Whether it’s read out loud by a parent, covertly read under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, or assigned as class reading — children’s books have the ability to capture imaginations, perhaps more than any other genre.From Max’s wild rumpus to Winnie’s reflections on true friendship; from Captain Nemo’s mysterious “sea monster” to the loveable March family: here are 125 of the best children’s books of all time, sorted into reading age groups.Wondering which children's book is the right one for you or your little one? Take our quiz to narrow it down in only 1 minute!From picture books to graphic novels, fantasy to family fun, these must-read books have the power to hook kids of any gender. Some are cultural touchstones that belong in every kid's library. Others open kids' minds to cultures beyond their own. And some are recent releases that have the timeless quality of classics -- the kind that get handed down to siblings and passed around classrooms. Whether you have a reluctant reader or a budding bookworm, consider these surefire, kid-tested titles.
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (ages 1-3)
Published 75 years ago by the same author who brought us Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny is a board book that talks about the fierce love that a mother has for her child — despite an expert game of hide-and-seek, in which the little bunny keeps running away from his mother. But his mother is never far behind, comfortingly reminding him: “If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”
The Mitten by Jan Brett (ages 1-3)
When Nichi drops a mitten one day during a walk in the woods, he has no idea who — or what — his mitten is going to end up hosting! First, a mole finds it and crawls into it. Then a rabbit, and so on and so forth, until a brown bear is trying to squeeze into this warm refuge. Gently humorous and lovingly illustrated, this retelling of a Ukrainian folktale will show you where to seek comfort on a cold winter day.
Press Here by Hervé Tullet (ages 1-4)
For any child who likes their reading hands-on, Press Here is an interactive children’s book they will enjoy. As its description says: simply press the yellow dot on its cover, follow the instructions within, and wait for the magic to unfold! While the dots multiply, change direction, or expand before your very eyes, you’ll find the very limits of imagination tested and your sense of fun broadened.
Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton (ages 1-4)
Sara Boynton is a popular American cartoonist due to her whimsical illustrations and uncanny sense of fun. And she packs it all into Snuggle Puppy!: a story about a mother dog telling her puppies how much she loves them. In short, it’s a beautiful and joyful love letter from parent to child that deserves to be read out loud.
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (ages 1-4)
Every child is special, and there’s no book around that will more splendidly convey that message to them than On the Night You Were Born. With magical spreads and touching rhymes, this debut picture book is a story that deserves to be read aloud, for it celebrates the most important person: you.
Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton (ages 1-4)
“Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance?” This cute board book from Sandra Boynton is sure to delight young children who love animals and dancing, and will be thrilled to see them combined in such a charming fashion. And if they like this book, then boy are they going to love our next entry...
Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton (ages 1-4)
Farmyard animals are definitely a mainstay of picture books for very young kids. After all, what tot doesn’t love learning all the noises that critters make? Watch out for the early twist when a trio of singing pigs forget what noise they’re supposed to make — and make sure your little one corrects their error!
The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood (ages 1-4)
Who naps in the napping house? A dog, a cat, a mouse, and a flea, of course. The rhyming narrative and dusky illustrations detail the slumberful happenings of a family — right up until the sun comes up and the household becomes decidedly more wakeful.
Corduroy by Don Freeman (ages 2-5)
Another anthropomorphic bear features in this adorable picture book. Corduroy the teddy lives in the toy section of a department store and wants nothing more than a child to take him home. Sadly, when Lisa meets Corduroy, her mother refuses to buy him because he is missing a button on his overalls. This sets Corduroy on an intrepid quest through the store to try and find his button, so that he might be worthy of Lisa and her love.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (ages 2-5)
Eric Carle’s signature textured, tissue-paper-based artwork bring this simple story about animals to life. With its bright splashes of color and easy-to-read text, Brown Bear is the perfect beginner book for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley (ages 2-5)
Big Green Monster may look scary with his yellow eyes, scraggly hair, and sharp teeth, but this book makes it clear that he’s nothing to be afraid of! After telling all the parts of the Big Green Monster to go away, kids will feel empowered to conquer the “monsters” under their own beds.
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (ages 2-5)
The best picture books are often the simplest. Llama Llama Red Pajama is about a young llama who’s put to bed, but misses his mother (Mama Llama), even though she’s just downstairs. With beautiful illustrations from the author (and a super-catchy rhyme scheme), Dewdney’s book is a steadfast favorite of parents everywhere.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems (ages 2-5)
One of the first in Mo Willems’ renowned series for young readers, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is essentially Fast and Furious for the preschool set. The titular Pigeon — who, as fans will know, is often up to no good — wants nothing more than to drive the bus… which the bus driver has expressly forbidden. It’s up to the reader to keep the pigeon from getting behind that wheel, no matter how much he begs and pleads.
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza (ages 2-5)
This sweet story of a little yellow bird searching for his mother (not to be confused with P.D. Eastman’s very similar tale) is sure to make you smile. Choco may not find a mother who looks like him, but he does find one to hug him, kiss him, dance with him, and — perhaps most importantly — give him the family he’s always wanted.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (ages 2-5)
Amazon describes this book as a trailblazer, not least for the first full-color picture book to feature a small hero of color! But that’s not the only reason that The Snowy Day should have a spot on all family bookshelves. The story follows young Peter, who heads out into the city to enjoy freshly fallen snow and all the wonder a white wonderland brings.
Doctor De Soto by William Steig (ages 4-7)
Doctor De Soto is a talented mouse dentist who always treats his patients with as much care as possible. But what happens when a fox arrives to get a bad tooth replaced — and, while under anaesthesia, admits that he loves to eat mice? Well, the good doctor and his wife are just going to have to “outfox the fox”... which they do by gluing his mouth clean shut!
Curious George by Margaret and H.A. Rey (ages 4-7)
The adventures of mischievous little monkey Curious George commence with this thrilling tale, originally published in 1941. George’s story begins in the jungles of Africa, where the Man in the Yellow Hat captures him in order to bring him to America. However, far from being scared, George is excited — and wastes no time exploring his new surroundings. From trying to fly with seagulls to being arrested for an accidental call to the fire department, George is constantly getting into scrapes! Luckily, the Man in the Yellow Hat is always there to bail him out.
I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand (ages 4-7)
A tribute to the insatiable curiosity of children, this classic picture book by Ann Rand (not to be confused with the author of The Fountainhead) is told from the perspective of a self-assured child (“I know when I look in the mirror what I see is me”). Published in 1954, I Know a Lot of Things boasts wonderful modernist illustrations from Paul Rand, a designer who created corporate logos for the likes of UPS and IBM.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (ages 4-7)
A brown bear is upset. He’s lost his red hat, and none of the animals in the woods knows where it is — that is, with one exception. This simple, charming, and hilarious picture book by Canadian illustrator Jon Klassen has quickly become a modern favorite, inspiring a number of hat-based follow-ups and even a stage play at London’s National Theatre.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko (ages 4-7)
Numbers don’t lie, and the truth is that this beloved childhood (and feminist) classic has unsurprisingly sold over five million copies since it was published in 1999. Putting a twist on the common fantasy trope wherein a prince saves a princess from a dragon, The Paperbag Princess sees Princess Elizabeth taking justice into her own hands after a dragon destroys her castle and steals her fiancé, Prince Ronald. With all of her belongings in cinders, she dons a paper bag dress and sets out the outwit the dragon. And then comes the next twist… but you’ll have to read the book to discover it for yourself.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (ages 4-7)
Is there anything more magical than childhood Christmas Eve nights, half-spent trying to sleep so that Christmas morning comes quicker — and the other half spent trying to stay awake to get a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer? But the issue for the young boy in this story is that he’s not sure whether he believes anymore in Santa. Luckily, there’s a steam engine horn slowly growing louder, and the Polar Express is approaching to take him on a wintery journey to the North Pole.
The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler and David Lee Csicsko (ages 4-8)
The skin you have fun in;
the skin that you run in;
the skin that you hop,
skip and jump in the sun in…
With nursery rhyme cadence and vibrant illustrations, The Skin You Live In truly aims to encourage acceptance of all different types of skin — all the while emphasizing that we are more than our skin.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean (ages 4-8)
The book that kicked off the bestselling Pete the Cat series, I Love My White Shoes follows the eponymous character as he walks around wearing a brand-new pair of white shoes. But the forces of nature (including a pile of strawberries and blueberries) have other ideas for him, and his shoes gradually change from white to red to brown! But it’s all groovy, because Pete the Cat doesn’t let many things get him down in this fun series that all children will love.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Garth Williams (ages 8-12)
A sweet piglet named Wilbur and a clever spider named Charlotte become close friends in this deftly written novel from E.B. White. As little Wilbur grows and wonders what will become of him, Charlotte hatches a plan to save him from the grim fate of the slaughterhouse: she will write messages in her web to convince people that Wilbur is special. A beloved tale of true friendship, Charlotte’s Web remains a bestselling children’s books more than 60 years after its publication.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (ages 8-12)
Perhaps the most famous children’s book of all time is more than just everyone’s go-to graduation gift! Full of the staples of Dr. Seuss’s works, it’s indeed the ideal pep talk for people of all ages. You’ll find yourself coming for the iconic rhymes and whimsical illustrations, but staying for the deep wisdom that Dr. Seuss imparts. (Not to mention it features one of the most-repeated quotes of all: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”)
Stuart Little by E.B. White and Garth Williams (ages 8-12)
Before Charlotte’s Web came Stuart Little. E.B. White, the award-winning author of both novels, described the inspiration for Stuart Little thusly: "Many years ago I went to bed one night in a railway sleeping car, and during the night I dreamed about a tiny boy who acted rather like a rat. That's how the story of Stuart Little got started.”He went on to create just that: the story of a child who looks like a mouse and must face the world of humans like so. With its iconic illustrations by Garth Williams, Stuart Little is a reminder that size means nothing when you’ve got the determination of a lion.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (ages 8+)
Peter Hatcher doesn’t have it easy. He’s in the fourth grade, which is hard enough, and he has a horrendous 2.5-year-old brother named Fudge. Fudge bites, screams, and throws tantrums — but things really come to a head when he one day swallows Peter’s pet turtle. Now, Peter may be a fourth grade nothing, but he’s simply had enough! Written by Judy Blume, one of the best children’s book authors around, this bestseller is a favorite for its message about family and the lessons learned during the transition from childhood to adolescence.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (ages 8-12)
Meet Pippi Longstocking (full name: Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking). As her name suggests, she's no ordinary girl. Since she was first introduced to readers in 1945, her playfulness, unconventional attitude, tenacity, and supernatural strength has made her a hero to children around the world. Pippi's adventures have now been translated into 76 languages — and they’re all worth reading. (The books that is, not the translations. That would be a lot of work).
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (ages 8+)
The beloved Ramona series was actually born of Beverly Cleary’s previous Henry Huggins series, where Beezus was one of Henry’s friends and Ramona was only the annoying younger sister (you know the type). But it turned out that Ramona Quimby had too much of a personality. Clearly herself said, “I wrote in “Ramona,” made a few references to her, gave her one brief scene, and felt that was the end of her. Little did I dream, to utilize a trite expression from books of my adolescence, that she would assume control books of her own.”This series, which begins with Beezus and Ramona, is her time to shine. With humor, spunk, complexity, and plenty of attitude, Ramona Quimby navigates first to fourth grade. It’s a fun-filled world from Ramona’s point of view (even though it admittedly has a lot of grown-ups), and you can depend on Cleary, one of the most decorated children’s authors of all time, to give all of it her expert touch.
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (ages 8+)
The first installment of the much-loved Paddington books, A Bear Called Paddington traces the origins of the eponymous character. Left on a London train platform with a note that reads “Please look after this bear,” Paddington is discovered and adopted by the well-to-do Brown family. And while having a bear in the house certainly presents, shall we say, unique challenges, the Browns are always there to help Paddington out of trouble.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (ages 8+)
This heart-wrenching tale of imagination, friendship, and loss has been a staple of children’s literature for over 40 years. It begins with Jess Aarons, a fifth-grade athlete, getting beaten in a footrace by new girl Leslie Burke. After his jealousy subsides, he realizes how much he and Leslie have in common, and they become friends — eventually creating the magical, imaginary kingdom of Terabithia in the woods. But when tragedy strikes, Jess must grapple with his grief alone… and try to preserve Terabithia, even when it seems impossible to stay hopeful.
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