The Best 100 Classic Books of All Time

Our list of familiar favorites is a great resource to guide you as you begin building your child’s library. Many of these titles you might recognize as favorites from your own childhood, while others have more recently earned a spot as a classic children’s book. If you’re searching for fresh, new titles to share with your young reader, check out our list of the Best 100 Hidden Gem Children’s Books. It will introduce you to some of our favorite clever, fun, and inspiring children’s books that are not yet as well known as others.

Tuesday book
#1
Tuesday
Written and illustrated by David Wiesner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A Caldecott classic celebrating twenty years in print.

David Wiesner received the 1991 Caldecott Medal for Tuesday. In the years that followed, he went on to receive two more Caldecotts, and Tuesday went on to sell half a million copies in the United States and to be published in a dozen foreign countries. Now, with remarkable advances in the technology of color reproduction, the original artwork for Tuesday is being reproduced anew, for an edition even more faithful to the palette and texture of David Wiesner’s watercolor paintings. The whimsical account of a Tuesday when frogs were airborne on their lily pads will continue to enchant readers of all ages.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble book
#2
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Written and illustrated by William Steig
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

On a rainy day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble that can make wishes come true. But when a lion frightens him on his way home, Sylvester makes a wish that brings unexpected results. How Sylvester is eventually reunited with his loving family and restored to his true self makes a story that is beautifully tender and filled with true magic. Illustrated with William Steig’s glowing pictures, this is a modern classic beloved by children everywhere. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a winner of the Caldecott Medal.

The Frog and Toad Collection book
#3
The Frog and Toad Collection
Written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Frog and Toad are always there for each other—just as best friends should be!

From sledding in winter to eating ice cream on hot summer days, these two friends have fun together the whole year round! This collection includes the complete art and text from three classics in a paperback slipcase: Caldecott Honor title Frog and Toad Are Friends, Newbery Honor title Frog and Toad Together, and Frog and Toad All Year.

This reading collection is a Level Two I Can Read, geared toward kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

Little Bear (An I Can Read Book) book
#4
Little Bear (An I Can Read Book)
Written and illustrated by Else Holmelund Minarik
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-6

Celebrate the timeless warmth of a mother’s love with the very first ever I Can Read book.

Meet Little Bear, a friend to millions of children. And meet Mother Bear, who is there whenever Little Bear needs her. When it is cold and snowy outside, she finds just the right outfit for Little Bear to play in. When he goes to the moon, she has a hot lunch waiting for him on his return. And, of course, she never forgets his birthday.

This classic from Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak was written in 1957 and remains as beloved today as it was then. An ALA Notable Children’s Book, this Level One I Can Read is full of warm and lovingly playful stories that are perfect for children learning to sound out words and sentences.

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs book
#5
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
Written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

You thought you knew the story of the “The Three Little Pigs”… You thought wrong.

In this hysterical and clever fracture fairy tale picture book that twists point of view and perspective, young readers will finally hear the other side of the story of “The Three Little Pigs.”

“In this humorous story, Alexander T. Wolf tells his own outlandish version of what really happens during his encounter with the three pigs…. Smith’s simplistic and wacky illustrations add to the effectiveness of this fractured fairy tale.” —Children’s Literature

“Older kids (and adults) will find very funny.” —School Library Journal

  1. Are You My Mother? - Never having seen his mother, a baby bird makes humorous mistakes trying to find her.

  2. The Paper Bag Princess - Over five million copies in print! When the fiercest dragon in the whole world smashes Princess Elizabeth’s castle, burns all her clothes, and captures her fiancé, Prince Ronald, Elizabeth takes matters into her own hands. With her wits alone and nothing but a paper bag to wear, the princess challenges the dragon to show his strength in the hopes of saving the prince. But is it worth all that trouble? Readers the world-over have fallen in love with this classic story of girl power. Now a newly designed Classic Munsch edition will introduce the tale to a new generation of young feminists.

  3. The Story of Babar - The classic story of literature’s most beloved elephant. After his mother is killed by a hunter, Babar avoids capture by escaping to the city, where he is befriended by the kindly Old Lady. Later, with cousins Celeste and Arthur, he returns to the great forest to be crowned King of the Elephants. With the original illustrations from Jean de Brunhoff’s 1931 classic, this first Babar story has enchanted generations.

  4. Where the Sidewalk Ends - If you are a dreamer, come in, If you are a dreamer, A wisher, a liar, A hope-er, a pray-er, A magic bean buyer … Come in … for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins. You’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist. Shel Silverstein’s masterful collection of poems and drawings is at once outrageously funny and profound.

The Story of Ferdinand book
#10
The Story of Ferdinand
Written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

A true classic with a timeless message!

All the other bulls run, jump, and butt their heads together in fights. Ferdinand, on the other hand, would rather sit and smell the flowers. So what will happen when Ferdinand is picked for the bullfights in Madrid?

The Story of Ferdinand has inspired, enchanted, and provoked readers ever since it was first published in 1936 for its message of nonviolence and pacifism. In WWII times, Adolf Hitler ordered the book burned in Nazi Germany, while Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, granted it privileged status as the only non-communist children’s book allowed in Poland.

The preeminent leader of Indian nationalism and civil rights, Mahatma Gandhi—whose nonviolent and pacifistic practices went on to inspire Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.—even called it his favorite book.

The story was adapted by Walt Disney into a short animated film entitled Ferdinand the Bull in 1938. Ferdinand the Bull won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons).

Millions of Cats book
#11
Millions of Cats
Written and illustrated by Wanda Gag
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

How can an old man and his wife select one cat from a choice of millions and trillions?

The Snowy Day book
#12
The Snowy Day
Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Celebrate a major anniversary of a true classic!

In 1962, a little boy named Peter put on his snowsuit and stepped out of his house and into the hearts of millions of readers. The Snowy Day transformed children’s literature with its pioneering portrayal of an African-American child and the charming story and artwork that won it the Caldecott Medal. Fifty years later, Viking proudly celebrates Peter’s adventure in this very special edition. Featuring eight pages of bonus material and a festive cover, this oversized edition of Keats’s beloved book is a must-have.

Goodnight Moon book
#13
Goodnight Moon
Written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room — to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to themittens and the kittens, toeverything one by one — the little bunny says goodnight. In this classic of children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.

Curious George and the Firefighters book
#14
Curious George and the Firefighters
Written by Anna Grossnickle Hines and illustrated by H. A. Rey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

While on a field trip to a fire station with Mrs. Gray’s class, Curious George goes off on his own and is soon at the scene of a fire, where he finds a way to be helpful.

  1. Clifford the Big Red Dog - Emily Elizabeth loves her huge dog Clifford even though he’s far from perfect.

  2. Amelia Bedelia - A literal-minded housekeeper causes chaos in the Rogers household when she attempts to make sense of some instructions.

  3. Make Way for Ducklings - Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live. The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston. But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arive safely at their new home. This brilliantly illustrated, amusingly observed tale of Mallards on the move has won the hearts of generations of readers. Awarded the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 1941, it has since become a favorite of millions.

  4. Go, Dog, Go! - Different kinds of dogs drive cars, wear hats, run around in mazes, and even have wild parties in treetops.

Lon Po Po book
#19
Lon Po Po
Written and illustrated by Ed Young
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

WINNER OF THE RANDOLPH CALDECOTT MEDAL, AWARDED TO THE ARTIST OF THE MOST DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN PICTURE BOOK OF THE YEAR

“(Young’s) command of page composition and his sensitive use of color give the book a visual force that matches the strength of the story and stands as one of the illustrator’s best efforts.” —Booklist

“Absolutely splendid.” — Kirkus Reviews. “An extraordinary and powerful book.” — Publisher’s Weekly

The now-classic Chinese retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and one of the most celebrated picture books of our time.

Winnie-the-Pooh book
#20
Winnie-the-Pooh
Written by A. A. Milne and illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The four Pooh books created by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard have long been cherished by children and adults. These stories - starring the round, endearing Bear of Little Brain and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Christopher Robin, and others - are as popular today as when they first enchanted readers more than seventy years ago.

Eloise book
#21
Eloise
Written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Meet Eloise, the precocious darling of the Plaza Hotel!

Eloise is a little girl who lives at The Plaza Hotel in New York. She is not yet pretty but she is already a Person. Henry James would want to study her. Queen Victoria would recognize her as an Equal. The New York Jets would want to have her on their side. Lewis Carroll would love her (once he got over the initial shock). She knows everything about The Plaza. She is interested in people when they are not boring. She has Inner Resources. If you take her home with you, you will always be glad you did.

Brave Irene book
#22
Brave Irene
Written and illustrated by William Steig
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Brave Irene is Irene Bobbin, the dressmaker’s daughter. Her mother, Mrs. Bobbin, isn’t feeling so well and can’t possibly deliver the beautiful ball gown she’s made for the duchess to wear that very evening. So plucky Irene volunteers to get the gown to the palace on time, in spite of the fierce snowstorm that’s brewing— quite an errand for a little girl.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, as Irene proves in the danger-fraught adventure that follows. She must defy the wiles of the wicked wind, her most formidable opponent, and overcome many obstacles before she completes her mission. Surely, this winning heroine will inspire every child to cheer her on.

Brave Irene is a 1986 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day book
#23
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

The perennially popular tale of Alexander’s worst day is a storybook that belongs on every child’s bookshelf. Alexander knew it was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with gum in this hair. And it got worse… His best friend deserted him. There was no dessert in his lunch bag. And, on top of all that, there were lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV! This handsome new edition of Judith Viorst’s classic picture book is sure to charm readers of all ages.

  1. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. He’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he’ll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim…. The consequences of giving a cookie to this energetic mouse run the young host ragged, but young readers will come away smiling at the antics that tumble like dominoes through the pages of this delightful picture book.

  2. The Cat in the Hat - Poor Dick and Sally. It’s cold and wet and they’re stuck in the house with nothing to do . . . until a giant cat in a hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure and almost wrecking the place in the process! Written by Dr. Seuss in 1957 in response to the concern that “pallid primers [with] abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls’ were leading to growing illiteracy among children, The Cat in the Hat (the first Random House Beginner Book) changed the way our children learn how to read.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!