Best Children's Books About Children's books for adults

The Best 30 Children's Books Every Adult Should Read

Updated Mar. 19, 2019

As a general rule, I agree with George Bernard Shaw who said, “Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.” Unless, in fact, a child prefers a book you don't like, then let them read whatever makes them happy.

Children's books not only teach valuable lessons, they have beautiful illustrations and wonderful stories. As adults, we may not be reading as much as we want to be, or we may be avid readers of our preferred genre. You might even be a child's book enthusiast, like me (welcome to the club)! Whatever season you're at in life and wherever you're at with reading, these are the children's books we recommend every adult should read.

Where the Red Fern Grows book
#1
Where the Red Fern Grows
Written by Wilson Rawls
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

I have very fond memories that come flooding back whenever I read this. I love Old Dan and Little Ann (Billy's two hounds)! Rawls tells an incredible story that tugs at the heart of any reader. There are so many gold nuggets that carry great lessons, like Billy's determination to catch his first coon, Billy's diligence throughout the book in caring for his dogs, and the family unity that Billy and his family share. Where the Red Fern Grows is one of the best books there is.

"Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he's finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own--Old Dan and Little Ann--he's ecstatic. It's true that times are tough, but together they'll roam the hills of the Ozarks. Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan's brawn, Little Ann's brains, and Billy's sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy waits for these determined hunters--now friends--and Billy will learn that hope can grow out of despair and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past. This beloved classic is sure to delight readers of all ages as it captures the powerful bond between man and man's best friend. To commemorate more than fifty years in print, this special edition includes historical materials to enrich this treasured novel."

You Are Special book
#2
You Are Special
Written by Max Lucado and illustrated by Sergio Martinez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Thoughts from The Goodfather

This tender story shares powerful messages about faith and trusting in God and what He thinks of us more than what others may. It's a reminder that we should not be so quick to judge one another or to withhold love and praise for one another, no matter our unique talents or abilities. The messages of the book can be appreciated by kids and adults alike.

Every day the small wooden people called Wemmicks do the same thing: stick either gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones―those with smooth wood and fine paint―always get stars. The talented ones do, too. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly gray dots. Like Punchinello. In this heartwarming children's tale from best-selling author Max Lucado, Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is―no matter what other Wemmicks may think. It's a vital message for children everywhere: that regardless of how the world evaluates them, God cherishes each of them, just as they are. This tale originally appeared within one of the chapters in the award-winning children's bestseller Tell Me the Secrets.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone book
#3
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Written by J. K. Rowling
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

It's Harry Potter... a.k.a. the gold standard by which children's literature will be measured for years... need I say more? The classic battle between good and evil, a beautifully constructed magical world, and intricate backstory all set in a perfectly appropriate eleven-year-old's version of the world with school, teachers, friends, sports (Quidditch!) and rivalries with bullies.

Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls book
#4
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Written by Elena Favilli and illustrated by Francesca Cavallo
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 5-10
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! It is a bit more expensive than others, but in my opinion, it's completely worth it to have in my library. I think everyone should read this book and learn about the amazing women who have stood up for their rights and changed the world! With each women highlighted, there's a stunning illustration of the woman along with a short story about her, who she is/was, and what she accomplished. This book is so inspiring and I learned about so many women I hadn't heard of before that have been so influential. I seriously cannot say enough good things about this book, it is one of my absolute favorites.

A children's book that reinvents fairy tales, inspiring girls with the stories of 100 great women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

The Secret Garden book
#5
The Secret Garden
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined.

The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth book
#6
The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth
Written and illustrated by Chris Burkard
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

This is an all-time favorite children's book for me. The artwork is stunning and the entire book is a fantastic celebration of our beautiful Earth. This is the first children's book by award-winning photographer Chris Burkard, and if you've seen his photography (@chrisburkard), it's no surprise that the message of this book is to take time to explore and enjoy beautiful moments. Children might not appreciate that important reminder as much as adults, but they'll love the pretty illustrations and the peaceful, calm of this book. The words are simple and direct, but that's part of what makes it powerful.

When a young boy in search of joy asks the Earth where he can find happiness, the Earth responds and agrees to show him the way. The boy rushes excitedly through the landscapes that make the Earth most proud--the ocean, the cliffs, the forest, the desert, the mountains, and the top of the world. But the boy soon realizes happiness is much harder to find than he expected.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be book
#7
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I absolutely love this book. The illustrations are so beautiful and unique, and the message is even better. Though geared towards children, this book is applicable to any adult who still wants to improve in their future. I love that it shares the message of unconditional love, that the parent will love whoever their child grows up to be. The book also talks about having courage, kindness, boldness, and loving others. Such a sweet book, one of my favorites!!!

Illustrations and simple, rhyming text reveal a parent's musings about what a child will become, knowing that the child's kindness, cleverness, and boldness will shine through no matter what, as will the love they share.

Tomorrow I'll Be Brave book
#8
Tomorrow I'll Be Brave
Written and illustrated by Jessica Hische
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Tomorrow I'll be all the things I tried to be today- Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident, & Brave. And if I wasn't one of them, I know that it's OK. Adventure through a world filled with positive and beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, inspiration, and motivation. As this book reminds readers, tomorrow is another day, full of endless opportunities--all you have to do is decide to make the day yours.

The Nice Book book
#9
The Nice Book
Written and illustrated by David Stein
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is one of my very favorite board books or all time, almost despite the illustrations which are finger-painty, child-like, edgy and not quite my style. It's a delightfully fun read aloud with the perfect blend of quirkiness and charm as it goes through various scenarios and instructions for how to be nice—"Giggle, pat, scratch, but don't stomp flat!...When you get in a snit, don't hit." The illustrations add another level of story and context to each scenario and instruction, which makes it humorous as well as very real.

A perfect introduction to manners and playing nice, by David Ezra Stein—author of Caldecott Honor winner Interrupting Chicken, Pouch! (a Charlotte Zolotow Honor book) and Leaves (recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award). From cuddling koalas to friendly penguins, an array of animals illustrates fun, sweet, and silly examples of “how to be nice,” showing simple ways young children can show they care for those around them. The lyrical text, funny illustrations and upbeat friendship message make this a great gift and a wonderful introduction to manners.

Wonder book
#10
Wonder
Written by R. J. Palacio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

This is a fantastic read. It's one of those books that changes you. I like that Palacio gives us the story through Auggie- Auggie (And Via at certain points) tells us the story from his 10-year-old perspective. Auggie's story is unique, but at the same time it's a story that we can all relate to. Auggie struggles with physical challenges that most of us don't, but I don't think the book is supposed to be about the physical challenges. It's really about the emotional battles he faces that we all encounter. What's more, it's a book that reminds us that others are going through silent challenges too. Wonder is a story that forces us to reconsider how we are treating those that are in our lives. Auggie is physically deformed because of birth and development complications, but he is a strong individual that speaks to us about the unfairness, bullying, betrayal, happiness, and love that we all go through.

Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, Auggie Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different, in a sparsely written tale about acceptance and self-esteem.

Wherever You Go book
#11
Wherever You Go
Written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

This book has amazing rhymes, but even more so a great message. It talks about adventures being everywhere and there are ways to reach our dreams if we will only get started and move forward. There are lots of different roads that lead to lots of different places we just need to choose the best one that will lead us where we want to go.

Roads give you chances to seek and explore. Want an adventure?Just open your door. Join an adventurous rabbit and his animal friends as they journey over steep mountain peaks, through bustling cityscapes, and down long, winding roads to discover the magical worlds that await them just outside their doors. Award-winning author Pat Zietlow Miller's lilting rhyme and bestselling illustrator Eliza Wheeler's enchanting, lush landscapes celebrate the possibilities that lie beyond the next bend in the road--the same road that will always lead you home again.

More Than Balloons book
#12
More Than Balloons
Written by Lorna Crozier and illustrated by Rachelle Anne Miller
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4
Thoughts from Grammy

This charming story of the boundless love of a parent for a child makes for ideal bedtime reading. The creative rhymes and consistent meter are remarkable, as are the many details for spying and identifying on each page. There is a great variety of animals rendered in a warm palette of colors participating in a wide range of experiences throughout the seasons of the year. Plenty to discuss, and even use as a springboard for your own adventures.

Balloons love the moon, and a tuba loves a tune, but these don't compare to the love we have for you. Award-winning poet Lorna Crozier uses evocative rhyme, complemented by Rachelle Anne Miller's whimsical imagery, to provide babies and toddlers with common concepts that explain just how great love is.

The Crown on Your Head book
#13
The Crown on Your Head
Written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
board book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

This is a beautiful book from an amazing author and illustrator with four New York Times bestsellers. The message in the book is heartwarming and powerful: every little one is special and unique and always will be, even as they grow and change. Children need to be told they are loved every day, and this book is a great way to reinforce that message while admiring together the illustrations and a variety of animals and settings. Every child should feel like a queen or a king and recognize their potential.

Celebrates each child's unique individuality, symbolized by a crown that each are born with and which will always be there.

What Do You Do with an Idea? book
#14
What Do You Do with an Idea?
Written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I love this entire series of books, but this one is definitely my favorite. It's beautifully illustrated, inspirational, motivational and clever. That being said, it's definitely geared towards a little older audience.

A young boy comes up with an idea and he keeps it safe until one day he realizes the amazing power it can have.

She Persisted book
#15
She Persisted
Written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Bolger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Readerly Mom

I love reading this book to my daughters for its history and the overarching message--that they can achieve great things by being persistent in following their dreams. I also love that we have found so many different ways to read it. Sometimes, we start at the beginning and read it straight through. Usually, though, we just pick one or two individual stories, or we read just the names and quotes on each page. My pre-schooler who is learning to read likes to sound out the names (in all capital letters) on each page. I like that each page gives us a concise introduction to a historical figure, so it's not too lengthy to read in one sitting, but it is a great starting point for learning more.

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted. Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted. She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small. With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power. This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? book
#16
What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?
Written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Lee White
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

From the beloved and internationally bestselling author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst comes a collection of wry and witty poems that touch on every aspect of the roller-coaster ride that is childhood. Did you wake up this morning all smiley inside? Does life taste like ice cream and cake? Or does it seem more like your goldfish just died And your insides are one great big ache? From school to family to friends, from Grrrr to Hooray!, Judith Viorst takes us on a tour of feelings of all kinds in this thoughtful, funny, and charming collection of poetry that’s perfect for young readers just learning to sort out their own emotions.

Beautiful Oops! book
#17
Beautiful Oops!
Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

Near the very top of my list of things I want my children to learn is to not be afraid of mistakes or failure—they're simply part of the process. The interactive way multi-media mistakes are transformed in this book into quirky artwork is endearing and keeps the mood light and my little reader busy while I read the slightly more serious message present in the text. My toddler wants this "again" and "again", and thus far it's been sturdy enough to withstand toddler exploration, which is a plus!

A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator. An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

Augustus and His Smile book
#18
Augustus and His Smile
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I love this sweet, meaningful book about a tiger who finds that there is joy all around him and that he can find happiness just by choosing to be aware! Such a good reminder for the reader. He goes on a fun adventure to learn this lesson, and I love the illustrations of this book, too!

Augustus the tiger was sad. He had lost his smile. So he did a HUGE tigery stretch, and set off to find it. Stunning illustrations celebrate the beauty of the world and the simple happiness it brings to us. An imaginative book for children who love to explore the world around them.

How Do You Say I Love You? book
#19
How Do You Say I Love You?
Written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I absolutely LOVE this book. It teaches you how to say "I love you" in different languages, displays many different cultures, and is a great book about diversity.

Learn how to say “I love you” in ten different languages with this heartwarming board book. “I love you” may sound different around the world, but the meaning is the same. From China, to France, to Russia, to Brazil, and beyond, this charming board book features “I love you” in ten different languages. Tapping into the emotions that parents feel for their children, the rhyming text is accompanied by sweet artwork that depicts different cultures around the world.

Tiny Blessings: For Giving Thanks book
#20
Tiny Blessings: For Giving Thanks
Written by Amy Parker and illustrated by Sarah Walsh
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is beautiful both in the illustrations and the sweet, simple message--to be grateful for the beautiful world we live in and the loving people around us! It's a pretty short and sweet book, but I think it's gorgeous and has an important message.

Sweet, simple blessings that encourage thoughtful gratitude for life's daily gifts and wonders. This accessible, wholesome board book is perfect for teaching babies and toddlers how to count their blessings every day. With simple, graspable text that inspires mindful thinking, and warm, vibrant illustrations, For Giving Thanks will fill children's minds with positive thoughts and help them appreciate life's special gifts.

I Am Human book
#21
I Am Human
Written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H Reynolds
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is full of meaningful truths and lessons suitable for every age. I love that it encourages kindness, love, empathy, equality, and hope. This book is all about being the best you! Plus, the illustrations are beautiful and whimsical.

A child recognizes his own humanity, his capacity for doing harm and being harmed, his ability to feel joy and sadness, and his belief in hope and promise to keep learning.

My Heart book
#22
My Heart
Written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This beautiful book talks about all the different feelings our heart has, and how we have the power to decide if our heart is open or closed. The illustrations are completely gorgeous--I love the simplicity and style. This book is great to use talk with kids about emotions, our power over them, and how better understanding emotions can help us empathize with others.

From the author-illustrator of The Book of Mistakes comes a gorgeous picture book about caring for your own heart and living with kindness and empathy. My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide. Some days your heart is a puddle or a fence to keep the world out. But some days it is wide open to the love that surrounds you. With lyrical text and breathtaking art, My Heart, My Heart empowers all readers to listen to the guide within in this ode to love and self-acceptance.

You're Here for a Reason book
#23
You're Here for a Reason
Written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
board book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Goodfather

Beautiful rhyming makes a playful tale of a few very important lessons: each of us matters, and don't lose hope. Even when things seem to go wrong good things can happen! The playful illustrations are sure to hold the attention of young readers and ensure these important messages are heard.

Now available in board book, You're Here for a Reason, from national-bestselling and beloved author Nancy Tillman, takes a universal truth and makes it accessible for readers young and old. Not only are we loved, but we also matter. In this tender and timeless read-along book, Tillman reminds us of this message in beautiful illustrations as children and animals interact with acts of kindness. You're here for a reason. If you think you're not I would just say that perhaps you forgot . . . a piece of the world that is precious and dear would surely be missing if you weren't here. If not for your smile and your laugh and your heart this place we call home would be minus a part. Thank goodness you're here! Thank goodness times two! I just can't imagine a world without you. Not only are we loved, but we also matter. Once again, NancyTillman takes a universal truth and makes it accessible forreaders young and old, as children and animals interact withacts of kindness.

Guess How Much I Love You book
#24
Guess How Much I Love You
Written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not an easy thing to measure! For two decades, Sam McBratney’s timelessly endearing story, beautifully rendered in Anita Jeram’s exquisite watercolors, has captured the deep and tender bond between parent and child. Guess How Much I Love You is one of the world’s best-loved picture books.

I Can Be Anything book
#25
I Can Be Anything
Written by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by Jimmy Liao
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

When I grow up, what shall I be? This exuberant book offers up everything from a paper plane folder to a puppy dog holder, from a silly joke teller to a snowball smoother. Newbery-Award winning author Jerry Spinelli's simple and charming rhymes are accompanied by internationally-renowned illustrator Jimmy Liao's vibrant and fantastical illustrations. This book is an imaginative joyride about hopes and dreams, and a reminder of all the possibilities life has to offer. So, what do you want to be? Remember—you can be anything!

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.