There’s nothing quite like a classic children’s book. As I’m sure many of my dedicated readers already know, this librarian is a huge fan of the classics. And I especially enjoy the classic stories written for children. These delightful tales capture the imagination, inspire adventure, and foster a life-long love of reading. I’ve collected here a nice mix of classic titles, from adventure stories to sweet tales of growing up. Whatever your reading preference, I hope you find something to love on this list!
Every year, I share a Reading Challenge with my fellow library staff. And starting in 2021, I’ve been sharing those lists with all of you. Throughout the year, I’ll be sharing selections of different books that can be used to complete some of the prompts on this list. I hope you find something to inspire you!
Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery) Aging siblings Matthew and Marilla decide to adopt a young boy to assist around their estate of Green Gables. But, a mix-up at the orphanage results in a spunky young girl named Anne being sent instead. While Marilla is dead-set on sending the girl back, Anne soon captures the hearts of those around her, and the lives of the people of Avonlea will never be the same again.
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) I do love a good swashbuckling story! Young Jim Hawkins and his mother run an inn, and when a dying pirate leaves behind his treasure map to them, the pair becomes enthralled with the possibility of riches beyond their wildest dreams. But, there are others who want to get their hands on the map, including an infamous one-legged pirate named Long John Silver.
Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne) These timeless tales of everyone’s favorite bear are both incredibly sweet and terribly funny. Join Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, Rabbit, Owl, and Roo on a series of adventures and misadventures all around the Hundred Acre Wood.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary) When Ralph, a little mouse, gets his hands on a tiny toy motorcycle that is just the right size, he just knows he has to give it a try! But, the newfound freedom and excitement he finds comes with some challenges, too, such as nosy cousins, an excitable terrier, and some meddlesome humans.
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) Miserable Mary Lennox is sent away from home to live with her reclusive uncle, Archibald Craven. Lonely and ignored, Mary starts to wander around the estate. There, she discovers both a strange crying sound in the middle of the night, as well as a secret garden that no one has tended to in years. With the help of local boy Dickon, Mary sets about trying to bring the garden back to life again.
The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein) A young boy and a tree form a special bond, but as the boy grows older, he begins to ask more and more of his friend, who keeps giving to him, regardless of personal cost. This tender, bittersweet story is a tale of deep love, and the lengths that one will go to in order to care for those they love.
Heidi (Johanna Spyri) A young girl goes to live with her estranged grandfather in the Alps. But, despite his reputation for being fierce and dangerous, young Heidi is enchanted and delighted by the surly old man and blossoms in his care. When her aunt comes to collect her, believing she knows what’s best for the child, Heidi becomes determined to find her way back to the Alps.
The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling) This is a collection of short stories surrounding the animals of India, who discover a baby boy and must determine what to do with him. As the boy, Mowgli, grows up, he has adventures of his own. This collection also includes classic tales like “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and “Toomai of the Elephants”.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Richard Atwater) The Poppers unexpectedly come into possession of a penguin. And when they pair up that penguin with one from the zoo, they unexpectedly find themselves playing nursery to 10 more baby penguins! Will the Poppers be able to sort out their penguin problem before their feathered guests eat them out of house and home?
Black Beauty (Anna Sewell) When he was a young horse, the handsome Black Beauty was cherished and happy. But, when his owner is forced to sell him, Black Beauty’s life takes on a dramatic series of changes. As he jumps from one owner to another (some cruel and some kind), he must learn how to love again. Despite his circumstances, Black Beauty tries to live the best that he can. This is his story–straight from the horse’s mouth.
The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White) Born without a voice, a young swan learns to play the trumpet in order to impress the beautiful lady swan, Serena.
Pollyanna (Eleanor Porter) A young orphan is sent to live with her dour Aunt Polly, and through her infectious joy and unwavering optimism, begins to melt the hearts of all those around her.
James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl) After his parents are killed, young James is sent to live with his wicked aunts, Sponge and Spiker. But, a strange encounter with a mysterious man ends with James acquiring (and spilling) a bag containing a magical concoction which cause the dead tree in his yard to produce a massive peach. Teaming up with some of the bugs that live around the house, James sets off on an adventure, traveling inside the peach on his way to America.
The Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Weiss) After a shipwreck leaves them stranded on a deserted island, the Robinson family decides to make the most of their unfortunate circumstances, adjusting to island life with cleverness, skill, and an unflagging enthusiasm.
The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) Milo is painfully bored. So, when a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through it– after all, he has nothing better to do. But, on the other side, the world is very different from the humdrum existence he knew. Milo soon finds himself caught up in a fantastic adventure to try and rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. And along the way, he discovers that in reality, life isn’t dull at all!