There’s something about classic children’s books that stays with a reader long after the last page. Maybe it’s the repetition, the colorful illustrations, or the infectious rhymes. Whatever the reason, the stories we hear as young children stick with us more than anything ever read in adulthood.
Certain children’s books have a longevity that other literature doesn’t; generations have grown up on the same tomes as we did because they’re just that good.
Whether you’re nostalgic for the tales of your youth or are looking for the perfect book to read (again and again and again) with your own kids, we’ve scouted out the best classic children’s books of all time for your reading pleasure.
Harold and the Purple Crayon
In this charming and timeless story, Harold is a 4-year-old boy with a magical purple crayon that turns whatever he draws into reality.
Clifford the Big Red Dog
Every kid wants a dog. For those who can’t have one, the literary version is the next best thing. Clifford the Big Red Dog and his owner Emily Elizabeth were iconic children’s book characters before they ever came to the small screen in the PBS Kids series.
The Snowy Day
Peter is a little boy who ventures out in the first snowfall of the season in his red snowsuit and has various adventures in the wintry weather. While Jewish author Ezra Jack Keats has been criticized for tokenism, this was one of the few children’s books with a Black protagonist when it was published in 1962.
Are You My Mother?
This endearing tale follows a newly hatched bird in search of his mother, who left the nest to find food. The little bird encounters all manner of machines, mammals, and other creatures as he seeks her out.
Corduroy is a teddy bear who lives in a department store. One day, a little girl begs her mother to buy him but the mother refuses because the bear is missing a button. That night, Corduroy goes in search of the button, causing a commotion in the process.
The Giving Tree
This controversial Shel Silverstein story explores the lifelong relationship between a boy and a generous tree. As the boy ages, he becomes increasingly greedy, stripping the tree of almost everything it has. Whether this book is a cautionary tale about codependency or about the beauty of selfless love is up for debate, but it’s still a childhood favorite.
My Many Colored Days
This artful book pairs colors and animals with emotions to help children better understand and vocalize their feelings. Unlike other Dr. Seuss rhyming books, this one isn’t cloying and even appeals to adults.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
This classic book introduces children to colors and animals in vibrant renderings by artist Eric Carle. It’s a simple, endlessly re-readable book that even babies adore.
There are few kids in the U.S. who grow up without Goodnight Moon. It’s practically required reading. The colorful book focuses on a rabbit whose bedtime routine is to say goodnight to everything within eyesight.
Where the Wild Things Are
In this unforgettable story by Maurice Sendak, a boy named Max is sent to bed without dinner, but when he falls asleep, his room is transformed into a forest, where he meets an eclectic cast of beasts. As much fun as he has with his new friends in this strange land, he soon longs for home.