Books

50 essential children's books

The Best Books for Children

We might be a little biased, but we believe reading is an essential part of childhood. Teachers and schools can teach you many useful things (and some not so useful) but a steady diet of literature can ensure a child's education never ends. Some kids are born bibliophiles, while others can't be bothered with books. The challenge for any parent, teacher or librarian is finding the books that turn reluctant readers into voracious ones. But how do you know which children's books will do the trick? Reading comes much easier if you read about what you love, so let your little reader decide. One book usually leads to another.

To help get you (and your young reader) started, we've gathered up 50 great books for kids. The list ranges from picture books for young children like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, to little novels for independent readers like The BFG and Stuart Little. Even if your child isn't quite ready to read big books on their own, series like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia are fun to read out loud and will please children (and adults) of any age. Our list of the best books for children includes brand new books, Newberry Award-winners, and timeless classics you'll remember from your own childhood. Happy reading.

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The best children's books

By George Selden
Join Chester Cricket and his friends in this classic children's book by George Selden, with illustrations by Garth Williams.
By Kelly Barnhill
An exciting fantasy novel full of magical creatures and important life lessons about opression and belonging.
By Matt de la Pena
This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena's vibrant text and Christian Robinson's radiant illustrations.
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War II, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson's Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
By Lauren Wolk
Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl's resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
By Kate DiCammillo
Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in this genre-breaking novel.
By Neil Gaiman
Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead?
By E.B. White
Stuart Little is no ordinary mouse. Born to a family of humans, he lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. Though he's shy and thoughtful, he's also a true lover of adventure.
By Margaret Wise Brown
In this classic of children's literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.
Pax
By Sara Pennypacker
A beautifully wrought, utterly compelling novel about the powerful relationship between a boy and his fox.
By Maurice Sendak
Maurice Sendak's Caldecott Medal-winning picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children's books of all time.
By Shel Silverstein
A poignant picture book about love and acceptance, cherished for over fifty years.
By Kenneth Grahame
Rat, Mole, Badger and the preposterous Mr Toad have brought delight to many through the years with their odd adventures on and by the river, and at the imposing residence of Toad Hall.
By Maryrose Wood
Discovered in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children. Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess.
By Shahrukh Husain
A beautiful collection of seven accessible opera tales includes Britten's ""The Little Sweep,"" Mozart's ""The Magic Flute,"" Rimsky-Korsakov's ""Christmas Eve,"" and others, demystifying the drama behind one of the world's most beloved art forms.
By Ted Hughes
Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction by the Iron Man and set a trap for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.
By Roald Dahl
Every night, when the world is sleeping, big gruesome giants guzzle up whoppsy-whiffling human beans. And there's only one giant who can stop them - the BFG.
By Cressida Cowell
Hiccup Haddock Horrendous III was a truly extraordinary Viking hero. The warrior chieftain and awesome sword fighter was known as 'the Dragon Whisperer', on account of his power over these terrifying beasts. But it wasn't always like that.
By Norton Juster
For Milo, everything's a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
A great modern classic and the prelude to The Lord of the Rings.
By Lewis Carroll
Curious Alice, the bossy White Rabbit, the formidable Queen of Hearts, and the Mad Hatter are among the best-loved, most iconic literary creations of all time.
By Roald Dahl
Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside.
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets.
By Madeline L'Engle
Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe.
By Jon Scieszka
Did the story of the three little pigs ever seem slightly biased to you? As Alexander T. Wolf explains it, the whole Big Bad Wolf thing was just a big misunderstanding.
By Ian Falconer
Olivia is an absolute delight! A gorgeous little pig who likes to dress-up, sing songs, dance, think, snooze (sometimes) and is even quite good at building sandcastles.
By Ludwig Bemelmans
Poor Miss Clavel! In ""an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,"" Miss Clavel oversees the education of 12 little girls, the littlest of whom is the mischievous Madeline.
By Florence and Richard Atwater
A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations.
By Munro Leaf
All the other bulls run, jump, and butt their heads together in fights. Ferdinand, on the other hand, would rather sit and smell the flowers.
By Judith Viorst
He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...
By Drew Daywalt
What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?
By Michael Bond
""A bear? On Paddington station?"" Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. ""Don't be silly, Henry. There can't be!""
By A.A. Milne
These characters and their stories are timeless treasures of childhood that continue to speak to all of us with the kind of freshness and heart that distinguishes true storytelling.
By William H. Armstrong
Set in the Deep South, this Newbery Medal-winning novel tells the story of the great coon dog, Sounder, and the poor sharecroppers who own him.
By Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad are best friends-they do everything together. When Toad admires the flowers in Frog's garden, Frog gives him seeds to grow a garden of his own. When Toad bakes cookies, Frog helps him eat them.
By E.B. White
E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.
By Katherine Paterson
Jess and Leslie create a secret kingdom in the woods named Terabithia, where they reign as king and queen until tragedy strikes.
By Alison Uttley
Sam Pig lives in a thatched cottage with Tom, Bill and Ann Pig - and also Brock the Badger. Here are twenty of the best Sam Pig stories from Alison Uttley, whose magical imagination has brought Sam's exploits to life for generations of children.
By Beverly Cleary
In Ramona's world, being eight isn't easy, but it's never dull!
By Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses.
By Lois Lowry
As the German troops begin their campaign to ""relocate"" all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen's family takes in Annemarie's best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
By Wilson Rawls
For fans of Old Yeller and Shiloh, this beloved classic captures the powerful bond between man and man's best friend.
By C.S. Lewis
Four adventurous siblings-Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie-step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch.
By J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!
By Brian Selznick
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity.
By Beatrix Potter
The story of a very mischievous rabbit and the trouble he encounters in Mr McGregor's vegetable garden!
By Russell Hoban
In this memorable story, Frances decides that bread and jam are all she wants to eat, and her understanding parents grant her wish'at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacktime.
By Maurice Sendak
The bakers in the night kitchen need more milk for their batter, but then Mickey falls into the cake! They decide to put him in the oven anyway, but Mickey has different plans...
By Ruth Stiles Gannett
When Elmer Elevator hears about the baby dragon being held captive on Wild Island, he knows just what to do.
By Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In this enchanting tale, the author reminisces about a day when his plane was forced down in the Sahara, a thousand miles from help. There he encountered a most extraordinary small-person.

More children's books to explore

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See our list of the books you'll remember if you were a child in the 1990s.
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A key part of every childhood is the books we read. From authors like E.B. White, C.S. Lewis and Enid Blyton, we found words that opened our imaginations, and took us to strange, wonderful new realities.
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By Jessica Doyle
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Murder, torture and more grisly tales! We went back centuries to find out what really happened to our favorite princesses.
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