100 Children’s Books I Think You Should Read

After this top 100 list from USA Today was brought to my attention by a friend and fellow writer, we complained together about its glaring omissions. It’s not a bad list but it’s missing so many obviously wonderful children’s books I suspect it’s sponsored by a certain publisher or bookseller. Thus I was inspired to create my own top 100 list. Obviously such a list, by definition, is incredibly subjective. I stuck to children’s books that I have actually read and enjoyed, books that shaped my own childhood and how I read and think now. If I mention any books in a series you can assume that I recommend the whole series (for example, I only mention Peter Rabbit but anything by Beatrix Potter belongs on this list). I tried to think in terms of ages 4 to 12ish and so some great books were cut from my original list as being too advanced (The Outsiders and To Kill a Mockingbird are examples). Some classics I deliberately left out. See if you can spot them. Let me know what you think I missed. Like I said, there’s nothing on this list that I haven’t read myself so no doubt there are more great books out there that I don’t know of. Tell me about them!

A section of the "Children's Shelf" in my little library

Oh, and I’m terrible at ranking things so this list is alphabetical.

1. Ace – Dick King-Smith

2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Judith Viorst

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

5. Amelia Bedelia – Peggy Parish

6. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

7. A Bear Called Paddington – Michael Bond

8. Beezus and Ramona – Beverly Cleary

9. Big Bad Bruce – Bill Peet

10. Blueberries for Sal – Robert McCloskey

11. The Borrowers – Mary Norton

12. The Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson

13. Bunnicula – James Howe

14. The Caboose Who Got Loose – Bill Peet

15. Caps for Sale – Esphyr Slobodkina

16. The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss

17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

18. Charlotte’s Web – E.B.White

19. Chicken Soup with Rice – Maurice Sendak

20. A Child’s Garden of Verses – Robert Louis Stevenson

21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming

22. The Chronicle of Narnia – C.S. Lewis

23. Chrysanthemum – Kevin Henkes

24. Corduroy – Don Freeman

25. The Cricket in Times Square – George Selden

26. Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl

27. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems

28. The Eleventh Hour – Graeme Base

29. Eloise – Kay Thompson

30. Emily of New Moon – L.M. Montgomery

31. Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl

32. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – Margaret Sidney

33. Frog and Toad are Friends – Arnold Lobel

34. From the Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  – E.L. Konigsburg

35. The Gammage Cup – Carol Kendall

36. The Giver – Lois Lowry

37. The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein

38. The Happy Prince – Oscar Wilde

39. Harold and the Purple Crayon – Crockett Johnson

40. Harry the Dirty Dog – Gene Zion

41. Henry Huggins – Beverly Cleary

42. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

43. A Hole is to Dig – Ruth Krauss

44. The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne

45. In a People House – Theo LeSieg

46. The Incredibly Journey – Sheila Burnford

47. Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell

48. The Jolly Postman – Janet & Allan Ahlberg

49. Jonathan Cleaned Up – Then He Heard a Sound – Robert Munsch

50. Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling

51. Little Bear – Else Minarik

52. The Little Engine That Could – Watty Piper

53. The Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder

54. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

55. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

56. Love You Forever – Robert Munsch

57. Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey

58. Mary Poppins – P.L. Travers

59. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood – Howard Pyle

60. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel -Virginia Lee Burton

61. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh – Robert C. O’Brien

62. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle – Betty MacDonald

63. Nate the Great – Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

64. Olivia – Ian Falconer

65. One Hundred and One Dalmations – Dodie Smith

66. The Paper Bag Princess – Robert Munsch

67. Peepo – Janet & Allan Ahlberg

68. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster

69. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren

70. The Princess and the Goblin – George MacDonald

71. Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister

72. Red is Best – Kathy Stinson

73. The Red Tree – Shaun Tan

74. Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever – Richard Scarry

75. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Mildred Taylor

76. Roverandom – J.R.R. Tolkien

77. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

78. The Secret World of Og – Pierre Berton

79. Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Louis Sachar

80. The Sky is Falling – Kit Pearson

81. The Snowman – Raymond Briggs

82. The Stinky Cheese Man – Jon Scieszka

83. The Story About Ping – Marjorie Flack

84. The Story of Babar – Jean de Brunhoff

85. The Story of Doctor Doolittle – Hugh Lofting

86. The Story of Ferdinand – Munro Leaf

87. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – William Steig

88. The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

89. Tikki Tikki Tembo – Arlene Mosel

90. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

91. The Trumpet of the Swan – E.B. White

92. The Twits – Roald Dahl

93. The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams

94. Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

95. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

96. Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak

97. The Whingdingdilly – Bill Peet

98. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

99. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

100. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

A few of the above mentioned titles that I own.

My initial list exceeded 100 so let us take a moment of silence, please, for the books I had to cut.

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien, The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman, The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight, Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Dogger by Shirley Hughes, The Berenstain Bears by Stan & Jan Berenstain, and Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag.

They are all great books too and worth reading but in the end I had to go with the books that have lasted the longest and left deep impressions in my life.

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10 thoughts on “100 Children’s Books I Think You Should Read

  1. Great list! I haven’t read everything on there, but I’ve read a lot of it. My collection is definitely going to swell in the “children’s” section over the next several years, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll check this list when I next look to expand my selection. 🙂

  2. This list is awesome. If I had to choose a stack of a hundred children’s book from a number of clever friends, I’d say your huge would be the one I’d read. And be happy. I like some of your bold cuts too. Huck Finn? Ooh, you’ve got guts and I love that because you knew it didn’t make it FOR YOU. Well, well done Karissa.

    And here’s betting those books in the picture are some pretty sweet earlier editions. Nice dustjackets. If only you knew somebody who knew how much they were worth! Actually we both know they are just awesome and probably not, never for sale because you are a book junkie. Get some help.

    Oh and I’ve been reading your blog and loving it. Why haven’t I posted yet? Lazy. But it is awesome. Amy’s been reading it too. She also loves it.

    • This made me laugh because you’ve labelled me so well as a book junkie. I like having the same copies of kids books that I read when I was a kid, the same illustrations, the same jackets. I know you could put together a pretty sweet list too, Ben; I think mine is lacking a little in books published since I left elementary school. Putting this list together did make me more sympathetic toward the USA Today list. 100 titles is not really that many and I think 100 people would have 100 different lists.
      Thanks for reading and hi to Amy and Gracie!

  3. Nice list! I actually made my own last night too, because I couldn’t concentrate on my homework without righting the wrongs in the book list world. I’d like to post it somewhere, but it’s too long and I don’t have a fancy blog. A couple of my faves that you didn’t include (but I totally get that your list is YOUR picks, and I know I’ve left out a few classics on mine too cause they weren’t important to me):
    Zoom Away
    Dr. DeSoto (but Sylvester’s almost as good)
    Strega Nona (I’ll fight you to have this one included)
    Dogger (but we can still be friends even though you cut it)
    Winnie the Witch
    Possum Magic
    something by Rosemary Wells
    one of the Frances books
    Dealing With Dragons
    The Neverending Story

    I too enjoy your blog! Talk to you soon!

    • I think it’s hilarious that we were all so outraged by the first list. How many do you have on your list now? I have to admit I don’t know a few of the ones you mention. Strega Nona and the Frances books are good, I just don’t have a strong personal connection with them. Same with Shirley Hughes and Rosemary Wells – those are ones I was introduced to as an adult. Dealing with Dragons is good; I know that’s your Shantaram!

  4. Great list! What a nice little trip down memory lane reading these titles. I loved the Berenstain Bears so I’m glad those at least made the almost-list. Nancy Drew would be on my list too. Another book I loved when I was very young was about a fish that this kid had in his fishbowl, but then it outgrew the bowl, then the bathtub, then the house, etc. – any chance you know the title of that one?

    • I know, I had to leave some good ones out! And I learned so many good lessons from the Berenstain Bears. Not to talk to strangers, not to eat too much candy, that it was okay for my mom to have a job! I never read Nancy Drew but I’m sure they would be on lots of people’s lists. Is the book you’re thinking of “A Fish Out of Water” by Helen Palmer? It matches your description and it’s illustrated by P.D. Eastman, so it looks pretty awesome. One of my childhood favourites that I left off because it’s not at all a classic and super corny was “I’m No Ordinary Chicken” about a chicken that thinks she’s better than other chickens and follows around a shoelace that she thinks is a worm.

  5. AH! I am so glad you made this list! I am going to print it out and watch to build my children’s library! I have been in the process for a couple years now but now that I’m teaching 4th grade this is the perfect age group list! yay:) If you come across several copies of a book or find it cheaper let me know- it would be cool to say you dedicated it to our DR classroom library! 🙂

    • Yay! I’m glad you find it helpful! I don’t have the same sweet book connections I used to but I do visit a lot of thrift stores these days so I’ll definitely keep my eyes open! What books do your grade fours enjoy?

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