Books can transport children to another time and place, developing their imaginations and sparking a love for reading. While there are amazing new books being written all the time, there are a number of classic children’s books that have resonated with kids for generations. What titles have stood the test of time? Let’s find out.

13 Children’s Classics to Inspire Young Readers

Explore these 13 timeless favorites that are sure to inspire young readers.

1. Five Little Peppers and How They Grow

Five Little Peppers and How They Grow
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The first in a series about the Pepper family, this book tells the story of how Mrs. Pepper supports her five children.   

This heartwarming children’s classic was published in 1881 as the first in a series of several books about the Pepper family. The book tells the story of Ms. Pepper, a widow, and her five children. Mrs. Pepper struggles to earn enough to feed and support the kids, but even in the face of adversity, the family is happy. Ultimately, the book conveys the message that courage and optimism can overcome misfortune.  

2. Amazing Grace

amazing grace
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Grace yearns to be the lead in Peter Pan, even though Peter Pan is traditionally a boy—and not Black. 

In Amazing Grace, we meet Grace, a girl who loves stories of all kinds—from books to movies to the anecdotes her grandmother tells her. So when she gets the chance to participate in her school’s production of Peter Pan, she jumps at the chance. However, her classmates soon point out that Peter Pan wasn’t a girl—and wasn’t Black. In the end, readers learn that you can be anything you want to be. 

3. Corduroy

Corduroy
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Corduroy’s missing button sets him on an adventure in a closed department store. 

Do toys come alive when no one is looking? In Corduroy, they do. Corduroy, a teddy bear, lives in a department store and embarks on adventures when all the shoppers are gone for the night—that is, until a little girl purchases him and brings him home. In the end, the girl and Corduroy find a lifelong friend in each other. 

4. The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit
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In this book, mischievous Peter Rabbit gets into—and chased around—a nearby garden. 

This story follows a young, mischievous bunny—Peter Rabbit—as he disobeys his mother’s orders and gets into Mr. McGregor’s garden. He gets chased by Mr. McGregor but escapes and makes it home for bedtime. Today, The Tale of Peter Rabbit has been translated into 36 languages, with 45 million copies sold—making it one of the best-selling books in history. 

5. Little House in the Big Woods

Little House In the Big Woods
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Little House In the Big Woods is the first in a nine-book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Little House In the Big Woods is an autobiographical novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder that recounts her childhood memories of growing up in a log cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Her family—which includes her Ma, Pa, and sisters Mary and Carrie—live a pioneer life, catching or growing all of their own food. This was Ingalls’ first published novel and became the first in the Little House series. 

6. The Little Prince

The Little Prince
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In this book, the little prince visits a number of planets across the universe, including Earth. 

While it is a children’s book, The Little Prince explores sophisticated themes, including friendship, loneliness, life, loss, and human nature. In the book, a young prince travels the universe and visits planets, including Earth, to gain wisdom. Originally published in English and French, the novella has now been translated into more than 300 languages.  

7. The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day
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With vivid, captivating illustrations, The Snowy Day has become one of the most iconic children’s books of the century. 

One of the most iconic children’s books of the last century, The Snowy Day follows an African American boy who explores his neighborhood after the season’s first snowfall. Just as important as the book’s plot is its illustrations; author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats received the 1963 Caldecott Medal for the book’s artwork. Fun fact: In January 2020, the New York Public Library declared The Snowy Day the most checked-out book in the library’s 125-year history. 

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8. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
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The first in a series of seven novels, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe introduces a magical land found behind a wardrobe door. 

A fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published as the first of seven novels in the Chronicles of Narnia series. It follows the story of four siblings who discover a Narnia, a magical land frozen in eternal winter, behind a wardrobe door. Since its initial publication, it’s been translated into more than 40 languages, included in several lists of top children’s books, and made into a film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media.   

9. The Master Puppeteer

The Master Puppeteer
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The Master Puppeteer explores themes including loyalty, honor, friendship, and courage. 

A historical children’s novel, The Master Puppeteer follows a young boy, Jiro, who becomes an apprentice to Yoshida, a master puppeteer. From there, the novel becomes a mystery and a window into the political events of 18th-century Osaka—with a dash of insight into the world of puppetry. 

10. Anastasia Krupnik

Anastasia Krupnik
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Anastasia Krupnik explores the life of a girl “just trying to grow up.” 

Before well-known children’s author Lois Lowry wrote The Giver, she penned Anastasia Krupnik, the first in a series of novels about a girl named Anastasia. Throughout the book—and the rest of the series—the title character deals with problems ranging from falling in love to finding out that she’s going to have a little brother. And in fact, Lowry eventually wrote a short spin-off series about Anastasia’s younger brother, Sam. 

11. Child of the Owl

Child of the Owl
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In this book, the main character receives an owl necklace that symbolizes her family’s mythological history. 

Child of the Owl follows Casey, a 12-year-old Chinese-American girl living in San Francisco. After her father is hospitalized, she is sent to live with her uncle in the wealthy part of town and then her grandmother in Chinatown. During her time in Chinatown, she realizes she understands little about her family’s history or culture. Over the course of the book, she comes to learn about and embrace her cultural heritage. 

12. A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea
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A Wizard of Earthsea has received multiple awards and positive reviews as both a book for children and a general audience. 

A Wizard of Earthsea is an influential and highly regarded classic children’s book that follows Ged, a young sorcerer who joins a school of wizardry. During one duel, Ged inadvertently releases a shadow creature and spends the rest of the novel seeking to free himself of the monster. Five additional books, referred to as the Earthsea Cycle, complete the series. 

13. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

 A Very Hungry Caterpillar
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The illustrations in A Very Hungry Caterpillar were originally created with layers of tissue paper and paint. 

For the younger readers, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a can’t-miss story. This classic book tells the story of a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly—eating his way through a variety of food as he prepares for the transition. Featuring colorful illustrations and holes made specifically for tiny fingers to poke through, this book keeps kids engaged from beginning to end. And, with more than 40 million copies sold worldwide, several sources name The Very Hungry Caterpillar as the most popular children’s book of all time. 

Let Your Imagination Soar With These Classic Children’s Books

With unique storylines and captivating illustrations, these children’s classics are sure to catch—and keep—your children’s attention. These timeless stories have inspired kids for generations and will surely continue to spark creativity and instill a love of reading for years to come. 

Could You Be the Author of the Next Children’s Classic? 

Write a Children’s Book in 7 Days or Less

Written By

Katie Wolf

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