I have no memory of my favorite kids' books as a child, none. Except anything Walt Disney, of course. So I'll give you a list of the best from my grownup bookshelf. Of all the books in my collection, this seems to be the one that amazes me most.
To me, one of the signs of superlative artwork is when you can't figure out how they did it. This was the case with The Nutcracker, illustrated by Carter Goodrich. For years I wondered what media he used to create the illustrations. Colored pencils, of course, you say. But the illustrations were too smooth and perfect for colored pencils. The work didn't have that telltale colored pencil look. The edges of his illustrations were as soft and smooth as airbrush.
When I finally spoke to him I learned that the book WAS illustrated with Prisma Color pencils, underlayed with a watercolor washes. He is that good. The book is absolutely exquisite... among the finest examples of children's book art that I have seen. I don't know if it's still available, but if you like this style of art, I would suggest that you add it to your kids' book collection. He told me that he didn't do well financially on this title, by the way. That's a no brainer...the budget would have to be enormous to cover the time involved in these illustrations.
You would expect that someone this good would finally be discovered by the animation industry. That's what happened. He also told me that he never made much money in kids books (no surprise there). He had to get into character development in the animation industry to start making serious money. You'll see his character designs in: Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and Prince of Egypt.
I have so many titles on my shelf that I really like. I'll narrow it down to my Top Five list:
1. The Nutcracker, illustrated by Carter Goodrich
2. The Christmas Carol, illustrated by Carter Goodrich
3. The Frog Prince, Continued, illustrated by Steve Johnson
4. This is the Star, illustrated by Gary Blythe
5. Melisande, illustrated by P. J. Lynch