1991) by David Wiesner

No one told the cows from Cows Can’t Fly (see below) that they should stay on the ground, and a similar memo never got to the frogs in Tuesday. This is a beautifully painted wordless book that made me re-think my resistance to wordless children’s books. Wiesner won a Caldecott for this, and rightly so.

Cows Can’t Fly (2000) by David Milgrim

Many children love stories where the adults don’t have a clue, and the kids know the real deal. This is one of those books and it’s really cute and funny. Apparently no one told the cows that their flying was absurd!

The Hired Hand (2005) by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Gorgeous folktale set in the 1700s at a sawmill in Virginia owned by an African-American family. Dad is hardworking and honest, his son is the opporsite. When a magical stranger arrives to work at the sawmill, the son sees an opportunity… which won’t turn out the way he’d hoped! A lot of powerful themes in this one. (Maybe for slightly older kids since someone does temporarily die.)

The Magic Box (2009) by Katie Cleminson

I fell for this book because of the art. The gorgeous colors and the beautifully drawn animals are worth lingering over. Any child who’s wanted to do magic tricks, or made wishes, will probably find the story quite interesting.

Tornado Slim and the Magic Cowboy Hat (2011) by Bryan Langdo

The Old West and magic aren’t topics you usually think of together, but I’m glad Langdo did. I’m also glad that Slim stopped to talk to a coyote, took the proffered hat, and agreed to deliver the letter, because without that, his adventures would never have begun.

Pay attention to the alarms on the celebratory chili. When Boy Detective realized what was going on with that, he cracked up.

Lost and Found (2012) by Bill Harley, illustrated by Adam Gustavson

I came across this book so randomly, and I’m glad I did. What starts as a fairly straightforward “kid lost his hat, needs to find it” story turns into something more magical as the narrator overcomes his fear of school janitor Mr. Rumkowsky and starts to dig into the colossal Lost and Found box. I also particularly enjoyed that his group of friends included both girls and boys, as well as multicultural diversity.

Extra Yarn (2012) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

When Annabelle finds a box of yarn that never runs out, everything in her town gets colorful sweaters. When a greedy nobleman demands she give him the box, and she refuses, what will happen? Distinctive art style that really brings the subject matter to life. Barnett and Klassen are children’s picture book superstars; you can tell they really respect kids’ intelligence.

The Moon Ring (2013) by Randy Duburke

Maxine finds out that her grandmother wasn’t joking about the magic light of a blue moon. The story isn’t particularly complex, but it’s buoyed up by the exuberant art. Will be popular with any kids (or adults) who love comics, animation, adventure, or giraffes.

Bird (2015) by Beatriz Martin Vidal

This is one of the most beautiful, strangest, most intriguing children’s books I’ve ever read. It begins with a bird flying through a dark sky, while a young person in white is getting ready… for what exactly? Nothing about the narrative is handed to you, but you’re pulled along as the bird makes progress and the young person is clearly waiting for something. Something that to me feels like magic.

The back cover says “Let Your Imagination Fly.” If engaging the imagination was Vidal’s goal, she’s succeeded. The art is delicate, sophisticated, and clearly done with great care. (Some of it is watercolor, and some colored pencil, I think?) Absolutely worth reading with a child, or on your own.

The Snow Rabbit (2015) by Camille Garoche

Point 1 in favor of this book: jaw-droppingly beautiful cut paper illustrations. Point 2 in favor of this book: magic. Point 3: the first children’s picture book I ever read with a main character who has a disability, but disability isn’t the focus of the book.

Two sisters find a small bunny out in the snow, and initially bring it in to warm up, but then realize they must return it outside. One sister uses a wheelchair, and she keeps up just fine until one of her wheels gets snagged on a bush. Neither of them can dislodge it, so the no-wheelchair sister sits in her lap for warmth while they try to figure out what to do. This story could just as easily have been the non-wheelchair-using sister getting her foot caught in a hole in the ground, and the girls are clearly both in this together, equal partners.

I am a little concerned that no parents or guardians seem to have noticed these two girls are out in the snowy woods and it’s getting dark. What’s up with that? But I guess the outcome would be less magical if Dad or Auntie showed up with a lantern and some gardening shears.

And here are the books I’ve read on my own since my kiddo got too old for them; they’re all fantastic! I haven’t had a chance to write reviews or pull the covers yet, but click on through and see if one of them might be perfect for you.

And that’s the list!