The 100 Best Children's Books of All Time

We’re living in a golden age of young-adult literature, when books ostensibly written for teens are equally adored by readers of every generation. In the likes of Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, they’ve produced characters and conceits that have become the currency of our pop-culture discourse—and inspired some of our best writers to contribute to the genre. To honor the best books for young adults and children, TIME compiled this survey in consultation with respected peers such as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt, children’s-book historian Leonard Marcus, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, the Every Child a Reader literacy foundation and 10 independent booksellers. With their help, we’ve created two all-time lists of classics: 100 Best Young-Adult Books and 100 Best Children’s Books. Vote for your favorite in the poll below.

See 17 authors’ favorite books for young readers .

Read about how author Meg Wolitzer was inspired by Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar .

It’s your turn:

By the editors of TIME, with reporting by Daniel D’Addario, Giri Nathan and Noah Rayman.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Kenn Nesbitt’s name.

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top 10 children's books

UK Top 10 Children's books

Direct from trade sales this is the Official UK Top 10 best-selling books for the week ending 24th November 2023

Book Cover for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer (Book 18) by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer (Book 18)

Jeff Kinney

£13.49 £14.99

Book Cover for The Blunders by David Walliams

The Blunders

David Walliams

Book Cover for Beano Annual 2024 by D C Thomson

Beano Annual 2024

D C Thomson

£10.79 £11.99

Book Cover for A Christmasaurus Carol by Tom Fletcher

A Christmasaurus Carol

Tom Fletcher

Book Cover for Match Annual 2024 by MATCH!

Match Annual 2024

£8.99 £9.99

Book Cover for The Dinosaur that Pooped a Reindeer! by Tom Fletcher, Dougie Poynter

The Dinosaur that Pooped a Reindeer!

Tom Fletcher and 1 more

£7.19 £7.99

Book Cover for With You Every Step by Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield

With You Every Step

Rob Burrow and 1 more

£9.00 £10.00

Book Cover for We're Going on a Sleigh Ride  by Martha Mumford

We're Going on a Sleigh Ride

Martha Mumford

Book Cover for Pokemon Annual 2024 by Pokémon, Farshore

Pokemon Annual 2024

Pokémon and 1 more

Temporarily Out Of Stock

Book Cover for The Baddies by Julia Donaldson

The Baddies

Julia Donaldson

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The 100 greatest children’s books of all time, according to the BBC

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Where The Wild Things Are has been named the greatest children’s book of all time, according to a poll by the BBC .

Voted for by children’s authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, academics, librarians, writers and readers from across the world, the top 100 were unveiled on Tuesday (23 May) afternoon.

Maurice Sendak ’s 1963 adventure took the top spot in BBC Culture ’s list, with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , Pippi Longstocking , The Little Prince and The Hobbit making up the top five.

Respondents were able to choose from more than 1000 different books, with each picking and ranking their 10 favourite children’s books. More than a fifth of respondents included Where The Wild Things Are in their top 10, with seven per cent choosing it as their top-ranked book.

Notable authors CS Lewis and Roald Dahl featured in the top 10, with JK Rowling placing in 13th for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone .

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top 10 children's books

The Best Books of 2022

This Year's Must-Reads


The ten best children’s books of 2022.

This year’s top titles include a fairy-tale remake, a clever counting book and a survey of architectural wonders the world over

Megan Gambino

Megan Gambino

Senior Editor


My two young girls, ages 5 and 8, are sponges when it comes to mind-blowing facts. They just love to be enveloped in new worlds, and I love nothing more than to see the looks on their faces when they are absorbing new information. In my 15 years at Smithsonian , I’ve learned my own share of incredible tidbits that piqued the curiosity of my kids, or really anyone with their sense of wonder about the world. Like that less time separates us from Tyrannosaurus rex than separated T. rex from Stegosaurus . (Thanks to our dinosaur correspondent Riley Black for that one.) Or, for the history-minded reader, that Cleopatra’s reign is closer to today than it is to when the Great Pyramids were built.

When I tell them these facts, and so many more, I can see their wheels spinning. My youngest is on the cusp of learning to read—a super exciting milestone, but I have some fear creeping in that soon they will no longer want me to read books aloud. I never want that day to come.

The children’s books I’ve selected as this year’s best are full of fun facts about everything from architecture to animal behavior. Most important, though, their authors and illustrators seem to get how kids’ minds work: They are always hungry to learn more, especially when they are being entertained.

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall

In 2018, author-illustrator Sophie Blackall and her husband, playwright Ed Schmidt, bought a 21-acre abandoned dairy farm in New York’s Catskills and turned the property into Milkwood , a pastoral retreat for children’s book writers and illustrators. Doing so required leveling a dilapidated 19th-century farmhouse on the site, so to first honor the building, Blackall researched the home’s history. A family of 14, with descendants still in the area, had lived there during the Great Depression. So many artifacts of their lives—wallpaper, curtains, schoolbooks, handmade dresses—still rested in the farmhouse. Blackall salvaged them, using bits and pieces to illustrate in collage form her new book, Farmhouse . It was her hope to “make the experience of reading this book feel as close as possible to the experience of being in the farmhouse,” the author shares in an interview . Page by page, readers peer into the house, seeing and hearing about the growing-up and mischief that happened inside its walls, as if they are looking into a dollhouse.

The book’s backstory and craftsmanship shine more so than the text, which reads in one long sentence. Apparently, Blackall composed it on a long drive, memorizing each phrase until she arrived at her destination hours away and recorded it on her phone. “I like the idea that I can say to a kid, do you want to hear a story? It’s only one sentence long,” she says in the interview. But for me, the rolling sentence mimics the way that life moves gently on. (Recommended ages: 3+)

Preview thumbnail for 'Farmhouse

Step inside the dollhouse-like interior of Farmhouse and relish in the daily life of the family that lives there, rendered in impeccable, thrilling detail.

Bedtime for Bo by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold

Goodnight books are a category in and of their own, and Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold’s Bedtime for Bo tops my favorites for this year. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum puts it best in her review in the New York Times : “This book offers a master class in how to shepherd a rambunctious child to bed with patience, creativity and good humor.”

Originally published in Norway and translated into English by Kari Dickson, the story follows Bo’s mom, patient as a saint, as she joins in her son’s imaginary play. ( Maybe some of that patience will rub off in the reading? ) She uses Bo’s stall tactics—pretending to be a parrot, a bear, a walrus and a giraffe—to teach him about animal behavior, while keeping him moving through the bedtime march of bathing, brushing his teeth and getting tucked into bed. Mari Kanstad Johnsen’s illustrations, which earned the New York Times /New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award, have a chaotic feel to them that matches the messiness of the scene and of life with young kids in general. Thanks for keeping it real, Johnsen, with the loose laundry, cluttered surfaces and spider webs.

Meghan Cox Gurdon at the Wall Street Journal thinks Bedtime for Bo is “as much fun to imitate as it is to read.” Bynum is hopeful it will help the nighttime routine, too. “Imagine it,” she writes, “Bedtime as not a battle but a madcap collaboration!” (Recommended ages: 3 to 6)

Preview thumbnail for 'Bedtime for Bo

Bedtime for Bo

Stretch like a giraffe and snuggle like a meerkat with Bo and Mommy as they get ready for bed!

Chester van Chime Who Forgot How to Rhyme by Avery Monsen

Poor Chester van Chime is a welcome playmate to my kindergartener who is learning to rhyme. Author Avery Monsen introduces the protagonist and his problem in the book’s first couplet: “There once was a youngster named Chester van Chime, who woke up one day and forgot how to rhyme.” By the second couplet, though, everything goes awry. “It baffled poor Chester. He felt almost queasy. To match up two sounds, it was always so…” Monsen writes, “…simple for him.” Failed rhyme after failed rhyme will have kids finishing the painfully obvious sentences in what BookPage declares “a guaranteed good time.” Publisher’s Weekly notes that “what starts out as a book about wordplay turns into an inventive and giggly antidote for the bad-day blues.”

Be sure to spend some extra time with each page, because the illustrations by Abby Hanlon are filled with slugs on rugs, a fox in socks and other rhyming pairs. (Recommended ages: 4 to 6)

Preview thumbnail for 'Chester van Chime Who Forgot How to Rhyme

Chester van Chime Who Forgot How to Rhyme

From the coauthor of the smash hit All My Friends Are Dead and the creator of the beloved Dory Fantasmagory chapter book series comes a hilarious read aloud about a boy who loses his gift for rhyme.

Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night by Julia Kuo

In 2009, I had the privilege of tagging along with Smithsonian biologist Nancy Knowlton as she studied coral reefs off the coast of Bocas del Toro, Panama. There, I witnessed bioluminescence—the first I had seen outside of fireflies—in the form of dinoflagellates, one-celled organisms that light up when agitated in the water. I’d love for my two girls to have such a jaw-dropping experience, but until then, I’ll be reading them Julia Kuo’s Luminous .

The author-illustrator invites readers on an adventure through forests, caves and the deep sea to discover all sorts of creatures—fungi, glowworms, dragonfish, squid and more—that make their own light thanks to chemical reactions in their bodies. The blues and oranges pop on the book’s black pages in a spectacular approximation of what bioluminescence actually looks like. Two layers of text give the reader options, but I wouldn’t opt for just the poetic through line. The additional paragraphs expounding on the plants and animals are too interesting to miss. Did you know that crown jellyfish produce a “burglar alarm” of light when attacked, or that eating a piddock clam can make your hands and mouth glow? (Recommended ages: 4 to 8)

Preview thumbnail for 'Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night

Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night

From acclaimed author-illustrator Julia Kuo comes a remarkable picture book about bioluminescence, the light made from living things, and its many forms.

Uncle John’s City Garden by Bernette G. Ford

Late author and publishing executive Bernette G. Ford spent her career championing stories with characters of color written and illustrated by people of color. She is best known for Bright Eyes, Brown Skin , which she co-wrote with Cheryl Willis Hudson and which her husband, George Ford, illustrated in 1990. “Bernette’s firm yet gentle editorial touch with the text was brilliant in expressing the pulse of what’s now called Black joy in kidlit,” Hudson told the New York Times in July 2021 after Ford died from lung cancer.

Lucky for us, this year, Holiday House published Ford’s last book, Uncle John’s City Garden , posthumously. In her author’s note, Ford describes the treasure of a book as “an ‘almost’ true story.” That’s because her own Uncle John, like the book’s character, tended an empty lot in Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood in the 1950s. Her book’s narrator may spend the summer with her uncle in the garden, but Ford never did, she writes: “I wished I could have, and now, in this story, I have.”

The perspective that Li’l Sissy, the narrator, offers is relatable to kids. She’s constantly sizing things up—her family members, shovels, the growing plants, and tables at a family barbeque—against herself and other tangible objects. “One of the tomatoes was so big I needed two hands to hold it,” writes Ford, while Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison illustrates the page with the little girl, eyes bigger than her stomach, staring at the outsized fruit. Ford also has a knack for making something that may seem so big and impossible to a child, like building a community garden, possible, by breaking it down into clear, simple steps. She includes a recipe for succotash at the back of the book that may inspire readers to take up gardening themselves, though she uses frozen and canned vegetables to keep things simple.

Kirkus Reviews calls Uncle John’s City Garden “a simple, lovely story about the power of blooming where you are planted.” (Recommended ages: 4 to 8)

Preview thumbnail for 'Uncle John's City Garden

Uncle John's City Garden

How does this city garden grow? With help from L’il Sissy and her siblings—and love, love, love! A celebration of nature, family, and food.

Berry Song by Michaela Goade

Just as her grandmother did when they picked berries together in Sheet’ká, Alaska, author-illustrator Michaela Goade (the first Native American to win a Caldecott Medal) imparts important lessons of her Tlingit culture to readers in her new book, Berry Song . In the story, a grandmother goes berry picking in the forest with her granddaughter, all the while singing “Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry. Huckleberry, Soapberry, Strawberry, Crowberry,” to let “berry—and bear—know we are here.” While the refrain calls to mind Bruce Degen’s classic Jamberry , the message of Berry Song hits much deeper. Goade shows how the Tlingit people speak to the land, care for the land and are part of the land. To the land, which gives so much in return, the story’s characters say gunalchéesh , or “thank you” in the Tlingit language. The book’s endpapers are illustrated with berries labeled in both English and Tlingit—highbush cranberry ( kaxwéix ), lingonberry ( dáxw ), black currant ( kaneilts’ákw ) and more.

In my family, berry picking is a near-sacred ritual, but hopefully others will find Goade’s book as moving as it was for me. (Recommended ages: 4 to 8)

Preview thumbnail for 'Berry Song (Caldecott Honor Book)

Berry Song (Caldecott Honor Book)

Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade's first self-authored picture book is a gorgeous celebration of the land she knows well and the powerful wisdom of elders.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett

Author Mac Barnett takes on the fairy tale, first collected in Norway in 1841, of The Three Billy Goats Gruff . The basic plot likely rings familiar: Three billy goats, often described as brothers, need to cross a bridge, under which lives a hungry troll, to get to a meadow with grass for grazing. The smallest goat convinces the mean troll to wait for his bigger brother to cross, and that one, in turn, persuades him to hold out for the biggest of the three, only for that biggest one to defeat the adversary. Barnett’s version largely sticks to the script, only it’s full of “amusing verbal play,” as Kirkus Reviews puts it, that will have readers “hamming it up.” What provides the most entertainment is the troll’s “unexpected gastronomic sophistication,” explains Publisher’s Weekly . “I love goat! Let me count the ways! Goat Benedict with hollandaise. Goat jerky, jerk goat, curried goat. Goat gravy in a silver boat. A goat flambé with candied yams. A goat clambake, with goat, not clams! On goat I’ll dine, on goat I’ll sup. You little goat, I’ll eat you up!’” the troll rhymes. Kids in your life with thank you for adding this fresh fairy-tale remake to their shelves. And Barnett promises it’s the first in a series. He’s got my attention. (Recommended ages: 4 to 8)

Preview thumbnail for 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

A brilliantly crafted, hilarious twist on this beloved classic, The Three Billy Goats Gruff , from renowned, award-winning, and New York Times bestselling duo and picture book pioneers Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen!

Octopuses Have Zero Bones: A Counting Book About Our Amazing World by Anne Richardson

During Covid-19 lockdowns in the spring of 2020, Anne Richardson and her two kids obsessed over numbers. “How many seeds are in an apple, how small are hummingbird eggs, and how many miles away is Saturn?” she writes in her author’s note. They counted and measured, until Richardson realized she had enough facts and figures to fill her debut children’s book, Octopuses Have Zero Bones . With degrees in art history and environmental studies, the senior staffer at San Francisco’s Exploratorium was perfectly suited to deliver an artful romp through math and science. The book works its way from zero to nine, providing three facts for each number. With each number also comes a power of 10 (1 and 10, 2 and 200, 3 and 3,000), with three bonus facts about it.

Kids stump the best of us with their questions, but Richardson’s clever counting book is prepared for the most inquisitive readers, bringing answers to fresh questions they may not even have thought to ask. Like, how fast does a black bear’s heart beat? The answer: 3,000 times every hour during much of the year. (Recommended ages: 6 to 9)

Preview thumbnail for 'Octopuses Have Zero Bones: A Counting Book About Our Amazing World

Octopuses Have Zero Bones: A Counting Book About Our Amazing World

An unconventional, engaging, and delightful counting book for curious minds that playfully uses numbers as an entry-point to discover the amazing, diverse, fact-filled world of wonders all around us.

How Was That Built? The Stories Behind Awesome Structures by Roma Agrawal

Structural engineer Roma Agrawal wrote Built for adults in 2018, and now, four years later, she’s adapted that same concept, explaining how the world’s greatest architectural wonders were made to a younger audience. In her new release, How Was That Built? , she examines the ingenuity behind structures the world over—from the Shard in London, which she helped design, to the Pantheon in Rome, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Halley VI Research Station in Antarctica.

I like a big book that allows me to make a short selection to read at bedtime, and this one has so many entry points. How Was That Built? contains illustrations of skyscrapers, cathedrals, bridges, dams and more, all annotated with fun factoids. Agrawal also spotlights innovators and provides “Try It at Home” experiments that demonstrate the forces that act on built structures. The book is perfect for Lego-obsessed fort builders in your life who spent their toddler years hovering near construction sites. Agrawal would also encourage you to give it to a child who hasn’t yet shown much interest in math and science, though. The Indian British American engineer has made it her mission to open doors for marginalized communities, specifically girls and women of color, who may not consider engineering for a career. (Recommended ages: 6 to 9)

Preview thumbnail for 'How Was That Built?: The Stories Behind Awesome Structures

How Was That Built?: The Stories Behind Awesome Structures

This striking book explains the feats of engineering behind the world's most impressive architectural marvels.

Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists’ Breakneck Race Around the World by Kate Hannigan

At Smithsonian , it is part of our mission to tell the stories of hidden figures in American history, and so I would be remiss to not include a picture book biography on this list. Kate Hannigan’s Nellie vs. Elizabeth stands out of this year’s bunch. Rather than a dry, dense read, as many in the subgenre sadly are, this book is “swiftly paced,” as Publisher’s Weekly puts it, as it follows on the heels of rival reporters Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland in their 1889-1890 race to circumnavigate the globe in opposite directions. The book was released just in time for the 150th anniversary of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days —a record the two intrepid travelers were dead set on beating. Hannigan’s background in newspaper journalism—her résumé includes stints at the Dallas Morning News and San Francisco Chronicle —shows, as she weaves in quotes from Bly and Bisland and reportage of the competition from 15 different publications. (Recommended ages: 7 to 10)

Preview thumbnail for 'Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists' Breakneck Race around the World

Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists' Breakneck Race around the World

In this real-life adventure, daredevil and groundbreaking journalists Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland race against each other–and the clock–as they circle the globe by ship, train, and foot.

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A Note to our Readers Smithsonian magazine participates in affiliate link advertising programs. If you purchase an item through these links, we receive a commission.

Megan Gambino

Megan Gambino | | READ MORE

Megan Gambino is a senior web editor for Smithsonian magazine.

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26 Famous Children’s Books Every Kid Should Read

Share these must-have picture books with your students for a dose of nostalgia they are sure to enjoy!

Examples of famous childrens books: Jumanji and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

What makes children’s books famous is probably less about the awards they win and more about how many times children want to read them. The classic books on this list include some older and long-loved favorites as well as many newer entries that can now be considered must-reads for the younger set. There may be some famous children’s books we missed, so please share in the comments the classics in your collection!

(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)

Our Favorite Famous Children’s Books

1. the snowy day by ezra jack keats.

Cover of The Snowy Day Board Book- famous children's books

Keats’ Caldecott Medal–winning book depicts the adventure and wonder of a young boy who steps out into a city made new by a blanket of snow. Readers will be unable to resist its tender magic.

Buy it: The Snowy Day on Amazon

2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

Cover of Goodnight Moon

It’s likely no surprise to find this children’s classic listed here. Brown channels the simple joy of a child’s bedtime routine in a story that’s as much a quiet meditation as it is the perfect nighttime read.

Buy it: Goodnight Moon on Amazon

3. Busy, Busy Town by Richard Scarry

Cover of Busy Busy Town by Richard Scarry, as an example of famous children's books

The clever creatures of Scarry’s Busy Town—from Huckle the Cat to Lowly Worm—and the myriad details he includes in every illustration make Busy Town a place that keeps kids … well, busy, as they discover something new in every scene.

Buy it: Busy, Busy Town on Amazon

4. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg- famous children's books

Kids hooked on the latest Jumanji movies might be unaware that the adventures on screen began with a Caldecott Medal–winning—and delightful—picture book.

Buy it: Jumanji on Amazon

5. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, as an example of famous children's books

Sweetly funny and often quite moving, Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories appeal as they follow friends enjoying the pleasures of each other’s company.

Buy it: Frog and Toad Are Friends on Amazon

6. Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Rosenthal leverages children’s ultimate question—what if they got to do whatever they’d like for a day?—in this more recent kids’ classic book.

Buy it: Yes Day! on Amazon

7. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen- famous children's books

Klassen is one of picture books’ most well-known names, partly thanks to this excellent story. Though the simple story of a bear in search of his hat, it incorporates a sly twist at the end.

Buy it: I Want My Hat Back on Amazon

8. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Cover of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Santat’s Caldecott Medal–winning story of an imaginary friend awaiting his person and the journey he takes to find that person is both funny and thought-provoking.

Buy it: The Adventures of Beekle on Amazon

9. Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni

Cover of Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni

This book, about a real mouse who wishes he could be loved like the household toy version of him is, offers a gentle lesson in honoring our true selves. Lionni’s unique collage artwork makes this a special volume.

Buy it: Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse on Amazon

10. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Cover of Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena- famous children's books

CJ and his grandma’s bus ride is more than a journey to a destination but also an education in appreciating the beauties woven throughout everyday life.

Buy it: Last Stop on Market Street on Amazon

11. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Cover of Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Award-winning author and artist Ringgold’s most well-known picture book blends fiction, autobiography, and Black history in a story about a young girl whose dream to go wherever her fancy takes her comes true for a night. She’s lifted from the tarred rooftop of her apartment building to see the world around her.

Buy it: Tar Beach on Amazon

12. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Cover of The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

What goes on in the community of a crayon box? The crayons let kids know in this whimsical and thoughtful epistolary picture book in which each color drafts a letter of its grievances to their owner, young Duncan.

Buy it: The Day the Crayons Quit on Amazon

13. Press Here by Hervé Tullet

Cover of Press Here by Herve Tullet- famous children's books

Tullet’s clever picture book launched a trend toward interactive page turns. As kids flip through this set of colorful instructions, they’re asked to smush, poke, press, and shake the book that is as much an inspiration to play as it is a call to read.

Buy it: Press Here on Amazon

14. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin

Cover of The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone- famous children's books

This Little Golden Book has become a mainstay in toddler libraries for its ingenuity and its suspense. As kids read, Sesame Street pal Grover begs kids not to turn the page lest they encounter a monster—but who can resist the temptation to see what (or who?) awaits at the very end?

Buy it: The Monster at the End of This Book on Amazon

15. Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask To Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

Cover of Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko

Picture books that pose a great question are must-haves, and this one has a hilarious premise that’s brilliantly executed. When Snappsy the Alligator wants to have a run-of-the-mill alligator day, an annoying narrator intrudes, suggesting he spice things up a bit.

Buy it: Snappsy the Alligator on Amazon

16. Instructions by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess

Cover of Instructions by Neil Gaiman- famous children's books

With allusions to fairy tales and fables, this lyrical picture book from fantasy author Gaiman is the perfect bedtime read.

Buy it: Instructions on Amazon

17. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Cover of In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Though Sendak’s best-known book is the also-classic Where the Wild Things Are , this fantastical adventure about a boy whose dreams take him to a magical and oddball kitchen of bakers taps into childhood flights of fancy.

Buy it: In the Night Kitchen on Amazon

18. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Cover of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Willems’ characters, from Knufflebunny to Elephant and Piggie, are extremely well-known in kid circles, but the pigeon is perhaps the most like a child himself. Sometimes stubborn, often curious, always hilarious, this Pigeon tome is a must-have.

Buy it: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus on Amazon

19. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

Cover of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff- famous children's books

Numeroff’s mouse asks for a cookie, but its sweet tooth sets off a chain of events that feel like spending the day with an idea-filled kid, and that’s exactly why this book and its companion volumes have endured.

Buy it: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie on Amazon

20. The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle

Cover of The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle

Everyone knows Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and they are certainly among some of the most famous children’s books out there. The prolific children’s author-illustrator created an array of characters, each of them memorable. The quiet cricket, who can’t make a sound as he meets other insects, is one of the best. The book also makes chirping sounds that the littlest readers love.

Buy it: The Very Quiet Cricket on Amazon

21. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Aesop’s fables are an enduring childhood mainstay. Multi-award–winning artist Pinkney has adapted many of them in glorious picture-book form, and his gorgeous take on the tale of a lion and a mouse who learn that a kindness-first approach has deep value is one of his best.

Buy it: The Lion and the Mouse on Amazon

22. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Cover of Stuck by Oliver Jeffers- famous children's books

Some of the best famous children’s books take absurdity very seriously and Jeffers’ book—about a boy who tries to get his kite out of a tree by throwing a series of increasingly strange objects into the same tree (also getting them stuck)—will prompt gales of laughter.

Buy it: Stuck on Amazon

23. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

Cover of Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

Dogs and cars, what more could kids want? Using only 75 different words, this energetic picture book captures toddlers’ interest before they’re ready to read, and then transitions to be the perfect beginning reader book when kids enter school.

Buy it: Go, Dog. Go! on Amazon

24. The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Cover of The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, by Mac Barnett

This winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award is another relatively new entry for this list, but it will no doubt remain on lists for years to come. When a duck and a mouse are swallowed by a wolf, they decide to make a home in his belly.

Buy it: The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse on Amazon

25. Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Cover of St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges- famous children's books

Hodges’ retelling of a segment from Spenser’s The Faerie Queen , in which St. George slays the dragon that’s been terrorizing the land, has all the elements of fairy tales kids crave. And as Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Buy it: Saint George and the Dragon on Amazon

26. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz

Cover of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day by Judith Viorst- famous children's books

While many children’s books tend toward the upbeat and sunny, the reality of being a child is that some days really do not go your way. Viorst understood this, and that’s why her Alexander and his litany of things-gone-wrong remains such a kid favorite.

Buy it: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Amazon

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Plus, check out our  list of personalized books for children , you might also like.

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top 10 children's books


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