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The best books for children from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s

Ages 3 and under | Ages 3 to 7 | Ages 7 to 10 | Ages 10 and up | More expert picks


Doctor De Soto

Illustration from Doctor De Soto 1982 by William Steig. Used with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Paper Bag Princess 
By Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Annick Press, 1980)
The worthy role model at the heart of this feminist fairy tale doesn't just sit around—or lie in a poisoned-apple-induced coma—waiting for a prince to save her. Not only does she rescue herself, but she also ditches her useless, judgmental suitor. You go, girl.

Doctor De Soto 
By William Steig (FSG, 1982)
Marcus calls the author-illustrator "the greatest picture-book writer of our time"—a bold statement to be sure. But who else could have a mouse dentist seamlessly wield the phrase "permeate the dentine"?

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales 
By Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (Viking, 1992)
The prolific team delivers ten irreverent fairy-tale send-ups with a winning combination of sophisticated art and silly humor. The book was "a game-changer for the genre and the most imitated picture book of the last 25 years," Marcus says.

By Ian Falconer (Atheneum, 2000)
Peter Glassman calls the porcine heroine "a 21st-century Eloise." The irrepressible porker does seem like a young New Yorker—she sculpts a sand-castle Empire State Building and assesses a Jackson Pollock at the Met with a skeptical "I could do that in about five minutes."

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 
By Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2003)
Why does the near-stick-figure bird resonate with little ones? He needles, wheedles and pleads—just like the preschoolers who adore him. For Scieszka, the pigeon looms as large as the Cat in the Hat. (Honorable mention: Willems's Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, cited by all three of our other experts.)


Incredulous because we overlooked your faves? Don't get mad; set us straight! Email kids@timeoutny.com with your new classic picks. 

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