The 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time

Over the years, BBC Culture has conducted extensive polls of film and TV critics, pundits and industry figures from around the world to decide which categories are the best films and TV shows: you may have seen our 21st 100 Best TV Shows. For example, The Century in 2021, or our 2019 list of the 100 best female-directed films. However, for this year’s vote, we felt that we should finally turn our attention to another art form that is so deeply embedded in the lives of all of us – books. It is more embedded in books than children’s literature – after all, whatever pastimes we engage in as we grow older, many of us share the joy of reading at a young age, in school and beyond.

Find out more about BBC Culture’s 100 best children’s books:
– The 100 greatest children’s books
“Why the Wild Things Are Where They Are” is the best children’s book
– The 20 greatest children’s books
– The greatest children’s books of the 21st century
– Who voted?


The assessment of children’s books also seemed to have arrived, because recently they talked about how undervalued they are compared to adult literature. In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program last year, author Frank Cottrell-Boyce lamented the current lack of conversation around children’s books. “There is not the critical debate that is needed [them] at all,” he said – view supported last week The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson on the same show.

However, if great children’s writing doesn’t get the critical appreciation it deserves these days, it will certainly continue to make headlines—reminding us, for better or worse, that it’s a fundamental part of our existence. Recently, for example, things were raging Rewriting of Roald Dahl’s novels for a modern sensibility—and, more generally, a growing mainstream concern in the United States banning children’s books, including many dealing with racial and LGBTQ+ issues. All in all, then, the time seemed ripe to do our part to give children’s literature the credit it deserves, and to consider what made and will continue to be great children’s writing. So we decided to ask many experts a very simple question: what is the greatest children’s book of all time?

While it’s certainly far from definitive, the responses we’ve gathered are fascinating—and we hope readers will long for the books they loved in their youth and be willing to try titles that have passed away or come of age. ; for there is no reason why the greatest children’s literature should not be equally nourishing for an adult. A total of 1,050 different books were voted on by 177 experts – critics, authors and publishers – who came from 56 countries from Austria to Uzbekistan. Among the voters, 133 were women, 41 were men, and three did not want to say. Each voter listed their top 10 children’s books, which we scored and ranked to make the top 100 listed below.

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The end result is a list that reflects a wide range of children’s literature across the ages, a tribute to boundless imagination, exciting storytelling and profound themes – from the Panchatantra, a collection of Indian children’s tales dating back to the 2nd century. BCE, for the latest book on the list, A Kind of Spark, published in 2020. Of course, as much as the list celebrates a vast workspace, it also has its limitations and biases. For example, of the 100 books presented, 74 were first published in English, and the next most popular language was Swedish with nine entries. Meanwhile, books published between the 1950s and 1970s were the most popular, which can be linked to the age profile of the voters, most of whom were born in the 1970s and 1980s. Fourteen of the top 100 books were published this century – and it would be fascinating to see how many more books might make it if we repeat the poll in 10 or 20 years. Given the publishing industry’s ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive environment, the list of authors can expect further diversification.

In addition to the top 100, you can read a series of articles reflecting on the results of the voting. These include an essay on the winner of the poll, Maurice Sendak’s beloved picture book Where the Wild Things Are; a piece detailing the top 20 and what voters had to say about them; and an article on voting 21st century books and how they reflect the evolution of children’s literature. And that’s just the start: over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of features looking at some of the key books and authors in the poll, the ideas behind them, and the main issues with children’s publishing today.

Of course, the list is not made as a fait accompli, but rather as an inspiration for further exploration and discussion. Tell us what you think—and what you think we’re missing—using the hashtag #100GreatestChildrensBooks. We hope you find the poll as fascinating and educational as we did – a celebration of writing, creativity and the books that truly shape us all.

1 Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak, 1963)
2 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
3 Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1945)
4 The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)
5 The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien, 1937)
6 Northern Lights (Philip Pullman, 1995)
7 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis, 1950)
8 Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne and EH Shepard, 1926)
9 Charlotte’s Web (EB White and Garth Williams, 1952)
10 Matilda (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1988)
11 Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery, 1908)
12 fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen, 1827)
13 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling, 1997)
14 The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle, 1969)
15 The Dark Is Rising (Susan Cooper, 1973)
16 The Arrival (Shaun Tan, 2006)
17 Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, 1868)
18 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl, 1964)
19 Heidi (Johanna Spyri, 1880)
20 Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, 1947)
21 The Adventures of Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi, 1883)
22 The Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K Le Guin, 1968)
23 Moominland Midwinter (Tove Jansson, 1957)
24 I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen, 2011)
25 The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911)
26 Duck, Death and Tulips (Wolf Erlbruch, 2007)
27 The Brothers Lionheart (Astrid Lindgren, 1973)
28 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling, 1999)
29 Brown Girl Dreams (Jacqueline Woodson, 2014)
30 The Three Robbers (Tomi Ungerer, 1961)
31 The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats, 1962)
33 Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones, 1986)
34 A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle, 1962)
35 Watership Down (Richard Adams, 1972)
36 Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce, 1958)
37 Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Brothers Grimm, 1812)
38 The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter, 1902)
39 The Railway Children (Edith Nesbit, 1906)
40 Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman, 2001)
41 The BFG (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1982)
The 42 Rules of Summer (Shaun Tan, 2013)
43 Momo (Michael Ende, 1973)
44 The Story of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, 1936)
45 The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954)
46 The Owl Service (Alan Garner, 1967)
47 Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (Astrid Lindgren, 1981)
48 The Neverending Story (Michael Ende, 1979)
49 The Panchatantra (Anonymous / folk, -200)
50 Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883)
51 Mary Poppins (PL Travers, 1934)
52 Ballet Shoes (Noel Streafield, 1936)
53 So much! (Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury, 1994)
54 We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, 1989)
55 The Adventures of Cipollino (Gianni Rodari, 1951)
56 The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein, 1964)
57 The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, 1999)
58 Julian is a mermaid (Jessica Love, 2018)
Comet 59 in Moominland (Tove Jansson, 1946)
60 Finn Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson, 1948)
61 The Witches (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1983)
62 A Bear Called Paddington (Michael Bond, 1958)
63 The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908)
64 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mildred D Taylor, 1977)
65 Karlsson-on-the-Roof (Astrid Lindgren, 1955)
66 The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer, 1961)
67 The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss, 1957)
68 The Wonderful Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline, 2006)
69 Peter and Wendy (JM Barrie, 1911)
70 One Thousand and One Nights (Anonymous / folk)
71 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (EL Konigsburg, 1967)
72 When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit (Judith Kerr, 1971)
73 Shum bola (G’afur G’ulоm, 1936)
73 Ernest and Celestine (Gabrielle Vincent, 1981)
75 A Kind of Spark (Elle McNicoll, 2020)
76 Little Miklós (René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé, 1959)
77 Black Beauty (Anna Sewell, 1877)
78 Daddy-Long-Legs (Jean Webster, 1912)
79 No Kisses for Mother (Tomi Ungerer, 1973)
80 My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell, 1956)
81 Jacob Have I Loved (Katherine Paterson, 1980)
81 The Lorax (Dr. Seuss, 1971)
83 tales / The Tales of Mother Goose (Charles Perrault, 1697)
84 The Moomins and the Great Flood (Tove Jansson, 1945)
85 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L Frank Baum, 1900)
86 Just William (Richmal Crompton, 1922)
87 The Twits (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1980)
87 The Mouse and His Child (Russell Hoban, 1967)
87 Out of My Mind (Sharon M Draper, 2010)
87 Moomin Valley in November (Tove Jansson, 1970)
87 Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932)
92 Danny the World Champion (Roald Dahl, 1975)
93 The Snowman (Raymond Briggs, 1978)
94 Waves (Suzy Lee, 2008)
95 The Black Brothers (Lisa Tetzner, 1940)
96 The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams, 1921)
97 The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket, 1999)
98 The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman, 2008)
99 American-born Chinese (Gene Luen Yang and Lark Pien, 2006)
100 Haroun and the Sea of ​​Stories (Salman Rushdie, 1990)

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Find out more about BBC Culture’s 100 best children’s books:
– The 100 greatest children’s books
“Why the Wild Things Are Where They Are” is the best children’s book
– The 20 greatest children’s books
– The greatest children’s books of the 21st century
– Who voted?


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