The 25 Best Children’s Books of All Time

Maurice Sendak's magnum opus.
Maurice Sendak's magnum opus. / Ben Gabbe/GettyImages

While some children’s books have more or less faded into obscurity, others have become such an ingrained part of our cultural consciousness that it’s hard to imagine they could ever stop being popular—like A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, for example, or C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

It’s no surprise that both of those books made the top 10 on a new list of the top 100 greatest children’s books of all time, compiled by BBC Culture. But they didn’t crack the top five, which were, in order, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Astrid Lundgren’s Pippi Longstocking, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

BBC Culture determined the breakdown by asking 177 “critics, authors, and publishing figures” across 56 countries “from Austria to Uzbekistan” to choose the 10 greatest children’s books. More than 1000 different titles were submitted in total, and the 100 top responses made the final list. Nearly three-fourths of those 100 books were originally published in English; and a majority hit shelves between the 1950s and 1970s, which, as BBC Culture points out, may be due to the fact that most of the voters “were born in the 1970s and 1980s.” 

The top 25 had only two books published in the 21st century: Shaun Tan’s 2006 graphic novel The Arrival, and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (2011). And Roald Dahl was the only author to have more than one book in the top 25: Matilda in 10th place, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 18th. (He had six titles total in the top 100.)

Did your personal favorite kids’ book make the top 25 below? If not, see if it charted on the full list here.

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  3. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  8. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard
  9. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
  10. Matilda by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
  11. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  12. Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  14. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  15. The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
  16. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
  17. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  18. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  19. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  20. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
  21. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  22. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  23. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson
  24. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  25. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett