21 of the best classic children's books

From treasures like Peter Pan to modern favourites like The Gruffalo, here's our edit of the best classic children's books, tailored to each age group. 

Which books did you love as a child? Did you jump down the rabbit hole with Alice or swing through the jungle with Mowgli? Here are some great children's classics to pass on to the next generation.

Dear Zoo

by Rod Campbell

Book cover for Dear Zoo

Rod Campbell has been a trusted name in early learning for over forty years, and the classic, Dear Zoo has been a firm favourite with toddlers and parents alike since its first publication in 1982. I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet, and they sent me a. . . Lift the flaps to discover the range of unsuitable animals the zoo has sent. With bright, bold artwork, Dear Zoo is a must for every toddler's bookshelf. 

Goodnight Moon

by Margaret Wise Brown

Book cover for Goodnight Moon

Margaret Wise Brown's comforting, rhythmic text accompanied by the warmth of Clement Hurd's classic mid-century illustrations make Goodnight Moon a timeless picture book, which is known and loved around the world. In a great green room a little rabbit is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things that surround him, one by one. This anniversary edition of the classic bedtime story, complete with shiny gold flourishes is the ideal gift and perfect for sharing at bedtime to sooth small children to sleep.

Peace at Last

by Jill Murphy

Book cover for Peace at Last

Jill Murphy's bestselling classic Peace at Last has delighted young children for almost forty years, and is equally beloved by tired parents who are all too familiar with the plight of poor Mr Bear. Mrs Bear is snoring, the clock is ticking very loudly, so is the kitchen tap. Will Mr Bear ever get to sleep? Fans can celebrate thirty-five years of the bear family with this special edition of Whatever Next! an equally warm bedtime story from Jill Murphy. 

Puff, the Magic Dragon

by Peter Yarrow

Book cover for Puff, the Magic Dragon

Most readers will remember Puff, the Magic Dragon for its timeless Peter, Paul and Mary song. With two vibrant bonus versions of the song plus two other tracks, this edition is a foiled, gift reissue to ccelebrate the 60th anniversary of the song's release. Listen, read and enjoy the dreamy illustrations that capture the enchanted land of Honalee and its extraordinary inhabitants, and share in the adventures of Jackie Paper and his childhood friend, Puff, the magic dragon. 

The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for The Gruffalo

Not just a book but a phenomenon, The Gruffalo is an undisputed modern children's classic. A quick-witted mouse out for a stroll avoids the machinations of various hungry animals in this entertaining, ingenious rhyming story featuring the famous monster. With this year marking the 30th anniversary of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's unstoppable partnership, there is no better way to celebrate than with this bonus content hardback edition. 

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The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook

by Joyce Lankester Brisley

Book cover for The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook

The stories of Milly-Molly-Mandy and her friends have charmed generations of children since their first publication in 1925. Perfect for reading aloud, these twenty stories will bring back happy memories for parents and grandparents and introduce younger readers to an enduringly popular heroine and her friends Little-Friend-Susan and Billy Blunt. Join the little girl in the candy-striped dress as Milly-Molly-Mandy does the gardening, goes to a party, and has a seaside adventure – whatever Milly-Molly-Mandy and her friends are up to, you're sure to have fun when they're around! 

Winnie-the-Pooh and Me

by Jeanne Willis

Book cover for Winnie-the-Pooh and Me

Kanga and Roo are sailing. Owl's at home. So who has come along to join Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin on their adventure? Could it be some Heffalumps, after Pooh's honey? Or perhaps someone else entirely. This is a brand-new Winnie-the-Pooh story by bestselling author Jeanne Willis and illustrator Mark Burgess, featuring the best-loved characters from the Hundred Acre Wood. With a gentle rhyming story by bestselling author Jeanne Willis and charming illustrations by Mark Burgess this authorised sequel is the perfect gift for anyone who loves the enchanting world of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends.

The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A pilot who has crash-landed in the desert awakes to see an extraordinary little boy. 'Please,' asks the stranger, 'will you draw me a little lamb!' Baffled by the little prince's incessant questioning, the pilot pulls out his pencil and starts to draw. As the little prince's curiosity takes them further on their journey together, the pilot is able to piece together an understanding of the tiny planet from which the prince has come. Chris Riddell's brilliant full-colour illustrated version of this timeless classic is a perfect gift for families and children. 

Peter Pan

by J. M. Barrie

Book cover for Peter Pan

Whatever your age, J. M. Barrie’s thrilling tale of the boy who refuses to grow up never gets old. Follows the Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael, who befriend the magical Peter and are whisked away to Neverland, where the villainous Captain Hook and the brave Lost Boys await. With illustrations by F. D. Bedford, gorgeously coloured by one of Britain's leading colourists, Barbara Frith, this majestic Macmillan Collector's Library edition brings to life one of the world's favourite tales. 

The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

Book cover for The Wind in the Willows

One of the most celebrated works of classic literature for children, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame remains a timeless tale of camaraderie, loyalty and bravery more than a hundred years after its first publication. Mole and Rat have a pleasant life by the river. The wise and private Mr Badger lives sedately in the Wild Woods, content in his solitude. Then there's Mr Toad – wealthy, impulsive and utterly obsessed with motor cars. With sixteen gorgeous colour illustrations, this edition is perfect for adults to take a trip down memory lane while reading to little ones. 

The Teddy Robinson Storybook

by Joan G. Robinson

Book cover for The Teddy Robinson Storybook

Join Teddy Robinson as he has a birthday party, goes to hospital and plays at the seaside. He's sometimes rather shy and sometimes a bit of a show-off - but with his love of rhymes and his great imagination, Teddy Robinson is the best friend any child could have. Teddy Robinson has been enchanting readers since his first appearance in 1953. This new paperback edition of Joan G Robinson's classics story is gloriously illustrated with the author's original line drawings.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Book cover for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll's Alice has been enchanting children for 150 years. Curious Alice, the bossy White Rabbit, the formidable Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter are among the best-loved, most iconic literary creations of all time. This beautiful, celebratory, edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has a gorgeous cover with shiny red foil, and is packed full of fun bonus material, including a quiz, wordsearch and a glossary. Lewis Carroll's classic children's book is brought to life like never before!

Journey to the River Sea

by Eva Ibbotson

Book cover for Journey to the River Sea

Eva Ibbotson's bestselling classic adventure has been enchanting young readers and parents alike since its publication in 2001. Set in the lush nature of Brazil, the story follows Maia, an orphan, who can't wait to reach her distant relatives a thousand miles up the Amazon. She imagines a loving family but instead finds two spiteful cousins. But when she meets a mysterious boy who lives alone on the wild river shores, she begins a spectacular journey to the heart of an extraordinary and beautiful new world whete the wonders of the rainforest more than make up for the hideous twins and their parents.


by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Book cover for Millions

Heart-achingly funny, touching and brilliantly clever, Millions is a fantastic adventure about two boys, one miracle and a million choices. Brothers Damian and Anthony didn't mean to get caught up in a botched train robbery. But what would you do if a massive bag of cash dropped from the sky and you had only a few days to spend it before it became worthless? This edition of Frank Cottrell-Boyce's Carnegie Medal-winning Millions features fantastic cover artwork from the brilliant Steven Lenton. Millions has also been adapted for the big screen, directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle.

Gobbolino the Witch's Cat

by Ursula Moray Williams

Book cover for Gobbolino the Witch's Cat

With his sparkly whiskers and magic tricks, no one could mistake Gobbolino for a simple kitchen cat, but that's just what the witch's kitten wants to be. Instead of learning how to turn mice into toads for the witch's brew, Gobbolino sets out on an adventure to find a family and a home of his own. Reissued for its seventy-fifth anniversary with illustrations by the award-winning Catherine Rayner, this classic tale has been loved by generations of children.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

by Ian Fleming

Book cover for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Commander Caractacus Pott buys his family their first car. It looks like a wreck, but once restored it turns out to be no ordinary vehicle: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a magical car which can fly, swim and even think. With a mission to stop a criminal gang in its tracks Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on an adventure – and she is taking the Potts with her! First published in 1964, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was James Bond creator Ian Fleming's only children's book.

The Island of Adventure

Book cover for The Island of Adventure

The Island of Adventure is the first thrilling instalment in the Adventure series by Enid Blyton, one of the best-loved children's writers of all time. For Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Ann, Jack and Kiki the parrot, the summer holidays in Cornwall are everything they'd hoped for. Until they begin to realize that something very sinister is taking place on the mysterious Isle of Gloom . . .  Enid Blyton's stories of magic, adventure and friendship continue to enchant children the world over.

The Jungle Book

by Rudyard Kipling

Book cover for The Jungle Book

First published by Macmillan in 1894, The Jungle Book is the classic collection of animal tales that shows Rudyard Kipling's writing for children at its best. The short stories and poems include the tale of Mowgli, a boy raised by a pack of wolves in the Indian jungle, Bagheera, the black panther, Baloo, the 'sleepy brown bear', and the python, Kaa. With a beautiful foiled cover, this edition from the original publisher of Rudyard Kipling's much-loved classic is a book to treasure. 

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

by Judy Blume

Book cover for Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

With the release of a major film adaptation starring Rachel McAdams, there is no better time to discover this hilarious coming-of-age classic. Meet Margaret. She's going through all the same things most teenage girls have to face, but no matter how hard she tries, she can't shake the feeling that she's simply not normal. Meanwhile, everyone else seems really sure of who they are. And, worst of all, she's a 'late developer'. It's too embarrassing to talk to her parents about these things. So she talks to God instead – and waits for an answer. 

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The Princess Diaries

by Meg Cabot

Book cover for The Princess Diaries

Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries inspired the feature film starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. One minute Mia's a totally normal Manhattan fourteen-year-old. Next minute she's heir to the throne of Genovia, being trailed by a bodyguard, taking princess lessons with her uncontrollable old grandmere, and having a makeover with someone called Paolo. Well, her dad can lecture her till he's royal blue in the face, but no way is Mia going to turn herself into a style-queen. Cabot's relatable humour has made The Princess Diaries a firm favourite for teens. 

The Lie Tree

by Frances Hardinge

Book cover for The Lie Tree

The Lie Tree is a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric novel by Frances Hardinge and winner of the 2015 Costa Book of the Year. Faith's father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. Soon, the girl realises that the tree might hold the answers to her father's murder.