Blog – Posted on Friday, May 22
100 Classic Children's Books To Spark Young Imaginations
They say childhood unfolds mostly inside our heads, forever remembered as a unique and formative time. And if that’s true, wouldn’t we want every child’s imagination to be a space populated by friendly animals, formidable warriors, and the sheer sense of possibility?
Reading the books on this list isn’t just a ticket to a universe of boundless potential; it is also a way to connect little readers to enduring characters and magical stories that have touched generations. Share these tales with the children in your life, and you may even find yourself a little nostalgic for your own childhood!
Without further ado, here’s our definitive list of timeless favorites and incredible reads that are guaranteed to spark young readers’ imaginations.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great children's books to read, you can also take our 1-minute quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized children's book recommendation 😉
1. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
Starting us off on a sweet note is a little tale that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Even without directly saying that the two Nutbrown Hares in the story are father and son, Guess How Much I Love You beautifully demonstrates familial love through its tender dialogue and lively illustrations. Not to mention that Little Nutbrown Hare’s creative ways of expressing his affection are sure to resonate with every imaginative child!
2. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Gerald the Giraffe is impressively tall, but that comes at a cost: his gangly form stands in the way of his dancing along with the other animals. To help prove the title Giraffes Can’t Dance wrong, a friendly cricket appears just as Gerald is about to give up and imparts this nugget of wisdom: “Sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.” As young readers watch Gerald embrace his unique melody, they’re reminded in this children's book about diversity that they, too, can chase even the wildest dreams.
3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Sendak’s unusual drawing style may have been ill-received in his early career, but it later became lauded for its ability to capture the untamed wanderings of young minds. And nowhere is this more potent than in his best-known book: after Max has been sent to his bedroom without dinner due to his “wild” behavior, Where the Wild Things Are takes him on an adventure in his own room. But while Max can sail down the river and into the mysterious jungle of his mind as much as he likes to, he never loses complete sight of home. When he needs something imagination can’t provide — like a hot supper waiting for him outside his door — his parents will always be there for him.
4. If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff
Other than offering adorable (yet realistically messy) illustrations of what it's like to have kids around, If You Give a Pig a Pancake also carries an important message: it’s never too early to get children thinking from a different perspective. As Pig’s demands leap from pancakes to bubble baths, this domestic adventure shows children how silly and ridiculous their random requests might appear to those who look after them.
5. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
Goodnight Moon features a soothing bedtime ritual of a young bunny who wishes goodnight to the world. From the bears in the picture frame to the comb on the nightstand, every inanimate object comes to life just so they can send the bunny into slumber. This cozy little picture book is the perfect bedtime story to carry children into their dreams.
6. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Upon Tar Beach’s pages of colorful and childlike illustrations float the youthful hopes and dreams of a young girl. From her family’s humble abode — whose rooftop she optimistically calls “tar beach” — she dreams of flying over the glimmering New York skyline and cherishing all the good things the city has to offer. Ringgold balances the nuances of a struggling home life with the irresistible ideas of gliding through the night sky, drawing children into the storyworld and nudging them to think deeper about their own world at the same time.
7. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
This whimsical tale of a tiger who crashes little Sophie’s tea party has been adapted for the theater and for the television screen time and again. The narrative itself is simple: a friendly but hungry tiger rings Sophie’s doorbell just as she and her mother are about to settle down for afternoon tea. They decide to welcome him in, and watch in wonder as he happily enjoys their snacks. It’s a strange setup for adults, but for children, this odd little tale is exactly what their wild imaginations crave.
8. No Matter What by Debi Gliori
Get ready for another story about parents’ unconditional love for their children. In the snuggly setting of their home, Small comes up with all sorts of scenarios in which Large, his parent, might not love him anymore. He sees himself turn into a ginormous bug, a crocodile, a grizzly bear — but like the title No Matter What sums up, Large will love him regardless of what he becomes.
9. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
Wilfrid Gordon lives by an old people’s home, and he forges a particularly close friendship with Nancy, who’s losing her memory. In discovering the many forms that memories can take for each person, Wilfrid gathers up an array of his own mementos — things in which he found happiness and sadness — to help Nancy recover some of her memories. Adorably told and dreamily illustrated, as if the whole book itself is a flashback, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge captures the fresh mindset of youth, and inspires children and adults to think beyond themselves.
10. Elmer by David McKee
Elmer is a patchwork elephant whose personality is as vibrant as his skin. While his personality and physical differences often make him the life of the party, Elmer wonders what it’s like to be like the rest of his herd for once. As he figures out a way to tone down his colors, Elmer realizes the importance of his individuality, thereby reminding young readers that they don’t have to change for anyone.
11. Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy
Meet another elephant family in Five Minutes’ Peace. Mrs. Large tells her elephant children to take care of themselves so that she can have just five minutes to herself. Turns out, in a house with three elephant children, just five peaceful minutes is a tall order. This perfect portrayal of the continuous buzz of a young family will leave kids giggling at the spitting image (so to speak) of themselves on the pages.
12. Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Not every book to spark imagination has to be other-worldly, as Oliver’s Jeffers’ Here We Are would show you. Jeffers gives an all-round review of what children will encounter on this planet as they mature — going from demonstrating Earth’s place in space to sketching human’s place in nature. He shows them that life is wondrous enough as is, and as they grow up, it’s important to continue approaching the world with care and kindness. There’s a reminder that even adults can benefit from!
13. Zog by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheppler
Zog the dragon has the aspiration that all parents wish their children had: he wants to be the best student at his school. Unfortunately, he’s not blessed with natural grace, and he clumsily stumbles around class trying to earn a star from his teacher. Zog is funny, endearing, and highly imaginative, and makes striving to be a good student an entertaining journey (contrary to popular belief).
14. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The collage illustration style of this title alone makes it a classic. The jagged pieces of colored paper come together to tell the story of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis. As our caterpillar crawls through the holes in the book, he grows larger and eventually cocoons himself in preparation for his transformation. For many children throughout generations, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been, and continues to be, how they start to learn about nature and its miraculous processes.
15. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Did you grow up in a household that had drawings on the wall? Many parents try to keep this from happening, but most children feel the opposite, so the story of Harold and the Purple Crayon will resonate with us all in different ways. Harold might only have one color at his disposal, but that doesn’t mean that his doodles are limited: he can go on walks in the moonlight and meet dragons and hungry moose. To Harold, there’s nothing from his imagination that he can’t bring to life.
16. Olivia by Ian Falconer
Who says children’s books can’t be minimalist? Olivia traces the wandering thoughts of Olivia, the household name for young porcine characters before Peppa Pig came along, through simplistic pictures mainly in black-and-white. Those simple design choices act as the perfect background for Olivia’s interests — from fashion to painting — to pop out and draw the readers’ eyes.
17. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
Grace is indeed amazing — she’s unafraid to transform herself into just about any character in her favorite stories, from Joan of Arc to Aladdin. But when a school audition comes for the role of Peter Pan and Grace nominates herself, her friends discourage her from going after the part. Luckily, the story’s far from over: Amazing Grace goes on to encourage children to dream far and wide, reshaping themselves without worrying about what other people think.
18. Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Emily Elizabeth has a big red dog called Clifford. Beyond having a coat of fur that can be seen from miles away, Clifford is also gigantic. It might seem odd at first, but through the animated drawings of this picture book, Bridwell shows that Clifford is just like any other pet — a loyal, trustworthy, and perhaps a little mischievous friend who will always have their child’s back.
19. Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
Speaking of giant friends, Danny has a friend so large he struggles to go outside and play. Danny and the Dinosaur follows the two characters’ day out after their chance encounter at the museum (and isn’t that every child’s dream?). Danny shows the Dinosaur his world, and the Dinosaur tries to help people out as much as possible. The 1950s style is gloriously nostalgic, and the story itself never ceases to entertain.
20. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
We often think of creativity as some sort of innate ability, rather than something that we work toward. The Dot turns this notion upside down by telling the story of young Vashti’s artistic journey. She begins having little faith in her abilities, but her teacher encourages her to just start somewhere, even with only a dot. When Vashti sees this dot framed on the wall of her teacher’s office, it lights a fire within her and she begins to strive for something better. Eventually, Vashti becomes a great artist and even inspires others who initially doubted their abilities.
21. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper, and Nancy M. Leak
Even the most outgoing boys and girls have days where they just want to stay home with their parents rather than go to school. They’ll see themselves in Chester, a little raccoon who’s reluctant to leave home. When he confesses this to his mother, she kisses his hand and tells him that whenever he misses home, Chester can raise his hand to his cheek and feel the love she has for him lingering there. The Kissing Hand helps us remember that sometimes, all we need for our minds to conjure are realistic and comforting images of home.
22. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Defying all expectations you might have made based on its name, The Book With No Pictures is absolutely the volume to pick up if you want to grab children’s attention. In place of lively images is the conversational tone and hilarious text, which offers kooky directions — one of which requires the reader to state that he’s a robot monkey who taught himself how to read. With or without pictures, there's no book that better embodies an active imagination than this one.
23. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Any list of classic children’s books that doesn’t mention Dr. Seuss is incomplete. So many of his books have become indelible parts of kids’ childhood, and The Cat in the Hat is possibly the most notable among them. If you haven’t already, follow Sally and Conrad’s home adventure with a mysterious and mischievous Cat in his big red-and-white hat! It’s the classic story of children wreaking havoc while their parents are away, before scrambling to fix everything just in time to innocently welcome them back.
24. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy has everything you need in a children’s book: spirited illustrations of fuzzy, lovable pets and fun-to-read rhythmic verses. Turning the usual stereotype on its head, the story features a gang of dogs running away from a rugged cat. The story may be simple, but Dodd’s strength lies in the vivacious word pictures that she paints.
25. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
Get ready to be dazzled by the intricate drawings and heartwarming story of Love You Forever, which follows the life of a mother and her son who grows up from being a baby to becoming a father himself. Through every stage of his life, whether or not she approves of what he does, at the end of the day, she’ll always hold him and remind him that she loves him. The tearjerker lines come at the end of the book where the mother grows old: now, her son holds her instead.
26. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury
We’ve all heard of the Big Bad Wolf, but have you read The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig? Beyond inverting the roles of the characters, this charming retelling of the well-known tale also changes up the houses they build — the Wolves, with the help of various other animals, end up surviving the Pig’s wrath by building a den out of flowers. The fragrant blooms remind the Pig of a powerful lesson: that life is about enjoying little pleasant things, rather than sabotaging others.
27. Corduroy by Don Freeman
Corduroy is about the titular teddy bear in a department store. A young girl’s mother refuses to let her buy Corduroy and bring him home because they don’t have the money — and, more importantly, because he’s missing a button on his overalls. So Corduroy decides to find the missing button himself. In the night, he roams the department store, ducking the security guard in the hopes of one day getting a friend and a home. Little does he know, a happy ending is in store: the girl is coming back for him whether he has that button or not.
28. Winnie and Wilbur series by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Since the publication of the first title in 1987, Winnie and Wilbur has been entertaining children endlessly with its silly stories and vibrant illustrations. Winnie is a witch in the most stereotypical sense of the word: pointy-nosed, wiry-haired, and she wears a pointed cap. But far from being evil, Winnie’s whimsical nature takes her on an array of misadventures with Wilbur, her loyal pet cat.
29. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
Babar is another little elephant children can’t help but love. The Story of Babar is, however, more somber than the other adorable animal tales we’ve seen so far. After his mother is killed by hunters, Babar flees to the city to start a new life. But even amidst the urban glamor, Babar misses his home and family in the jungle. When he decides to return, he receives a heartwarming surprise that the kingdom of his childhood still waits for him.
30. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
What starts out as a simple introduction to life along a country track full of animals turns into much more: a story about kindness and teamwork. The titular character of Little Blue Truck sees a dump truck who got stuck in the mud and tries to help him, although his solo efforts only get them deeper into the muck. Thankfully, Blue has made plenty of friends on his way on the track, and they rally together to help the vehicles roll out of the mud.
31. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Worried about your children succumbing to peer pressure? Hopefully A Bad Case of Stripes will deter them. Meet Camilla Cream: a young girl who likes lima beans, but won’t eat them because her friends don’t like them. Yet as soon as she begins abstaining from lima beans, she begins to experience inexplicable symptoms — her skin develops multi-colored stripes, and then her body starts taking strange shapes. No doctor can diagnose or cure her, until an old lady gives her the miracle solution: some lima beans to eat.
32. Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight
Eloise lives in The Plaza Hotel in New York, but the fancy city setting doesn’t stop her from messing around. She seems to make her own rules as she goes around discovering the hidden corners of the Plaza, leaving her nanny trailing behind and trying to maintain order. Eloise might give children some dangerous ideas to wreak havoc in their own homes, but can also keep them seated for a while as they are drawn into her story and immerse themselves in her practical jokes.
33. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Even though the first edition was printed over a century ago, The Tale of Peter Rabbit remains a staple of children’s literature. This bestseller features the cutest, most endearing bunny you’ve ever seen — the hungry Peter Rabbit. Despite the warning from his mother, Peter enters the vegetable garden of Mr. McGregor to nibble on his goodies. Trouble comes when Peter overeats and is caught red-handed by the angry farmer, whom he now has to evade in order to return to his family.
34. Tuesday by David Wiesner
Tuesday is an almost entirely wordless picture book about a regular Tuesday — that is, if your regular Tuesdays involve following a group of frogs flying around town on magical lily pads. This playful and atmospheric book takes children on an expedition to explore the nocturnal world, and leaves their imagination roaming by hinting at what’s to come next Tuesday night…
35. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble tells the heartwarming tale of Sylvester, a young donkey with a great fondness for pebbles. One day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble which grants him any wish. Before he can make it home, though, a scary lion appears and shocks Sylvester into making an ill-advised wish. Now a modern classic, the sweet donkey’s emotional story reminds young readers of the importance of family and gratitude.
36. Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey chronicles his grandfather’s lifelong journey, crossing the globe from Japan to California, in breath-taking watercolor paintings that will stay in children’s minds long after they close this book. It’s a well-crafted, thoughtful exploration of the experience and legacy of migration.
37. Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young
Lon Po Po tells the Chinese variant of the famous Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. In misty, haunting illustrations, readers are introduced to three fearless young girls who unwittingly let a wolf into their home, thinking that their grandmother has returned. In the face of danger, the girls band together in a dark twist that is guaranteed to surprise Western readers.
38. Tomie dePaola’s Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola
A staple volume on any childhood shelf, Tomie dePaola’s Mother Goose is a collection of well-loved nursery rhymes. Featuring warm and colorful drawings of famous characters like Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muffet, this book promises plenty of joy for preschoolers — they won’t realize it now, but these sweet rhymes will linger in the back of their minds for many years to come.
39. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The protagonist of this wholesome book is a little house that finds itself gradually surrounded by an ever-expanding city. While it remains unchanged, the house witnesses the appearance of cars, apartment blocks, and subways — all of which are fascinating, until the house finds itself longing for good old birdsong. First published in 1942, The Little House has been accompanying generation after generation as they grow up and experience changes in cities and in the countryside for themselves.
40. The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy — and, as this fact would suggest, it asks some pretty philosophical questions by picture book standards. But that’s not to say this beautifully illustrated book is in any way inaccessible. Muth’s young protagonist, Nikolai, learns a lot about living in the present, and readers of any age can glean a bit of wisdom from his wanderings.
41. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats is a classic, if ever there was one. Published in 1928, this is the oldest American picture book still in print, and it isn’t hard to see why! The tale focuses on an old and very lonely couple who decides to adopt a cat, but they soon find themselves spoiled for choice — there are hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats to choose from!
For elementary readers
42. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Famous as Dr. Seuss’s favorite out of all his works, The Lorax is sadly even more relevant in the present day than it was at the time of its publication in 1971. This colorful, unconventional book addresses the dangers of environmental destruction and warns against greed and consumerism in ways that simultaneously engage and inform children.
43. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
With A Light in the Attic, a collection of playful poetic shenanigans, Shel Silverstein will entertain young readers until the end of time. Whimsical and utterly wacky in the best possible way, this little book of rhymes will have children laughing in heartbeat. And topping it off are the cute illustrations!
44. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber
Lyle is a happy New Yorker. He loves construction cranes, ice rinks, shopping malls, and especially the Victorian house on East 88th Street in which he lives with the Primm family. Lyle also happens to be a crocodile, a fact that his neighbor, Mr. Grumps, and his cat Loretta have trouble accepting. But Mr. Grumps and Loretta are wrong to judge others without knowing them, and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile does a wonderful job of sending young readers this message.
45. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum
If you were to find a bear wearing a sign saying, “Please look after this bear” in London’s Paddington station, what would you do? Mr. and Mrs. Brown decide to do exactly what the sign says — they take the bear home and name him Paddington. So begin the adventures of A Bear Called Paddington, prompted by the mishaps and misunderstandings of his new life in Notting Hill.
46. Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard and James Marshall
A quirky classic published in 1977, Miss Nelson is Missing! is an amusing story featuring a very naughty class whose teacher, Miss Nelson, one day disappears. The children are now faced with the horrible substitute Miss Viola Swamp, who, among other abominable things, cancels story hour! Outraged and over-burdened with homework, the class of Room 207 sets out to find Miss Nelson, going as far as consulting the police in their desperate attempt to regain what they always had but never appreciated.
47. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince is an enigmatic little book for children and adults alike. The titular little prince leaves his tiny planet, on which rests his beloved rose, and journeys to several other planets, eventually reaching Earth. Somber, polite, and inquisitive, the prince’s curious travels and remarks make for a heartwarming and poignant tale.
48. Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle
Raggedy Ann reached the American public as a real doll in 1915, then made her appearance in a book in 1918. Ann has now been a moral companion to young children for over a hundred years, helping as they learn about life as well as entertaining them. The sweet and wise Raggedy Ann Stories will likely be revisited many times by readers as they grow up.
49. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
This silly old bear needs no introduction — Winnie-the-Pooh has captured the hearts of many generations, and continues to be loved. Pooh’s adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood are hilarious, sweet, and thought-provoking. For all his silliness, Pooh gives young children a masterclass in friendship with his loyalty, kindness, and optimism. And besides, is it really possible not to empathize with a bear who’s always wondering what it will eat next?
50. Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
Few characters in children’s books have a personality as strong as Ramona Quimby’s, the star of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Fearless, stubborn, intelligent, and creative, Ramona’s boundless energy radiates from the pages. Her antics as she progresses from kindergarten to elementary school promise a kind of entertainment that never gets old, as demonstrated by the undying popularity of the series.
51. Fairy Tales from Around the World by Andrew Lang and H.J. Ford
Once upon a time, Scotsman Andrew Lang compiled folk fairytales from around the world, edited them to make sure they were suitable for young audiences, and then published them as twelve canonical ‘fairy books.’ Fairy Tales from Around the World is a selection of these tales, lavishly illustrated and brimming with magic. We’ve all read the Western classics — now why not discover something new?
52. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Garth Williams
E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is a tender tale of friendship and cooperation. It takes as protagonists Wilbur, a young piglet, and Charlotte, a spider, who live in the same barn. The two develop a strong bond as Wilbur’s life comes under threat and Charlotte tries to prevent this by making the farmers see his value. A heart-rending story that doesn’t shy away from the difficult concepts of loss and death, Charlotte’s Web will have a special place in little readers’ hearts long after their first read.
53. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
If, in the darkness of a London night, you’ve glimpsed the little figures of children gliding through the air, above countless chimneys and through the starry night, it’s likely you’ve witnessed Peter Pan, Wendy, and her two brothers on their way to Neverland. If not, you can still join these innocent and free-spirited children on their marvelous adventures with mermaids, pirates, and fairies in Peter Pan the novel, a timeless classic about childhood mischief and innocence.
54. Mary Poppins series by P. L. Travers
P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series — another famous classic set in the city of London — follows a nanny by the same name who possesses magical powers. Blown in by the East wind to No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane, Mary Poppins delights the five Banks children with several visits, all recounted in the series that inspired celebrated musical and movie adaptations.
55. Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne
In Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse series, Jack and Annie travel through time and space on special missions. It all starts on a day just like any other, when the two stumble upon a treehouse. Some of the volumes in this series target more advanced readers, while others are written for younger children, so there’s a book for everyone, no matter their age!
56. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
You probably don’t need much convincing to pick up a book that features a dragon. And rightly so, because Ruth Stiles Gannett’s My Father’s Dragon is a delightful story with fantastical elements to pull little readers right in. Elmer Elevator, the protagonist, is here to rescue the dragon — but first he must make his way past tigers, a rhino, and a lion, among other things.
57. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
“It was a dark and stormy night.” So begins Madeleine L’Engle’s mind-blowing A Wrinkle in Time, a sci-fi adventure for children that many writers credit as the initial inspiration for their writing careers. Siblings Meg and Charles embark on a perilous journey through the cosmos in an attempt to find their lost scientist father; on the way, they grapple with questions as large as the universe itself.
58. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a well-established classic that has been entertaining little readers with its nonsensical peculiarities since 1865. Dig into this wondrous novel and follow in Alice’s footsteps down a rabbit hole and away into a world of wonder, grinning Cheshire cats, and “mad” tea parties.
59. Nicholas by René Goscinny
René Goscinny’s Nicholas (Le Petit Nicolas) is a hilarious fictional account of life as a child in 1950s France. Accompanied by illustrations from the creator of the famous comic Astérix, the book details the many antics of the schoolyard and is populated by the distinct randomness of a mismatched set of classmates. These unruly children are sure to earn young children’s affection!
60. The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton
The Secret Seven series follows a mystery-solving society of seven children: Janet, Jack, Peter, Colin, Barbara, Pam, and George. And let’s not forget their beloved and helpful Cocker Spaniel, Scamper! Privy to in-group passwords and exclusive treehouse meetings, the reader cannot help but relish the passionate secrecy the group maintains.
61. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
For over a hundred years, the story of orphan Mary Lennox and her new life with her uncle in his gloomy Yorkshire manor house has been enchanting little readers. Atmospheric and mysterious, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden is a beautiful and magical novel about finding human connection where you least expect it.
62. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
No adult is beyond the scrutiny of this Swedish pig-tailed redhead. Pippi may possess superhuman strength — but it’s her bold and completely unapologetic attitude that make her stand out! Astrid Lindgren’s beloved Pippi Longstocking has achieved iconic status and been translated into more than forty languages. It’s just one of those books everyone needs to read.
63. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A moving Canadian classic, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables recounts the adventures of Anne, an orphan girl on Prince Edward Island. In this coming-of-age story, Anne makes a lot of mistakes but also does a lot of growing up, although she never loses her optimism and idealism. For Anne, the world is a hopeful place, and it’s hard for this feeling not to rub off on her reader.
64. Matilda by Roald Dahl
We’ve all, at some point, stared hard at inanimate objects in an attempt to induce them to move, as did Matilda. A champion of nerds, Matilda is a voracious reader and mathematics whizz, who unfortunately attends a nightmare of an elementary school (with the exception of her sweet teacher, Miss Honey). Roald Dahl’s Matilda is a funny, deeply satisfying book that refuses to treat children as children, thereby providing a perspective that millions of readers appreciate.
65. D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
Squabbling gods, vengeful goddesses, brave heroes, strange beasts — the magical, mythical world of ancient Greece has it all. D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths tells immersive stories that have endured since ancient times in a gorgeously illustrated tome following the adventures of deities and mortals alike.
66. The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis
The Secret Lake follows siblings Stella and Tom, who are transported to their home as it was almost 100 years prior. What unfolds is a page-turning time-travel mystery that leaves readers wishing they could use time-warping themselves to read faster, desperate to know what happens next.
67. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Arrival is a wordless graphic novel that requires no text to sweep you along on a father’s emigration journey. Each drawing is an exploration that evokes endless emotion; he struggles to adjust to his strange new home and feels sad and lost as an outsider. Eventually he begins to find solace in his adopted community, and the powerful images welcome us in along with him.
68. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Tale of Despereaux calls itself “the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread” — and it weaves a charming tale of how these unlikely things find themselves together. Little mouse Despereaux Tilling embarks on an epic adventure perfect for bedtime reading.
69. Samantha: An American Girl series by Maxine Rose Schur
Samantha Harrington is an orphan who lives with her grandmother on a wealthy estate in 1904 New York, and her lonely life gains sudden excitement when the impoverished Nellie moves in next door. In the Samantha: An American Girl series, readers are transported to a bustling turn-of-the-century household, exploring complicated themes of class differences and gender inequality while pursuing Samantha and Nellie on their rebellious revels.
70. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game is as playfully inventive as its title might imply. Sixteen strangers are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will and compete for the chance to inherit his fortune. Soon, the game is afoot — sending you to piece together a thrillingly plotted and knotted puzzle of wordplay, disguise, and intrigue.
71. Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
The Village of Clear Sky is a peculiar place with no moon, and young Rendi seems to be the only one to notice how strange it is. The arrival of an enigmatic storyteller soon sweeps him away with the power of her words, and Starry River of the Sky unfurls as an enchanting reimagining of Chinese folktales with vibrantly colored illustrations.
72. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards
Written by Julie Andrews Edwards — yes, that Julie Andrews — The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is a fantastical account of four travelers’ pursuit of the curious creature that is the whangdoodle. Professor Savant and three children, Lindy, Tom, and Ben, venture to Whangdoodleland and this new destination explodes with wonder and whimsy.
For middle-grade readers
73. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
The fantasy series that inspired the hit movies, How to Train Your Dragon follows young Viking Hiccup and his dragon Toothless as Hiccup begins his quest to become a hero. These endearing misfits prove their mettle as they soar through the sky and carry us away.
74. Nobody’s Boy by Hector Malot
This largely overlooked French novel (originally titled Sans Famille) takes its readers on a journey through France along with the orphaned Remi, who becomes a street entertainer. Hector Malot's Nobody’s Boy is a fascinating, carefully-paced journey to the past that offers meaningful lessons about family, resilience, and friendship.
75. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
You’ll never look at board games the same way. Jumanji is a jungle adventure game where anything encountered in the game soon comes to life — including hungry jungle beasts. The story is accompanied by surrealist pencil drawings by Van Allsberg that leap off the page. As the game warns, "Do not begin unless you intend to finish" — but you will have no trouble getting through this thriller.
76. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is the Cinderella retelling that we all need. Stubborn, intelligent, and driven, Ella proves to be a princess for our times as she defies the “gift” of obedience she’s been awarded. Ella Enchanted is more than a sweet tale — it has a serious point to make, and it’s no coincidence that this novel is a massive success with young readers.
77. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis’s enduring Chronicles of Narnia series follows an array of protagonists who are magically transported to the fantastical realm of Narnia, where they encounter the strange creatures that live there and are called to adventure by the lion Aslan. These masterfully told stories capture the wonder of escaping to new worlds and stepping into fabulous histories.
78. The Witches by Roald Dahl
Imagine you're a young boy training your pet mice in a hotel ballroom, only to discover you're sharing the room with an annual conference of witches on the hunt for children. That’s exactly the position the protagonist of Roald Dahl’s dark tale The Witches finds himself in — but to find out how he gets out of it, if he does at all, you’ll have to read this topsy-turvy book!
79. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Everything about Milo’s life feels woefully dull. That is, until a tollbooth arrives in his room with no explanation. Driving through The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo finds himself in a strange place of loopy logic where language and arithmetic butt heads and he can’t seem to find Rhyme or Reason. Milo’s bizarre ride of wit and wordplay forever shatters any claim that life is boring.
80. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Claudia isn’t running away from home with her brother Jamie — she’s running to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. But they soon realize their hiding place is home to more than just paintings and statues. Featuring two young amateur sleuths who uncover all of kinds of secrets and mysteries, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a work of art in itself.
81. Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
Doesn’t everyone, at some point or another, dream of being a teenage spy? Fourteen-year-old Alex Rider does not have much of a choice when he is recruited into espionage by M16. But over the course of the Alex Rider series, as he learns to vex villains and navigate webs of intrigue, Alex soon becomes one of Britain’s most brilliant secret agents. James Bond who?
82. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Comprised of four novels set in the fictional kingdom of Alagaësia, The Inheritance Cycle is a saga of the teenage Eragon’s quest to depose the evil King Galbatorix. With the help of his dragon Saphira, Eragon blazes a fiery path to heroism. These novels may be hefty, but they’re still impossible to put down.
83. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
In Little Women, the four March sisters seem to live in their own little world. Alcott brings these characters to life in all their charisma and complexity, making us feel like part of the family (or at least wishing we were). The text richly evokes its Civil War-era setting and makes pointed commentary on the period’s society and politics. Still, its tale of sisterhood and female self-determination is timeless.
84. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggin is a humble hobbit who just wants to stay safe and comfortable at home… but the wizard Gandalf has other plans. The Hobbit is a fantastical exploration as this reluctant hero is whisked away on a search for treasure. Bilbo strays far from home, and so does the reader who traverses this mythical landscape alongside him.
85. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series requires no introduction: the enormously popular saga of the Boy Who Lived is a household name and pure magic. Rowling’s wizarding world has cast a spell on readers of all ages still eagerly awaiting their Hogwarts acceptance letter and imagining what house they would be sorted into. The lengthy novels are jam-packed with unforgettable characters and magical mythology, and readers will fly through them faster than Harry’s Thunderbolt.
86. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
The impeccably-named Bastian Balthazar Bux is bullied and neglected, leading him to seek solace in books. Soon, he escapes into the world of The Neverending Story, which draws him into the fabled realm of Fantasia. What unfolds is an entrancing metafictional fantasy about an ordinary boy on a soul-searching journey and the imaginative power of reading.
87. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling’s collection of classic stories, The Jungle Book centers on the wild adventures of “man-cub” Mowgli who’s raised in the jungle by wolves. Filled with colorful animal characters like Baloo the bear, Shere Khan the tiger, and Bagheera the panther, the tales are an immersive exploration into the thrills and perils of the jungle and of growing up.
88. Redwall by Brian Jacques
The peaceful mice of Redwall are under siege from an army of rats — and they are willing to do anything to defend themselves and their friends. The series is filled with courageous creatures and inventive language, and the epic battles between good and evil erupt in excitement and bittersweet emotion with every clash of swords.
89. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Journey down the Mississippi River along The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, an unforgettable chronicle of boyhood adventure and self-discovery. The novel grapples with serious topics like the evils of slavery and what it means to be “civilized,” and its sharp ear for dialogue and richly wrought characters make Huck Finn’s voice one that you can’t get out of your head.
90. The Giver by Lois Lowry
In the dystopian novel The Giver, 12-year-old Jonas lives in what he initially thinks to be a utopia: a community where Sameness prevails to eradicate difference and pain. Everything changes when he becomes the next Receiver of Memory, inheriting all of humanity’s emotion and history before Sameness came into effect. The Giver is a powerful account of the dangers of conformity and the imperative of seeing things differently.
91. Holes by Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats IV is 14 and cursed. He’s been sent to the juvenile detention center Camp Green Lake in the middle of the Texas desert for a crime he didn’t commit, all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather. Louis Sachar’s blisteringly funny Holes weaves together past and present, and Stanley and his fellow delinquents soon find themselves digging deep into hidden history and the secrets under the dried-up lake.
92. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
The name Pollyanna has become synonymous with enduring optimism, and this story of a young orphan who is sent to live with her spinster aunt is endlessly cheery and endearing. Pollyanna has an almost magical effect on everyone she encounters and charms us all with her bright outlook.
93. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
Set in 1880s Sydney, Seven Little Australians recounts the mischievous exploits of the seven Woolcot children. They constantly play pranks on their stern father and young stepmother, and you can always count on them to be up to no good.
94. Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
The Nancy Drew character has evolved over the course of decades and a lengthy series of books and ghostwriters, but has always remained America’s most enterprising young sleuth. There’s always another mystery to get to the bottom of, and nobody is better at unravelling the intrigues of the everyday than Nancy Drew.
95. The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon
Like their counterpart Nancy Drew, Frank and Joe are teenage amateur detectives able to outwit even the most conniving criminals, and discover the truth in cases that left adults stumped. At this point, there are hundreds of The Hardy Boys mysteries to choose from, so there will never be a shortage of small-town intrigue.
96. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nobody “Bod” Owens is just like the rest of us. Except he lives in a graveyard. And was raised by ghosts. Equal parts haunting and hilarious, Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is an eerie exploration of mystery, murder, phantoms, and family.
97. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Munchkins, witches, flying monkeys, magic slippers: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has it all. Dorothy’s path along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, accompanied by her much-loved companions the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion, is a timeless journey of friendship and finding yourself far from home. It is, as the title suggests, absolutely wonderful.
98. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society is formed by four gifted children who are enlisted on a mission to investigate L.I.V.E. (Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened). These whip-smart kids struggle to solve the puzzle of L.I.V.E.’s true intentions, and their unveiling of secrets and government conspiracies makes for an intense and intelligent thriller.
99. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Lemony Snicket’s thirteen-part A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the woeful saga of the three orphaned Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, and Count Olaf’s evil machinations to get his hands on their family fortune. Each darkly comedic installment adds a new twist to the misery of the Baudelaires, and there’s nothing more unfortunate about the series than not reading it.
100. The War of the Worlds by H G Wells
In The War of the Worlds, Martians crash-land in the English countryside. Soon enough, they start zapping people with heat rays and battling the British army, and the country descends into chaos. Wells’ science fiction masterpiece is an exhilarating clash of worlds as the human species fights for its survival.
Looking for more books to spark children’s curiosity? Check out our list of 60 Best Fantasy Books for Kids!