100+ Best Children’s Books of the 20th Century

Remind Yourself What YOU Read As A Child. If your memory is anything like mine, you need something to jog it. Or jar it. Or jolt it. Or dislodge it. That’s what this list is for.

Chances are, some of these books were your personal favourites. After all, the most popular books are the ones that most children read.

Most Great Children’s Books are Timeless

Sure, you might have to explain to your child why there was no telephone in that Little House on the Prairie, or why Child Protective Services wasn’t called when the Cat in the Hat found Sally and her brother home alone.

But that’s all good. The talking you do with your child about a book is a wonderful opportunity to bond, to attach, to talk about your own childhood.

Remember what Dr Daniel Siegel, the amazing brain and attachment researcher, has to say about such conversations.

The most powerful predictor of a strong bond between child and parent is the parent’s ability to speak coherently to the child about the parent’s own childhood.

Use the best children’s book from your own youth to stimulate that conversation!

1900s Best Children’s Books

Beatrix Potter:

1910s Best Children’s Books

The Real Mother Goose, Blanche F. Wright

1920s Best Children’s Books

A.A. Milne:

Franklin Dixon, The Hardy Boys:

1940s Best Children’s Books

  • The Poky Little Puppy, Janette Sebring Lowrey
  • Tootle, Gertrude Crampton
  • Pat the Bunny, Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Saggy Baggy Elephant, Kathryn and Byron Jackson
  • The Littlest Angel, Charles Tazewell
  • Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey
  • Horton Hatches the Egg, Dr. Seuss
  • The Tall Book of Nursery Tales, Feodor Rojankovsky
  • Curious George, H. A. and Margret Rey

1950s Best Children’s Books

Dr. Seuss:

  • The Cat in the Hat
  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
  • Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
  • Happy Birthday to You!

Scuffy the Tugboat, Gertrude Crampton

Eloise, Kay Thompson

Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White

A Fly Went By, Mike McClintock

Tawny Scrawny Lion, Kathryn Jackson

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry

1960s Best Children’s Books

Dr. Seuss:

  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
  • Hop on Pop
  • Dr. Seuss’s ABC
  • Fox in Socks
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • My Book About Me (By Me, Myself)
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories
  • Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book

P.D. Eastman:

  • Are You My Mother?
  • Go, Dog Go!
  • The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary

Richard Scarry:

  • Best Word Book
  • Best Mother Goose Ever
  • I Am a Bunny, Ole Risom
  • Best Storybook Ever
  • Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
  • What Do People Do All Day?

Jan Pfloog:

  • The Kitten Book
  • The Farm Book
  • The Zoo Book

The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
The Children’s Bible
Walt Disney’s Storyland, Walt Disney
Put Me in the Zoo, Robert Lopshire
The Touch Me Book, Pat and Eve Witte
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Never Talk to Strangers, Irma Joyce
Eloise Wilkin’s Mother Goose, Eloise Wilkin
Love Is a Special Way of Feeling, Joan Walsh Anglund
Santa Mouse, Elfrieda Dewitt
Ten Apples Up On Top!, Theo. LeSieg
Babies So Tall Board Book, Gyo Fujikawa
The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes
The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Rascal, Sterling North

1970s Best Children’s Books

Dr. Seuss:

  • I Can Read with My Eyes Shut
  • Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!
  • Oh Say Can You Say?
  • There’s a Wocket in My Pocket!
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?

Laura Ingalls Wilder:

  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek
  • Farmer Boy
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake
  • Little Town on the Prairie
  • These Happy Golden Years
  • The First Four Years
  • The Long Winter

Richard Scarry:

  • Early Words
  • Please and Thank You
  • Find Your ABC’s

Judy Blume:

  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
  • Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
  • Blubber
  • Freckle Juice
  • Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
  • Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
  • Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
  • Iggie’s House
  • Deenie

Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Berenstain Bears:

  • …New Baby
  • …Go to School

Madeleine L’Engle:

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • A Wind in the Door
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Mercer Mayer:

  • Just Me and My Dad
  • Just Grandma and Me
  • Just for You

E. B. White:

  • Stuart Little
  • The Trumpet of the Swan

Harry McNaught:

  • 500 Words to Grow On
  • The Truck Book

S. E. Hinton:

  • That Was Then, This Is Now
  • Rumble Fish

Norma Klein:

  • It’s Not What You Expect
  • Sunshine

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
Macmillan Dictionary for Children, edited by Judith Levy
Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell
Shane, Jack Schaeffer
Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
The Pigman, Paul Zindel
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
The Night Before Christmas, Clement Hurd
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
The Cay, Theodore Taylor
Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
How to Eat Fried Worms, Thomas Rockwell
The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
Corduroy, Don Freeman
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Sounder, William H. Armstrong
Dinosaurs, Peter Zallinger
Wee Sing Children’s Songs and Fingerplays
Poems & Prayers for the Very Young, Martha Alexander
Chocolate Fever, Robert K. Smith
Frog and Toad Are Friends, Arnold Lobel
The Alphabet Book, P. D. Eastman
The Little Duck, Judy Dunn
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum

1980s Best Children’s Books

Martin Handford:

  • Where’s Waldo?
  • The Great Waldo Search
  • Find Waldo Now

Graeme Base:

  • Animalia
  • The Eleventh Hour

Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Berenstain Bears:

  • …and the Messy Room
  • …and Too Much Junk Food
  • …Meet Santa Bear
  • …and Too Much TV
  • …Forget Their Manners
  • …Learn About Strangers
  • …Visit the Dentist
  • …and the Truth
  • …in the Dark
  • …Go to the Doctor
  • …Get in a Fight
  • …No Girls Allowed
  • …and the Sitter
  • …Get the Gimmies
  • …Too Much Birthday
  • …and the Trouble with Friends
  • …and the Week at Grandma’s
  • …Go Out for the Team
  • …Go to Camp
  • …and Moving Day

Sandra Boynton:

  • Moo Baa La La La (board book)
  • The Going to Bed Book

Elizabeth Koda-Callan:

  • The Magic Locket
  • The Silver Slippers

Mercer Mayer:

  • Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad
  • All By Myself
  • I Was So Mad
  • I Just Forgot
  • When I Get Bigger
  • The New Baby
  • Me Too!
  • Just Me and My Puppy
  • Just Shopping with Mom

Roald Dahl:

  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Peggy Parish:

  • Amelia Bedelia
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Baby
  • Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia

Lynne Reid Banks:

  • The Indian in the Cupboard
  • The Return of the Indian

Phoebe Dunn:

  • Baby’s Animal Friend
  • Farm Animals

A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein
The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Laura Numeroff (review of another book in Numeroff’s If You series.
Big Bird’s Color Game
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial Storybook, William Kotzwinkle
Baby’s First Words, Lars Wik
The Way Things Work, David Macaulay
The Mitten, Jan Brett
Thomas the Tank Engine’s Noisy Trip, Rev. W. Awdry
Where’s Spot?, Eric Hill
My First Bible in Pictures, Kenneth Taylor
Love You Forever, Robert Munsch
Baby’s ABC, Steve Shevett
The Very Busy Spider, Eric Carle
I Am Not Going to Get Up Today!, Dr. Seuss
Big Bird’s Mother Goose, photos by John Barrett
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, Jon Scieszka
It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny, Marilyn Sadler
The Jolly Postman, Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Napping House, Audrey Wood
The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford
Superfudge, Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar
Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan
When the Legends Die, Hal Borland
Bunnicula, James Howe
Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
Kristy’s Great Idea (Babysitters Club #1), Ann M. Martin (click link to read a tribute)
Gremlins, George Jipe
Stone Fox, John Gardner
The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor
The Chocolate Touch, Patrick Catling
The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls (Babysitters Club #2), Ann M. Martin
Meet Samantha, Susan Adler
The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier
In & Out, Up & Down, Michael Smollin
Meet Kirsten, Janet Shaw
Clifford the Big Red Dog, Norman Bridwell

1990s Best Children’s Books

J. K. Rowling:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Barney:

  • Barney’s Favorite Mother Goose Rhymes Vol. 1
  • Barney’s Farm Animals
  • Barney’s Magical Picnic
  • Barney’s Color Surprise
  • Baby Bop’s Toys,
  • Barney’s Hats
  • Baby Bop’s Counting Book

Disney:

  • The Lion King
  • 101 Dalmatians
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Storybook Collection
  • Aladdin

Lois Lowry:

  • The Giver
  • Number the Stars

Mercer Mayer:

  • Just Go to Bed
  • Just Me and My Mom

R.L. Stine, Goosebumps:

  • Welcome to Dead House
  • Say Cheese and Die

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss
The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
Just Imagine
Cat’s Cradle, Anne Akers Johnson
Falling Up, Shel Silverstein
Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney
Scholastic Children’s Dictionary
The Very Quiet Cricket, Eric Carle
The Cheerios Play Book, Lee Wade
The Runaway Bunny (board book), Margaret Wise Brown
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Storybook Based on the Movie
If You Give a Moose a Muffin, Laura Numeroff (review of another book in Numeroff’s If You series
Barnyard Dance, Sandra Boynton
Star Wars Episode I Cross Sections
On the Day You Were Born, Debra Frasier
Stellaluna, Janell Cannon
I Spy Christmas: A Book of Picture Riddles, Jean Marzollo
My First Word Board Book
Thomas and the Freight Train, Rev. W. Awdry
Arthur Goes to School, Marc Brown
Matilda, Roald Dahl
Meet Addy, Connie Porter
The Secret of the Indian, Lynne Reid Banks
Good Work, Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish

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