23 of Our Favorite Children’s Books

These titles have stood the test of time.

Puffin Books/Little Simon/Amazon
Puffin Books/Little Simon/Amazon / Puffin Books/Little Simon/Amazon
This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Did you have that one book as a kid that you were absolutely obsessed with? One that you read over and over again, or maybe had your parents read to you every night before bed? Maybe it was a simple picture book or the first part in a long-running series of children’s adventures. Whatever it was, the memories of those childhood favorites tend to stay with us well into adulthood, so it’s only natural that you’d want to share them with others—which is exactly what happened when the Mental Floss staff came together to gush about some of our favorites growing up. Chances are, there’s something here for everyone, regardless of age, reading level, or sense of humor.

1. Magic Tree House Series // Mary Pope Osborne

Random House Books for Young Readers/Amazon

Every time Jack and Annie set foot in their tree house, it whisks them off to another place and time. There’s a little magic, a little mystery, and many opportunities for kids to learn a lot without feeling like they’re “learning.” The series has 34 books—and counting—and there are also a bunch of corresponding “Fact Tracker” books that delve into the history and science behind the novels. —Ellen Gutoskey, Staff Writer

2. Strega Nona // Tomie dePaola

Little Simon/Amazon

Strega Nona is a village witch doctor with a “magic pasta pot” and a special place in my heart as a carb-loving icon. In this story, Big Anthony disobeys Strega Nona’s orders to keep away from her pasta pot and ends up almost flooding the town in a sea of spaghetti. Parents could definitely use it as a cautionary tale about following directions and practicing moderation, or they could just let their kids fantasize about boogie-boarding along a wave of angel hair, like mine did. —E.G.

3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler // E.L. Konigsburg

Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Amazon

Many an adult will fondly remember this classic, in which a sister and brother run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and determine the provenance of a mysterious statue along the way. Author E.L. Konigsburg was partially inspired by a trip to the Met, where she saw a single piece of popcorn on a roped-off chair. “How had that lonely piece of popcorn arrived on the seat of that blue silk chair?” she later wrote. “Had someone sneaked in one night—it could not have happened during the day—slipped behind the barrier, sat in that chair, and snacked on popcorn? For a long time after leaving the museum that day, I thought about that piece of popcorn on the blue silk chair and how it got there.” (A New York Times article and a picnic with her children also provided inspiration). The book won the Newbury Award in 1967 and was made into a movie—and it’s still a topic of conversation at the Met to this day. —Erin McCarthy, Editor-in-Chief

4. Anne of Green Gables // L.M. Montgomery


Read the original (mis)adventures of spirited, red-haired orphan Anne (with an E, thank you very much), which launched a beloved ‘80s miniseries and gritty a Netflix reboot. This eight-book set, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, follows Anne as she grows from a child at Green Gables into adulthood, meaning there’s something for kids and adults to enjoy. —E.M.

5. Gregory, the Terrible Eater // Mitchell Sharmat


Gregory is a young goat who prefers fresh fruits and veggies to what goats normally eat—things like shoeboxes and tin cans. But when his parents finally convince him to chow down on regular goat food, he can’t stop eating everything in sight. Mitchell Sharmat’s story, charmingly illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, is all about teaching kids to find a healthy balance—a good lesson for all of us. —E.M.

6. The Monster at the End of This Book // Jon Stone

Golden Books/Amazon

A simple and effective suspense tale featuring Grover from Sesame Street, who guides readers through a tumultuous journey toward the reveal of a ferocious creature. Excellent twist ending. —Jake Rossen, Senior Staff Writer

7. Guinness World Records 2020

Guinness World Records/Amazon

While not ostensibly a kid's book, the Guinness people have compiled a huge and photo-rich resource for some spectacular human feats that should spark conversation and alleviate boredom. —J.R.

8. The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck // Don Rosa

Fantagraphics Books/Amazon

This isn’t just a comic—Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is the all-ages comic if you’re looking to introduce a child to the art form. Here, Rosa writes and illustrates the complete story of Scrooge, from a wide-eyed, impressionable immigrant from Glasgow looking to make it on his own, to his eventual status as a miserly mallard worth "five multiplujillion, nine impossibidillion, seven fantasticatrillion dollars and sixteen cents." Throughout the journey, Rosa crafts an infinitely charming story of romance, adventure, and comedy that earned him an Eisner Award in 1995 for Best Serialized Story (basically the Academy Awards for comics).

The best way to enjoy this story is by getting the hardcover reprints of both volumes from Fantagraphics—the vivid colors of Rosa’s gorgeous artwork are perfectly preserved here, and the two books come in a fancy slipcase that gives the title the dignity it deserves. —Jay Serafino, Special Projects Editor

9. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs // Jon Scieszka

Viking Kestrel Picture Books/Amazon

There’s something so delightfully subversive about The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. In it, we get the classic tale of "The Tree Little Pigs" told from the perspective of the Big, Bad Wolf, who, according to his own testimony, didn’t set out to murder his curly-tailed little neighbors on purpose—it was all just a big misunderstanding involving a cup of sugar and the wolf’s sneezy nose. (He even explains that it was his moral obligation to dine on two of the pigs after their houses collapse on them.)

For a book designed for ages 5 to 8, this is one edgy read from author Jon Scieszka that’s only heightened with the darkly humorous illustrations of Lane Smith. (The duo is also behind the beloved book .) Aimed at any kid whose humor skews crass, this twisted little story is a welcome reprieve from all the other children’s books that treat kids like, well, kids. —J.S.

10. Batman Adventures Volume One // various

DC Comics/Amazon

Unless you dangled a Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut in front of my face, you couldn’t get me to read anything resembling a book as a kid. But comics? I’d blow through them cover to cover so many times that the staples would fall out (and then I’d re-staple the book back together until those fell out, too.) And some of my favorites as a kid were the Batman Adventures comics, based on Batman: The Animated Series. These all-ages comics go back to basics, with colorful art and snappy plots that are set up and solved within 22 pages.

We’ve all seen Batman square off against his rogue’s gallery countless times—but here, it’s done with such energy, humor, and character that it all feels brand new. This collection features the first 10 issues of the series, and if you’re not buying for a Batman fan, you can find similar all-ages titles featuring Superman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. Any of these could easily become a young superhero fan’s next obsession. —J.S.

11. Bridge to Terabithia // Katherine Paterson


Jesse Aarons is the fastest runner in the fifth grade … until tomboy Leslie Burke, the new kid at school, beats him in a race. But rather than be annoyed at losing his status, Jesse is impressed by Leslie, who is the bravest person he has ever met. They form a fast and very deep friendship that, as long as they’re together, allows them to escape the challenges of their home lives. One day, while playing in the woods, they decide to create their very own sanctuary in an isolated area over which they will rule and name it “Terabithia.” But eventually, the horrors of the real world find their way into the peacefulness of Terabithia in ways that Jesse is incapable of processing. The book, which is based partially on a real-life event that happened to author Katherine Paterson’s son, won the Newbery Medal in 1978—but has regularly been banned because of its morbid subject matter. Still, for older kids (say, 10 and up) who are curious about the world in all its facets, it’s a wonderful lesson in how to find strength, even in tragedy. —Jennifer Wood, Managing Editor

12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory // Roald Dahl

Puffin Books/Amazon

Even if you've seen either (or both) versions of the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still makes for a delicious read—for kids and adults alike. Like any other book-turned-movie, there are plenty of plot points and characters you don't get to see in either big-screen version of the book (or at least not enough of). But more than that, skipping the book in favor of a film deprives you of reading Roald Dahl's splendiferous descriptions of the wild world of Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, the Oompa-Loompas, and all the other kids who were "lucky" enough to score a Golden Ticket tour of Wonka's chocolate factory. Plus, you could probably eat up a couple of hours discussing the many logistical challenges that having four immobile grandparents confined to one large bed might cause. —J.W.

13. The Giving Tree // Shel Silverstein


Originally published in 1964, The Giving Tree has gone on to become one of Shel Silverstein's best-known titles—but getting it published was no easy task. Depending on who you ask, the book is either a beautiful parable about the natural cycle of give-and-take we experience in so many of our relationships throughout life, or a cautionary tale about the dangers of materialism. Which probably explains why Silverstein had trouble finding a publisher for the book, as many of them felt the themes were either too dark or mature for young children. While the themes are complex, it's exactly for that reason that The Giving Tree—which follows the lifelong relationship between a "boy" and the tree he loves—is just the kind of book you should be sure to read and discuss with your kids. —J.W.

14. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark // Debbie Levy

Simon & Schuster/Amazon

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark isn't the only kid's book about the life of the beloved Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States—and that's a wonderful thing. While older generations often had to settle for fictional heroines at the center of the books they read, Ginsburg—a.k.a. The Notorious RBG—has become a real-life superhero for kids and adults, and young women in particular. What's fascinating about this book, which is the first picture book dedicated to Ginsburg, is that its main lesson is to teach kids that "that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable." The book tells of Ginsburg's lifelong fight for equality through her very public dissents. It's the kind of book that can easily open a child's eyes to the power of their own voices. —J.W.

15. Dragons Love Tacos // Adam Rubin

Dial Books/Amazon

If you're hosting a taco party and invite all of your dragon friends, you should offer a wide selection of tacos. But do not, and I mean do not, offer salsa. You do not want to know what happens when a dragon eats salsa—or do you? This funny tale with whimsical illustrations was a New York Times bestseller among the kindergarten set, and even adults will enjoy its silliness. —Kat Long, Science Editor

16. The Story of Ferdinand // Munro Leaf

Grosset & Dunlap/Amazon

Ferdinand is a gentle bull who would rather sit quietly under his favorite tree and smell the flowers than take part in bullfights like his friends. But when Ferdinand is seen stomping and snorting after being stung by a bee, men call him "Ferdinand the Fierce" and take him to the bullring—which doesn't work out the way they plan. Some critics have said the book promotes pacifism, while other believe the message is to be true to oneself. Whatever the real subtext, Ferdinand's endearing story has been delighting readers for more than 80 years. —K.L.

17. Little House in the Big Woods // Laura Ingalls Wilder


Young readers will relate to our 4-year-old narrator Laura, who tells the story of her pioneer family's efforts to build a homestead in the dense forests of western Wisconsin in the 1870s. The book, based on the author's real-life experiences (though not entirely truthful), describes the challenges and joys of living in a log cabin with her Ma and Pa, older sister Mary, and baby sister Carrie—from harvesting crops in autumn to dancing to Pa's fiddle. Little House in the Big Woods is the first of Wilder's nine semi-autobiographical books for kids. —K.L.

18. Dazzle the Dinosaur // Marcus Pfister


This book from the author of The Rainbow Fish has both a captivating story and eye-catching illustrations. In this adventurous tale, a brave, sparkly dinosaur and his friend set off on a mission—both hampered and aided by Dazzle’s unique spines—to defeat the dangerous Dragonsaurus. —Kerry Wolfe, Staff Editor

19. Mr. Putter and Tabby Collection // Cynthia Rylant

HMH Books for Young Readers/Amazon

When Mr. Putter starts to feel a bit lonely, he decides he wants a cat. But rather than adopting a kitten, he comes home with Tabby who, like him, is a bit old and creaky. This charming series tells the story of their friendship and the gentle, at times delightfully humorous, experiences they share. —K.W.

20. Stellaluna // Janell Cannon

HMH Books for Young Readers/Amazon

No matter your kid's feelings about bats, Stellaluna is hard not to love. The picture book from Janell Cannon tells the story of a young fruit bat who gets separated from her mother and finds herself adopted into a family of birds. Fun, informative, and filled with beautiful illustrations, Stellaluna is the perfect book for young nature lovers and their parents to read together. —Michele Debczak, Senior Staff Writer

21. My Father's Dragon Series // Ruth Stiles Gannett

Random House Children's Books/Amazon

This was one of the first chapter book series I read as a kid. The first book in this series follows the character Elmer Elevator, who goes to rescue a baby dragon held captive on Wild Island. He packs the essentials: gum, lollipops, a hairbrush, and a few other items that all seem to somehow help him on his journey to find the dragon. —Kristen Richard, Associate Editor

22. The Phantom Tollbooth // Norton Juster

Random House/Amazon

Despite this being a book intended for children, I made a point to read it every year into my teens and have even gifted it to some adults because I believe everyone can learn something from it. The story follows a boy named Milo, “who didn't know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always." One day, Milo comes home to find a magical tollbooth in his room that transports him to another world where he meets a ticking watchdog named Tok, and they set off to save two princesses, named Rhyme and Reason, locked in a tower. —K.R.

23. Wednesday is Spaghetti Day // Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Troll Communications/Amazon

Ever wonder what your cat does when you aren’t home? They throw a spaghetti party, of course—but only on Wednesdays. This book, which I used to insist my parents read to me over and over, follows house cats coming together and bringing different ingredients to throw the ultimate spaghetti party. While the story itself is entertaining, the brightly colored illustrations are also incredible. —K.R.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.