The books people remember most are often the ones from their childhoods, and it’s no surprise; many children’s books have survived decades of changing tastes and digital distractions, continuing to entertain generations of children and even adult readers.
Here are our top five picks for the young and young at heart!
1. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Translated with introduction and notes by Ann Lawson Lucas
Did you know the story of Pinocchio comes from Italy? Carlo Collodi’s tale of the wooden puppet who wants to be a “real boy” has thrived beyond the borders of its native land. This fantasy had been widely translated and adapted many times—in 2022 alone there were three Pinocchio films! With a strong moral message and plenty of quirky characters, The Adventures of Pinocchio is a novel you won’t soon forget.
2. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edited by Peter Hunt
After being entrusted with a treasure map and warned to beware “a one-legged seafaring man,” young Jim Hawkins goes on a swashbuckling, high-seas adventure. There may be a one-legged man cooking meals below deck, but he doesn’t seem too bad… Treasure Island may have founded the “boy’s story” genre, but its moral complexity and gripping plot appeals to children and adults alike.
Read: Treasure Island
3. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Edited with an introduction by Susan Wolstenholme and with the original illustrations by W. W. Denslow
The film and musical might be better known, but neither would exist without this 1900 novel. The first in L. Frank Baum’s Oz series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy Gale in a magical land where wild beasts talk, silver shoes have magic powers, and good witches offer protection with a kiss. It’s a surreal adventure with the important message of appreciating what you had all along.
4. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Edited by Adrienne E. Gavin
It might seem strange to find a horse’s autobiography on this list, but Anna Sewell’s 1877 novel is one of the bestselling children’s books in English. Join Black Beauty as he grows from colt to stallion, experiencing a range of kind and cruel owners. Anna Sewell may have originally written this book to expose animal cruelty to Victorian adults, but Black Beauty’s story has found its way into children’s hearts then and since.
Read: Black Beauty
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
Edited by Brian Alderson and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
This might be one of the darkest children’s classics ever written. Forced to work as a chimneysweep, Tom later drowns in a tragic accident. After death he becomes a “water-baby” and is sent to help others across the world. Tom’s encounters with the animals of the river introduced children to the joys of nature and the new theory of Darwinism. Its message of redemption has given readers hope over many generations.
Read: The Water Babies
If you’ve enjoyed our recommendations, why not check out our full list of classic children’s titles on Bookshop?
Featured image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.com (public domain)