Children’s Books Everyone Should Read

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For one thing, there’s not room. For another, I come with all sorts of biases. Some books I truly enjoy but have not included, thinking that other adults probably would not enjoy them. Some, that others think should be on the list, I haven’t included because either I haven’t read them or I did, but didn’t myself like. Feel more than welcome to add your own personal favorites in the comments.

These are in no particular order. For some reason, I am lately unable to move pictures about on the page after I’ve added them.

Tom’s Midnight Garden won’t appeal to all, but it is a very well written, imaginative book.

George MacDonald was a great influence on such writers as Lewis Caroll, C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien.

This is really a poem, but I’m including it anyway. I particularly like the illustrations of Kevin Maddison in this edition. It’s pure fun.

Everyone should immediately put the Disney version of Mary Poppins out of his head. Disney is all very well in its place, but has the unfortunate effect of convincing people that they now know all about the original story and have no need to read the book. Bosh. Mary Poppins and its sequels are much, much better than the movie, which bears almost no resemblance to the book.

I was fortunate to find this one in grade school. I keep forgetting to get a copy for my children. They would love it. Delightful.

Half Magic is heavily influenced by the books of E. Nesbit, a fact that is actually stated within the story. It is the first of a series. I think the books by Edward Eager are much more obviously humorous than those by E. Nesbit, but I enjoy them all.

And we finally arrive at E. Nesbit. I’ve only pictured Five Children and It, but The Story of the Treasure Seekers is also wonderful. Both are the first in their series. The children depicted are very real and not condescended to.

These three tales by J.R.R. Tolkien are great bedtime reading (as, frankly, are all of the books here). Tolkien has developed an unfortunate reputation of being hard, and these books are a definite antidote to that. Roverandom is much more the children’s story than the first two, but I like it none the worse for that.


I hope the sight of Bread and Jam for Frances is inspiring nostalgic smiles. All of the Frances books are fun. Gloria and her string bean (to practice on)…who wouldn’t like that?


Aha, the controversial one. All I can say is that when I was a child, Little Black Sambo was a favorite read-aloud book in our house. I think it was an absolute favorite of my sister Rebecca’s. I hear there are politically correct versions of this floating around. Mercifully, the original is still obtainable.


Beatrix Potter is seriously underrated. Today her corpus seems to be reduced to nursery decorations and bib mottoes. Father gave me the complete works of Beatrix Potter while we were dating. Obviously, we are well suited.

Two stories stand out as my favorites (and neither is Peter Rabbit). The first is The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan. This is classic humor, reminiscent of Shakespeare. I am almost incapable of reading it aloud because I can’t stop laughing.

The second is The Tale of Ginger and Pickles. I could read this daily and never tire of it. If no one can muster the courage to go buy it, I may order a case of them and send them out as Christmas presents.


I didn’t want to make this an interminable post, so here is a list of some more of my favorites without pictures:

My Side of the Mountain
Winnie the Pooh (really, read it – very funny)
The Narnia books
Alice in Wonderland (forget Disney)
The Hobbit
The Wind in the Willows (especially nice for summer)
The Borrowers (all five in the series)
Watership Down (more serious, but a great read)
The Cricket in Times Square
The Giver
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (hilarious!)
the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (so true to life)
etc.

Here is a list I found while writing this post. Someone else has been working hard making a more exhaustive canon.

Happy reading!

2 thoughts on “Children’s Books Everyone Should Read

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