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The 73 best kids' books of all time for families

The best kids' books of all time are at your fingertips—just read our ranked list of 73 great picks for children of all ages

Kids’ books are the best—but when you’re looking through thousands of great options online or in one of your local bookstores, it can be hard to find just the right one. We’ve sifted through plenty of titles to compile a list of 73 favorites, and believe us; picking the best kids’ books wasn’t easy! We mixed old classics, new classics, nonfiction and even graphic novels to please every reader through age 14, including favorites like Harry Potter, The Cat in the Hat, A Wrinkle in Time and Madeline.

We hope you'll weigh in with favorites of your own that aren't on our ranked list of the best kids’ books. In the meantime, click through our list for inspiration (and be sure to check out our list of story time events in NYC for more reading fun as a family).


Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

As if by magic, this die-cut masterpiece hands kids the power to invoke a monster, then does away with him piece by piece until at last they can say with pride, "And don't come back until I say so." Ages 3 to 6.


Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol

A children’s version of Sherlock Holmes, this series by Donald J. Sobol lets curious readers delve into the detective genre through young sleuth, Leroy Brown. Nicknamed Encyclopedia for his vast range of knowledge, he welcomes neighborhood kids to present their cases in his garage before setting out to solve the mystery. Ages 8 to 12.


George and Martha by James Marshall

Nobody does wry hippos like Marshall. These easy books manage to pack big laughs with incredibly simple words and tell tales of true friendship along the way. Ages 3 to 6.


Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Set in modern-day Africa, Nigerian-born Atinuke's charming heroine navigates her ridiculously large extended family, keeps an eye on her twin brothers, Double and Trouble, and comes to understand how lucky she is in a book that deserves to become a classic. Ages 6 to 9.


Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Based on the true story of The Lost Woman of San Nicolas, Scott O’Dell’s first children’s book tells the tale of a young woman who lives on the Island of Ghalas-at with her tribe. After an encounter with a ship of strange visitors, her life will change forever. Ages 7–10.


The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

The virtues of this classic children’s tale live on, more than 80 years after it was first published. When a winding train needs help making its way over a high mountain, it tries enlisting help from large engines nearby. The only one willing to help is very small, but with a bit of effort and lots of conviction, it might be able to get the job done. Ages 3 to 5.


Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Hats plus monkeys equals hilarity. One of the all-time great read-alouds, the story of a man who loses his caps thanks to some light-fingered simians is sure to earn giggles from your listeners. Ages 6 months to 3 years.


Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

This cute touch-and-feel book is one that almost everyone remembers from their childhood (it was first published in 1940!), and it continues to please little ones today. Tots get hands-on with each turn of the page as they feel the soft “fur” of a rabbit, look in a reflective “mirror” and more. Ages 1 to 3.


Corduroy by Don Freeman

Don Freeman’s lovable story of Corduroy the teddy bear was rejected several times before being published in 1968—and it’s since becomes on of the top picture books of all time! The stuffed animal ventures out into the department store at nighttime in search of the missing button for his overalls. Can he find it and fix himself up so that a child will take him home? Ages 3 to 8.


Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

This straightforward book for little ones gets right down to the point—everybody poops! A perfect pick for kids struggling with potty training, this one’s for the parents. Ages 1 and up.


Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Rather than a rags-to-riches story, this riches-to-rags tale follows a rich Mexican landowner's daughter who loses everything and must start over again in America. Set during the Great Depression, it's a book of hope that's ideal for kids with a penchant for realism. Ages 8 to 12.


Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

Strega Nona cures many ails for the townspeople with her magic, and she can even whip up tons of pasta at once in her enchanted pot. When she puts her helper, Big Anthony, in charge, he almost accidentally envelops the town in noodles! Tomie dePaola’s magnificent illustrations make this story about an Italian “Grandma Witch” extremely memorable. Ages 4 to 8.


Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

It's impossible not to identify with Cleary's deeply human heroine, an irrepressible newbie kindergartner who, despite her good intentions, always seems to be doing something wrong. Ages 6 to 9.


Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

The perfect easy reader is difficult to define, but Minarik's adorable baby bear comes awfully close. The extra treat of Maurice Sendak's art (pre–Where the Wild Things Are) shows that he could be a master of cute when he wanted to be. Ages 3 to 6.


Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

When a baby fruit bat is separated from her mother during an owl attack, she finds herself in a bird’s nest alongside feathered youngsters Pop, Flitter and Flap. As Stellaluna tries to coexist with the birds, she’ll discover all the ways she’s different, while readers learn about the interesting characteristics that have. Ages 4 to 8.


Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Any kid who has ever loved a toy to the point of disobedience will identify with Henkes's singular mousey heroine. This gem contains the wonderful lines "Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better." Ages 3 to 6.


Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

A princess story with an African setting, this fabulous fairy tale about two beautiful sisters who vie for the hand of their ruler punishes the greedy and rewards the good. As an added bonus, the king is himself a delightful character. Ages 3 to 6


Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans

This bright picture book is a unique tool, great for helping comfort kids who feel self-conscious about looking different than their peers. A young boy is made fun of for the color of his skin, but an important lesson from his mother makes him realize that his differences are what make him special. Ages 4 to 8.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Tales of dystopian societies like Brave New World and 1984 have long been required reading for tweens, but none can compete with the massive fan base that erupted when the first book in Suzanne Collins’ YA trilogy was published. The story of accidental heroine Katniss Everdeen’s fight for survival is gripping enough to get anyone on board with the revolution. Ages 12 and up.


Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Talk about separation anxiety: This baby bird loses his mother from the moment he's hatched. Yet his search for his primary caregiver never feels scary. Often mistaken for a Dr. Seuss book, Eastman's classic taps into an emotion all kids can understand. Ages 3 to 6.


The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Stories where the insipid princess and her no-name prince ride off into the sunset can get old quickly. In this Munsch classic, a princess rescues the prince for a change and then with a sudden flourish of girl power, decides she has better things to do than marry an egotistic dweeb. Ages 3 to 6.


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Follow the adventures of Rat, Mole, Toad and Badger across the English countryside as they swim, feast and adventure in this children’s classic. Ages 6 and up.


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

There is no surefire method to teach kids about the Holocaust but Lowry's gentle story of bravery and heroism resonates with readers everywhere for its candor and sensitivity. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Little Red Riding Hood references throughout. Ages 8 to 12.


Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman

Little Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two elbows, two pets…she even has two mommies! When she goes to school for the first time, she learns that all families are different, and that it doesn’t matter who makes up a family—it matters that the people in it love one another. Ages 4–8.


The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant by Jean De Brunhoff

Translated from Jean de Brunhoff’s French original, Babar delights readers big and small. After his mother is killed by a hunter, Babar runs away from the wild—in the process, he meets a very sweet old lady. With her help, he returns to the forest (and picks up a royal title)! Ages 4–8.


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Getting kids interested in Greek mythology is easy—just read the first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. The first of Rick Riordian’s popular adventure novels, The Lightning Thief introduces readers to the protagonist, a 12-year-old boy who constantly runs into trouble due to his unique and odd abilities. Turns out his family ties to Poseidon might have something to do with his behavior issues. Ages 10 to 14.


Matilda by Roald Dahl

Most authors' last novels are their weakest. In the case of Dahl, this tale of a book-loving girl with horrendous parents, a kid-hating principal and supernatural powers turned out to be one of his best. Ages 8 to 12.


Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Conceited Rainbow Fish is proud of his beautiful, shiny scales—and he’s very lonely indeed. Pfister’s colorful book shows the importance of sharing to find friendship and happiness. Ages 2 and up.


Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Growing up is a difficult part of life, but if you had the chance to stay young forever, would you? When 10-year-old Winnie Foster meets the peculiar Tuck family deep in the woods near her home, they share the secret of a magical fountain with her—one that would allow her to freeze her childhood eternally. Ages 9 to 12.


Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Celebrated author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, tells the story of her personal struggle with dyslexia and the teacher who gave her the courage to persevere. Any kids who have been frustrated with learning hurdles will love reading about fifth-grader Trisha and patient Mr. Falker, who helps her to work through the frustrations of her disability. Ages 5 to 8.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Don't let the 533 pages fool you. Selznick's groundbreaking mix of text and images, about an orphan seeking a family and a forgotten filmmaker in his twilight years, sometimes reads like a silent film and is mesmerizing (and fast!) from page one onward. Ages 8 to 12.


The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

This collection of stories turns the standard idea of “happily ever after” on its head. The thick book includes the tales of an Ugly Duckling who grows up to be a Really Ugly Duck, a princess who kisses an actual frog, and a squabble between Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin. Ages 3 to 7.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

A ten-year-old boy with a constellation of facial deformities struggles to navigate school for the first time. He braves comments from bullies about his appearance, but makes some true friends who defend him against the hurtful whispers. This novel is a wonderful way to teach kids that “when given a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” Ages 8 to 12.


Paddington by Michael Bond

A dapper young bear, dressed in a red hat and rain slicker, shows up in London’s bustling Paddington Station with no more than a suitcase full of marmalade. The Brown family takes him in, unprepared for the mischief that Paddington and their children, Jonathan and Judy, will get into together. Ages 4 to 8.


Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Well-intentioned maid, Amelia Bedelia, always puts her best effort forward to please the Rogers family, but just can’t seem to get it right. She often misunderstands instructions (or takes them too literally) leading to silly mistakes like “dressing” the chicken—in overalls and socks. The original title has been followed by over 40 books, which are still being printed. Ages 4 to 8.


The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H.A. and Margret Rey

Curiosity may have killed the cat but for this simian it's only led to some pretty wacky adventures. George is the perfect stand-in for any antsy three-year-old, which may account for why his popularity only continues to rise. Ages 3 to 6.


The Mitten by Jan Brett

This beautiful tale, written and illustrated by Jan Brett, is bound to be a new wintertime favorite for your family. A young boy receives a pair of white mittens from his grandmother, but when he drops one in the snow, several woodland creatures use it to seek shelter from the cold! Youngsters will giggle at the vivid drawings of a mole, rabbit, hedgehog and more trying to squeeze into the cozy mitten together. Ages 4 to 8.


Olivia by Ian Falconer

Bound to please the aesthetics of parents and the wild imaginings of their kids, Olivia is a one-of-a-kind piggy. No doubt the book's elegant palette of black, red and white will be a welcome relief to those seeking something that isn't sparkly, pink or dipped in glitter. Ages 3 to 6.


My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannett Stiles

The first installment of a series that's as spellbinding as it was when it was released in 1948 is the tale of Elmer Elevator, a boy determined to track down and save a baby dragon from a host of silly-scary, island-dwelling animals. Ages 6 to 9.


Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Spouting the truths grown-ups don't want to hear, Harriet has no equal even today. Her notebook and spy missions around New York City have inspired whole legions of girls—and boys—to become writers as well. Ages 8 to 12.


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

There’s more magic in a purple crayon than one might think…and this little boy’s found it! The story follows Harold on a moonlit stroll where he’ll draw up an exciting landscape, drawing himself out of some sticky situations. Ages 4–8.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

From the moment he gets out of bed, 11-year-old Alexander meets one misfortune after the other, and finds no comfort from his family. As Judith Viorst takes us through Alexander’s bout of bad luck, Ray Cruz’s colorful and detailed illustrations help us understand why he’s vowed to move to Australia. Ages 2 to 4.


Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Everyone knows the tale of Sam–I-Am! And everyone also knows that he does not like green eggs and ham. Find out the places he will not eat it (or will he?) in Dr. Seuss’s whimsical book filled with excellent rhymes and quirky illustrations. Ages 3–7.


The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer

When a little boy brings home a salamander from the woods, his mother asks, “Where will he sleep?” and “Where will he play?” Determined to make his room the ultimate salamander home, he imagines his room as a beautiful forest. Ages 3–7


A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Great poet or the world's greatest children's poet? Either way Silverstein remains the very best way to get kids interested in poetry—and magically have them memorizing it as well. Subversive in the safest sense, this book has never gone out of print for good reason. Ages 8 to 12.


Holes by Louis Sachar

One of the rare books to win both a Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, the story follows Stanley Yelnats as he grapples with the curse that has followed his family for generations. The book with a mystery at its core is by turns funny, heartbreaking and deeply thoughtful. Ages 8 to 12.


Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Though his Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus gets more attention, this Caldecott winner is a book with real heart. And just as children will identify with poor Trixie as she loses her beloved bunny, so too will parents completely identify with the dad who just cannot figure out what's wrong with his kid. Ages 3 to 6.


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

The catchy rhythmic alphabetics in Martin's uniquely bubbly concoction make even the most stodgy adult reader sound good. The story of 26 little letters that climb to the top of a palm tree is a modern-day classic that will have your tots tapping their tiny toes. Ages 6 months to 3 years.


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A wild mix of mystery and gothic underpinnings, this delightful story reads like a child-friendly version of Jane Eyre. It also happens to contain the most unlikable, spoiled protagonist you've ever met (at the beginning, anyway). Ages 8 to 12.


The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Adorable tales about a chubby and often confused teddy bear, paired with Ernest H. Shepard’s sweet illustrations, make for a timeless collection of stories. Each chapter takes us on a new adventure, whether hunting for a Woozle with Piglet in the Hundred Acre Wood or celebrating Eeyore’s birthday with the rest of the crew. Ages 4 and up.


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Let's be honest. What New York City kid wouldn't want to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art if he had the chance? Two children not only live the dream but solve a mystery as well when they run away from home with a well thought-out plan. Ages 8 to 12.


Eloise by Kay Thompson

A pampered little girl who resides on the top floor of the Plaza Hotel invites young readers along on her adventures throughout the luxurious NYC establishment. She seeks out fun by sneaking into weddings on the premises, spying on the wealthy guests and pestering the maids as they made their rounds—all with her pug, Weenie, and turtle, Skipperdee, in tow. Ages 4 and up.


Doctor De Soto by William Steig

Like a modernized fable, this finely wrought story follows a mouse who outwits a hungry fox thanks to his foresight and mastery of dentistry. Steig may be better known as the author of Shrek but this simple tale is the one that will truly capture your child's heart. Ages 3 to 6.


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

If you've got a kid who seems to have read everything in her path, then hand her a universe where each person's soul is an animal companion and where heroine Lyra searches relentlessly for her kidnapped friend. Ages 8 to 12.


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond’s classic tale of a hungry little mouse is a must–read; When a hungry little guy shows up on your doorstep…what do you do? If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want some milk…and a straw…and much, much more. Be sure to read other favorites in the series like If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Ages 4–8.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

This superstar is a crazed amalgamation of religion, fantasy and science. Protagonist Meg Murray, who has bad hair, glasses and braces, manages not only to win the heart of the basketball star but also to save her father and brother from a fate worse that death—and maybe the universe as well. Ages 8 to 12.


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Even younger siblings will sympathize with Peter, the eternally put upon older brother to the irrepressible—not to mention voracious—Fudge. There are loads of great Judy Blume novels in the world but the travails and rewards of having a loving, flawed family have never been shown to better effect. Ages 8 to 12.


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The urban cityscape takes on a wintry luster when the iconic, red-snowsuit-donning Peter explores the bright white world of a new snowfall. Though it caused a stir in its day for featuring an African-American boy, Keats's classic has since become beloved the world over. Ages 6 months to 3 years.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Golden tickets, Oompa Loompas, bratty children and even poverty collide in Dahl's best-known tale. If you've only ever seen the film, take time out to see what all the fuss is really about. Ages 8 to 12.


Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Before Eloise, before Fancy Nancy, even before Junie B. Jones, the true childhood heroine with spunk ah-plenty was dear sweet Madeline. The glory of old Paris and the pluck of a girl with a heart combine in the most endearing of ways. Ages 3 to 6.


The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Boredom leads to high adventure when lackluster Milo rides a tiny car through a tollbooth and finds himself in a magical land. It pulls off the unusual feat of intertwining clever wordplay and mathematics into a single cohesive story. Ages 8 to 12.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Despite using potentially overdone elements (an orphan with special powers, a school for sorcerers), Rowling wove together a magical series that gave kids the chance to feel true wonder, some for the very first time. Ages 8 to 12.


Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This cool collection of 130 children’s poems is sure to get little ones giggling (just try reading “Me Stew” or “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too”). Where the Sidewalk Ends is also a great book for beginner readers to tackle tongue-twisters. Ages 6–8.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

It may always be winter and never Christmas in this magical land, but Narnia's lure has always enthralled young readers. When four kids stumble into a new world, the evil White Witch who rules there has no idea what she's in for. Ages 8 to 12.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The idea of leaving your cozy home for adventure and possible death is beautifully conveyed in Tolkien's English classic. More kid-friendly than the later Lord of the Rings sequence, this tale of trolls, orcs, a smooth-talking dragon, hungry spiders, giant eagles and more balances literary excellence with good old-fashioned action. Ages 8 to 12.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Just the right size for tiny hands, this tale of naughty Peter and his escapades has lasted more than 100 years because it just doesn't age. Potter was the first picture-book author-illustrator to draw realistic animals in human clothing, and she's inspired a century's worth of imitators ever since. Ages 3 to 6.


The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

On Christmas Eve in the middle of the night, a train magically appears outside a little boy’s home, and it’s headed to the North Pole. What adventure is in store? Who will meet Santa and receive the first gift of Christmas? This book is easy to fall in love with, and the masses agree: After its release in 1985, The Polar Express soon became a Caldecott Medal–winner (and a Christmas classic). Ages 4–7.


Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

"Where's Papa going with that axe?" The world's greatest first line accompanies the animal tale, recounted with a child's wisdom, that kids remember and love long after they've put it down. Even if a young reader's closest association with a pig consists of pork chops at dinner, all kids can identify with Fern and Wilbur—and when they grow up and have children of their own they'll find themselves identifying with Charlotte. Ages 8 to 12.


Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

The No. 1 sleepytime rhyme award goes to Brown, who created the rare book that can be read a hundred times over without ever becoming tiresome. Amazingly, the quintessential bedtime story wasn't a hit in its day (1947), but the sheer levels of comfort it offers have made it a go-to book for generations of families. Ages 6 months to 3 years.


The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Seuss was charged with making a story out of the 348 words every six-year-old should know. What he produced was a 1,629-word tale that didn't just use most of the words but also produced a famous character, a hugely amusing story, and a classic to be read, shared and loved. Ages 3 to 6.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Fall down the rabbit hole with Lewis Carroll’s spectacularly imaginative children’s book about a very, very curious young girl. The little ones will adventure through a topsy-turvy world, complete with a white rabbit, a Cheshire cat and a vengeful Queen of Hearts. Adults will love it too—there’s plenty of mind-bending philosophy to keep parents on their toes. All ages.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The idea of writing a book for kids that manages to cover colors, counting, days of the week, healthy eating and the process of metamorphosis sounds impossible. All the more reason to admire what might well be the world's most perfect picture book. As Carle himself once said of his work, it's a book of hope for any child who feels small and helpless and wonders if they'll ever grow up. In other words, it's for the future butterflies of the world. Good thing Carle's editor convinced him to make the book about a caterpillar instead of Carle's original Willie Worm. Ages 6 months to 3 years.


Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak illustrated more than 50 books for other authors before he thought of making one of his own. When he finally did he managed to create the Citizen Kane of picture books, one that resonates across generations. It dares to lead kids to their wilder sides and then back to the sweet safety of their own bedrooms where a dinner of soup—still hot, no less—awaits them. Ages 3 to 6.


Thomas I
Thomas I

You could add to this list a book called The Bridge Across The River by Shepherd Thorleif Halvorsen.  It's actually one of the best collections of poetry every written for children.