Ten Most Iconic Children’s Book Covers

If you ever wondered what your Ten Most Iconic Children’s Book Covers would be, here you will hopefully find some inspiration.

This year marks the 10th year anniversary of Penguin Random House’s Design Award and participants are tasked with re-designing the remarkable covers for A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), How To Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran), and Email and the Detective (Erich Kaestner). The initiative allows for creative students to compete against each other to win a cash prize and a once in a lifetime opportunity to intern at Penguin Random House and get involved with designing.

To celebrate the competition’s tenth year running I take a walk down memory lane and list ten of the most iconic children’s book covers of all time, many of which were created by designers at Penguin Random House. We might age and grow up and get old, but these children’s books just get better with time…

This is the list of the top ten most iconic children’s book covers of all time

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

children's book cover Where-the-Wild-Things-Are-Sendak showing a rhino sleeping at a lake with boat and fisherman

The story of Max, a trouble making child who travels to an island inhabited by wild beasts after being sent to bed with no supper, has become such a well-known tale amongst young readers. In fact, it is almost impossible to enter the children section of a book store and not see this cover.

Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill (1980)

Children’s Book Cover where's spot blue book cover by eric hill showing a puppy looking in a red treasure box

Where’s Spot? is the first of the Spot the Dog series that now graces the majority of children’s bookshelves. Every page sees Spot hiding in a different location, concealed by flaps that readers must lift to locate the puppy. The cover design has become famous for its use of the typeface, Century Schoolbook Infant, a very rare font known for its link to these books.


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964)

children's green book cover The Giving Tree showing a boy wearing a red jumpsuit collecting apple falling from tree

Easily one of Shel Silverstein’s best known titles, The Giving Tree is a tale that should not be missed. The story follows the lifelong friendship between a boy and a selfless tree. A true parable on the delight of gifting to others, this book is a must have for parents teaching their kids the values of life. The simple cover was illustrated by Silverstein and really helps capture the eye of potential readers.


Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (1960)

children's book cover green eggs ham theodor geisel hardcover red cover art showing dr seuss

To be honest every Dr. Seuss cover could make it onto this list. However, to choose one it would have to be the original design for Green Eggs and Ham. The combination of a wacky font, simple colour scheme, and creative imagery makes this cover easily distinguishable no matter what your ages is.


The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922)

children's blue book cover the velveteen rabbit

A child’s personal library would feel empty without Margery Williams’ classic tale of the toy rabbit who desires to be real. William Nicholson did the illustrations for this book and set the standards for toy rabbits everywhere. The unique style of illustrations became increasingly associated with the story, making the iconic cover stand out on all bookshelves.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1969)

book cover The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Writer, illustrator, and book cover designer, Eric Carle, has created The Very Hungry Caterpillar, an award winning global phenomena. With over 30 million copies sold, the distinctive collage design has made this book home to the most recognisable caterpillar in the world.


Curious George by H. A. Rey (1941)

children's yellow book cover Curious George monkey walking with policemen

What would children’s literature be without the Man with the Yellow Hat and his incredibly curious monkey, George? The adventures of George are so renowned that there is even a bookstore in the U.S dedicated to him. The image of a playful monkey being escorted away by two firemen is not something you easily forget, firmly establishing this cover design as one of the greatest.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902)

Children’s Book Cover for tale of peter rabbit eating a carrot near a robin

Much like The Velveteen Rabbit, Potter’s charming illustration of a rabbit wearing a blue jacket went on to influence merchandise over the decades. There have been a plethora of spin-offs and adaptations thanks to Potter’s original vision of Peter and his distinctive attire, making this cover more than exemplary in terms of iconic stature.


Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (1926)

children's book yellow cover Winnie-the-Pooh eating honey from a jar book by A. A. Milne

Here is a story that needs no introduction. The adventures of A. A. Milne’s honey loving teddy bear and his pals around Hundred Acre Wood are timeless tales that have, made a name for themselves in practically every household. The classic cover art perfectly embodies everything you get from a Winnie-the-Pooh escapade and keeps it simple while doing so.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (1999)

giant Gruffalo & tiny Mouse chatting in the forest

The fact that this is the most modern story on the list is incredibly impressive when you realise how quickly The Gruffalo has turned into a classic piece of children’s literature. A more colourfully detailed cover than most of the titles previously named, which definitely helps it appeal to the younger audience, as does the peculiar look of titular creature.


For more info about the Design Award 2016 and to check out this year’s shortlist visit www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/designaward

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