book cover of "good night, gorilla"
Every Kid Needs These Classic Children's Books From The '90s

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Reading a book to a child is one of the most intimate, tender experiences. There are so many lovely children’s books to read, but it can be especially poignant to share some of your own childhood favorites. For most parents of young children, that means looking for great children’s books from the 90s to add to your children’s bookshelf.

Now you might think, won’t my childhood faves be dated? For the most part, the answer is no. The beauty of children’s picture books is that often the most out of date elements will be objects in the illustrations, for instance a rotary phone or an old computer. But for the most part, books focus on pretty evergreen items or star animals for whom a phone isn’t a necessity.

Just think about Goodnight, Moon. Sure, your child might not recognize a “bowl full of mush” but did you know what that was when you were a kid? Probably not until your parents explained it. Ultimately, the moral of the story is all that matters and these books didn’t become classics for no reason. These children’s books from the ‘90s all have a great storyline, beautiful pictures, and a message that will stick with your little one long after you say “the end.”

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“Guess How Much I Love You?” by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram

Reminding a child that they are loved is a job a parent must repeat every single day. This happens both in word and deed, but if you want to help them fully comprehend the breadth of your love, consider reading 1994 classic Guess How Much I Love You? In the story Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare one up each other to profess their love for each other, one going farther than the other each time. The moral of the story? A parent’s love for their child is limitless.


“Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Suess

Practically a graduation gift requirement, since 1990 Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go has become shorthand for giving a child a vote of confidence in all that they’ll do. In it, Seuss follows a character as it leaves the nest and tackles the world on its own. Are there hard days? Of course. But there are also incredible days and big wins and giant discoveries. It’s a metaphor for life told in Seuss’s classic rhyme with his signature illustrations.


“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, illustrations by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

For many families, it’s hard to say who has a tougher time on the first day of kindergarten, the parent or the child. That separation can be tough. That’s why time and again families and educators turn to The Kissing Hand. This 1993 release is a story all about Chester Raccoon who is feeling very anxious about heading off to forest school. His mother Mrs. Raccoon eases his fears by sharing that he can reach for his kissing hand that she’s kissed and feel her there with him. Yep, prepare for a lump in your throat when you read this one.


“Tuesday” by David Wiesner

In 1992 this super silly book won the Caldecott Medal for illustrations, one of illustrator and author David Wiesner’s three Caldecott Medals. The minute you pick the book up, you’ll see why it was recognized. Simply named Tuesday, it’s a story all about how on one Tuesday evening, frogs suddenly begin to float through the sky. Nearly wordless, the illustrations say it all as frogs float through laundry, above houses and beyond. Children are invited to imagine what on earth has caused this wild phenomenon, a thought-provoking spin through one author’s fantasy.


“The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories” by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

Have a child who prefers wonky endings rather than happy ones? Then they need to read and giggle along to 1992’s The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories. This irreverent riff on fairy tales finds new directions for some of children’s literature’s most well known stories. For instance, what if the Ugly Duckling grew up to be an Ugly Duck? What then? Or how about if the Giant at the top of the beanstalk ate the Little Red Hen. Perfect for older, more discerning elementary readers, your kid will love the chaos in this book.


“No, David!” by David Shannon

“No.” It’s something kids hear a lot. In fact, it can sometimes feel like they can’t do everything right. And David, the star of this story, mirrors that feeling as he fails again and again to get it right. While parents might shudder to see a messy illustration of a boy break things and wreak havoc, kids tend to find the story liberating, and a great example that they’re not the only that sometimes struggles to get it right.


“The Hallo-Wiener” by Dav Pilkey

Halloween may be over, but you’ll likely find yourself rereading this story to your kids when this children's books from the ‘90s is added to your children’s bookshelf. Basically a wiener dog faces the greatest embarrassment when his loving mother insists he go as a hot dog for Halloween. Ashamed of his costume, he’s teased mercilessly. Until a random run-in with some ghost cats gives him an opportunity to prove his bravery and show the mean bully pups that he’s one hot dog after all.


“Good Night, Gorilla” by Peggy Rathmann

Some stories don't require words. That’s very nearly entirely the case with “Good Night, Gorilla.” Almost entirely wordless, this story follows a pack of sneaky zoo animals who manage to steal the guard’s keys and sneak out of their pens. Where does this menagerie want to go? The guard’s cozy bed, that’s where. Guaranteed to send your child into hysterics, get ready to read this one over and over.


“If You Give a Moose a Muffin” by Laura Numeroff, illustrations by Felicia Bond

The original If you Give A Mouse a Cookie — which inspired this subsequent sequel — came out in 1985, but author Laura Numeroff knew she had a good thing going by 1991 when she came out with If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Great for children who can’t get enough of the first story, this book follows the same pattern: a moose shows up at a kid’s house and they have to entertain and feed him. Naturally, hijinks ensue, from a puppet show to a stretched sweater situation. And kids will love it thanks to the book’s final payoff lines.


“The Magic School Bus and the Solar System”

Ms. Frizzle and her wild tricks got started in the 1980s, but author Joanna Cole continued to publish many more in the series throughout the ‘90s. And since these books are all about science, they’ve aged well. So much so that a TV series spinoff is currently on Netflix. Basically, Ms. Frizzle runs an elementary classroom. But rather than simply learn science lessons, the kids take off in her transforming school bus for adventures. In this case, straight out of the stratosphere into space.


“Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus” by Barbara Park, illustrations by Denise Brunkus

If you haven’t introduced your kindergartener to Junie B. Jones yet, step on it. This series, written by Barbara Park and illustrated by Denise Brunkus starting in 1992, includes 29 books following the lovably precious Junie B. Jones. In the first half of the series, she’s in kindergarten, while the second half she enters first grade — perfect timing for a young readers to test their mettle with chapter books. But even more of a selling point, this series is legit hilarious, both for kids and adults. Junie B. is always getting into trouble and your child will find her antics very entertaining.


“Falling Up” by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein wrote three compendiums of silly rhymes and his third and final one is the great Falling Up. Kids love rhyming words especially when the topics are completely ridiculous as is the case in this great tome. For instance, it features poems on Allison Beals and her twenty-five eels; Danny O'Dare, the dancin' bear and the Human Balloon. Even better, Silverstein’s illustrations, simple pen and ink affairs, accompany his verse and are just as wild as the words on the page.


“Farmer Duck” by Martin Waddell, illustrations by Helen Oxenbury

What does a duck do when his farmer is too lazy to cook, clean, and tend the fields? He does it himself in this beloved tale called Farmer Duck. “It is a very simple but lifetime-learning book in spite of its few pages,” writes one Amazon reviewer. When the worn out duck nearly collapses from exhaustion and a farm animal uprising takes place, the farmer finally comes to his rescue. After reading this your family will say, “How goes the work?” Answer: Quack.


“The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka, illustrations by Lane Smith

Tell a kid that this is the true story of something and watch their eyes get big. Consider this your child’s entry point to understanding bias. Here, the Big Bad Wolf gets his turn to tell his side of the story. And what a story it is. Not only is this a reinvention of the Three Little Pigs’ tale, the story goes beyond the storybook itself as other fairy tales pop in and out and things get fragmented and confused.


“A Bad Case of Stripes” by David Shannon

In 1998 David Shannon published A Bad Case of Stripes, a story about a little girl who wakes up one day covered in multi colored stripes. The cause? It’s hard to know for sure, but the day before she refused to eat lima beans, something she loves, because her friends told her they didn’t like them. See where this is going? A playful metaphor on accepting differences, the little girl only finds a cure after she accepts some lima beans and accepts that she likes them.

These children's books from the 90s to add to your child's bookshelf will take you right back to your elementary school library or bedroom bookshelf. Time travel by reading them to your kids.