The best children’s books; for compelling, can’t-put-down reads

Children s book

It’s probably impossible to come up with a satisfactory list of the best children’s books; after all, there are hundreds worthy of a place. It’s more accurate to call this list an ‘insight into the best children’s books’, rather than a title so definitive. 

Children’s books are like food for the imagination. They open children up to marvellous fictional worlds where magic is real and animals talk. But as much as they entertain, they also teach children important lessons; right from wrong, cause and effect, loyalty, and the importance of friendship. 

The best children’s books never grow old; with our list featuring books from the likes of Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter and E.B White, there’s every possibility that you remember reading the book when you were little- and now’s your chance to share your favourites with your own children.  

Whether you’re looking for their next bedtime story book, a birthday present or a book that’ll spark a passion for reading, we certainly have you covered with our list below. For younger readers, there’s the interactive and entertaining The Hungry Caterpillar, while George’s Marvellous Medicine is a no-brainer for six year olds looking for an engaging and funny bedtime story. 

Before long, they’ll be pestering you for more pages at bedtime, developing stronger reading skills, learning important life lessons and feeling inspired to use their imagination. Whether it’s using twigs as wands, making friends with animals or (we take no responsibility) brewing up their own marvellous concoctions in the bathroom sink, these books are the gateway to hours and hours of screen-free entertainment. 

If you are looking for inspiration for your little ones very first library, check out our round up of 11 classic baby books.

Children s book

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The very first Harry Potter book reveals the immersive world of wizardry that Rowling has built around us

Best for: Discovering the wizarding world | Pages: 352 | Ages: 11-14 | Author: J.K Rowling

Characters they can connect to
Explores the importance of friendship and belonging
Books 3 to 7 are for older children 

The Harry Potter books inspired the imagination of a generation and there’s no sign of the craze ever fizzling out. The first of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, follows Harry as he discovers the wizarding world that fictionally exists alongside ours. From making friends for life, finding his sense of belonging to understanding the truth about his heritage, Harry’s first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is an eventful one, and things remain that way throughout the entire series.  

Children s book

2. Where The Wild Things Are

This book goes beyond the words to illustrate the essence of anger in children

Best for: Classic bedtime story | Pages: 48 | Ages: 0-5 | Author: Maurice Sendak

Explores themes of anger and love
Beautifully illustrated
The story is very short 

To a child, this book delves into a fantasy world that suddenly appears in a little boy’s bedroom after he’s been naughty and sent to bed without supper. But it’s Max’s desire to return home after being so angry at his mother that is so poignant. Many people believe that the world where the wild things are is a representation of Max’s anger at being sent to bed without any supper, and the taming of the wild things is like taming his anger until he can eventually look at things objectively, coming to the realisation that home is where he belongs.  

Children s book

3. Green Eggs and Ham

The perfect book for early readers

Best for: Learning to read | Pages: 65 | Ages: 4-7 | Author: Dr Seuss

Rhyming and repetition
Strong morals
Meanings and feelings explored more relatable at the top end of the age bracket 

The simple structure, and the rhyming and repetition in this book makes it ideal for young readers who are beginning to read unaided. Older children will be able to understand the deeper meanings within the book - one of which being that you can’t say you don’t like something unless you’ve tried it- while younger readers will find entertainment in the creative illustrations and concepts. With plenty of other Dr Seuss books out there, Green Eggs and Ham is just the start - we’re pretty sure The Cat in the Hat will follow soon after.  

Children s book

4. The Tiger Who Came to Tea

A beautifully simple story and one of the most popular children’s books of all time

Best for: Simple narrative | Pages: 32 | Ages: 0-5 | Author: Judith Kerr

Simple at amusing
Perfect length of bed time
Arguably no deeper meaning 

From the author who also brought us the Mog books, The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a beautifully simple story about a tiger who joins a little girl and her mother for tea and eats and drinks every drop of tea and every morsel of food before leaving, never to return. The book is the perfect length for a bedtime story and despite the anthromophosied Tiger, gives a little insight into a family’s life that is completely relatable to a young child.  

Children s book

5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A right of passage for every young reader

Best for: Educating very little ones | Pages: 26 | Ages: 0-5 | Author: Eric Carle

Interactive pages
 You’ll be able to recite it in your sleep

A simply written story book that covers counting, days or the week and of course, numerous foods! With the interactive finger hole demonstrating the journey of the caterpillar as he chews his way through every piece of food, this book is immersive, entertaining and educational, making it the perfect buy for early years bedtime reading and beyond. Just be prepared to know every single word by heart. 

Children s book

6. Journey to the River Sea

A compelling read that brings the Amazon to life

Best for: Award winning children’s book | Pages: 320 | Ages: 11-14 | Author: Eva Ibbotson

Explores themes of race, right and wrong and good versus bad
Brings the Amazon Rainforest to life
Set in 1910, so concepts could be foreign  

With a slight mirroring of the classic evil stepmother and stepsisters concept of Cinderella, this is a book about an orphan sent to live with her last remaining family in Brazil. The family are unwelcoming and unsavoury, but alongside her governess and friends, she enjoys the vibrancy of the Amazon Rainforest. Of course, the evil stepmother gets her comeuppance, and with a couple of interesting side plots, too, this book is simple enough to keep young readers entertained, but still manages to explore a variety of important themes.  

Children s book

7. The Tale of Peter Rabbit

A light-hearted tale from one of the most celebrated children’s authors of all time

Best for: Bringing animals to life | Pages: 37 | Ages: 6-10 | Author: Beatrix Potter

Loveable characters
The right blend of entertainment and suspense
Perhaps too much suspense for younger readers  

Beatrix Potter’s children’s books were inspired by her animals and the landscape she grew up in. Bringing animals to life, her books are immersive and magical; for decades, children have enjoyed her loveable characters, which are completely relatable in there mischievous and inquisitive nature. Peter Rabbit is one of her most popular creations. Simply narrated, the tale of Peter Rabbit is entertaining, relatable and some important lessons are certainly learned. 

Children s book

8. George's Marvellous Medicine

One of Roald Dahl's shorter stories, George’s Marvellous Medicine is the perfect bedtime book

Best for: Classic Roald Dahl | Pages: 128 | Ages: 6-10 | Author: Roald Dahl

Encourages children to do good in the world
You’ll need to discourage them from producing their own ‘marvellous medicine’ 

Roald Dahl is the king of creating obscure, wacky characters; George’s granny, the Twits, even Mr Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A lot of his stories are about characters coming up with crazy ways to get one up on each other and George’s Marvellous Medicine is no different. Inventing a ‘medicine’ to get back at his granny, it ends up having an adverse effect on her, but it could help to end one of the biggest issues worldwide! It’s a simple, full circle book that’ll inspire all sorts of creativity that you may need to watch out for!  

Children s book

9. Charlotte's Web

The tale of an unlikely friendship struck up between a pig and a spider

Best for: Learning about friendship | Pages: 272 | Ages: 6-10 | Author: E.B White

Learn and loyalty and friendship
Learn that the smallest actions can make a difference
A fairly heavy-going book for younger readers  

Charlotte’s Web is the perfect balance of triumphant and harrowing themes. The idea that this is a story about saving a pig from slaughter is fairly eye opening for a child, but the friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider is sweet and innocent. While Charlotte’s death is harrowing, especially after her success at saving Wilbur, E.B White stays true to nature, but still leaves the reader with a satisfyingly happy ending.  

Children s book

10. The Queen's Nose

What would you do with your seven wishes?

Best for: Lighthearted magic | Pages: 160 | Ages: 6-10 | Author: Dick King Smith

Combines both magic and animal themes
Will evoke endless discussions about wishes
You may find them rubbing the odd 50p 

Harmony, the heroine in the story, is given a magical 50p coin which grants her 7 wishes. A lover of animals, this story combines themes of magic and nature as she goes on a journey to discover the things that are most important in life- even her parents, who she dislikes because they don’t like animals, she learns to love and accept. A story that teaches that you getting what you wish for isn’t necessarily what’s best.  

Read more:

Keep the kids entertained with classic games: The best board games for children

Early learning toys that are educational and fun: The best baby development toys