10 Classic Children’s Books

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Most of us have fond memories of bedtime stories. Parents love to pass on their own favorite books to their children. Stories are important in sparking children’s imaginations and they teach them about the world. Here are some you will undoubtedly know along with some that are less familiar, and you don’t have to be a child to enjoy them. Treat yourself to one from the library or bookstore. You deserve it!

The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

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This story about a garden that transforms the lives of a group of children was serialized and then published as a whole in 1911. Orphaned Mary Lennox, a sickly child, is sent to live in England following her upbringing in India. At the house of her guardian Uncle, Mary discovers a neglected walled garden that no one is allowed to enter. Mary resolves to restore the garden with the help of her new companion, Dickon. Mary’s guardian’s son, Colin, another sickly and spoiled child, is also in on the secret. As the garden blossoms once more, the characters hope to physically and emotionally heal themselves. Burnett’s most acclaimed book was only popular after her death. The Secret Garden

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Many adults have discovered this book and been inspired by its observations on the values of the adult world. The author, a French aviator, also drew the illustrations. The story is of a pilot stranded in the desert, an event that actually happened to Saint-Exupery, and his meeting a small boy from a tiny asteroid. The Little Prince, as he is known, has been visiting other worlds including Earth and tells the pilot of his adventures and how his encounters with adults have formed his philosophy. Readers of different ages appreciate the story on different levels.  Following its publication in 1943, Saint-Exupery disappeared over the Mediterranean on a wartime mission in 1944. The Little Prince

Grimms Fairy Tales

Collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

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Some of the most famous fairy tales in the world are in this collection. The tales, originating from Germany and elsewhere, were published in 1812. This book is the perfect introduction to children’s literature and an entertaining source for bedtime stories. The tales include Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Elves and the Shoemaker, and Sleeping Beauty. Many families come across the stories for the first time as movie adaptations. Grimms Fairy Tales

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Roald Dahl

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

Best selling children’s author, Dahl, brought his love of chocolate to this fantasy tale, published in 1964. It tells the story of Willy Wonka, eccentric owner of a chocolate factory and Charlie Bucket, the boy from a poor family. Charlie and four other children win a competition to tour the factory. As the only child to behave well on the tour, Charlie receives another reward that is beyond his wildest dreams. The morality tale was illustrated by long time collaborator Quentin Blake (from 1998 edition). A film adaptation came out in 1971 starring Gene Wilder and a second one was released in 2005 with Johnny Depp. Dahl also wrote James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Matilda, and The Twits. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The Hobbit

By J.R.R. Tolkien

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Tolkien’s imagination, inspired by his knowledge of ancient languages and folk tales, has enthralled children and adults since The Hobbit’s publication in 1937. We are introduced to some of the characters that were to feature in the epic trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Home-loving hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is persuaded to go on a treasure hunt with Gandalf the wizard and a group of dwarves. Their adventures lead to encounters with Smaug the dragon, giant spiders, trolls, and goblins. Bilbo also gets acquainted with a creature called Gollum and a certain ring. The Hobbit

The Winnie the Pooh Stories

By A.A.Milne

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Winnie the Pooh and his friends have delighted each generation since the author was inspired to write characters based on his son, Christopher Robin, and his son’s toys. The first stories appeared in Winnie the Pooh (1926) and then in The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Earlier, Pooh Bear was the subject of a poem in Milne’s collection of verses, When We Were Very Young (1924) and in more poems in Now We Are Six (1927). Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their companions, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and Owl etc. had various adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood, illustrated by the celebrated artist, E.H.Shepard. Walt Disney brought the characters to the screen in a successful franchise. The Winnie the Pooh Stories

Peter Pan

By J.M. Barrie

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Peter Pan evolved as a novel, published in 1911, from Barrie’s stage play. The boy who wouldn’t grow up has become a symbol of childhood. His adventures as the leader of The Lost Boys gang in Neverland lead him to escapades with Indians and pirates, his most dangerous enemy being Captain Hook. The Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael are plunged into this amazing world. There have been several adaptations of the story, most notably the Walt Disney animation in 1953. Peter Pan

The Wind in the Willows

By Kenneth Grahame

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Grahame paints a reassuring world of comradeship, rural life, and “messing about on boats”. First published in 1908, the story of Mole, Ratty, Mr. Toad, and Mr. Badger has been adapted many times, on stage, and in film and TV. The rural idyll and everyday routine is interrupted by Toad’s escapades. One of the great characters of children’s literature, Toad is a lovable rogue but his conceit and restless nature leads him into trouble, requiring his friends to rescue him. The Wind in the Willows

Alice in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

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This tale is one of the most surreal and bizarre to enter the children’s literature canon. It began as a story to entertain three young sisters. Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (who published under the name, Lewis Carroll) invented the characters for the daughters of one of his friends. The book was published in 1865 and a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass came out in 1871. John Tenniel was the original illustrator and Arthur Rackham illustrated later editions. The characters of the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Queen of Hearts have entered popular culture. Alice in Wonderland

The Harry Potter Series

By J.K. Rowling

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

No one could have predicted the global sensation that these books would cause. The sales figures for the series in June, 2008 was over 400 million copies sold and the novels have been translated into 67 languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek. The first book appeared in 1997, introducing us to the inner world of wizards and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The movie adaptations successfully interpreted the stories for the screen. Children and adults delight in the complex plot and well-drawn characters and can relate to Harry, who faces the usual problems of growing up in addition to facing an evil foe. The Harry Potter Series


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19 Comments

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia could very well be a #11 here, if not the top 10 itself. It's actually more readable for school-age kids than The Hobbit, and has spanned more generations than the Harry Potter series. Another suggestion might be the Shel Silverstein poetry books.

    That said, this is a great list, and I've read most of them, and have heard of all of them. I'm glad you put Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on here.

    • I totally agree with you, Rick. Narnia could have been here as well as Shel Silverstein. I was a little sad to not see any Dr. Suess, but those books may have been a little "lite" for this list, even if they were so darn fun to read aloud.

  2. Reading the title, I'd thought it'd be just 10 individual books. 'Grimm's Fairy Tale' and 'Harry Potter' is a collection of more than one story. And yeah, I'm disappointed that Narnia and Dr. Seuss isn't on the list. I would love to see the top 100 or whatever and see if 'The Mouse and the Motorcycle', 'The boxcar Children' or the 'Ramona' series made it too….

    I'm a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland so as long as that makes the list, I'm happy. Teehee! ^_^

  3. I am trying to locate a book that my Mother and I read to my brother, who will be 60 years old in December.

    The book is about a white rabbit who wants to be black, he is instructed by the wise ole owl (I think) how to accomplish his desire. When he is successful, he scampers home, so happy. However, his Mom does not recognize him and turns him away. He is crest-fallen and then I don't remember the rest of the story!

    I would like to obtain a copy of this book to give to my brother on his birthday. He would always cry when the little rabbit returned home, because his Mom did not know who he was.

    He was less than 6 when we were reading to him.

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Linda Beeson

  4. Wow "The Hobbit" brings back lots of great childhood memories! The other books… loved the movies but never did get the opportunity to read the books- I think I am going to have to do that if I get the chance. I have to agree with David though… the Box Car Children were my absolute favorite and should have been included on the list too. I try to read some of the classic's to my kids, but have to say there are a lot of great current books out that will make for great classics in the future. For instance, my daughter absolutely loves this book called, "Dear Baby, What I love about you!" by Carol Casey. Cute story and bright beautiful pictures. Thanks for the great post! I am going to the library tomorrow to see if I can find some of these books you have listed on the site.

  5. This is a good list, though I think it's imcomplete…I have to agree with other people, the Narnia books are missing and so are countless classics….though i'm glad you've put some of my favorites here, like Harry Potter and Le Petit Prince (read it many times not only in the original French, but also Spanish and English)

  6. good list, but it is missing some books, as said above. But I've read some of these and seen the movies for others (and yes, I know, they're not entirely accurate). But yes, these are most certainly classics. As as teacher, I'll be trying to use some of these books. 🙂

  7. hard to narrow it down to ten, wasn't it? "Wizard of Oz", "Tom Sawyer", "Old Yeller", "Where the Red Fern Grows"….

    I can't dispute the list at all. Just not enough room!

  8. Barefoot Books on

    Aaah The Hobbit and Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl was always my favourite’s for total escapism. My 6 year old daughter loves Roald Dahl, especially the Twits. My husband is a massive Hobbit fan even today.

    He has just started reading ‘The Hobbit’ to her as well. She can’t wait for the dragon!

    It is missing some, especially what could be the new classics. Some of the independant publishers like Barefoot Books are bringing out some real gems. Time will tell I suppose.

    I love the images of the old covers you have as well.

  9. Enid blyton books numerous to name should be on the list ………….as well as Th Jungle Book…………………by Rupyard kipling …….hardy boys and Nancy drew which are the basic mystery book that a child reads

  10. This took me back to my own childhoold. I loved all of these “Alice in Wonderland” and Peter Pan and Wendy were stories I loved to read. I studied the books “The Hobbit and Wind in the Willows” at
    school. I am in my fifties and read these when I was little so it just goes to show that the true classics will be read for years to come by generation after generation.

    There will always be new ones to add like “The Harry Potter Series: look how popular J.k. Rowling is with her magic that she brings forth in each one of her books. All different stories that carry a special
    magical story all of their own. What great talent. I;d love to be able to write a book like that.
    I know there are others that are great as well like “Black Beauty” and “The Wizard of Oz” were both wonderful stories and also made into movies. You could go on and on just adding more and more. You have to stop somewhere, but where? Everyone has their own choices. I think this is a great site.
    Well done.

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