playing. learning. growing.

55+ Best Children’s Books From the 80s and 90s

As a long time picture book fan, I must admit that many of my all-time favourites even today were published in the 1980s-1990s! Which inspired me to put together this fabulous list of over fifty of the Best Children’s Books from the 80s and 90s .

Who can even believe that some of these classic picture books are forty years old! The list includes many award winning titles, beloved and respected authors and books that have been read over and over again by subsequent generations of children from the same family – I loved sharing many of these with my own children.

Want to go further back? For books published prior to the 1980s, check out our list of 50 Classic Picture Books and 20 Classic Chapter Books to Read Aloud With 5-8 Year Olds .

Best Childrens Books from the 80s and 90s

As with all of the lists in our Best Books for Kids collection, each title in this list links to an Amazon and/or Book Depository page (these are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission at no cost to you) where you can find more information and reviews for titles you might not be personally familiar with.

List continues below.


Keep reading with these popular booklists;


Pin for later:

50 Childhood Classics: Picture Books from the 80s and 90s

Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

' src=

March 14, 2016 at 12:50 AM

Hello, This is incredibly far fetched, but I am not having much luck, I am searching for a children’s picture book. It is a book that means a lot to a friend of mine. I don’t have the title, so it is finding itself incredibly difficult to locate. Do you know of any sites or sources that would be helpful in locating a book where I have some plot history, but no author or title?

The book is a green hard cover, I think the name of the book is the name of the main character. The story is about a boy who is raised by bears, in one scene he is living weights with the bears, I think it takes place in a sort of industrial time. The reading level is probably around 6 or 7?

Thank you, Candice

' src=

March 22, 2016 at 8:36 PM

I don’t know it, sorry Candice, but this site offers some great suggestions for finding books –

' src=

February 19, 2018 at 12:55 PM

Abebooks has a book search forum, I have found books through those wonderful people that I have looked for for over 60 years. I have also told them 8 seconds of a movie my son wanted and in short order I knew the name and where to buy it. These people are all over the world and book freaks who are totally brilliant. If it can be found, they will find it for you. Good Luck, Grandmajia

' src=

June 22, 2016 at 12:24 AM

Ha, I remember Koala Lou. The real question is, does anyone remember the Sweet Pickles books? But I think those might’ve been from the late 70s.

' src=

July 18, 2022 at 9:37 PM

Pickle Things by Marc Brown.

' src=

November 15, 2016 at 3:42 PM

i would definitely add stellaluna, pub. i think 1992-3, to this list! loved it as a child.

November 24, 2016 at 8:21 PM

A great suggestion!

' src=

May 21, 2022 at 5:00 PM

Such a good book!

' src=

December 1, 2016 at 8:52 AM

Hi looking for a book called James and I are not friends anymore

' src=

January 11, 2017 at 12:01 PM

Is it “What James Said” by Liz Rosenberg?

' src=

January 20, 2017 at 1:49 PM

“James used to be my friend. But today he is my enemy.” from Janice May Udry’s book, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, “Let’s Be Enemies” Could this be what you are looking for?

' src=

January 26, 2017 at 5:22 AM

Can anyone remember these two books:

One about kittens that come to life at night that in the day ,I’ve on a pussy willow Tree?

One about a boy with rabbit (?) called Pacca. He sleeps in the flower bed by the greenhouse when he feels unloved.

I’ve looked everywhere. Both were published in the 1990’s.

' src=

February 12, 2017 at 10:52 AM

Looking for a toddler book talking about animal tails that I read to my kids. I believe last page says “hey, I don’t have a tail!” Does anyone know the name of this book? It’s not “Tails”

' src=

February 24, 2017 at 12:55 PM

Cherie- it is called A Tale of Tails. I loved it as a kid and my kids loved it too. Find it here:

March 26, 2018 at 4:17 AM

This isnt the book but thank you. I believe the book i’m talking about was a flip book too, dont think it was a Golden Book. Still searching…

' src=

March 16, 2017 at 10:21 AM

Hello there! I’m looking for a children’s book about a dog who, after getting groomed, starts to put on airs. The dog starts to ignore her owner – she won’t sit with him, she won’t play with him. She becomes quite naughty. She then invites all of the neighbourhood dogs to party at her house. There was such a ruckus that the police are called and the pound paddy wagon comes and collects all of the dogs, even “naughty dog”. Eventually her human comes to ‘bail’ her out of the pound. After that she stops taking her human for granted. Sorry for recanting pretty much the entire story! Any ideas?

' src=

September 24, 2017 at 9:36 AM

I know this book! It’s Mrs. Murphy’s Dog. I loved it as a kid, too.

' src=

March 21, 2017 at 8:18 PM

I am looking for a book that my mum used to read to me when I was a child, in the 90s. She is desperate to find it!

The story was about yawning and on almost every page said ‘and he gave out a great big yawn’.

It made us yawn the whole way through the book until we fell asleep.

Any help in finding the name/author of this book would be greatly appreciated.

' src=

April 15, 2017 at 4:39 AM

Is it Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley?

April 15, 2017 at 4:56 AM

After I commented I realized that you said it was from the 90’s…the only book I can find with yawning around that time is Barney Saltzberg’s book from 1985 “The Yawn.” I wish you luck!

' src=

March 31, 2017 at 3:58 AM

Do you know an adventure series where you have to identify types of trees as part of an overall mission?

' src=

April 10, 2017 at 9:37 AM

Looking for a book about a cat that I believe is looking for a “better house” and walk around the neighborhood. He passes a house with a bunch of fish and a few other nice homes. Finally he comes to his own house and decides it is best.

' src=

April 20, 2017 at 6:48 AM

Can anyone help me find a picture book my daughter loved (mid 90s) about a boy who goes to a restaurant with his parents and everyone is a monster / vampire? but he is the only one who can see them. Thanks

' src=

April 21, 2017 at 2:39 PM

Hi there! Looking for an old children’s book about a lady with a blue hat and flowers on it. She went to the market and it also includes a child. Sorry, can’t remember much of it now, besides that.

' src=

August 24, 2017 at 8:44 PM

I think maybe it’s Mrs Honeys hat? That was one of my favourites!

' src=

May 21, 2017 at 11:44 PM

Great list! I’m hoping someone here might be able to help, I’m trying to remember a book from the late 80s/early 90s which had a teddy and a toy duck (I think) who were in a toy shop and broken, a little girl would come in and not pick them so they went on a mission in the snow to be fixed and then they were adopted?

' src=

June 26, 2017 at 11:29 AM

It kind of sounds like a book called Corduroy.

' src=

May 22, 2017 at 1:03 PM

I’m looking for a book that had many short stories. One that I can kind of remember was about a little girl who went to visit her grandmother. I think the book had a chicken on it. I dont remember really

' src=

June 11, 2017 at 6:11 PM

Searching for a children’s book in the early 80s about a young girl who is tasked by her mother to get a few items, so she decides in order to remember to tie a red string to her finger. I can’t remember the title of this book & I would love to get it for my daughter.

' src=

July 9, 2017 at 6:05 PM

I remember with pleasure these books: The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack, Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel and Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book still in print!

' src=

July 27, 2017 at 12:58 PM

Im looking for a book my mom read to me all the time i thought it was called goodnight moon but thats not it. It wad a mom and her daughter and a moon and doing activities before bed i think there were pancakes involved and pigs i could be wrong but the moon was a big part of it. I am dying to find the name, i had the book my original and it seems to be gone. Any answers would be helpful thank you!

' src=

August 24, 2017 at 6:35 AM

I’m looking for the nonfiction children’s science book that came out in the 80’s all I can remember is the cover art….kind of lol. I seem to remember the illustrations looked almost like kid house rock but not quite. Can anybody help me?m

' src=

August 24, 2017 at 4:59 PM

We have been trying to find a picture book from his childhood. It’s probably from the 80s and is about a boy who has to remember a shopping list for his grandma but along the way lost of things happen (i.e. a burglary) and he changes the list to remember it wrongly.

' src=

August 29, 2017 at 10:30 AM

I am looking for a picture book with a mauIn character of a young snake that keeps having hissy fits . I read it to my preschool kids between 1996 and 2000

' src=

September 12, 2017 at 2:09 AM

I’m looking for a book, it’s about a little girl hiding from her mom in different areas of the house, and her mom keeps getting more angry with her, she cries at one point, but you never actually see the little girl, she is is just eyes in the book. I think it might be about going to bed.

' src=

October 18, 2017 at 1:17 AM

Hi hope you can help. I’m trying to find a book about two pigs that dress up as a knight and a princess and the knight pig tries to slay a dragon that turns out to be a pile of rubbish and the princess pig saves him? I loved it as a child and would love to read it to my little one.

' src=

October 27, 2017 at 12:52 PM

I’m looking for a children’s book about a kitten whose mother has to leave to shopping. The babysitter is a wise older lady cat who keeps him entertained until his mother returns.

' src=

November 7, 2017 at 3:26 PM

I’m a kindergarten teacher. Not that this matters in my question but I’m looking for a book that had a Japanese theme, it was a story about a warrior who is sent a quest or something and he encounters elements like fire, ice, water, earth, lighting, sun. Something like this… I don’t remember the the title of the book or the plot for that matter. I could be totally off base but I remember reading this book around 1992-1995 when I was in grade school.

The book is definitely a picture book the colors used om certain pages were dark and color specific to the elements previously mentioned. I this maybe a long shot but maybe someone out there might have an idea of what I am taking about. I want to say the character was samurai or shogun.

' src=

November 20, 2017 at 2:04 AM

Hello I’m hoping someone can help. I’m looking for a book I used to read to my children in the late 1980s/early 1990s and think it was called ‘Doodletown Zoo’ and featured animals with names like ‘Joe Kangraoodle’. It was a part story, part rhyming and part tongue twister. I have been searching for this book high and low but cannot find anywhere that sells it (wish I hadn’t got rid of the copy we had now). Does anyone know where I can purchase another copy, who published it or the author? I am hoping that someone out there knows what book I am referring to or can help me. Many thanks in anticipation.

' src=

November 26, 2017 at 9:08 AM

It’s a long shot but maybe someone will know it here. I used to read this book in the late 80s/maybe early 90s when I was a kid. It was about a little girl who did not want to go to bed, because she felt like she was going to miss something… I’m pretty sure that was a line in the book. Her mom, dad, older brother and sister got to stay up and were downstairs. Then she drifted into dreamland, the illustrations were beautiful, pretty sure it was watercolor. This has been racking my brain for at least a decade trying to remember the title of this book. Now I’m a mother myself and would love to read this book to my son – any help would be appreciated, thank you!

' src=

December 13, 2017 at 1:07 PM

I am looking for a book from the 80’s maybe from New Zealand. I read this to my girls. From memory it was called Alfie and the Dark. It was about a little boy who talked to the Dark when he went to bed. The dark was a friendy character who also talked teliing the boy about where he went when the light came. i would love to find it again for my grandchildren.

' src=

August 23, 2018 at 6:53 AM

It is called Alfi and the Dark. You can still purchase it on Amazon.

' src=

January 9, 2018 at 9:12 AM

I am looking for a book that I used to read to my children late 80s- 90s. It had a plastic dial on the cover , which I think was blue and it was about pigs. It was possible to use the dial as if you were calling someone- it may have had a ring too. I can’t remember exactly. I would like to buy it for my grandson.

' src=

January 28, 2018 at 10:32 AM

I am looking for a book that when you scrolled it would scroll black and white or color, depending on if you put your fingers from the top, bottom or middle of the outside of the books pages.

' src=

February 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Hi there, I see that a few posts here go unanswered (I known it would hard to address them all) but I will try anyway. One of my hobbies is trying to track down my old classroom books (1980s/1990s – Australia) for my kids. I have managed to find some! I remember a short-story picture book which basically revolved around a boy at school. I remember the illustrations being very “new-age” and had what I can only describe as a “graffiti-hip-hop” style of illustration. I can’t remember the plot entirely but it focuses on the boy trying to perform a magic trick where a school tie is cut up and placed in a brown paper-bag and then the tie is meant to be pulled out intact. I think – the boy decides he can’t master the trick and decides to just do an act at the school talent quest where the trick doesn’t work – as a comedy act. But a member of the crowd pushes-in in place of the planned volunteer and expects the trick to work, along with the rest of the audience. Miraculously, the tie comes out of the bag whole! Is it ringing any bells for anyone? Much thanks

' src=

February 4, 2018 at 10:50 PM

Hello everyone The book I’m searching for (it’s haunting me really) is from the 70’s-80’s and is about a dragon (remember the dragon as being fierce, black and “chinese” looking with long red tendrils) that wants to eat some humans, but instead they befriend it by making a huge cake..! -Does anybody have a clue..?

' src=

February 9, 2018 at 9:07 PM

Hey I’m looking for an old potty training book. Sometime between early 90s and 2000s.

It had a soft cover with a little girl on it sitting on a toilet. She had black hair bob with bangs. No shirt. The book was small in size. Every page was about why this animal can’t use toilets. Ex: “Elephants cant use the toilet cause they would crush it, Goats can’t use the toilet cause they would eat all the toilet paper, snakes can’t use the toilet cause they would curl up inside of it”. The end of the book is the little girl sitting on the toilet and it reads something like “ toilets are made for little girls like you”.

' src=

February 18, 2018 at 10:58 PM

I am looking for a book that had a bunch of animal songs in it. It had a cassette tape to with all the songs. There was one with an elephant Stomp and the last song and Pages were the owl. Does anyone have any idea what that book would be called or who wrote it?

' src=

March 1, 2018 at 3:14 AM

I’m trying to track down a book from the late 70s was a child’s picture reading book.not a long was basically about a boy who see’s a hand puppet fox in a shop.the boy buys the fox and at nightime under moonlight the fox would come alive and enjoy having legs.i believe it was called Peter and the magic fox but could be wrong.on the front cover were woods.ivy.brick wall.snakes.the fox.the cover also continued on the back as one.

' src=

March 4, 2018 at 2:47 PM

Hello, Anyone remember a book about a boy who makes a wish for ice cream and the Machine keeps making it and making it and he can’t make it stop?

' src=

March 25, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Just wondering if anyone knows of a children’s book (or books) of bedtime stories. It’s not 365 Bedtime Stories. I don’t know if it was strictly local in BC, Canada, or if it came from elsewhere. It was maybe between ’88 and 92 that I received them as Christmas gifts.

The book itself was white on the outside, with a thick dark pink/purple border. The title I believe was in thick black letters.

One had a story about a toy elephant getting a howdah for the first time. His name was Rajah I believe, and all of the toys came to life at night. They were all excited when Rajah got his howdah. He had to escort a fairy queen/king/princess (one of them) one day because she didn’t have a ride, and he was pleased to be able to do it. She gave him a special jewel or something like it that made him feel special after, and all the other toys wanted to ride too.

Another story (maybe in this book) was about a monkey named Mitsy/Misty I think, or Mischief. She likes playing tricks on all of the toys. One day they notice all of their valuables going missing, and because she’s a trickster, they blame her for her. (or him, but I think it was a her) She keeps swearing she didn’t take it, but because they know she likes to play tricks, they keep blaming her. She is banished from playing with them, and feels alone. She’s sitting up by the window one day and she looks out and sees a crows nest (or ravens) and sees something shiny, that’s when she realizes that all of their treasures are there.

Another book was sort of a blue-ish color, the cover was a hardcover, and fairly big. It had a story of the musicians from Bremen at the end of the book. That’s the clearest detail. The cover itself looked almost hand drawn, like pencil crayon scribbles.

In this book (or one from the same publisher) there was a story of a girl, similar to Cinderella. The faces were almost illustrated like the “Precious memories” children. More bold colors though. She was treated badly by her step-mother and step-sister. One day she was sent out to make bread in an old style outdoor brick oven. She was being punished for something, and the step-mother made her hang the laundry out to dry but it was raining. Because it wouldn’t dry, she was punished again. I don’t remember how, but she was outside and wishing that something nice would fall from the sky instead of rain. Because she was such a good girl all the time, and didn’t complain about how she was treated, it started raining gold coins. The step-sister watched from the side, and went out after the Cinderella girl left, and wished for something nice to fall on her too. Instead of coins, treacle, or chocolate fell on her, and ruined her hair and clothes.

Possibly from this same book there was a story of a hair dresser who came across three scraggly looking animals. She gave them makeovers. She curled their hair, and I think the bunny was worried that she’d cut his ear, but she calmed him down and promised that she wouldn’t hurt him. They felt so nice after that they felt bad when they were dressed and styled so pretty, but she looked like a mess. So they gave her a makeover, and she ended up going on a date because of them.

(again, possibly from this book) There was a story of a man who was having a really bad day. He was driving a large keg wagon of some sort when he hit a ditch or something, and the wooden wheel broke, leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t have a spare to fix it, and wished that he could at least take a drink of the ale/wine, (sounds so inappropriate for a children’s book) or whatever it was he had in his large keg. Cider maybe? A fairy came and fixed his wheel for him, and gave him a really beautiful flower that she turned into a glass. The art for it was beautiful, she had really pretty eyes, and he was in love with her. It was like a fairy glass, or a maiden’s glass, maiden’s tea-cup, I don’t exactly remember the title of the story.

I know one of these books had sort of an orange sunset cover over the whole book, and the other had a blue-ish cover.

They came out possibly around the same time as the Rose Petal Place stories. I’d gotten them all for that same Christmas, I was between 6 and 10 at the time, and would really love to have them again, or at least see them for nostalgia’s sake.

Thanks in advance if anyone can help.

' src=

April 1, 2018 at 11:09 AM

Hello, my sister and I and trying to remember the name of a book we read when we were growing up in the 90’s.Neither of us can remember the name or many details of the book. It was based in Japan and there was a little girl drawing pictures with chalk, something about drawing train tracks…. I know it’s probably a long shot but any help is much appreciated 🙂 Thanks!

' src=

July 29, 2018 at 5:39 AM

Hi My niece now aged 26 is looking for a childhood book about a little girl who moves house with her family. She put butter on her cats paws to make him stay put. cant remember the name of the book. she thinks it was part of a series

' src=

August 17, 2018 at 6:45 AM

Hi, I’m looking a book from the 80s about a Mum who would like help around the house but her family is too busy… the Dad is watching tv, the son is doing his hair the daughter is making doll clothes, the last time she asks them to help her pick apples from the tree in the garden and they help her make a pie and sit down as a family to eat it. Brightly illustrated can’t remember author or title, Thank you

' src=

April 25, 2022 at 11:32 AM

I’ve been trying to find a book i loved as a child late 80 early 90s, orange hard back book about a dachshund. I don’t remember anything about this book, just that i checked it out every week.

' src=

May 6, 2022 at 10:58 AM

I used to read a picture book to my son in 1980 to 82. I was about a little boy who took one item, maybe a teddy bear to bed. Then it progressed with 2 of something and on up to 10 things and it ended with the child saying and sometimes there isn’t room for me!” I’d love to find it for a gift.

' src=

May 23, 2022 at 11:26 AM

Was it Ten In the Bed by Penny Dale?

' src=

May 11, 2022 at 6:52 AM

Trying to find a children’s book from the 90s. It was about foxes who had a fight with red paint, and I think it may have had something to do with Easter. HELP!

May 23, 2022 at 11:18 AM

I am searching for a children’s book for ages 2 to 5 or 6. Few words and the book was larger in size. The child in the book was a curly headed child. The mom on one page was getting up from a nap I believe and putting on her sweater. Her hair was red with soft curls. A little messed up! I read it to my son in the early to mid 90’s. Thanks for any help. I believe the book had a light blue background on the cover.

' src=

June 19, 2022 at 11:11 PM

I am trying to find a book I read as a child. It was about a cute spider. From the 70’s or 80’s. I thought I had bought it from one of those book selling weeks. It is not lucas but the spider did have a name and it was a fun story. I remember it only being one of those small books with “hard” cover.

' src=

June 27, 2022 at 4:42 AM

I’m trying to remember the name of a children’s book about a little boy worrying that his mom has gone to the basement and there’s a monster down there. She’s really gone to the garden but he finds her glasses and thinks the monster has got her. He challenges the monster with a broom.

' src=

July 3, 2022 at 2:26 AM

Looking for a book about a boy who runs away from home and stops in to visit with the people in his neighborhood who all offer help in one way or another . The example I remember is the butcher gives him a salami to take on his journey. He eventually returns home. This book is not new … probably from 90’s or even earlier.

' src=

July 4, 2022 at 6:14 AM

Looking for a book I read to my daughter in the 1990s. It was about a tea party. Various animals gather together for a tea party around a big table. I think there were 13 seats. One by one the animals join the table. The 13th seat is for the reader. I think tiger tiger was one of them. Help it’s driving me crazy I can’t remember anything more. It was a brilliant book and she loved it!

July 18, 2022 at 9:53 PM

I’m Looking for the Hard Cover Book I read to my Kids in the 80’s but can’t remember the Title. It’s about a little boy who runs away and comes across this run down house, with a picket fence and the Gate wide open. From the Street he can hear music and smell bacon coming from the house. All the lights are on and in the lower window there’s a Jolly, Round Faced Woman with Black wiry hair, wearing an apron and using a Spatula as a microphone singing out loud. She spots the little boy and goes to the door to invite him in, saying, ” Come on in Lovey and asks if he’s hungry” inside there was another child, nothing on, jumping Seaty. and that’s all I got but boy would I love to find this book.

' src=

July 21, 2022 at 1:05 AM

Hi everyone. I’ve been searching for years for a Faerie Tales book I loved as a child. The illustrations were beautiful and it told classic tales like Beauty and the Beast and The Frog Prince. I think Rumpelstiltskin and The Princess and the Pea was in it too. The cover was green with Faerie Tales written in gold (maybe foiled) lettering at the top with a big illustration from one of the stories – the woman has long blondish hair in braids and is standing next to a table with a single candle on it – on the front. I am a child of the 1980s, so I think it was from that time. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

' src=

July 30, 2022 at 4:30 AM

hello! I have been searching for this book for years, I think its from the 70s to early 90s maybe. My grana used to read it to me and my sister when we were small, and it got given away from my papas place. Its got a red cover, the illustrations are black and white. Its about a little girl in a black or polka dot dress I think? her hair is stick like. I think there is more than one book. She hangs clothes on a line outside at one point and does dishes but makes to much suds at another point. I think she has a cat. Its soft cover. I dont remember anything much other than the pictures, it was sort of a scribble like style? I’ve been trying to find it for so long and only recently discovered it was thrown out by accident from storage. Anyone I’ve asked always tell me it sounds familiar but has no idea what its called.

picture books 1980s

Learning Resources

picture books 1980s

Best Books for Kids

  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar

What Do We Do All Day logo

Classic Children's Books By The Decade: 1980s

Here are our favorite children's books from the 1980s that are totally awesome, dude.

I'm really happy with this list of 20th century classic children's books from the 1980s even though using the term "classic" is becoming more and more suspect as we close in on the 21st century. I included a mix of lesser known 1980s books plus a handful of classics you may have heard of, but may not yet have read.

Children's books from the 80s

I'm also pleased that I was able to curate a book list with a few  classic books that are quite suitable for younger audiences, both in reading level and subject matter. I do think there is something for everyone on this list!

Note: this list contains Amazon and Bookshop affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may earn a commission for this blog. Bookshop also supports independent bookstores.

10 Classic Books from the 1980s:

The People Could Fly book cover

The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton (1985 )

Find it: Bookshop | Amazon

Folktales are universally loved and a collection of short stories is a nice way to switch up read aloud time. Celebrated children’s author, Virginia Hamilton, wrote this wonderful collection of Black American folktales. There are several categories of tales ranging from animal trickster legends, stories of the supernatural and tales of freedom. At the end of each short story, Hamilton includes her notes on the origin of the tale and its dialect.

Dear Mr. Henshaw book cover

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (1983)

Through letters and diary entries addressed to his favorite author, Leigh Botts works through his feelings about his parents’ divorce, making friends at a new school and the mysterious lunch thief. One of the most appealing aspects of this book is that Cleary realistically conveys the complex and urgent voice of an 11-year-old boy.  Epistolary novels for children are rare and this one is eminently readable.

Wayside School Is Falling Down book cover.

Wayside School Is Falling Down by Louis Sachar (1989)

From the gifted author of Holes , this is a crowd pleasing, witty book that you should not pass over. There are 30 stories for the 30 floors of wacky Wayside School. Each chapter is a self-contained, clever joke. Both kids who love the silly and ridiculous, and parents who appreciate well-written, humorous books will find something to charm them. This is the second book in the series.

Number the Stars book cover

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1989)

Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

A compelling and moving novel by Lois Lowry, set during World War II.  Finding age appropriate books about tough subjects is a boon to parents and educators. In 1943 Denmark, 10 year old Annemarie and her family risk their lives to help their Jewish friends escape the Nazis.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Jones wrote loads of fantasy novels and you might recognize the title of this one because it was made into a successful animated movie. However, it’s such a captivating book, don’t limit yourself to the film version. Young Sophie is transformed into an old woman by The Witch of Waste and the only way to break the spell is to seek out the Wizard Howl in his bizarre moving castle.

The Whipping Boy book cover.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman (1987)

In this amusing and fast-paced adventure, Jemmy serves as the palace whipping boy, receiving the punishments meant for a spoiled, bratty prince. When Prince Brat decides to run away, Jemmy follows and the two are captured by villains who are fooled into thinking Jemmy is the real prince. In their attempt to escape the villains, both both boys learn much about each other.

The Castle in the Attic book cover

The Castle in the Attic ( series) by Elizabeth Winthrop (1985)

The idea of a miniature castle coming to life was irresistible to me as a kid. William’s housekeeper, Mrs. Phillips gives him a model castle set but things go awry when Mrs. Phillips is shrunk down to the size of the castle and William must shrink himself down to rescue her. Dragons, wizards, magic forests and knights make this a wonderful fantasy quest kids will love.

The Agony of Alice book cover.

The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (1985)

This is the first book in the lengthy Alice series and is a wonderful book for tween girls ( and boys, too! ) learning to navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence. Motherless Alice is surrounded by males at home and wants a female role model. She hopes a glamorous teacher will fill the position. What she learns instead is that people are much more than their surface appearances. In this book, Alice is a sixth grader but she grows up during the course of the series ( more than 20 books ). You may recognize Naylor as the author of Shiloh .

bill's new frock anne fine

Bill's New Frock by Anne Fine (1989)

Find it: Amazon

I confess I am a sucker for books that get kids thinking about gender roles. This 1980s book by British Children’s Laureate, Anne Fine, does just that. Bill wakes up one morning to find he has turned into a girl. Being a young boy, he is naturally horrified! But Bill learns a thing or two about the way others treat him differently when they see a girl instead of a boy in front of them. This early chapter book will get kids thinking as well as make them laugh out loud.

war horse book

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (1982)

For kids ages 8 and up who like historical fiction this is a really interesting and moving book about a boy named Albert whose horse, Joey, is taken into service during World War I. While Joey experiences the horrors of war, Albert enlists in order to find his beloved horse. In case you haven’t figured it out, this book has a strong anti-war message. I think it would make a great family read aloud.

Visit my other posts in this series:

  • Classic Children’s Books: 19th Century
  • Classic Children's Books: 1910s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1920s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1930s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1940s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1950s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1960s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1970s
  • Classic Children's Books: 1990s

Reader Interactions

November 05, 2012 at 6:14 am

These look great and I haven't read any of them! I think by the 1980s I felt I was too old for kids books but 30 years later I feel like I am just the right age, with the bonus that I can share them with my kids!

Mom and Kiddo says

November 05, 2012 at 6:19 am

Jen, I am so excited I actually made a list that was completely new to you! And I know what you mean when you say that now you are exactly the right age to enjoy them. I feel the same way.

Natalie says

November 05, 2012 at 9:22 am

Some if the titles are familiar to me, but I haven't read any of them with Anna yet. What about Encyclopedia Brown - not sure what decade it was written though...

maryanne @ mama smiles says

November 05, 2012 at 9:50 am

I read several of these in the eighties! And now I have several I need to read. Love this series of yours!

Jackie Higgins says

November 05, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Wow! The 80s not only had great music and great (?) hair, it produced a lot of amazing titles! Thanks for the list. Some bring back wonderful memories and some are "new".

November 05, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Well, at the time we thought it was great hair! LOL.

Danya Banya says

November 05, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Great list. Yay, more books to look out for at the library 🙂

November 05, 2012 at 2:15 pm

One can never have enough books!

Renee C. says

November 05, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Omigosh - I haven't come across any of these! I would have been a teenager during that time and reading Stephen King and Anne Rice! lol Thanks for hosting this wonderful linky! 🙂

November 06, 2012 at 4:36 am

Ah, the things we read when we were teenagers!

thepicturebookreview says

November 09, 2012 at 10:05 am

Nice list! I can remember reading several of these books as a child, but for the life of me I cannot remember what many of these books were about. I think it is so odd that I can even remember where in my house I read some of those books, some of the feelings I had about the book, but the plot eludes me. Eh, such is life. Fortunately, I can always reread a book. Thanks for putting these together.

November 09, 2012 at 1:52 pm

That same plot-fog happens to me, too! It is a testament to how much the experience of reading is just as important as what specific books we read as a kid.

Melissa @ Honey Bee Books says

November 10, 2012 at 4:36 am

What a fabulous series. I haven't read any of these 1980s books so I will have to keep an eye out for them - they look great! I am going to check out your other posts in the series now for a little bookish history lesson 🙂

November 10, 2012 at 4:42 am

Thanks! And don't forget next week: 1990s. Can we still call the 1990s history?

Emma @ P is for Preschooler says

April 29, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Oh, boy, some of my old favorites are now classics. I am getting old! lol!

Tameka Phillips says

December 03, 2014 at 10:35 am

This list is AWESOME because I read many of the books listed. I intend to revisit my old friends! 🙂

Erica MomandKiddo says

December 03, 2014 at 12:52 pm

It's such a joy to read books we remember from our childhood.

June 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Ha! This brings me back to the days of our elementary school book fair, from which I purchased some of these. Technically my mom bought em, but you get what I'm saying. lol

Susan Gomersall says

July 23, 2022 at 10:40 pm

I want to find the book about making babies that was in the 70 or 80

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

picture books 1980s

Top 10 1980s Books

A Long Walk to Water

1980s .css-1x7k4ny{display:inline;-webkit-appearance:none;-moz-appearance:none;-ms-appearance:none;appearance:none;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;justify-content:center;-webkit-user-select:none;-moz-user-select:none;-ms-user-select:none;user-select:none;position:relative;white-space:break-spaces;vertical-align:middle;outline:2px solid transparent;outline-offset:2px;line-height:inherit;border-radius:0px;font-weight:500;transition-property:var(--chakra-transition-property-common);transition-duration:var(--chakra-transition-duration-normal);height:auto;min-width:3rem;font-size:inherit;-webkit-padding-start:var(--chakra-space-6);padding-inline-start:var(--chakra-space-6);-webkit-padding-end:var(--chakra-space-6);padding-inline-end:var(--chakra-space-6);background:none;color:inherit;margin:0px;padding:0.3em;padding-left:0px;border-bottom:2px solid;border-color:hsl(176,84%,41%);min-height:auto;top:-2px;padding-top:0px;padding-bottom:0px;text-align:left;}.css-1x7k4ny:focus-visible,.css-1x7k4ny[data-focus-visible]{box-shadow:var(--chakra-shadows-outline);}.css-1x7k4ny:disabled,.css-1x7k4ny[disabled],.css-1x7k4ny[aria-disabled=true],.css-1x7k4ny[data-disabled]{opacity:0.4;cursor:not-allowed;box-shadow:var(--chakra-shadows-none);}.css-1x7k4ny:active,.css-1x7k4ny[data-active]{box-shadow:inherit;} .css-f8n5zr{border:0px;clip:rect(0px, 0px, 0px, 0px);height:1px;width:1px;margin:-1px;padding:0px;overflow:hidden;white-space:nowrap;position:absolute;} Kids  Books .css-f0fot0{position:relative;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;--popper-bg:var(--chakra-colors-white);background:var(--popper-bg);--popper-arrow-bg:var(--popper-bg);--popper-arrow-shadow-color:var(--chakra-colors-gray-200);width:332px;border:1px solid;border-color:inherit;border-radius:var(--chakra-radii-md);box-shadow:var(--chakra-shadows-sm);z-index:inherit;max-height:calc(100vh - var(--fixed-height) - 4px);overflow-y:auto;font-size:var(--chakra-fontSizes-md);padding-top:var(--chakra-space-2);-webkit-padding-start:var(--chakra-space-3);padding-inline-start:var(--chakra-space-3);-webkit-padding-end:var(--chakra-space-3);padding-inline-end:var(--chakra-space-3);}.css-f0fot0:focus-visible,.css-f0fot0[data-focus-visible]{outline:2px solid transparent;outline-offset:2px;box-shadow:var(--chakra-shadows-outline);} .css-13o7eu2{display:block;} .css-1xhq01z{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:start;-ms-flex-pack:start;-webkit-justify-content:flex-start;justify-content:flex-start;-webkit-flex-direction:row;-ms-flex-direction:row;flex-direction:row;border-bottom:2px solid;border-color:inherit;} .css-1hsf01r{outline:2px solid transparent;outline-offset:2px;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;justify-content:center;transition-property:var(--chakra-transition-property-common);transition-duration:var(--chakra-transition-duration-normal);font-weight:500;color:var(--chakra-colors-gray-500);font-size:var(--chakra-fontSizes-md);padding-top:var(--chakra-space-2);padding-bottom:var(--chakra-space-2);-webkit-padding-start:var(--chakra-space-4);padding-inline-start:var(--chakra-space-4);-webkit-padding-end:var(--chakra-space-4);padding-inline-end:var(--chakra-space-4);border-bottom:2px solid;border-color:var(--chakra-colors-transparent);margin-bottom:-2px;}.css-1hsf01r:focus-visible,.css-1hsf01r[data-focus-visible]{z-index:1;box-shadow:var(--chakra-shadows-outline);}.css-1hsf01r:disabled,.css-1hsf01r[disabled],.css-1hsf01r[aria-disabled=true],.css-1hsf01r[data-disabled]{cursor:not-allowed;opacity:0.4;}.css-1hsf01r:disabled:active,.css-1hsf01r[disabled]:active,.css-1hsf01r[aria-disabled=true]:active,.css-1hsf01r[data-disabled]:active,.css-1hsf01r:disabled[data-active],.css-1hsf01r[disabled][data-active],.css-1hsf01r[aria-disabled=true][data-active],.css-1hsf01r[data-disabled][data-active]{background:none;}.css-1hsf01r[aria-selected=true],.css-1hsf01r[data-selected]{color:var(--chakra-colors-gray-800);border-color:var(--chakra-colors-primary-500);}.css-1hsf01r:active,.css-1hsf01r[data-active]{background:var(--chakra-colors-gray-200);} Audience Grade Level Age .css-8atqhb{width:100%;} .css-adm2jf{padding:var(--chakra-space-4);outline:2px solid transparent;outline-offset:2px;-webkit-padding-start:0px;padding-inline-start:0px;-webkit-padding-end:0px;padding-inline-end:0px;} .css-1h3nfwc{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;}.css-1h3nfwc>*:not(style)~*:not(style){margin-top:0px;-webkit-margin-end:0px;margin-inline-end:0px;margin-bottom:0px;-webkit-margin-start:0px;margin-inline-start:0px;} .css-1p4fqut{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-flex-direction:row;-ms-flex-direction:row;flex-direction:row;padding-top:var(--chakra-space-3);padding-bottom:var(--chakra-space-3);-webkit-padding-start:var(--chakra-space-1);padding-inline-start:var(--chakra-space-1);-webkit-padding-end:var(--chakra-space-1);padding-inline-end:var(--chakra-space-1);border-radius:var(--chakra-radii-md);cursor:pointer;}.css-1p4fqut>*:not(style)~*:not(style){margin-top:0px;-webkit-margin-end:0px;margin-inline-end:0px;margin-bottom:0px;-webkit-margin-start:0.5rem;margin-inline-start:0.5rem;}.css-1p4fqut:hover,.css-1p4fqut[data-hover]{background:var(--chakra-colors-gray-50);} .css-1t9pz9x{width:20px;height:20px;} All Books Board Books Picture Books First Reader Books Early Reader Books Junior Reader Books Middle Grade Books Young Adult Books All Books Books for Pre K Books for 1st Graders Books for 2nd Graders Books for 3rd Graders Books for 4th Graders Books for 5th Graders Books for 6th Graders Books for 7th Graders Books for 8th Graders Books for 9th Graders All Books Books for 0-3 Year Olds Books for 3-5 Year Olds Books for 6-8 Year Olds Books for 9-12 Year Olds

  • Help Center
  • Gift a Book Club
  • Beautiful Collections
  • Schedule Demo

Book Platform

  • Find a Book
  • Motivate Reading
  • Community Editors

Authors & Illustrators

  • Get Your Book Reviewed
  • Submit Original Work

Follow Bookroo

clock This article was published more than  3 years ago

A grandfather ponders the best books to keep children — and their adults — entertained

picture books 1980s

In James Stevenson’s picture book “ That Terrible Halloween Night ,” a grandfather tells his two grandchildren about what happened to him when, as a little boy, he went trick-or-treating and dared to go inside the local haunted house. Among other frights, he encountered a monster composed of “the worst parts of a lot of things” and it warns him not to go through a door with purple stripes. Naturally, the little boy does just that. “It was the worst mistake I ever made,” Grandpa solemnly informs Mary Ann and Louie. “What happened in there?” they ask. “It’s too scary to tell you,” he answers, “but when I came out of that house, I was an old man. And I’ve been that old ever since .”

For years I’ve loved “That Terrible Halloween Night” — it’s one of Stevenson’s many delightful Grandpa stories — and last week I reread it with my own grandchildren. As we began the book, I couldn’t help but remember turning the same pages with their dad, my eldest son, when he was their age. That was — gulp — 30 years ago. This time when I came to the book’s final pages, I discovered that I, too, had become an old man.

Well, not that old and still quite suave and dashing. After all, two beautiful young ladies — ages 1 and 5 — can hardly keep their hands off me. Admittedly, those hands are sticky and grubby, but it’s the thought that counts. What’s more, I’ve still got the muscular strength of a steel-driving John Henry, so long as the train tracks I work on are made by Brio. Every curve and straightaway, though, must be approved by an emotionally volatile railroad magnate who turned 3 this past June 29. As it happens, his “Peapaw” presciently reviewed David Wiesner’s 1992 picture book about gigantic airborne vegetables, “June 29, 1999.”

The old, even the newly old, tend to be retrospective, but the 1980s and ’90s — the years when I wrote a monthly column called Young Bookshelf — really do seem to have been a golden age for children’s literature. Every year I got to praise, sometimes with reservations, works as various as Dr. Seuss ’s arms-race fable, “The Butter Battle Book,” Maurice Sendak’s dark AIDS-inflected “ We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy ” and Roald Dahl’s unsettling masterpieces , “The BFG,” “Matilda” and “The Witches.”

More book reviews and recommendations

Better still, I was able to welcome books by newcomers who would go on to win Newbery and Caldecott Medals, not to mention vast readerships as in the case of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman. I certainly never missed a chance to write about Chris Van Allsburg , William Joyce and Daniel Pinkwater . Van Allsburg’s “Jumanji” took “let’s pretend” to a higher level, “ The Polar Express ” has rightly become a Christmas classic and “ The Mysteries of Harris Burdick ” is so hauntingly enigmatic that it has inspired dozens of short stories. One of its 14 drawings depicts a strangely small door in the wall of a shadowy basement. On the facing page is the title, “Uninvited Guests,” and the unnerving caption: “His heart was pounding. He was sure he had seen the doorknob turn.” That’s all. But it’s enough.

Over the years I crossed paths with William Joyce several times, so my copies of “ Dinosaur Bob ,” “ Santa Calls ” and “ A Day With Wilbur Robinson ” now bear illustrated inscriptions. Early comic strips, 1930s movie serials, classic toys, World of Tomorrow advertisements — all these pervade Joyce’s fantasies. If I were to pick a picture book to live in, it might well be “ A Day With Wilbur Robinson ,” which presents a madcap, science-fictional revisioning of the Addams Family.

While Daniel Pinkwater has produced classics for all ages — from that paean to nonconformity, “ The Big Orange Splot ,” to the Sherlockian pastiche “ The Snarkout Boys & the Avocado of Death ” — I’m fondest of “ Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars .” In it, the two young heroes acquire the Samuel Klugarsh Mind Control System and discover that it really works. Happily, Pinkwater still works, too: Next month Tachyon Books will bring out “ Adventures of a Dwergish Girl .”

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Dorling Kindersley issued a slew of wonderful fact-filled Eyewitness Books about nature and science and Joy Hakim created her innovative, multi-volume “ The History of US .” Special children’s issues of Book World featured Stephen King on his favorite scary stories, Leo and Diane Dillon discussing the art of book illustration, and foreign-born writers recalling their childhood reading, among them Alberto Manguel (Argentina) and Cathy Young (Russia). I also reviewed a lot of superb nonfiction, notably Russell Freedman’s Newbery-winning “ Lincoln: A Photobiography ” and Walter Dean Myers’s “ Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom .” A current book in this same vein is Washingtonian Linda Barrett Osborne’s just published and timely “ Guardians of Liberty: Freedom of the Press and the Nature of News .”

Sign up for the Book Club newsletter

Since my grandchildren are still quite young, we often share two pre-K gems from those long-ago years: Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s “ We’re Going on a Bear Hunt ” and Martin Waddell’s “ Owl Babies .” Already, though, I’m looking forward to when the kids will be ready for Beverly Cleary. These younger Dirdas live in Portland, Ore., the former hometown of the now 104-year-old Cleary, whose Henry Huggins stories essentially taught me to read. Not surprisingly, I treasure a copy of her memoir, “ My Own Two Feet ,” inscribed “Especially for Michael Dirda, Cordially, Beverly Cleary.”

Sigh. I still smile, now somewhat wistfully, when I pick up Tom Disch’s “ The Brave Little Toaster ” and David Macaulay’s “ Motel of the Mysteries ,” or recall the exuberant award lunches of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, or look through my correspondence with the endlessly inventive Joan Aiken and the plangently melancholy Russell Hoban. When the title character of Hoban’s “ The Marzipan Pig ” falls behind a sofa and is forgotten, he struggles with despair: “I am growing hard and bitter” yet “there is such sweetness in me.” The great children’s books aren’t just for kids.

Michael Dirda will be away in September.

Michael Dirda  reviews books each Thursday in Style.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

  • Skip to primary navigation
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar

Teaching Expertise

  • Classroom Ideas
  • Teacher’s Life
  • Deals & Shopping
  • Privacy Policy

Top Children’s Books From The 80s & 90s

October 11, 2023 //  by  Brittney Hallmark

Ready for a blast from the past? Dive into our collection of 88 children’s books from the 1980s and 1990s! From award-winning series to one-hit wonders, there were many books that became popular picks during this time period. With their beloved storylines, memorable characters, and special lessons, your little ones are sure to love every single one! Jump right in to see if your favorites are in this fantastic round-up! 

1. The Kissing Hand

This classic tale of love between a mother raccoon and her baby is a favorite for many. This beautiful story tells of how a mother reassures her baby that he is never alone and always has her love with him. This is a popular book to use for back-to-school or in other times of separation of parent and child.

2. Go Away Big Green Monster 

A super fun story for back-to-school time or around Halloween, this book has bold and vibrant illustrations. It is a great book for helping children face their fears. Generations of children have used this book to gain confidence and overcome fears.

3. Guess How Much I Love You

Available in the form of a board book, this sweet story of love between a parent and a child is a story that has been enjoyed by many. Perfect for bedtime, this simple story is a great way to help express the special love and bond between parents and children.

4. Where’s Waldo?


Where’s Waldo is a whole series of interactive stories to keep youngsters busy for hours! With limited text and many extremely detailed illustrations, children can seek to find Waldo and his friends hiding amongst very busy backgrounds. They are well hidden so these fun stories are great for explorers who love a challenge.

5. The Polar Express


The delightful story of The Polar Express is a classic picture book popular around Christmas time. A beautifully illustrated Caldecott winner, this story takes readers on an adventure that is full of magic and wonder, as a little boy makes his Christmas wish.

6. The Berenstain Bears 

Silly and fun, but always ending with a moral lesson, The Berenstain Bears series is definitely a favorite from this timeframe. These picture books feature a friendly bear family and help the reader to learn a real-life lesson that can apply easily to this age group.

7. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs 


A hilarious spin on The Three Little Pigs, this fracture fairy tale tells the clever adventure from the perspective of the wolf. He claims the pigs have it all wrong and he wants a chance to tell the true story. His version is quite different, of course. This is a great book to use for a fairy tale unit and to introduce fracture fairy tale writing.

8. Where’s Spot?


A wonderful lift-the-flap book, this adorable board book will keep little ones engaged. This interactive book follows the story of Spot the dog and all his hiding places. This is a classic bedtime story for little ones who enjoy reading about animals.

9. Five Minutes’ Peace

This delightful story is a fun and silly depiction of day-to-day life for some moms. This is a classic bedtime story, sure to get some giggles from the whole family. Children enjoy watching the elephant mom try to escape for a few minutes of peace, as her babies follow her and need her the entire time.

10. Oh, The Places You’ll Go


This Dr. Seuss classic is a popular gift for graduations and end-of-year ceremonies, but it’s also an inspirational read for students of all ages. The book covers life’s journey and challenges; making it a motivational addition to your classroom library. It’s a fantastic choice if you’re looking to instill a sense of hope and inspire greater ambition in your students.

11. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom


Loved by preschool and kindergarten teachers everywhere, this is a classic must-have book for every home and every classroom. This adventure for toddlers and young school-aged children is a great introduction to the alphabet in the form of a picture book.

12. Where the Wild Things Are


Where The Wild Things Are is a wonderful picture book for children of all ages. Max is sent to his room and enjoys a visit to where the wild things are, as his imagination runs wild and free. Children have enjoyed this captivating book for many years. Winning a Caldecott Award, this book is a wonderful story full of adventure and detailed illustrations.

13. Amelia Bedelia 


Amelia Bedelia is a housekeeper who is extremely literal. She does exactly what she is told to do. Generations of children have enjoyed this series, as more books are added over time. The hilarious antics and fun figures of speech will keep readers engaged and interested in these silly stories.

14. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


A wonderful story of a boy who is living his worst day ever! Children of all ages will relate to the terrible and horrible things that Alexander experiences on his very bad day. This is a wonderful picture book to read when life sends hiccups your way and you are having a very bad day.

15. Goodnight Moon


A classic title, Goodnight Moon, is a perfect board book for toddlers and young readers. It is an ideal bedtime story, as the book takes the time to go through all the goodnights for every item the little bunny sees.

16. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

A humorous story of raining food, this amusing and fast-paced adventure follows life in a unique town. It is fun and funny until the weather takes a turn for the worst. What will the town and the townspeople do when the portions get heavier and bigger and the raining food does not stop?

17. Love You Forever


Not only a best seller in English, but in other languages as well, this loving book shares the tender love and affection between mother and son. The classic title is perfect for the sweet emotion that a mother has for her own. The book follows the son as he grows and his mother’s love for him never wavers.

18. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt


Going on a bear hunt is always fun, and this book tells you just how to do it. It carries you on a fast-paced, fun-loving adventure through all sorts of wilderness. Read with a chant, it keeps children engaged and interested.

19. The Brave Little Toaster


Made into a movie shortly after its release, this book is an adventure like no other. When several small appliances go in search of the person they belonged to, they face challenges and difficulties all along their way. This is a great twist on your average bedtime story and should definitely be on your book list!

20. The Jolly Postman

A favorite interactive book, this picture book has little envelopes, complete with letters. They are written like classic fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes. This clever book keeps children engaged and curious about what comes next.

21. Funnybones

Perfect for young readers, the Funnybones series will always get a giggle. These classic picture books have won many awards and come highly recommended for young readers. Full of humor and fantastic illustrations, these books are a big hit!

22. The Babysitter’s Club Series


A series that every girl must dive into, The Babysitter’s Club has an extensive number of titles in the collection. A popular book for tween girls, topics range from friendship to crushes to school to family life. They are wholesome and great chapter books for girls of older elementary and younger middle school .

23. Arthur’s Nose


Marc Brown has brought us an entire series full of Arthur classics! This is the one when Arthur decides that he wants a new nose because he does not like the one that he has. Your children will enjoy this one and all of Arthur’s other classic tales!

24. The Butter Battle Book


Told in classic rhyming text, Dr. Seuss brings a book that helps young children understand and respect differences. Through the story, students will see that it is perfectly fine to have a different opinion than others.

25. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?


One of the most loved children’s picture books of all time, this story is great for learning more about colors and animals. In the predictable pattern of this book, readers will love meeting the friendly bear and all his friends.

26. Stellaluna

This sweet story follows a baby bat who is dropped from her mother and finds herself among a family of baby birds. Although they will all eventually fly, she is very different from them. They accept her and she becomes part of their family in the adorable story.

27. Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Sure to tickle your funny bone, Sideways Stories from Wayside School is a funny chapter book filled with silly characters and goofy events. The school is built sideways and the characters all have their own unique quirkiness.

28. Beezus and Ramona 

Beezus is just trying to be a good and responsible big sister, but Ramona is a walking tornado, full of mischief and energy. She is always up to no good and manages to bring trouble wherever she goes. Beezus tries to be patient, but Ramona is a special kind of trouble.

29. The Very Busy Spider


Another awesome picture book by Eric Carle, The Very Busy Spider has long been a favorite book for children. Uniquely illustrated, this interactive book is fun to touch, as well as read. Fun for all ages, this book for toddlers, early childhood, and even elementary-aged children is a must-have for every bookshelf.

30. Little Critter Series


Little Critter is among my favorite series of picture books. He, and later his little sister, share their experiences with their family and as they grow up. These awesome picture books are great for young readers and ideal for bedtime stories.

31. Goosebumps Chapter Book Series


A whole series of wildly spooky and scary chapter books. Boys and girls in elementary school will love reading about the different scary stories and how they may end in R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series.

32. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark


Does your little learner love scary stories? This is the book for those who enjoy ghost stories and frightening bedtime tales. While they read these folktales and spooky stories, they will enjoy simple illustrations that will help keep them fearful and frightened. But not too scared!

33. The Rainbow Fish 


One of the most beautiful book covers ever, The Rainbow Fish has exquisite detail in the colorful and shiny scales. The story is a sweet tale of learning to share and being a good friend. This book is a great choice for starting back to school and setting a tone of kindness in your classroom.

34. Franklin’s Bad Day

A whole series of books follows Franklin, a turtle who helps young readers learn valuable life lessons. This particular Franklin book is a good choice for when a friend has to move away. It is a good book to help young readers process emotions of sadness.

35. Where the Sidewalk Ends

Shel Silverstein is a classic poet with plenty of content! He thinks up the silliest, fun adventures possible. Children will giggle and can’t wait to turn the pages of his books, as they soak up the equally silly illustrations and goofy topics.

36. The Paper Bag Princess

In this fun twist on the “damsel in distress” tale, The Paper Bag Princess features a courageous and resourceful princess who saves the prince from a terrible dragon. This story serves as an inspiring teaching tool, offering a fresh perspective on gender roles and empowering your students to challenge the norm.

37. The Giving Tree

picture books 1980s

This beautiful story shines a light on unconditional love and selflessness. Spinning the story of a boy and his favorite tree, Shel Silverstein weaves a tale that shows how the tree literally gives everything it has to show affection for his boy. The Giving Tree provides a treasure trove of teaching opportunities. This story encourages dialogue about what it means to give and take, love and appreciate, offering you a unique way to inspire selflessness in the classroom.

38. The Secret of the Old Clock 

picture books 1980s

This first story in an amazing series of detective tales, The Secret of the Old Clock is the first book in the iconic Nancy Drew series. Your students will be riveted by the suspenseful storyline, clever clues, and young Nancy’s intelligence and bravery. It’s not just a mystery—it’s an inspiration to young girls about the value of being resourceful and inquisitive.

39. The Snowy Day

picture books 1980s

Capturing the essence of a child’s delight during a snowy day, this book is a seasonal favorite. The Snowy Day makes for a great anchor text to discuss seasonal changes, weather patterns, and the joy of a simple adventure. This story is a celebration of a child’s wonder at the natural world and teaches lessons in observation and description- encouraging your students to explore their surroundings.

40. The Mouse and the Motorcycle

picture books 1980s

The Mouse and the Motorcycle features Ralph, a daring mouse who embarks on an epic adventure with a toy motorcycle. This whimsical and adventurous story offers lessons on friendship, bravery, and understanding, giving your students a great example of storytelling while providing you with rich topics for classroom discussions. It’s an ideal book for promoting a sense of daring and encouraging your students to use their imaginations 

41. The Magic School Bus

Ride on the Magic School Bus with Ms. Frizzle, her third-grade class, and her adventure-loving iguana named Liz. Your students will be enchanted by the captivating journeys into the world of biology, space, physics, and more. This highly entertaining series enhances the scientific curiosity of children; making it a perfect complement to your STEM curriculum and science content instruction.

42. Matilda

picture books 1980s

Matilda is no ordinary child and her story is anything but average. The book celebrates intellect, the love for books, and the idea that it’s okay to be different. Matilda’s ability to overcome difficulty and celebrate triumph serves as an inspiration for students, encouraging them to persevere through difficult times. The messages of resilience and resourcefulness make it an inspiring reading choice for the classroom.

43. Island of the Blue Dolphins

picture books 1980s

The Island of the Blue Dolphins is a gripping story of survival and self-discovery. This timeless tale highlights the importance of resourcefulness, bravery, and the resilience of the human spirit. The story serves as an engaging segway to discussing survival skills and exploring various cultural perspectives.

44. The Boxcar Children

picture books 1980s

Delve into a series of adventures and mysteries with the Alden siblings in The Boxcar Children . This extensive book series will certainly entertain and educate your kiddos, and further prompt them to discuss family values, the joy of problem-solving, and the thrill of adventure. 

45. The Cat in the Hat

picture books 1980s

Take a walk on the wild side with Dr. Seuss’s zany and imaginative tale, The Cat in the Hat . Written in a rhyming style that’s engaging and fun, this story provides a captivating narrative that can help your students improve their phonemic awareness. 

46. The Little House Collection

picture books 1980s

Journey back in time with The Little House Collection ; giving your students a look into the pioneer days of America. The stories focus on the life and adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, guiding your learners to explore historical events, family values, and the human spirit. 

47. The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit , a classic story by Beatrix Potter, is a charming story that has entertained children for generations. Filled with delightful illustrations, the story tells the tale of a mischievous rabbit who finds himself in a tough situation after disobeying his mother’s warnings to stay out of the farmer’s garden. It provides a whimsical, and thought-provoking tale that will engage your students while teaching them important moral lessons.

48. The Chronicles of Narnia

picture books 1980s

Step through the wardrobe and into a magical world filled with talking animals, valiant battles, and incredible adventures. C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia offers a rich, multi-layered narrative that sparks discussions around courage, friendship, and the battle between good and evil. The first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an excellent starter book for introducing fantasy literature and is great for teaching your kiddos about the importance of bravery, teamwork, and moral integrity.

49. Ramona Quimby, Age 8

picture books 1980s

Take a journey through the ups and downs of third-grade life with the hilarious and relatable Ramona Quimby in Age 8 . Beverly Cleary’s classic tale will help your students connect with the joys and challenges of being a kid and dealing with school life, whilst exploring themes of friendship, family dynamics, and everyday challenges.

50. The Complete Adventures of Curious George

picture books 1980s

Curious George never fails to engage students with his endless adventures and monkey mischief. These stories offer endless amusement while also teaching valuable lessons about curiosity and problem-solving. Each tale offers an entertaining way to help you spark discussions on cause-and-effect, decision-making, and the importance of thinking outside the box.

51. A Light in the Attic

picture books 1980s

Introduce your students to the quirkiest and most fun poetry collection out there. Shel Silverstein’s collection of fun and whimsical poems in A Light in the Attic is sure to make even your most reluctant readers race for the poetry bookshelf.

52. Caps for Sale

picture books 1980s

The classic tale Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina features a peddler and a band of mischievous monkeys. Filled with humor, the story serves as an amazing anchor text to encourage problem-solving and pattern recognition. Its warmth, humor, and repetitive nature make it a perfect read-aloud for preschool and kindergarten students.

53. Flat Stanley

picture books 1980s

Flat Stanley, written by Jeff Brown, is the perfect chapter book for young readers who are just stepping into the world of longer texts.  After being flattened by a falling bulletin board, Flat Stanley goes on some pretty amazing adventures.  Despite his unusual appearance, he encourages students to embrace their individuality and see the bright side of difficult situations. 

54. Goosebumps Series

picture books 1980s

R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series delivers thrilling tales that will draw your students in and keep them on the edge of their seats. These books are perfect for introducing elements of suspense, tension, and surprise in storytelling. Furthermore, the high-interest chapter books are a great choice if you’re looking to encourage more independent reading! 

55. Stone Soup

picture books 1980s

Stone Soup is a classic French folktale that has remained a popular classroom book since its first publishing in 1947. Using the story of Stone Soup, you can teach your students valuable lessons in resourcefulness, community, and the power of working together. This age-old tale will show them that sharing, kindness, and unity can turn even the most dire situation into a positive experience.

56. Bridge to Terabithia

picture books 1980s

Get ready to take your students on an emotional journey when you dive into Bridge to Terabithia . This story is an award-winning tale that delves into themes of friendship, loss, and the power of imagination. The narrative provides an opportunity for your students to explore complex emotions and grapple with real-world challenges. With the death of a friend, they’ll be brought along and encouraged to navigate the intricacies of growing up, changing, and navigating complex relationships.

57. The Wind in the Willows

picture books 1980s

Immerse your students in the poetic and adventurous world of The Wind in the Willows . With its rich descriptive language and fun characters, the story offers a tale that’s perfect for teaching character analysis, plot development, and the beauty of friendship. The story details the adventures of Mole, Ratty, and Badger as they try to help Mr. Toad get out of trouble. It also includes short stories that enrich vocabulary and encourage literary appreciation.

58. Strega Nona

picture books 1980s

Bring the enchanting tale of Strega Nona into your classroom to teach lessons in responsibility and the consequences of one’s actions. This award-winning folktale combines humor and folklore to weave the humorous and engaging tale of Strega Nona, Big Anthony, and a disastrous accident with a magical pasta pot. It’s a book that your students will love and one that is positively filled with teachable moments!

59. Frog and Toad Are Friends

picture books 1980s

This collection of simple, yet emotionally rich stories is perfect for young readers. Frog and Toad Are Friends is a short chapter book featuring a series of individual stories that offer lessons in friendship, responsibility, and problem-solving. The series serves as an excellent introduction to early chapter books; promoting a love for reading and encouraging students to develop reading stamina and confidence.

60. The Runaway Bunny

picture books 1980s

The Runaway Bunny is a timeless tale about a little bunny who fantasizes about running away from home. Each time he devises a plan, the ever-patient and loving mother responds with her own plans to return her special bunny back to his burrow. This classic storybook is engaging for young readers and will reassure them of the existence of unconditional love.

picture books 1980s

Geared towards older readers, this book dives into the intriguing life of Stanley Yelnats, a young boy who finds himself in a juvenile detention center. Stanley spends his days digging holes- a punishment that soon becomes a mystery to solve. Filled with historical elements, humor, and suspense, this book is sure to capture your students’ attention and leave them wanting more at the end.

62. The Day the Crayons Quit

picture books 1980s

Let your students’ imaginations run wild with this unique tale. This fun tale begins when Duncan receives letters from his crayons explaining why they’ve quit. With a touch of humor, and some really creative storytelling, this book will help your younger students learn about colors whilst discovering ways to articulate their feelings.

63. A Wrinkle in Time

picture books 1980s

Dive into alternate dimensions and invite your learners to explore the fabric of time and space with Meg Murry- a young girl who embarks on a quest to save her father. A Wrinkle in Time is a beautiful blend of adventure and fantasy. Its strong themes of courage, love, and good vs. evil lend themselves well to teaching a variety of curriculum standards. 

64. The BFG

picture books 1980s

A highly popular book and movie, Roald Dahl’s whimsical story features Sophie and her adventures with the Big Friendly Giant. Together, Sophie and her BFG embark on a mission to stop the bigger, child-eating giants from taking any more children. With elements of fantasy and loads of humor, this book makes for an entertaining read.

65. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

picture books 1980s

This classic tale is a must-read for your students- especially if they’ve seen the movie beforehand. With a plot that hardly relates to the one known in the movie, it’s a perfect way to show your students that books are always better than movies. The story follows Dorothy and her friends as they seek the Wizard of Oz to grant their wishes. Rich in lessons about courage, intellect, and camaraderie, the story is just as impactful today as it was when it was written.

66. Stuart Little

Discover the charming world of Stuart in a read about a mouse who lives with a human family. A tiny mouse with a big personality, Stuart takes on a human-sized world to find his way to happiness. This tale is an excellent way to explore themes of friendship, courage, and acceptance in the classroom.

67. The Little Engine That Could

picture books 1980s

This timeless tale is the perfect read to encourage a sense of self-belief and determination. It features a little blue engine that tackles a seemingly impossible challenge by being persistent, determined, and repeating the phrase, “I think I can”.

68. Are You My Mother?

picture books 1980s

In this charming story by P.D. Eastman, your students will follow a baby bird on an adventurous journey to find his mother. Along the way, he meets some curious characters but doesn’t give up his quest to locate his missing mama. With simple illustrations and an engaging storyline, this book is ideal for early readers. The narrative is simple yet impactful; perfectly capturing the essence of the bond that exists between parent and child.

69. The Lorax

picture books 1980s

Take your students on a journey through the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss, where they will meet the Lorax. This creature speaks for the trees and will teach your kiddos about the importance of caring for our environment. The Onceler, an industry tycoon, learns his lesson about conservation and the effects of pollution when he ruins the once-beautiful fields of truffula trees.  The perfect book to make your students think more deeply about the planet!

70. The Secret Garden

picture books 1980s

Introduce your students to the transformative tale of Mary Lennox, who turns a neglected garden into a sanctuary of beauty and friendship. The story captures the spirit of human transformation and the impact of nature on the human spirit. The Secret Garden is a magical read that can inspire your students to find beauty in every situation, regardless of how dark things may seem.

71. The Velveteen Rabbit

This timeless story about a stuffed rabbit longing to become real is a testament to the power of love. The tale explores how love is so powerful that it can make even a stuffed toy feel alive. This book is a heartwarming tale that includes lessons about friendship, love, and the magic of being true to oneself.

72. Corduroy

picture books 1980s

Meet Corduroy- a small teddy bear sitting on a store shelf who wishes for a friend. This classic narrative revolves around themes of friendship, love, and perseverance. Your students will undoubtedly fall in love with this endearing story of a bear’s journey from a store shelf into the arms of a loving owner. 

73. Charlotte’s Web

picture books 1980s

This literary gem spins a web of a tale about the friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte. The story is full of life lessons on friendship, sacrifice, and the circle of life. Reading this book with your students is sure to foster important discussions on acceptance, empathy, and the beauty of the world around them.

74. James and the Giant Peach

This imaginative story follows young James; an orphan boy with a difficult, and quite dismal, home life. James’ life takes a thrilling turn when he finds himself inside a gigantic peach with magical insects for companions. The story is full of fantasy, adventure, and lessons on friendship and bravery. This Roald Dahl classic is an amazing way to introduce the fantasy genre, as well as engage your students and keep them coming back for more.

75. A Bear Called Paddington

picture books 1980s

Fall in love with Paddington- a bear from Peru who arrives in London and finds himself getting into all sorts of adventures. With his love for marmalade sandwiches and his heart of gold, Paddington is a charming character who brings kindness, joy, and a touch of mayhem into the lives of the Brown family. The tale’s use of humor and acts of kindness make it an excellent read for young students.

76. The Little Prince

picture books 1980s

Take your students on an enlightening journey through the cosmos with the Little Prince. While the story is a simple exploration of various planets, it presents profound lessons about love, friendship, and the importance of looking at the world through the eyes of a child. The book will offer your students a chance to reflect on life, love, and human nature, and is a perfect addition to any classroom bookshelf!

77. Green Eggs and Ham

picture books 1980s

This classically renowned  Dr. Seuss book is an excellent choice for early readers. With just 50 unique words, the story is about Sam-I-Am’s mission to convince a grumpy character to try green eggs and ham. Along the way, your little ones will get a little more comfortable with reading thanks to the book’s repetitive text and predictive rhyme.

78. Madeline

picture books 1980s

Set against the beautiful backdrop of Paris, your students will be enthralled by the tales of a little girl named Madeline. Her boarding school adventures are filled with courage, charisma, and fun. Beyond that, her ability to face challenges with grace and poise will certainly inspire your kiddos to be brave and adventurous.

79. Hatchet

picture books 1980s

This gripping tale of survival is perfect for older students. Young Brian, the product of a broken home, survives a plane crash only to find himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a hatchet. This brilliant novel by Gary Paulsen will draw your readers in and keep them on the edge of their seats with its thrilling plot line. It’s also the perfect story for teaching resilience, the importance of self-reliance, and the power of determination.

80. The Mitten

This Ukrainian folktale is an entertaining winter read for your students. When a boy loses his mitten, Jan Brett shares the adorable hijinks as various animals find it and make it their home. As more and more animals snuggle up inside the mitten, your students will be charmed by the story’s warmth and the beautiful, detailed illustrations. 

81. The Monster at the End of This Book

picture books 1980s

This hilarious and interactive story is a lovable tale that features Sesame Street character, Grover. Throughout the book, he pleads with readers not to turn the page to reveal a supposed monster at the end; creating suspense that will undoubtedly keep your students engaged. This clever and engaging book will easily help you foster a love for storytelling whilst encouraging participation and generating laughter that will echo across your classroom.

82. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

This classic tale will teach your students the values of hard work, determination, and friendship. Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, prove that age doesn’t limit one’s ability to contribute to society. In their quest to compete against newer and more efficient technology, this story aptly highlights that no one is too old or outdated to be valuable.

83. Because of Winn-Dixie

picture books 1980s

Meet Opal, a young girl who, with her dog, Winn-Dixie, explores friendship and unravels secrets about her past. This heartwarming tale teaches your students about the importance of love, friendship, acceptance, and family. It’s a beautifully written story that’s sure to make for a perfect read-aloud or novel study.

84. Jumanji

picture books 1980s

In this action-packed story, a magical board game brings chaos, destruction, and loads of adventure into the lives of two unsuspecting children. Mayhem erupts when the magical game unleashes dangerous and somewhat frightening animals into the real world in this thrilling book that will captivate your students’ imagination and keep them engaged from start to finish. It’s a must-read if you’re looking to inspire discussions on bravery, problem-solving, and the power of teamwork.

85. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

This entertaining tale is a fun introduction to the concept of cause and effect. With every action leading to a funny reaction, your students will be captivated by the endless antics of the mouse. It’s a light yet educational read that’s perfect for younger students.

86. Dear Zoo

picture books 1980s

Dear Zoo is an interactive, lift-the-flap book that aims to make reading exciting for your youngest students. The story follows the correspondence between a child and the local zoo in a quest to find the perfect pet. Along the way, the zoo sends a myriad of terrible pets and will leave your students happily guessing which animal the zoo has sent. Dear Zoo is a charming and fun way to captivate your students’ attention while also teaching them about persuasive and descriptive techniques, along with teaching them about different animals.

87. The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale

picture books 1980s

Based on a traditional Inuit folktale, this story teaches your students about kindness, mutual respect, and cultural diversity. A great introduction to Inuit culture, this read follows the life of an old woman who adopts a polar bear cub that later returns to care for her. It’s an excellent choice if you’re keen on sparking meaningful discussions about diverse cultures and exploring the power of love and family.

88. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

picture books 1980s

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is a hysterical collection of fractured fairy tales that will have your students giggling from start to finish. This book takes classic stories like “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Gingerbread Man” and turns them upside down and inside out; making them the perfect choice to engage young readers, stimulate creativity, and inspire them to write their own fantastical stories.

Authors & Events


Books Bans Are on the Rise in America

  • New & Noteworthy
  • Bestsellers
  • Popular Series
  • The Must-Read Books of 2023
  • Popular Books in Spanish
  • Coming Soon
  • Literary Fiction
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Science Fiction
  • Spanish Language Fiction
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Spanish Language Nonfiction
  • Dark Star Trilogy
  • Ramses the Damned
  • Penguin Classics
  • Award Winners
  • The Parenting Book Guide
  • Books to Read Before Bed
  • Books for Middle Graders
  • Trending Series
  • Magic Tree House
  • The Last Kids on Earth
  • Planet Omar
  • Beloved Characters
  • The World of Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Board Books
  • Picture Books
  • Guided Reading Levels
  • Middle Grade
  • Activity Books
  • Trending This Week
  • Top Must-Read Romances
  • Page-Turning Series To Start Now
  • Books to Cope With Anxiety
  • Short Reads
  • Anti-Racist Resources
  • Staff Picks
  • Memoir & Fiction
  • Features & Interviews
  • Emma Brodie Interview
  • James Ellroy Interview
  • Nicola Yoon Interview
  • Qian Julie Wang Interview
  • Deepak Chopra Essay
  • How Can I Get Published?
  • For Book Clubs
  • Reese's Book Club
  • Oprah’s Book Club
  • happy place " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: Happy Place
  • the last white man " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: The Last White Man
  • Authors & Events >
  • Our Authors
  • Michelle Obama
  • Zadie Smith
  • Emily Henry
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Colson Whitehead
  • In Their Own Words
  • Qian Julie Wang
  • Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Phoebe Robinson
  • Emma Brodie
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Laura Hankin
  • Recommendations >
  • Holiday Cozy Mysteries for the Festive Season
  • Books With New TV and Movie Adaptations
  • Wine and Cocktail Books for Holiday Hosting
  • Historical Fiction With Female Protagonists
  • Best Thrillers of All Time
  • Manga and Graphic Novels
  • happy place " data-category="recommendations" data-location="header">Start Reading Happy Place
  • How to Make Reading a Habit with James Clear
  • Why Reading Is Good for Your Health
  • Vallery Lomas’ Blueberry Buckle Recipe
  • New Releases
  • Memoirs Read by the Author
  • Our Most Soothing Narrators
  • Press Play for Inspiration
  • Audiobooks You Just Can't Pause
  • Listen With the Whole Family

Penguin Random House

24 Bestsellers Published in the 1980s

Grab your leg warmers, do the moonwalk, and dig into one of these totally tubular reads, white noise, by don delillo.

White Noise Book Cover Picture

Paperback $18.00

Buy from other retailers:, the handmaid’s tale, by margaret atwood.

The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in) Book Cover Picture

Paperback $15.95

The cider house rules, by john irving.

The Cider House Rules Book Cover Picture

The Bourne Identity

By robert ludlum.

The Bourne Identity Book Cover Picture

Mass Market Paperback $9.99

The queen of the damned, by anne rice.

The Queen of the Damned Book Cover Picture

Paperback $18.99

By carl sagan.

Cosmos Book Cover Picture

You’re Only Old Once!

By dr. seuss.

You're Only Old Once! Book Cover Picture

Hardcover $17.99

By james a. michener.

Poland Book Cover Picture

Paperback $20.00

Red storm rising, by tom clancy.

Red Storm Rising Book Cover Picture

The Remains of the Day

By kazuo ishiguro.

The Remains of the Day Book Cover Picture

Hardcover $30.00

Blood meridian, by cormac mccarthy.

Blood Meridian Book Cover Picture

Hardcover $26.00

The joy luck club.

The Joy Luck Club Book Cover Picture

Lake Wobegon Days

By garrison keillor.

Lake Wobegon Days Book Cover Picture

Paperback $17.00

Love in the time of cholera, by gabriel garcía márquez.

Love in the Time of Cholera Book Cover Picture

Patriot Games

Patriot Games Book Cover Picture

Norwegian Wood

By haruki murakami.

Norwegian Wood Book Cover Picture

The House of the Spirits

By isabel allende.

The House of the Spirits Book Cover Picture

Midnight’s Children

By salman rushdie.

Midnight's Children Book Cover Picture

The Pillars of the Earth

By ken follett.

The Pillars of the Earth Book Cover Picture

Hardcover $45.00

By toni morrison.

Beloved Book Cover Picture

Hardcover $32.00

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Tumblr

Visit other sites in the Penguin Random House Network

Raise kids who love to read

Today's Top Books

Want to know what people are actually reading right now?

An online magazine for today’s home cook

Stay in Touch

By clicking "Sign Up", I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy . You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.

Become a Member

Just for joining you’ll get personalized recommendations on your dashboard daily and features only for members.

Point Status This is where you’ll see your current point status and your earned rewards. To redeem, copy and paste the code during the checkout process. See Account Overview

12 books you'll remember if you were a child in the 1980s

Books for Children of the 1980s

Growing up in the 1980s was idyllic in many ways. Sure, we first heard the term global warming, and the news wasn't always good, but as kids, we still rode our bikes, played with our original Nintendo Entertainment Systems and listened to our Walkman tapes. We loved our sticker books (especially scratch n' sniff), Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Fruit Roll-Ups, and were dying to be on the Ghostbusters team. But still we found time to read. And in childhood, the stories we explored seemed more full of adventure and wonder than could be possible. We would fight our drooping eyelids, reading late into the night by the light of a flashlight, to see what happened next.

If you grew up in the 1980s, these books will be some you remember.

12 classic books for children of the 1980s

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Watch our video on childhood books

More children's books to explore

Books for Children of the 70s

  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

NPR's Book of the Day

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Google Podcasts
  • Amazon Music

Your support helps make our show possible and unlocks access to our sponsor-free feed.

Still looking for that picture book you loved as a kid? Try asking Instagram

Rachel Treisman

picture books 1980s

One of many bookshelves in the home of Marie-Pascale Traylor, the artist and former preschool teacher behind the "My Old Books" Instagram account and Etsy shop. She collects vintage children's books and helps people reconnect with their long-lost favorites. Marie-Pascale Traylor hide caption

One of many bookshelves in the home of Marie-Pascale Traylor, the artist and former preschool teacher behind the "My Old Books" Instagram account and Etsy shop. She collects vintage children's books and helps people reconnect with their long-lost favorites.

Monear Fatemi was on the hunt for a children's book she had loved as a kid in the 1980s. She remembered so many vivid details: the family in the book ate lima beans, the dad had a bushy mustache, the cat's name was "Dog." She could recall every detail, it seemed, except the title and author.

Fatemi, a former English teacher, says she was eager to find this particular title for her 2-year-old daughter because it had meant so much to her when she was growing up. Fatemi is half Persian, and says she rarely saw people of color represented in books or television at the time.

Welcome To Story Hour: 100 Favorite Books For Young Readers

NPR Books Summer Poll: Kids' Books

Welcome to story hour: 100 favorite books for young readers.

"The illustrator may or may not have tried to show diversity in the book, but the dad looks like my dad and the brother looks like my brother and the mom looks my mom," she says. "It's a black-and-white illustrated book, but I saw my Persian dad and brother in this book, and I never saw my family [in other books]."

picture books 1980s

Tight Times, by Barbara Shook Hazen Puffin Books hide caption

Eager to see how the book had aged, noting many contemporary children's books tokenize rather than normalize diversity, Fatemi enlisted the help of her mom, who works as a research librarian. They typed search terms into Google and scoured the shelves of their local bookstore to no avail.

Then Fatemi's mom sent her the link to an Instagram page called My Old Books , which mostly shared whimsical illustrations from vintage children's books.

There were also notes from others trying to find beloved childhood books based on a smattering of hazy, fever dream-like details. Fellow book nerds were sounding off in the comments, tossing out authors' names, jumping in with details, tagging their friends – and celebrating when a match was made.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Pease Porridge Press (@myoldbooks)

Fatemi wrote with her request. Within 20 minutes of the post going live, she had her answer: Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman. She says her whole family was moved to tears at the discovery.

"These books and these stories get inside of us and just mean so much," Fatemi says. "They're so significant and mean the world to us, and someone else is like 'Oh yeah, that one!" And so quickly we can help someone heal wounds, make connections – so many cool things go back to memories."

In hindsight, Fatemi realized just how much that one book changed how she felt about reading in general.

picture books 1980s

Monear Fatemi was excited to finally find a copy of her favorite childhood book to give to her daughter, 2-year-old Roya. The book is Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman. Monear Fatemi hide caption

Monear Fatemi was excited to finally find a copy of her favorite childhood book to give to her daughter, 2-year-old Roya. The book is Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman.

"It was like, maybe I don't see myself in my neighborhood or in my school or on cable TV or anywhere that's not just showing Middle Easterners as terrorists," she says. "It wasn't, 'Here's a book about a Middle Eastern family in America.' Here's just a book, and you can see yourself in it. And that meant a lot."

The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade

Shots - Health News

The forgotten childhood: why early memories fade.

Fatemi calls this an important part of her teaching philosophy – she says she thought a lot about who was in her classroom and how they may or may not see their lived experiences reflected in the curriculum – and now her parenting philosophy. So finding the book that started it all was, at least to her, no small feat.

"Social media has its benefits and drawbacks, but I just thought, 'How cool is this person who is crowdsourcing to help nerds find their dreams?'" Fatemi says.

Some of the book seekers have fond, albeit hazy, memories of stories they'd love to read to their own young kids . Others are tracking down books that their friends or family members reminisce about , often to give as a gift . Many are motivated by sentimental value, like the person looking for a copy of a book that burned in a fire at their grandparents' house.

The details provided in these requests range from the specific to the vague, and might include a particular quote , a set of peculiar plot details , or general recollections of the style of illustration , the cover art or the overall premise . Many people say they've been trying to track these books down for years or even decades .

The What'sThatBook series, part of My Old Books, has posted some 115 such requests since it launched in February, with a success rate of a little more than 50%.That's according to Marie-Pascale Traylor, the powerhouse behind the page.

She built a community around a shared, sentimental interest

Traylor traces her love of reading back to her own childhood. Traylor's family didn't have a television, so she and her siblings would check out stacks of library books and read all the time.

She grew up to be an artist and preschool teacher, with a particular fondness for vintage children's books – as anything pre-1990, though ideally much earlier.

picture books 1980s

Marie-Pascale Traylor pictured on Dec. 21 in front of the Fruitlands property in Harvard, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott lived with her family in the 1840s as part of an experimental utopian community. Traylor says she and her sisters loved Alcott's books growing up. Karina Traylor hide caption

During her more than two decades of teaching, Traylor amassed her own library of children's books from thrift shops, antique stores and yard sales. But she wasn't content to keep them to herself. She set up an Instagram account about five years ago to share images from her favorite vintage books, and opened up an Etsy shop around the time of her retirement several years later to sell off part of her collection.

"I felt like through sharing something that was just a strong interest I would find other people who have the same kind of interest," she explains.

Traylor's account took off – she names a few celebrities who have followed it or reposted photos, like Amy Sedaris and illustrator Mary Engelbreit – and so did her virtual community.

People would reach out to order books, send her gifts and, occasionally, ask her to track down specific titles. Traylor eventually realized others on Instagram might be able to help: She now has more than 24,000 followers.

The Nostalgia Bone


The nostalgia bone.

She started sharing inquiries on her account last winter, using the hashtag "What'sThatBook." The requests – and responses – came flooding in.

Some of these interactions are particularly memorable for Traylor, especially the ones that end in success.

She points to two recent examples: Someone looking to surprise her grandfather for his 90th birthday with a book he loved as a kid (Andrew Lang's fairy series), and another poster finally finding the title of one of her favorite childhood Christmas books to read to her 5-year-old (Hilary Knight's The Twelve Days of Christmas).

Successful book-seekers want to pay their powerful experience forward

And Traylor's success stories are not hesitant to share what the site has meant to them.

picture books 1980s

No Flying In The House, by Betty Brock Turtleback Books hide caption

Tanner Flippo, now 27, posted about a book he vaguely remembered from fourth grade – so vaguely, in fact, that he wasn't sure if he had made the story up or conjured it in a dream. But he knew it involved a girl with magic powers who learns how to fly, and he knew he had been enchanted by it at the time.

Commenters directed him to No Flying In The House by Betty Brock. Upon revisiting the book, Flippo says it helped explain his lifelong interests in fantasy worlds and personal development – and was "a small but key piece of the puzzle" in his personal journey of growth and trauma healing.

Jane Garabedian knew exactly why she was looking for her book, which featured charcoal illustrations of forest creatures making it through the cozy wintertime to emerge in the bright yellow spring. She says she read the book many times as a kid, and credits it with sparking her love of reading and wildlife.

She reached out to Traylor, who said she'd look around. "By any chance, is it the book The Happy Day "?, Traylor texted weeks later.

picture books 1980s

The Happy Day, by Ruth Krauss Harper Collins hide caption

Garabedian says she immediately felt transported to her 4-year-old self, the age she was when she learned to sign her name in order to get her first library card.

"[Traylor] I think, changed my life in a day ... it was driving me nuts to not remember something that was important and she put her finger on it and she went out of her way to do it," Garabedian says.

Garabedian and Fatemi, among others, now hope to pay it forward by helping other people find their beloved childhood books.

Traylor reflects on the emotion and connection that accompany these discoveries.

"There's just a lot of sentimental nostalgia that goes along with this," she says. "I can really sense the emotion when they message me after they find their book... and they're so happy and so grateful and it's just really sweet."

Traylor didn't expect the crowdsourcing series to take off the way it has, but says she's grateful for it.

"I feel like so much of social media is negative these days, and people turn on each other so easily," she says. "I love how in general on my feed it seems really positive, and people are very supportive and encouraging, and they just love talking about these things with each other. So I think it's a little escape, maybe, from whatever else is going on in their lives."

Editor's note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.

  • children's books
  • social media

Click here to subscribe

The Uncorked Librarian logo 2023 with gray cat, green suitcase, and pile of books with glass on wine on top and tv remote

21 Memorable Books From The ’80s

picture books 1980s

This post may contain affiliate links that earn us a commission at no extra cost to you.

Travel back in time with the best and most iconic books from the ’80s sure to spark that nostalgia. This is one of our favorite decades.

It’s no secret that many of TUL’s writers are ’80s babies, and we remember the emergence of Apple MacIntosh computers, Walkmans (technically mid-1979 but we are counting it), and Nintendo.

Whether you were born in the ’80s, watch Stranger Things , or loved MTV , chicken Mcnuggets, and disposable cameras, you know that the 1980s were pretty spectacular.

The decade also featured fantastic ’80s books, many of which were made into cult classic movies.

Other 1980s books approached heavier topics like abortion, corruption in the government, and inequality in our systems.

In fact, many of the popular books in the ’80s still sit on banned book lists and create(d) quite the controversy. Even in the 2020s, we are sadly seeing a reemergence of their themes.

So, what are the best books of the 1980s to read and re-read? Who were the bestselling authors of the time?

Below, find books from the 1980s in all genres, including thrillers, clown murder mysteries, graphic novels, foodie fiction, and translated literature. Let’s get started!

*Please note that while all of these books were published in the 1980s, many of the book covers and links are for newer editions.

Explore all of our decades book lists .

Books from the 80s with image of legs wearing black and white shoes and neon leg warmers

Grab your favorite ’80s books :

  • Audible Plus : From Amazon, listen to Amazon Originals, podcasts, and audiobooks. They add new titles every week.
  • Book of the Month : Get the month’s hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month. You might snag an early release or debut author. Along with selecting a book a month, find terrific add-ons, both trendy and lesser-known titles.
  • Amazon Prime Video – Stream thousands of ad-free movies and TV series on demand with Prime Video.
  • Express VPN – Using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) allows you to view movies worldwide – and they help keep your information safe. Our writers couldn’t have such diverse film reviews without using a VPN.

21 Best Books From The ’80s

By Tori Curran

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood book cover with person with no face in red clock with white bonnet cap

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

Atwood penned one of the most iconic books from the ’80s that still reigns popular today.

Set in future New England, a patriarchal state known as the Republic of Gilead has overthrown the government.

Leaders have selected handmaids, including the main character Offred, to bear the children of the republic’s commanders.

Atwood explores female individuality, religious and military dictatorship, subjugation, and reproductive rights through Offred’s perspective in a tale that is eerily relevant today and one of the best books for deep thinkers . Read The Handmaid’s Tale : Amazon | Goodreads

The Color Purple by Alice Walker book cover with purple and pink geometric patterns and icons like envelopes and branches with leaves

2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

TW: rape, racism

An epistolary novel set in the South and Pulitzer Prize Winner, The Color Purple is one of our most controversial ’80s books.

It is a frequent target of censorship and is listed as one of the American Library Association’s most banned books .

Celie, a poor, uneducated 14-year-old African American writes letters to God because her father both beats and sexually abuses her.

She is subsequently abused by her own husband and endures countless other bouts of trauma.

Celie’s eventual triumph doesn’t overshadow her past but helps to highlight her solace in female companionship.

Enjoy even more books with colors in the title , and read more about the 2023 movie . Read The Color Purple : Amazon | Goodreads | Read More

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez book cover with upside down bird, eye, and green leaf

3. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (1985)

Translated into English by Edith Grossman

Florentino and Fermina fall in love young and begin a secret relationship. When Fermina’s father finds out, they move to a different town.

Fermina meets Urbino, a doctor working to eradicate cholera, and she realizes that he provides the necessary stability she needs.

Florentino, however, promises to still wait for her. Will 50 years be too long?

Sometimes met with the critical reception of being too simple, this is one of the 1980s books that reminds readers that love and passion are often synonymous, and not to be taken for granted.

Find more Gabriel García Márquez books on our 1970s and 1960s book lists . Read Love in the Time of Cholera : Amazon | Goodreads

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami book cover with gray and gold coloring in blurred stripes

4. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987)

Translated into English by Jay Rubin

TW: suicide

Norwegian Wood is one of our favorite ’80s romance novels that deals with loss, love, mental illness, and sexuality.

Told through his own perspective, Toru Watanabe reflects on his college days and wildly disparate romances with two women: Naoko and Midori.

Following a tragic loss, Toru develops an emotionally intense relationship with the troubled Naoko. Soon after, he develops feelings for the outgoing and confident Midori.

The two women could not be more different, yet Toru is forced to consider who is right for him.

Travel to Japan with these books and authors . Read Norwegian Wood : Amazon | Goodreads

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros book cover with red building with person's face in one window

5. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984)

TW: sexual assault, rape

Written as a series of vignettes, The House on Mango Street tells the story of 12-year-old  Esperanza who lives in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago.

As Esperanza matures over the course of a year, she begins to better understand race, identity, sexuality, and gender norms both through the women around her and a number of traumatic circumstances.

The house on mango street, as is true for many of the women in her area, comes to represent the constant feeling of suffocation that comes with being controlled.

Can Esperanza truly ever leave Mango Street?

Uncover even more iconic books from the ’80s (and more!) on our 50 States reading list . Read The House on Mango Street : Amazon | Goodreads

Beloved by Toni Morrison

6. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

For a different type of ghost story , pick up Beloved .

Sethe, who was born a slave and escaped to Cincinnati, fears she will never be truly free from the memories.

Now, she and her daughter Denver are haunted by what they believe is the ghost of Sethe’s eldest daughter.

Another Pulitzer Prize Winner, and one of the best books of the 1980s, Beloved spectacularly examines the lasting psychological effects of slavery, along with family relationships, manhood, and trauma.

Morrison marries complex topics with concepts of love and guilt to create one of the most poignant novels of all time.

Beloved is also a great audiobook to listen to .

Explore even more critically-acclaimed novels with haunted spaces . Read Beloved : Amazon | Goodreads | Read More

Neuromancer by William Gibson book cover with bright green background and head like ball of yarn or wires

7. Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

For sci-fi books from the 1980s, it doesn’t get any more iconic than Neuromancer . One of the first and most popular cyberpunk novels ever written, Neuromancer has won multiple awards.

Set in a dystopian future in Japan , Henry, who was once a prominent hacker, accepts a job that thrusts him into a world of powerful underground artificial intelligence.

Weaving in modern concepts of cyberspace and super-consciousness, it was way ahead of its time in the early 80s.

Find even more Canadian books to read . Read Neuromancer : Amazon | Goodreads

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan book club with older and younger person holding each other around their backs

8. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989)

Four immigrant Chinese women begin meeting in 1949 to eat dim sum, invest, play mah-jong, and share stories, thus forming the Joy Luck Club.

Forty years later, their own daughters keep the tradition alive. Through their stories, readers learn of secret pasts, familial bonds, and cultural identities.

One of the most popular ’80s books, find The Joy Luck Club featured on our foodie fiction book list and our top books about friendship . Read The Joy Luck Club : Amazon | Goodreads

It by Stephen King book cover with white background and red eyes, nose and mouth of a scary clown

9. It by Stephen King (1986)

When it comes to iconic ’80s horror books, Stephen King reigns supreme.

It follows seven children who are repeatedly terrorized by “It” who, usually in the form of Pennywise the clown, represents its victims’ fears.

As adults, the group of kids reunites, fulfilling their promise to return if the murders started up again.

It came to be a King staple featuring themes of childhood trauma, loss of innocence, and overcoming evil. The story is also responsible for the perpetual fear of clowns that plagues generations.

Explore even more creepy books . Read It : Amazon | Goodreads

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie book cover with red and white patterned person falling to the ground

10. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988)

The Satanic Verses is a frame narrative and one of the most controversial books from the ’80s.

The story follows two Indian actors who are magically saved when their hijacked plane explodes over the English Channel.

Dreams and visions of one of the actors, including one following the life of Mohammed, are interspersed throughout the novel as the two try to piece their lives back together.

Considered a masterpiece by some, others meet the novel with criticism.

Rushdie’s perceived alienation and disillusionment of Muslim culture, along with his portrayal of Mohammad, led to the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issuing a fatwa order for Muslims to kill Rushdie.

Read The Satanic Verses : Amazon | Goodreads

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum book cover with red background and man holding an aimed gun

11. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (1980)

After an explosion on board a boat, Jason Bourne is rescued by a fisherman, nursed back to health, and soon discovers he has amnesia.

The only information he has about himself ties him to an offshore bank with millions.

On his hunt to uncover his own identity, Bourne must also figure out why secret ops agencies and the US government wish him dead.

If you’re looking for more popular books in the ’80s, Ludlum authored countless Bourne novels, which were then adapted into equally cult classic films . Read The Bourne Identity : Amazon | Goodreads

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett book cover with light blue background and old church like architecture facade

12. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1989)

TW: sexual assault

Set against the backdrop of an English civil war, Follett’s epic tells the story of a monk who builds the world’s greatest cathedral

Follett beautifully crafts his characters – from his builder to the gorgeous noblewoman – and meticulously weaves in details of feudal England and the hardships of the 12th century, while hope and faith drive the story forward.

Following the popular TV adaptation, it became even more of a world-renowned masterpiece. Coming in at almost 1,000 pages, it’s one of the longest 1980s books on our list too. Read The Pillars of the Earth : Amazon | Goodreads

The Cider House Rules by John Irving book cover with landscape filled with green grass and trees

13. The Cider House Rules by John Irving (1985)

TW: abortion, sexual assault

Homer Wells grew up in an orphanage run by Dr. Larch, an obstetrician who helped women with unwanted pregnancies re-home their babies.

Dr. Larch took Homer under his wings, loved him as his own son, and trained him to be an obstetrician himself.

Their relationship is complicated, though, especially since Dr. Larch also secretly performs abortions.

Homer feels abortions are morally wrong. However, a number of personal circumstances cause him to see things differently – and value choice.

This is, unsurprisingly, another one of those controversial ’80s books that have resurfaced under the current climate.

Read The Cider House Rules : Amazon | Goodreads

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole book cover with illustrated person with mustache in red jacket and green scarf and hat with yellow bird on head

14. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)

Ignacious J. Reilly is well educated but lazy. Living with his mother in New Orleans, he is forced to take on odd jobs to help her pay for a car accident.

The novel follows his colorful and humorous jobs and interactions with other locals, as well as his own eccentricities and setbacks.

In addition to being a beloved cult classic and one of the best books of the 1980s, A Confederacy of Dunces is listed as one of BBC’s 100 most influential novels.

Read A Confederacy of Dunces : Amazon | Goodreads

Take The Uncorked Reading Challenge!

Travel around the world with our Uncorked Reading Challenge. Never be late to the party with unique new book releases. Get the latest movie and book lists straight to your inbox.

The Uncorked Librarian Logo with graphics of gray cat, stack of books, glass of pink wine, green suitcase

15. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver (1981)

Carver beautifully crafts together a collection of short stories dealing with love, marriage, and romantic relationships.

Some are poignant and simple, while others handle alcoholism, infidelity, murder, medical issues, suicide, and abuse.

One of the most timeless and popular books from the ’80s, it is uniquely commonplace. The examination of true love will deeply resonate with fans of Scenes From a Marriage . Read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love : Amazon | Goodreads

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy book cover with water and brown hay-like grass or marshy area with blue yellow sky

16. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy (1986)

TW: suicide, rape, domestic abuse

Tom has recently lost his job and learns of his twin sister, Savannah’s, second suicide attempt. He travels to New York City where he begins spending time with Savannah’s therapist.

Through their conversations, both the reader and the therapist are given an inside look at the traumatic childhood of Tom, Savannah, and their brother Luke.

One of the saddest and heaviest books on this list, The Prince of Tides is heartbreakingly moving.

It is clear that many of these heavy books from the ’80s ventured into uncharted territory when it came to trauma, abuse, therapy, and mental health.

Explore more books that are set across New York . Read The Prince of Tides : Amazon | Goodreads

Watchmen by Alan Moore book cover with red blood drips through black hole on yellow background

17. Watchmen by Alan Moore (1986)

Illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Watchmen is an American comic book series published by D.C. Comics between 1986 and 1987.

It follows an alternate history in which superheroes from the 1940s and 1960s change the course of history.

In Watchmen , the U.S. is victorious in Vietnam, Watergate is never exposed, and World War III – against the Soviets – is looming.

Where politics marry superheroes, Watchmen is another of our favorite cult classic ’80s books and series. Read Watchmen : Amazon | Goodreads

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card book cover with space craft flying in purple, blue, and turquoise space landscape

18. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)

For more sci-fi and popular books in the ’80s, Ender’s Game is considered one of the best of all time.

Set in the future, humans have mastered interplanetary spaceflight – they explore distant galaxies and encounter an insect alien species called Formics.

Preparing for another war with the Formics, Earth’s military space force recruits and trains children, including Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, to be future commanders.

During training, Ender proves to be a tactical genius. But, there is more to the training exercises than meets the eye.

Ender’s Game is a great book to gift dad on Father’s Day too. Read Ender’s Game : Amazon | Goodreads

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson book cover with white person with orange hair eating orange slices

19. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson (1985)

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is a coming-of-age novel about a lesbian girl growing up in an English Pentecostal community.

Partially autobiographical, Winterson is gentle with both the themes of same-sex relationships and with religious dedication.

Jeanette – who is also the main character – believes she is destined to become a missionary.

As she grows older and begins exploring love, she develops feelings for another girl. However, her mother and community disapprove.

Will Jeanette find an artful balance between her romantic feelings and religious devotion? And what will become of her relationship with her mother and religious institution?

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is one of the not-to-miss 1980s books by a dazzling and award-winning fiction and nonfiction author. Read Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit : Amazon | Goodreads

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving book cover with red and white motorcycle in field of yellow brown grass

20. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (1981)

With so many of the books from the ’80s featuring coming-of-age stories, it is hard to stand out. But Irving does just that. In fact, he is featured here twice!

John Berry is the son of a perpetual dreamer and bear owner, one of five eccentric siblings, and a permanent resident of a hotel.

Despite funny, sad, traumatic, and outlandish circumstances, the family keeps on dreaming, albeit outlandishly.

Soulful and gentle at times, and at others ridiculous, Irving gently marries humorous relatability with serious issues in this literary masterpiece.

Uncover even more books featuring hotel life . Read The Hotel New Hampshire : Amazon | Goodreads

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking book cover with Stephen Hawking - man with glasses and short bowl like haircut in blue tint

21. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)

A list of iconic ’80s books isn’t complete without Stephen Hawking.

In layman’s terms, Hawking presents an overview of physics and the structure, origin, and potential future of the universe.

He brings concepts of space and time, as well as general relativity and quantum mechanics, from scientists to the simple man.

With this book, Hawking changed how human beings considered their own existence. It is also a bit of a precursor to his Theory of Everything as he touches on a unifying theory. Read A Brief History of Time : Amazon | Goodreads

Save These ’80s Books For Later:

1980s books with image of legs wearing black and white shoes and neon leg warmers and book covers for '80s books like The Satanic Verses, The Color Purple, Oranges are not the only fruit, Norwegian Wood, A Confederacy of Dunces, Love in the time of cholera, Ender's game and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Grab the best books of the 1980s here :

Thank you to TUL contributor, Tori Curran from Explore With Tori

Tori Curran Explore with Tori white, blonde woman hiking with backpack and young child on back in carrier

Tori (pronouns: she/her) is a children’s librarian and mom to two boys living in New York. She’s an avid traveler, nature enthusiast, and writer, encouraging families to get outside and start exploring the world. When she’s not hiking or traveling, you can find her lost in a historical fiction book, watching Bravo reruns, or obsessively decluttering her home.

What are your favorite 1980s books?

If you lived during the 1980s, what are your favorite inventions, memories, shows, and mementos?

What do you wish survived past the decade, and what ’80s trends do you hope stay long forgotten?

Lastly, what were the most popular books in the ’80s, and which are your favorites? Are there any ’80s books that missed the mark? Let us know in the comments.

You May Also Enjoy:

Books That Defined The ’90s Top 1950s Books Books For Time Travelers

This reading list is also a part of the 2022 Uncorked Reading Challenge .

Tori Curran Explore with Tori white, blonde woman hiking with backpack and young child on back in carrier

Tori Curran

Tori (pronouns: she/her) is a mom to two boys, living in New York but adventuring everywhere, usually with a toddler on her back. She's an avid traveler, nature junkie, and writer, encouraging families to get outside and start exploring the world. When she's not hiking or traveling, you can find her lost in a book, watching Bravo reruns, or obsessively decluttering her home. Tori owns the family and adventure blog, Explore with Tori .

Great list to reflect back on. I remember reading a lot of Bret Easton Ellis. Less Than Zero and American Psycho stand out

Thanks so much for sharing!

I was shocked not to see Flowers In The Attic

Love your 80’s list!

Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Craft and Criticism
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • News and Culture
  • Lit Hub Radio
  • Reading Lists

picture books 1980s

  • Literary Criticism
  • Craft and Advice
  • In Conversation
  • On Translation
  • Short Story
  • From the Novel
  • The Virtual Book Channel
  • Film and TV
  • Art and Photography
  • Bookstores and Libraries
  • Freeman’s
  • Behind the Mic
  • Beyond the Page
  • The Cosmic Library
  • Emergence Magazine
  • Fiction/Non/Fiction
  • First Draft: A Dialogue on Writing
  • Just the Right Book
  • Literary Disco
  • The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
  • The Maris Review
  • New Books Network
  • Otherppl with Brad Listi
  • So Many Damn Books
  • Tor Presents: Voyage Into Genre
  • Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast
  • The Best of the Decade
  • Best Reviewed Books
  • BookMarks Daily Giveaway
  • The Daily Thrill
  • CrimeReads Daily Giveaway

picture books 1980s

A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1980s

This list is, like, totally bitchin'.

Some books are flashes in the pan, read for entertainment and then left on a bus seat for the next lucky person to pick up and enjoy, forgotten by most after their season has passed. Others stick around, are read and re-read, are taught and discussed. sometimes due to great artistry, sometimes due to luck, and sometimes because they manage to recognize and capture some element of the culture of the time.

In the moment, you often can’t tell which books are which.  The Great Gatsby  wasn’t a bestseller upon its release, but we now see it as emblematic of a certain American sensibility in the 1920s. Of course, hindsight can also distort the senses; the canon looms and obscures. Still, over the next weeks, we’ll be publishing a list a day, each one attempting to define a discrete decade,  starting with the 1900s  (as you’ve no doubt guessed by now) and counting down until we get to the (nearly complete) 2010s.

Though the books on these lists need not be American in origin, I am looking for books that evoke some aspect of American life, actual or intellectual, in each decade—a global lens would require a much longer list. And of course, varied and complex as it is, there’s no list that could truly define American life over ten or any number of years, so I do not make any claim on exhaustiveness. I’ve simply selected books that, if read together, would give a fair picture of the landscape of literary culture for that decade—both as it was and as it is remembered. Finally, two process notes: I’ve limited myself to one book for author over the entire 12-part list, so you may see certain works skipped over in favor of others, even if both are important (for instance, I ignored  Dubliners  in the 1910s so I could include  Ulysses  in the 1920s), and in the case of translated work, I’ll be using the date of the English translation, for obvious reasons.

For our ninth installment, below you’ll find 10 books that defined the 1980s. (Head here for the  1910s ,  20s ,  30s , 40s ,  50s ,  60s , and 70s ).

picture books 1980s

Raymond Carver has a fair bid for being the most iconic and influential American short story writer ever—but he’s certainly the most iconic and influential American short story writer of the 1980s, due to this collection (just think of how many times you’ve seen the title construction parodied and reused) as well as Cathedral  (1983) and  Where I’m Calling From  (1988). “Carver stands squarely in the line of descent of American realism,” Marilynne Robinson wrote in a 1988 review of the latter.

His weaknesses are for sentimentality and sensationalism. His great gift is for writing stories that create meaning through their form. Much attention has been paid to his prose, and to his preoccupation with very ordinary lives and with disruption, divorce, displacement, sadness, the thankless business of cadging income from small and unlikable jobs. He should be famous for the conceptual beauty of his best stories, and disburdened of his worst, which could then pass into relative neglect. The narrative foreground in Mr. Carver’s fiction is typically muted or flattened. The stories have in common a sort of bafflement, justified in the best ones by the fact that their burdens are truly mysterious. Anecdotes – for want of a better word – looming and untranslatable like remembered dreams (which they sometimes are) figure so largely in these stories as to suggest that they are analogues to fiction itself, and also to consciousness, specifically to consciousness as it is shared, collective or bonding. It has been usual for a long time to lament the absence of myth in modern life, as if intuitions of the primordial and essential were the products of culture and would be dispelled with the loss of certain images and illusions, as if the forces myth describes were not real or powerful enough to impose themselves on our attention all unbidden. The bafflement in the best of these stories does not render an absence of meaning but awkwardness in the face of meaning, a very different thing.

His work sold exceptionally well ( for short stories ) in his lifetime and is still a staple of contemporary literary culture, taught widely at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and copied everywhere. Even whispers that his editor Gordon Lish had too much of a hand in his stories have not much tarnished his legacy—or appeal.

picture books 1980s

Walker’s most famous novel was a critical hit upon its release, winning the National Book Award as well as the Pulitzer (she was the first black woman ever to win it). It was a groundbreaking work and remains an essential womanist text, hailed for its literary excellence as well as its frank portrayal of impoverished black women, domestic abuse, and lesbian relationships. The 1985 film adaptation made it a full-blown sensation, for all Americans, but particularly for black women. As Victoria Bond put it in The New Republic , “ The Color Purple lingers as perhaps the  cultural touchstone for black women in America, a kind of lingua franca of familiarity and friendship.” As far as the controversy , she goes on:

Spike Lee said that the Steven Spielberg–produced film was “done with hate,” and that the Mr.— character was a “one-note animal.” The Coalition Against Black Exploitation protested The Color Purple ’s 1985 Los Angeles premiere for its depiction of black men abusing black women. The novelist Ishmael Reed called The Color Purple  “a Nazi conspiracy,” and even suggested that both the novel and the film were critically acclaimed expressly because they slam black men.

Reed was wrong then and he’s wrong now. The popularity of The Color Purple has very little to do with besmirching black men. Instead, it has everything to do with black women’s rejection of respectability politics: from the lesbian relationship between Celie and Shug, Mr.—’s ex-lover; to the representation of traditional Christianity as small-minded and stifling; to the narrative’s assertion that domestic violence arises from patriarchal hysteria about women’s strength, not our weakness.

Black women turned out in droves to see the film. We continue to reference it today because it breaks a certain cultural silence about abuse. Respectability politics imperil black women by demanding we stay mute; they insist that black people are a monolith whose reputation must be protected and preserved, whatever the cost. This extends to art, which appears only to be acceptable if black characters are struggling to “get better,” to put checkered pasts firmly in the past. But the truth is obvious. We aren’t interested in stories about the perfect; we’re interested in stories about the real.

picture books 1980s

“There is no way to overstate how radical Gibson’s first and best novel was when it first appeared,” Lev Grossman wrote in TIME . “Violent, visceral and visionary (there’s no other word for it), Neuromancer proved, not for the first or last time, that science fiction is more than a mass-market paperback genre, it’s a crucial tool by which an age shaped by and obsessed with technology can understand itself.”

The book, Cory Doctrow told  The Guardian , “remains a vividly imagined allegory for the world of the 1980s, when the first seeds of massive, globalised wealth-disparity were planted, and when the inchoate rumblings of technological rebellion were first felt.”

A generation later, we’re living in a future that is both nothing like the Gibson future and instantly recognisable as its less stylish, less romantic cousin. Instead of zaibatsus [large conglomerates] run by faceless salarymen, we have doctrinaire thrusting young neocons and neoliberals who want to treat everything from schools to hospitals as businesses.”

In it, Gibson popularized the term “cyberspace” (this is the 80s, remember) and predicted the internet, that “consensual hallucination” that we’re all now plugged into at all hours. He also more or less invented “cyberpunk,” an aesthetic system that has had untold influence on all the SF and fantasy since. It was, after all, the first novel to win the “holy trinity of science fiction”: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award, and it is still read and lionized today.

picture books 1980s

A coming-of-age classic, a staple of middle and high school reading curriculums, and a classic of Chicano literature that by 2002 had sold two million copies in 11 languages , “making Ms. Cisneros one of the best-selling Hispanic authors in the United States.” Critic Lorna L. Pérez called the novel “perhaps the most widely read and taught text in Latina literature” and highlighted its “striking revision of the Western literary and theoretical canon.”

Her appropriation of the form, style, and philosophical complications of her literary predecessors reveals profound and entrenched assumptions about subjectivity, class, and ethnicity, categories that historically and contemporarily marginalize individuals like her protagonist Esperanza Cordero. In engaging—both explicitly and implicitly—the literary predecessors that haunt the house on Mango Street, Cisneros is able to alleviate what Harold Bloom calls the “anxiety of influence” not by attempting to overshadow or destroy her predecessors, but by revealing the ideological constructs that lay in the foundations of their writing, thereby redefining the grounds of subjectivity and revealing the unhomely—or that which remains hidden—in the work. By engaging her literary influences in this way, Cisneros offers a revision to their assumptions, and as such lays the foundation for a radical literature that can encompass positions that have been relegated to the margins.

This last, of course, being something we gratefully see more and more every day.

picture books 1980s

There was considerable dissent in the Literary Hub office over this book—or, to be precise, over whether we should replace it with Cormac McCarthy’s  Blood Meridian , which is also a western published in 1985, and which most of our staff (yours included) prefer, as a novel. But Cormac McCarthy, for me, is on the whole more a writer of the 90s and 00s, and unlike  Blood Meridian ,  Lonesome Dove  was loved and appreciated in its time as well as afterwards. And honestly, the literary 1980s was all about Lonesome Dove . It was a stupendously reviewed bestseller, and went on to win the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The  New York Times   called it the first “Great Cowboy Novel” and the LA Times called it “Larry McMurtry’s loftiest novel, a wondrous work, drowned in love, melancholy, and yet, ultimately, exultant.” Then, of course, there was the miniseries, which premiered in 1989, and as with  Roots , cemented the legacy of its source material (not to mention brought back the miniseries  format, which had been considered increasingly unprofitable). It is now a canonical pillar of the American western, perhaps the most uniquely American of all genres—and no more so than in Texas, where it ranks with the Bible and the Warren Commission Report.

picture books 1980s

This is an essential novel of 1980s America not only because it was written then, and not only because it was popular and acclaimed then (it won the National Book Award), but because it hacks directly at the culture of that time. “ White Noise finds its greatest distinction in its understanding and perception of America’s soundtrack,” Jayne Anne Phillips wrote in The New York Times .

White noise includes the ever-present sound of expressway traffic, ”a remote and steady murmur around our sleep, as of dead souls babbling at the edge of a dream.” Television is ”the primal force in the American home, sealed-off, self-contained, self-referring . . . a wealth of data concealed in the grid, in the bright packaging, the jingles, the slice-of-life commercials, the products hurtling out of darkness, the coded messages . . . like chants. . . . Coke is it, Coke is it, Coke is it.” Television, Murray Siskind asserts, ”practically overflows with sacred formulas.” White noise includes the bold print of tabloids, those amalgams of American magic and dread, with their comforting ”mechanism of offering a hopeful twist to apocalyptic events.” Fast food and quad cinemas contribute to the melody, as do automated teller machines. Nowhere is Mr. DeLillo’s take on the endlessly distorted, religious underside of American consumerism better illustrated than in the passage on supermarkets.

As Lev Grossman put it in TIME : “Though it’s pitched at a level of absurdity slightly above that of real life,  White Noise  captures the quality of daily existence in media-saturated, hyper-capitalistic postmodern America so precisely, you don’t know whether to laugh or whimper.”

The book was precise about the anxiety, self-absorption, and alienation of the ’80s—which, what do you know, hasn’t exactly let up. “This turning inward was happening across America in 1985,” writes Nathaniel Rich in The Daily Beast .

Exhausted by the paranoia of Watergate era, and the panic of the oil embargo and the Iran hostage crisis, the nation sought the comforts of old-fashioned Hollywood movies, delivered by an old-fashioned Hollywood actor.  White Noise  was published two months after Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration, which followed the most effective marketing campaign in American political history, sounding visceral notes of  hope  (“It’s morning again in America”) and  terror  (“There is a bear in the woods”). In  “ Supermarket ” , the narrator asks Americans to judge the state of the country by the contents of their local supermarket—a tactic, incidentally, followed by DeLillo, who ends  White Noise  with a nightmarish scene inside of one. Walter Mondale, who had tried to make the election about the budget deficit and interest rates, soon realized his mistake, releasing ads with  horror-movie  music and images of  nuclear warheads , but it was too late.

White Noise even eerily presaged the Bhopal gas leak with his airborne toxic event. “In light of the recent Union Carbide disaster in India that killed over 2,000 and injured thousands more,” Phillips notes, “ White Noise seems all the more timely and frightening—precisely because of its totally American concerns, its rendering of a particularly American numbness.”

picture books 1980s

If you’re reading this space, I probably don’t have to expound on the importance of Toni Morrison to you. But just to cover all our bases, Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award—though lost out to something called Paco’s Story , which rankled   then and rankles now. In 2006, the editors of the  New York Times  asked “a couple hundred” writers, critics, and editors to vote on “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years,” and the winner—by a relatively large margin —was  Beloved . “Any other outcome would have been startling,” wrote A.O. Scott, “since Morrison’s novel has inserted itself into the American canon more completely than any of its potential rivals.

With remarkable speed, Beloved has, less than 20 years after its publication, become a staple of the college literary curriculum, which is to say a classic. This triumph is commensurate with its ambition, since it was Morrison’s intention in writing it precisely to expand the range of classic American literature, to enter, as a living black woman, the company of dead white males like Faulkner, Melville, Hawthorne and Twain. When the book first began to be assigned in college classrooms, during an earlier and in retrospect much tamer phase of the culture wars, its inclusion on syllabuses was taken, by partisans and opponents alike, as a radical gesture. (The conservative canard one heard in those days was that left-wing professors were casting aside Shakespeare in favor of Morrison.) But the political rhetoric of the time obscured the essential conservatism of the novel, which aimed not to displace or overthrow its beloved precursors, but to complete and to some extent correct them.

In Slate , Stephen Metcalf agrees. “Like two other American novels devoted to race, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird , Beloved exists wholly beyond its own artistic merits and demerits,” he writes.

These books have become something more than mere literature; they’re homework, with an afterlife guaranteed by their place (or in the case of Huck Finn , its embattled absence) on the high-school and college syllabus. (“Only Shakespeare rivals her in the number of senior theses devoted to her work,” Harvard English professor Barbara Johnson has said.) Were it simply a matter of social redress, we could all go home now, the Dead White Males having been forced to cocktail with a Living Black Woman. But Beloved isn’t solely a work of protest and advocacy, as Morrison herself has insisted, nor solely a symbol for the progress and virtue of the prestige-granting institutions in American letters. It’s a serious novel and a work of art, and it deserves to be accorded the highest respect. It deserves, in other words, to be asked, Yes, but are you any good?

Reader, it is.

picture books 1980s

This may be the most 80s of all the 80s books on this 80s list (though it’s a foot race against  White Noise ), which is not a particularly novel point. “So regularly is Tom Wolfe’s brash 1987 tome described as ‘the quintessential novel of the 80s’ that you almost feel the phrase could be slapped on as a subtitle,” Hermoine Hoby wrote in The Guardian . “But the ability to ‘capture the decade’ isn’t the only measure of a writer’s ability, and like a hot-pink puffball dress, this story displays a blithe disregard for nuance.” Indeed—though un-nuanced as it is, it’s a riot, a satirical novel about money, clothes, success, greed, racism, and corruption in New York City, an absolute nonsense whirlwind that turned into a major best-seller.

“Now comes Tom Wolfe, aging enfant terrible, with his first novel, (his first novel!), six hundred and fifty-nine pages of raw energy about New York City and various of its inhabitants—a big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won’t let go,” Pat Conroy wrote in the New York Times . “As in much of his other work, such as The Right Stuff , Mr. Wolfe’s strategy is to somehow batter the reader into submission, using an incantatory repetition of certain emblematic phrases, (HIS FIRST NOVEL!), detailed description of people’s clothing, hyperbole, interior monologue whenever he feels like it, and various other New Journalism devices he is apparently too fond of to give up. What is amazing is that he gets away with it.” Great, now I have to say “indeed” again.

picture books 1980s

Again, there was some argument in the Literary Hub office over whether it was more important to include this volume or Carl Sagan’s  Cosmos  (1981), so I’d say that all things being equal, Hawking has had the greater cultural influence. After all, Hawking’s plain-language explanation of the universe has sold more than 10 million copies  since it was first published—spending 147 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and an astonishing 237 weeks on the Times of London bestseller list—and been translated into some 35 languages. It’s more or less the reason why the average American has any idea about space, or black holes, or quantum mechanics, or the theory of relativity—despite the theory that it is “probably the least-read, most-bought book ever.”

picture books 1980s

Midnight’s Children (1981) is probably the better book, but it was  The Satanic Verses  that kicked off the largest literary controversy of the 1980s. The book, based in part on the life of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad, was vehemently protested by some Muslims, and on February 14th, 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling for his assassination. “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who are aware of its content are sentenced to death,” he announced , and the Iranian government offered $6 million to anyone who killed Rushdie. The author apologized, but to no avail. Bookstores carrying the book in the US and UK were bombed, and so was at least one newspaper that ran an editorial supporting the book. Rushdie’s Japanese translator was murdered, and his Italian and Norwegian translators were attacked and seriously injured. Protests were held all over the world, and Rushdie spent the next nine years in hiding—until September 1998, when the new Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said he would not uphold the fatwa. (Though it is still in effect.)

Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline (1980), Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (1980), J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), Carl Sagan,  Contact (1980), Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (first English translation, 1981), Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class (1981), Stephen King,  Cujo  (1981), Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (1981), Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (1981), Rachel Ingalls, Mrs. Caliban (1982), W. P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe (1982), Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s List  (1982), Raymond Carver, Cathedral (1983), Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (first English translation, 1983), Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 (1983), Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon (1983), Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale (1983), Susan Hill, The Woman in Black (1983), Stephen King,  Pet Sematary  (1981), Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City  (1984), Primo Levi, The Periodic Table (first English translation, 1984), Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (1984), Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School  (1984), Martin Amis, Money (1984), Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (first English translation, 1984), Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits (first English translation, 1985), John Irving, The Cider House Rules (1985), Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero (1985), Patricia MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985), Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game (1985), Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Laura Numeroff, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (1985), Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian  (1985), Lorrie Moore, Self-Help (1985), Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), Richard Ford, The Sportswriter (1986), Brian Jacques, Redwall (1986), Stephen King, It (1986), Art Spiegelman, Maus I (1986), Alan Moore, Watchmen (1986), Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy (1987), James Ellroy, Black Dahlia (1987), Stephen King,  Misery  (1981), Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On (1987), Gary Paulsen, Hatchet  (1987), Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior (1988), John Grisham, A Time to Kill (1988), David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988), Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming Pool Library  (1988), Roald Dahl, Matilda (1988), Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (first English translation, 1988), Martin Amis, London Fields (1989), Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day  (1989), Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life (1989), Katherine Dunn, Geek Love  (1989), Oscar Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club (1989)

  • Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

Previous article, next article, to the lithub daily, popular posts.

picture books 1980s

Follow us on Twitter

picture books 1980s

Patrick Modiano: To Flee a Parisian Crime Scene

  • RSS - Posts

Literary Hub

Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

How to Pitch Lit Hub

Advertisers: Contact Us

Privacy Policy

picture books 1980s

9 Fantastic Books Set in the 1980s

' src=

Laura Sackton

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes , celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

View All posts by Laura Sackton

I was born in the late 1980s, so while I don’t remember much of them, I do feel a certain connection to the decade. I enjoy books set in the 1980s when I come across them, and I especially appreciate books set in the 1980s that focus on lesser-known (and/or written about) places and events. It’s so easy, when discussing historical fiction, to only focus on the events that either directly impacted you or directly shaped your understanding of the world. Of course, this is different for everyone. When I think of the 1980s, my mind immediately goes to Regan, the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., and queer activism. Someone else’s might go somewhere else entirely.

With this list of books set in the 1980s, I’ve tried to go in as many different directions as possible. You’ll find a fantastic novel about coming of age as a Black queer man in New York City during the AIDS crisis. You’ll also find books about the Uruguayan dictatorship, the Sri Lankan Civil War, a small Indigenous community in northern Canada, post-martial-law Taipei, and a Vietnamese refugee living in Texas—to name just a few. All of these books are set in the 1980s, but they focus on different lives and different catastrophes. They’re about people facing different kinds of challenges and finding hope and connection in different places. They certainly don’t represent the whole of a decade, but they do reflect just how much was going on all over the world.

Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis book cover

Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis

This novel opens in 1977 and ends in the mid-2000s, but the bulk of it takes place in the 1980s. It’s about a group of queer Uruguayan women who rent an old shack in a remote village on the coast, a home that becomes a refuge for them during the years of the military dictatorship. As they struggle to live and love in a world that despises them, they find strength, humor, companionship, and courage in the family they build with each other.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry book cover

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

This wacky, witchy read is full of 1980s nostalgia, from big hair to music. It’s set in Danvers, MA, in 1989 and follows the exploits of the Danvers High field hockey team as they attempt to spell-cast their way to a winning season. It’s tinged with magic and often hilarious, but it’s also a moving story about girlhood, friendship, and growing up.

sag harbor book cover

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

It’s the summer of 1985, and teenager Benji Cooper is once again heading to Sag Harbor—an enclave in the Hamptons populated by elite Black families. He’s glad to leave his mostly all-white Manhattan prep school behind and to spend his days roaming around with his friends while their parents are back in the city. But the world of Sag Harbor is often just as confusing as the world he’s left behind. Sharp, funny, and full of Whitehead’s biting observation and deep understanding of human nature, this is a classic 1980s coming-of-age novel.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka cover

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Gay war photographer Maali Almeida wakes up dead in 1990 Colombo. He doesn’t know how he died, but he’s determined to find out—and to make sure the damning photos he took fall into the right hands. He sets out to find his boyfriend and his best friend before he has to move on from the in-between space he’s inhabiting. Somehow, this brilliant book manages to be absolutely brutal and also wildly funny and campy. It’s about the horrors of the Sri Lankan Civil War, and it’s about the things that people survive for—love, friendship, a perfect meal, a good joke.

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson cover

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

This is one of my favorite novels ever. If you haven’t read anything by Eden Robinson, you’re in for a treat. It’s set in Kitamaat, a small, remote Haisla town on the Canadian coast north of Vancouver. When her brother goes missing on a fishing trip, teenager Lisamarie’s world is thrown into disarray. Robinson packs so much into this novel—it’s about grief, family, growing up in a small town, the natural world, addiction, Haisla culture and heritage, dreams, religion, memory. Robinson’s gorgeous, nonlinear storytelling captures the essence of both the characters and the place they call home.

Notes of a Crocodile book cover

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Bonnie Huie

First published in 1994, this lesbian coming-of-age novel has since become a queer classic. It follows a group of queer university students trying to understand themselves and the world around them—as they fall in and out of love, argue with each other, and create art. Most of the story unfolds through the eyes of Lazi, who’s in love with a much older woman. Though this is sometimes a difficult read, it’s a poignant exploration of gender, sexuality, loneliness, queer desire, and community dynamics.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-García new book cover

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In Mexico City in 1988, a trio of misfit best friends, helmed by fifteen-year-old Meche, discover they can do magic and cast spells—with the help of their favorite music via records. This realization changes their lives and ends up haunting them in ways they could never have anticipated. The story is partly set in 2009 when Meche returns to Mexico City for the first time in years to confront her past, but even so, this book is steeped in 1980s culture and music.

Butterfly Yellow book cover

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhhà Lại

This YA novel follows a pair of siblings separated at the end of the Vietnam War. Hằng had hoped to travel with her little brother Linh to America, but he was taken from her at the airport. Now living in Texas, she’s desperate to reunite with him. When she finally does, he doesn’t remember anything about her, their family, or their homeland. This is a heartbreaking but hopeful story about a brother and sister trying to find their way back to each other in the midst of ongoing trauma.

Book cover of My Government Means to Kill Me

My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson

Written in the form of a fictional memoir, this book follows Trey Singleton, a young Black queer man who leaves his family in Indianapolis and arrives in New York City in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. Struggling to make a life for himself, he finds community, meaning, and purpose when he gets involved with ACT UP. Newson writes beautifully about the messy intersections of personal and political awakening.

Looking for more books set in the 1980s? If you’re feeling nostalgic for the decade, check out these books that Rioter Jaime Herndon turns to when she’s feeling the same way. Steph Auteri has some great recs for books that bring the 1980s nostalgia as well.

picture books 1980s

You Might Also Like

The 10 Best Books of 2023, According to the New York Times

Vote in the final round of the 2023 Goodreads Choice Awards

  • Discussions
  • Reading Challenge
  • Kindle Notes & Highlights
  • Favorite genres
  • Friends’ recommendations
  • Account settings


Picture Books of the 1990s

A book’s total score is based on multiple factors, including the number of people who have voted for it and how highly those voters ranked the book.

People Who Voted On This List (39)

picture books 1980s

Post a comment » Comments

Related news.

picture books 1980s

  • Create New List
  • Lists I Created
  • Lists I've Voted On
  • Lists I've Liked

Anyone can add books to this list.

Saving My Votes

Friends votes, how to vote.

To vote on existing books from the list, beside each book there is a link vote for this book clicking it will add that book to your votes.

To vote on books not in the list or books you couldn't find in the list, you can click on the tab add books to this list and then choose from your books, or simply search.

Welcome back. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.

picture books 1980s


Supported by

Picture Books

Mac Barnett Has ‘Nothing’ to Talk About

From mouse holes and doughnut holes to a world without night, these five picture books have it all.

  • Share full article

A girl and a boy peer through a big cutout circle labeled Hole in the Wall into the titular museum’s Hall of Holes. Also on display there are Swiss Cheese Holes, Button Holes, a Hole in One, a Black Hole and a Manhole.

By Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is an award-winning author of many acclaimed picture books, including “A Polar Bear in the Snow,” illustrated by Shawn Harris, and the Shapes trilogy, illustrated by Jon Klassen, which inspired the streaming series “Shape Island.”

Five new picture books all contemplate nothingness. From emptiness to absence to an intangible rhinoceros, we have a whole lot of nothing to discuss, so let’s get to it.

INVISIBLE THINGS (Chronicle, 52 pp., $17.99, ages 5 to 8) , a field guide to the unseen by Andy J. Pizza and Sophie Miller, starts with a magic trick. By donning a pair of “invisible ‘invisible thing’ spotting glasses,” the reader can “see the invisible.” Indeed all manner of invisible things — an echo, a dog bark, chaos, an itch — are depicted in these pages, each rendered as an adorable, colorful creature with cartoon eyes. We meet sounds, smells, tastes and sensations (“Echoes are cheeky copycats — they repeat everything you say! You’ve probably heard an Echo somewhere before, but now, LOOK, you’ve SEEN one!”) before settling into an extended meditation on feelings. The chatty narrator is a reassuring guide through some heady and heavy stuff.

Here is a book that acknowledges and respects the full range of children’s emotions, with sensitive and sometimes striking insights into melancholy, fear and the blues: “How curious that a sad song can make us feel happy?!”

“Invisible Things” is as interactive as you want it to be. Along the way, there are seek-and-finds, mindfulness exercises and discussion topics, but it also works well as a straight-ahead read-aloud.

The experience is somehow simultaneously contemplative and exuberant. It’s a winning, wholly original book.

WHAT IF ONE DAY … (Enchanted Lion, 80 pp., $19.95, ages 3 to 8) , written by Bruce Handy and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin, ponders a series of disappearances. “What if one day,” the book begins, breaking the question across a page turn, “all the birds flew away?” The answers are sometimes poignant: “Skies would be plainer,” goes the text, set against a breathtaking expanse of blue, interrupted only by a baseball in flight and a child’s arm. And sometimes they’re funny: “Worms could relax,” our narrator suggests, alongside an illustration of a few chilled-out specimens living their best vermian lives.

Just as we’re becoming accustomed to this strange, birdless world, a miracle occurs: “But there are BIRDS!” a double-page spread proclaims. Birds noisily, joyfully sing and flit about. It feels as if they might fly right off the page.

Handy’s playful text creates a satisfying rhythm — precious things are taken from us and then returned — and he introduces enough surprises to keep it fresh over the book’s 80 pages.

Corrin’s pictures are wonderful, by turns ebullient and intimate.

The cheekily titled ALL ABOUT NOTHING (Charlesbridge, 32 pp., $17.99, ages 4 to 8) , written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Elizabeth Goss, is a lilting rumination on various sorts of nothings. This is a well-crafted picture book, with a carefully calibrated balance between words and images. The gnomic pronouncement, “Nothing … changes the way you look,” for instance, is grounded by an illustration of a child who’s lost a front tooth. Goss’s cut-paper pictures, which frame negative space, are well suited to the subject, a point gracefully made in the book’s finale.

Or almost finale. The last two pages present 11 paragraphs of dense prose that restates points made more elegantly, and economically, in the preceding pages.

“Backmatter” — basically a long author’s note or afterword — has become commonplace in contemporary picture books, especially nonfiction. Educators love backmatter. Publishers encourage it. But kids aren’t exactly clamoring for it.

And it’s always a bummer when a picture book ends beautifully, then suddenly turns into a textbook — it’s like a pilot who softly brings a plane in for a three-point landing, then taxis for another hour while explaining Bernoulli’s principle over the intercom.

In THE MUSEUM OF NOTHING (Minerva, 48 pp., $18.99, ages 4 to 9) , by Steven Guarnaccia, two kids take a trip to the titular museum, touring galleries like the Nobody Room and the Zero Wing. The exhibits abound with allusions and visual puns (a portrait of Zero Mostel, for example, with a “0” where his head should be).

To understand everything going on in the museum, readers will have to consult the — you guessed it — backmatter: three pages of entries on everything from the painter Robert Ryman to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s irksome when reading backmatter is the only way to comprehend the picture book itself.

Luckily, our two plucky protagonists get into enough mischief to keep the story bouncing along. And Guarnaccia’s drawings are lively and appealing.

LUDWIG AND THE RHINOCEROS (NorthSouth, 40 pp., $19.95, ages 5 to 8) , written by Noemi Schneider and illustrated by Golden Cosmos (Doris Freigofas and Daniel Dolz), takes a classroom debate between the philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell and transplants it to a child’s bedroom.

It’s hugely entertaining. A boy insists that there’s a rhinoceros in his room, and his poor father, shown in several hilariously unflattering positions as he searches for the beast, is unable to prove that there’s not one.

The story succeeds as both a philosophical dialogue and a classic tale of bedtime delaying tactics. And the book itself is a thrilling object, printed on heavy stock in colors that vibrate on the page.

Marshall Yarbrough’s charming translation from the German shines, especially in the — plot twist! — excellent backmatter, which discusses the original rhinoceros debate and explains what philosophers do.

There are some lessons here for picture book makers: Backmatter works best when it deepens the themes of the book, feels incorporated into the artistic whole — and is written from the point of view of a rhinoceros.

Mac Barnett’s most recent picture book is “How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney?,” illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

Nora Roberts, a titan of the romance world, discussed how she redefined a genre that was all too easy to dismiss .

With millions of books sold and a TV adaptation starring Gary Oldman, Mick Herron, the author of the “Slow Horses” series, has yet to wrap his head around his success .

The political artist Edel Rodriguez drew some of the most provocative images of the Trump presidency. His new graphic memoir skewers the powerful once more .

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

You have exceeded your limit for simultaneous device logins.

Your current subscription allows you to be actively logged in on up to three (3) devices simultaneously. click on continue below to log out of other sessions and log in on this device., best picture books 2023 | slj best books.

picture books 1980s

From a glittering party in Harlem to a dazzling parade in Tokyo, from a baba's small patch of soil to a cadre of children learning to love who they are or stand up for others, the very best of 2023's picture books invite readers into pages to meet the world head on.

picture books 1980s


Arnaldo, Monica. Mr. S. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063003958. K-Gr 3 –Is it a mystery? A story of classroom rebellion, or even a coup? When a silent but imperious sandwich on their teacher’s desk seems to substitute for the day, the students are only too willing to comply—or else. A sidesplitting take on classroom dynamics.

Becker, Aaron. The Tree and the River.  Candlewick. ISBN 9781536223293. PreS-Gr 2 –Nature bites back after a tree and a river cohabit in a bucolic and wordless setting as humans overbuild. A catastrophic event wipes the slate clean, while tiny acorns reboot the process by the last page. This meditation on time, climate change, and humanity presents an otherworldly command of watercolor-like paintings for children.

Brown, Tameka Fryer. That Flag.  illus. by Nikkolas Smith. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063093447. K-Gr 4 –It’s the Confederate flag, a point of pride for one family, but tragedy and heartbreak for the other at the center of Brown’s book. How two children find the grace, good will, and courage to have a conversation is a lesson that readers will not see coming. Important in a polarized world.

Charles, Tami. We Are Here. illus. by Bryan Collier. Scholastic/Orchard. ISBN 9781338752045. K-Gr 3 –If All Because You Matter was an anthem to Black childhood, this companion piece is a march of ancestral pride, highlighting how Black history is one with world history, and that the long, steady train of accomplishment continues. Luminous paintings, glorious writing.

picture books 1980s

Dwivedi, Avani. My Bollywood Dream.   Candlewick. ISBN 9781536228427. PreS-Gr 3 –Nothing about this book should have worked, yet just as Bollywood musicals come together to celebrate spectacle and love, so does Dwivedi’s story. Her aspirations to direct the tale of her life have begun, in colorful pages in and out of the cinema, cast with everyone she encounters in her daily life.

Evans, Gabriel. A Human for Kingsley. Little Hare. ISBN 9781760506919. PreS-K –Kingsley, a large hairy dog, has decided to “own” a human and goes out in search of the right one. He becomes intrigued by a girl in a red beret who needs him just as much as he needs her. A funny and unique tale.

González, Xelena .  Remembering. illus. by Adriana M. Garcia. S. & S. ISBN 9781534499638. PreS-Gr 3 –When a family’s dog dies, the family gathers stories, photos, and the dog’s favorite things to create an ofrenda for Día de Muertos. A gorgeously illustrated book that acts as both a thank-you and a celebration for the animal friends that have passed on.

Gorman, Amanda. Something, Someday. illus. by Christian Robinson. Viking. ISBN 9780593203255. PreS-Gr 3 –A child notices trash piles and resolves to do something about them to help beautify the community. With delightful collage illustrations, this book reminds readers that everyone has the power to come together and make a change.

picture books 1980s

Gray, Gary R., Jr. I’m From.   illus. by Oge Mora. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063089969. K-Gr 2 –A Black boy asked the question “Where are you from?” answers in the best way possible by highlighting his home and culture, as well as all the things that make him who he is. Heartfelt text and vibrant illustrations work together in this beautiful story about embracing one’s identity.

Harrison, Vashti. Big.   Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316353229. PreS-Gr 2 –Being called a “big girl” was once a compliment, but starts to feel less so when a girl gets mocked for her size. After she tells people that their words hurt her, she says proudly that she likes herself the way she is. A lovely proclamation of self-love and speaking up for yourself.

Kazi, Natasha Khan. Moon’s Ramadan. HarperCollins/Versify. ISBN 9780358694090. PreS-Gr 3 –The Moon travels around the globe from Egypt to New Zealand showing how different countries observe Ramadan and Eid. An insightful look at the significant traditions and practices.

Lee, Sophia N. Lolo’s Sari-Sari Store.   illus. by Christine Almeda. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534494473. Gr 1-4 –A Filipina girl fondly remembers summers spent helping her grandfather run his corner sari-sari store. The store provides more than nostalgia, however; when the girl moves to the United States, these memories help her find ways to connect with her new community. Illustrations brim with love and connection.

picture books 1980s

Leung, Julie. The Truth About Dragons. illus. by Hanna Cha. Holt. ISBN 9781250820587. Gr 1-2 –Gorgeous illustrations full of detail and movement present the adventure of a child learning about dragons from his diverse family background incorporating Eastern and Western dragon folklore. A wonderful embrace of both traditions in one child’s identity.

Lindstrom, Carole. My Powerful Hair. illus. by Steph Littlebird. Abrams. ISBN 9781419759437. K-Gr 4 –Hair carries a powerful legacy and connection in Native/Indigenous cultures. Lindstom’s sparse, poetic language (“Our ancestors say: Our hair is our memories. Our source of strength”) and Littlebird’s bright palette capture both serenity and hope.

Mehra, Namita Moolani. The Light Within You. illus. by Kamala Nair. Two Lions. ISBN 9781 542039123. PreS-Gr 3 –A Diwali story that also tackles the hardship faced when a child has to move to another country. The sparkle of light on the pages brings an energy and a sense of wonder. A positive message about the light within that transcends the holiday.

Meza, Erika. To the Other Side . HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063073166. Gr 2-4 –A splendidly rendered migrant story that is awash in contrasts: light and dark, white space and ghostly shadows, bright colors and stark fences, peril and hope. Siblings play what begins as a game with three overarching rules: “Avoid the monsters. Don’t get caught. And keep moving.” Relatable and child-centered.

picture books 1980s

Norman, Lissette. Plátanos Go with Everything.   illus. by Sara Palacios. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063247789. Gr 2-4 –Yesenia is a small girl who narrates everything plátanos stand for in her family from the Dominican Republic. Of course, Norman and Palacios ensure that readers are desperately hungry when they close this book, but they also elevate a comfort food to a cultural icon, a path to memory, and a welcome home.

Niebuhr-Siebert, Sandra. Mina Belongs Here. illus. by Lars Baus. Floris. ISBN 9781782508113. PreS-Gr 2 –A young immigrant’s experience starting at a new school in a new language is captured in expressive illustrations that use a slow introduction of color to mimic how Mina adapts to her new life. As she grows more comfortable, her world becomes more vibrant and less isolated.

Quang, Phùng Nguyên. My Grandfather’s Song. illus. by Huynh Kim Liên. Random. ISBN 9780593488614. K-Gr 3 –A unique book about migration sprinkled with Vietnamese mythology as seen through the eyes of a little boy and his grandfather as their special relationship unfolds. Breathtaking illustrations steal the show as the significance of animals, family, and nature are captured on each page.

picture books 1980s

Raúl the Third. ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Read.   HarperCollins/Versify. ISBN 9780358539360. Gr 1-4 –A book festival celebration presented in a graphic novel style as English and Spanish words are intertwined throughout. This story is a great representation of all the wonderful services a public library can offer, from a map room and books on tape to video games and everything in between.

Reynolds, Jason. There Was a Party For Langston.   illus. by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. ISBN 9781534439443. K-Gr 2 –This brilliant story shares the positive impact Langston Hughes had on so many—big and small—through music, dance, and, of course, words. The Pumphreys strike again as they expertly weave text through their illustrations like streams of poetry in this incredibly eye-catching picture book.

Scott, Jordan. My Baba’s Garden . illus. by Sydney Smith. Holiday House/Neal Porter. ISBN 9780823450831. K-Gr 2 –A little boy visits his Polish grandmother, Baba, every morning, and although there is a language barrier, they communicate beautifully through the simple acts of sharing food, humming, and gardening. Iridescent art amplifies a heartwarming intergenerational gem.

picture books 1980s

Takahashi, J.P. Tokyo Night Parade. illus. by Minako Tomigahara. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063224964. K-Gr 3 –Little Eka anxiously awaits the the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, her favorite celebration in her native Japan. Tomigahara’s stunning illustrations capture the whimsical night and what makes a good and bad spirit. A truly fascinating cultural experience for readers.

Weissman, Elissa Brent. Hanukkah Upside Down. illus. by Omer Hoffmann. Abrams. ISBN 9781419762963. K-Gr 2 –Cousins Nora and Noah live in opposite parts of the world. As Hanukkah approaches, the two begin a friendly battle over who will celebrate it best. This glowing book shows family connections across the globe and remains true to the traditions of the Jewish holiday.

Wilkins, Ebony Joy. Zora, the Story Keeper.   illus. by Dare Coulter. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9781984816917. K-Gr 3 –Zora’s love for Aunt Bea’s storytelling runs deep in this beautifully crafted picture book about family and keeping memories alive between different generations. Warm but heartbreaking, Coulter’s bold illustration technique complements Wilkins’s graceful ability to tackle the subject of death through her delicate words.

Get Print. Get Digital. Get Both!

Libraries are always evolving. Stay ahead. Log In.

Add Comment :-

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:

  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know . Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

First Name should not be empty !!!

Last Name should not be empty !!!

email should not be empty !!!

Comment should not be empty !!!

You should check the checkbox.

Please check the reCaptcha

picture books 1980s

Ethan Smith

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

Posted 6 hours ago REPLY

Jane Fitgzgerald

Posted 6 hours ago

Michael Woodward

Continue reading.

picture books 1980s

Added To Cart

Related , evacuation order, the songbird and the rambutan tree, the selkie’s daughter, the secret of lillian velvet, a royal conundrum, just shy of ordinary, "what is this" design thinking from an lis student.


The job outlook in 2030: Librarians will be in demand

L J image

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, --> Log In

You did not sign in correctly or your account is temporarily disabled

L J image

REGISTER FREE to keep reading

If you are already a member, please log in.

Passwords must include at least 8 characters.

Your password must include at least three of these elements: lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, or special characters.

The email you entered already exists. Please reset your password to gain access to your account.

Create an account password and save time in the future. Get immediate access to:

News, opinion, features, and breaking stories

Exclusive video library and multimedia content

Full, searchable archives of more than 300,000 reviews and thousands of articles

Research reports, data analysis, white papers, and expert opinion

Passwords must include at least 8 characters. Please try your entry again.

Your password must include at least three of these elements: lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, or special characters. Please try your entry again.

Thank you for registering. To have the latest stories delivered to your inbox, select as many free newsletters as you like below.

No thanks. return to article, already a subscriber log in.

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

Thank you for visiting.

We’ve noticed you are using a private browser. To continue, please log in or create an account.

Hard paywall image



Already a subscriber log in.

Most SLJ reviews are exclusive to subscribers.

As a subscriber, you'll receive unlimited access to all reviews dating back to 2010.

To access other site content, visit our homepage .


  1. 1980s kids books / 80s children's storybooks / set of 5

    picture books 1980s

  2. 5 Mercer Mayer Children's Books 1980s Vintage Golden Look

    picture books 1980s

  3. Vintage 1980s Sesame Street Book Collection, Set of 10, 1980s Sesame

    picture books 1980s

  4. Vintage 1980s Childrens Chapter Book / CHOOSE Your Judy Blume

    picture books 1980s

  5. Retro 80s Flashback: 14 Books I Read As A Middle-Grader and Their

    picture books 1980s

  6. Vintage 1980s Childrens Book I Can Read Book Set of 9 Early

    picture books 1980s


  1. Book specialties videos

  2. RARE BOOKS ANYONE ??? #booktube #readrose #antique

  3. S01E02: The Golden Bully

  4. THE 4 McFarlane CGC 9.8 Comic Books To Buy [+Honorable Mentions]

  5. This CGC 9.8 Has Outperformed The Market

  6. HAMMERED CGC 9.8 MCU Comic Books To Invest In


  1. Picture Books of the 1980s (403 books)

    Picture Books of the 1980s Children's Picture Books first published in the 1980s. An easy accessible list of those books read in childhoods of the 1980s. Picture Books by Decade: 2020s, 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s and before Picture Books by Year: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 2020, 2021, 2022 See also:

  2. 55+ Best Children's Books From the 80s and 90s

    For books published prior to the 1980s, check out our list of 50 Classic Picture Books and 20 Classic Chapter Books to Read Aloud With 5-8 Year Olds. 55+ Best Children's Books From the 80s and 90s

  3. Books for Children of the 1980s (100 books)

    Meet your next favorite book Join Goodreads Listopia Books for Children of the 1980s Books I read in the 1980s and 1990s as a child. flag All Votes Add Books To This List 100 books · 5 voters · list created December 17th, 2020 by Stephanie Sandberg (votes) .

  4. Picture Books 1980s Shelf

    Moving Day (A Little Golden Book) by Leone Castell Anderson (shelved 1 time as picture-books-1980s) avg rating 3.44 — 9 ratings — published Want to Read Rate this book 1 of 5 stars 2 of 5 stars 3 of 5 stars 4 of 5 stars 5 of 5 stars Jim Henson Presents the Giant Next Door (Muppet Babies) by Jim Henson (shelved 1 time as picture-books-1980s)

  5. Classic Children's Books By The Decade: 1980s

    10 Classic Books from the 1980s: The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton (1985) Find it: Bookshop | Amazon Folktales are universally loved and a collection of short stories is a nice way to switch up read aloud time. Celebrated children's author, Virginia Hamilton, wrote this wonderful collection of Black American folktales.

  6. The 25 Best 1980s Kids Books

    📦 #1 Book Box for Kids? Get your first box for just $9.95* Bookroo. Shop Books. Schools ... Top 10 1980s Books. 7.0. 01. A Long Walk to Water. Written and illustrated by Linda Sue Park. 4.8. 02. ... Picture Book Club. J. Junior Chapter Book Club. M. Middle Grade Book Club. Gift a Book Club; Store. B.

  7. Read These 1980s Books for a True Nostalgia-Fest

    From coming-of-age stories like "Stranger Things" and "Stand By Me" to Ernest Cline's classic, these 1980s books will give you all the feels. ... Picture Books. Guided Reading Levels. Middle Grade. Activity Books. View All > 31 Children's & YA Books That Celebrate Native American Heritage.

  8. Best Picture Books (2933 books)

    Meet your next favorite book Join Goodreads Listopia Best Picture Books The best children's picture books. Caldecott Contenders aka Mock Caldecotts by year: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Picture Books by Decade: 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s and before See also Best Picture Books

  9. Best Books of the Decade: 1980s (2159 books)

    Best Books of the Decade: 1980s The best books published during the 1980s decade (1980-1989). See also: Most Rated Book by Year Best Fantasy Books of the 1980s Best Mystery Books of the 1980s Best Science Fiction Books of the 1980s Best Books by Century: 21st, 20th, 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, 10th,

  10. Children's books from the 1980s and '90s still hold up

    August 26, 2020 at 9:17 a.m. EDT. (iStock) In James Stevenson's picture book " That Terrible Halloween Night ," a grandfather tells his two grandchildren about what happened to him when, as ...

  11. Top Children's Books From The 80s & 90s

    Dive into our collection of 88 children's books from the 1980s and 1990s! From award-winning series to one-hit wonders, there were many books that became popular picks during this time period. With their beloved storylines, memorable characters, and special lessons, your little ones are sure to love every single one!

  12. 24 Bestsellers Published in the 1980s

    Board Books. Picture Books. Guided Reading Levels. Middle Grade. Activity Books. View All > 31 Children's & YA Books That Celebrate Native American Heritage. ... 24 Bestsellers Published in the 1980s Grab your leg warmers, do the moonwalk, and dig into one of these totally tubular reads! 1. White Noise by Don DeLillo. Add to Bookshelf. Paperback.

  13. Children's Books from the 1980s-The Picture Book Club

    Children's Books from the 1980s-The Picture Book Club A great shower or new baby gift for parents who were born in the '80s! Or for anyone who loves wonderful picture books! This bundle includes 9 paperbacks and 1 hardcover book first published in the 1980s.

  14. 12 books you'll remember if you were a child in the 1980s

    12 classic books for children of the 1980s Bridge to Terabithia By Katherine Paterson Superfudge By Judy Blume Choose Your Own Adventure Series By Edward Packard! If You Give a Mouse a Cookie By Laura Numeroff The Ramona Books By Beverly Cleary The "Mr. Men" and "Little Miss" series By Roger Hargreaves The BFG By Roald Dahl

  15. This Instagram account crowdsources vintage children's books

    Monear Fatemi was on the hunt for a children's book she had loved as a kid in the 1980s. She remembered so many vivid details: the family in the book ate lima beans, the dad had a bushy mustache ...

  16. 21 Memorable Books From The '80s

    Grab your favorite '80s books:. Audible Plus: From Amazon, listen to Amazon Originals, podcasts, and audiobooks.They add new titles every week. Book of the Month: Get the month's hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month.You might snag an early release or debut author. Along with selecting a book a month, find terrific add-ons, both trendy and lesser-known titles.

  17. A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1980s

    The book, Cory Doctrow told The Guardian, "remains a vividly imagined allegory for the world of the 1980s, when the first seeds of massive, globalised wealth-disparity were planted, and when the inchoate rumblings of technological rebellion were first felt." A generation later, we're living in a future that is both nothing like the Gibson future and instantly recognisable as its less ...

  18. Picture Books of the 1970s (477 books)

    Listopia Picture Books of the 1970s Picture books first published in the 1970s Picture Books by Decade: 2020s, 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s and before Picture Books by Year: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 2020, 2021, 2022 See also: Best Popular Picture Books on Goodreads Best Picture Books

  19. 1980s Picture Book

    Sold separately,A Just Ask Book, book collection, vintage weekly reader, 1980s, picture book, childrens book, early learning (789) $ 3.50. Add to Favorites RARE Vintage 1986 'The Wuzzles and the Haunted Castle' Hardback Book - The Perfect Nostalgic Picture Book Gift for a Wuzzles Lover -1980s TV (2.9k) $ 23.13. Add to Favorites ...

  20. 9 Fantastic Books Set in the 1980s

    Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis. This novel opens in 1977 and ends in the mid-2000s, but the bulk of it takes place in the 1980s. It's about a group of queer Uruguayan women who rent an old shack in a remote village on the coast, a home that becomes a refuge for them during the years of the military dictatorship.

  21. Picture Books of the 1990s (413 books)

    Listopia Picture Books of the 1990s Picture Books first published in the 1990s. I am interested in books published by decade and I find it hard to find lists sometimes like this. Picture Books by Decade: 2020s, 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s and before Picture Books by Year: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 2020, 2021, 2022

  22. 80s Picture Books

    80s Picture Books (1 - 60 of 1,000+ results) Price ($) Shipping All Sellers The Elves and the Shoemaker Little Golden Book 1983 Kids Book (214) $12.68 The Muppets Take Manhattan Vintage Picture Book Jim Henson 20-34-1213 (10.5k) $12.95 BUILD a Book LOT - Choose Titles Care Bears Hardcover Picture Books 80s 80s Cartoons (5.5k) $5.00 $10.00 (50% off)

  23. Book Review: Mac Barnett on Children's Picture Books About "Nothing

    Steven Guarnaccia. By Mac Barnett. Mac Barnett is an award-winning author of many acclaimed picture books, including "A Polar Bear in the Snow," illustrated by Shawn Harris, and the Shapes ...

  24. 1980 Picture Book

    Check out our 1980 picture book selection for the very best in unique or custom, handmade pieces from our photo albums shops.

  25. Best Picture Books 2023

    best picture books best books picture books SLJBestBooks2023 sljbestbooks Monica Aldondo Aaron Becker Tameka Fryer Brown Nikkolas Smith Tami Charles Bryan Collier Avani Dwivedi Gabriel Evans Xelena González Adriana M. Garcia Amanda Gorman Christian Robinson Gary R. Gray Jr. Oge Mora Vashti Harrison Natasha Khan Kazi Sophia N. Lee Julie Leung Hanna Cha Carole Lindstrom Steph Littlebird Namita ...

  26. Picture Books 1980s

    Check out our picture books 1980s selection for the very best in unique or custom, handmade pieces from our shops.