35 of the Best Classic Books for Kids by Age

classic books for kids
35 of the Best Classic Books for Kids by Age 40

I’ve been collecting the Puffin classic books for kids for years, and I realized that while I like them aesthetically, I’ve also read and enjoyed so many of these tales!

As I was reflecting on my collection of classic children’s books, I realized that there are so many more classics not included in the set. It made me think about all the picture books, baby books, and children’s novels from my youth that I’ve read to my kids.

I thought it would be fun to round up all the classic children’s books by age that I think have stood the test of time. Maybe your favorites made the cut, or maybe you’ll find a new favorite to try!

*classic children’s books by age Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Table of Contents

Classic Children’s Books by Age

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35 of the Best Classic Books for Kids by Age 41

Classic Children’s Books for Babies Ages 1-3

the little engine that could

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Of all the classic books for kids on this page, I guarantee you know this one. Who could forget the little blue engine and his determination to get the toys over the mountain, all while saying “I think I Can, I Think I Can.” It’s such a wonderful moral lesson for everyone.

Each Peach Pear Plum and 12 other amazing baby books you've never heard of.

Each Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This adorable eye spy book has wonderful pictures, featuring nursery rhymes and fairy tale characters. It’s a perfect classic children’s book for a 2-year-old.

Why We Love This Book: The rhyming makes it memorable and easy to recite.
Appropriate for ages 0-3
Find this book in Classic Kids Books / Best Board Books / Books for 2-year-olds

chicka chicka

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

Rhyming? check. Letters? check. This classic book checks so many boxes with the added bonus that it is fun to read with your kids.

Even the name itself is a perfect example of alliteration in books. If you have not picked up this alphabet book, it is a must-read for any preschool child and a perfect book to help with reading readiness as well.

But Not the Hippo

But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton

I don’t know what it is about this book that I loved reading with my kids. It is utterly ridiculous and completely wonderful. One of my oldest son’s first words was armadillo! It really is a perfect classic children’s book for a 2-year-old.

Time for Bed and more books for 2-year-olds

Time for Bed by Mem Fox

Rhyming, animals, and the sweet words in this book make it the perfect companion before bed. I loved setting up a routine that let my kids know bedtime was coming.

We would bathe, put on lotion, and snuggle up to read a story. I made sure that my voice was quiet and soothing. Even if you have a new baby, incorporating a book into your nightly routine is a wonderful way to end the day.

Why We Love This Book: Rhyming for language development and lovely illustrations of animals make this a perfect going-to-bed book to include in the first books for babies.

Appropriate for ages 0-3
Find this book in Bedtime Books / Classic Books for Kids / 2-year-old Books / First Year Reading Tips / Newborn Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books

Goodnight Moon and other books for a 2-year-old

 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This classic children’s literature is beloved by generations of readers and listeners. The quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day. This is one of the most popular bedtime stories for babies ever written.

Why We Love This Book: Soothing, repetitive phrases guide children to sleep.
Appropriate for ages 0-4
Find this book in Newborn Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books / 2-year-old Books / Bedtime Books / Classic Kids Books

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day is a Caldecott Winner for a reason. This classic book about winter depicts a boy exploring his city neighborhood after a snowstorm. It’s the perfect book for a 3-year-old when it’s snowing outside.

brown bear brown bear

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a classic for a reason. It uses Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle’s signature style to teach about colors and animals.  The repetitive pattern is addictive.  There are so many activities that can be done with this great book for toddlers. But the colors and pictures are perfect for even the littlest reader.

Why We Love This Book: It’s a great introduction to colors and animals.
Appropriate for ages 0-4
Find this book in Color Books / Newborn Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books / Learning Books for 1-year-olds / 2-year-old Books / Classic Kids Books

Freight Train and other books for a 1-year-old

Freight Train by Donald Crews

This is another classic book for kids that has both trains and colors. What could be better? The simplicity of this book adds to the fun. If you have a child who can only sit for a very limited time, this book is a perfect choice.

Why We Love This Book: High contrast images, introduction to colors, perfect for train-loving children.
Appropriate for ages 0-3
Find this book in Color Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books / Learning Books for 1-year-olds / 2-year-old Books / Classic Kids Books / 3-year-old Books

The very hungry catterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

There are so many things about this classic book for kids that I love. Not only can you talk about days of the week, food, and counting, but you can follow the caterpillar on his journey to becoming a butterfly. When it comes to books for 3-year-olds, this one is tops.

Why We Love This Book: A gorgeous introduction to nature, food, counting, and days of the week.
Appropriate for ages 0-5
Find this book in 2-year-old Books / Classic Kids Books / 3-year-old Books/ Best Board Books / Educational Books for 3-year-olds

Classic Children’s Picture Books for Kids Ages 4-7

make way for ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

This award-winning story is one of the most beloved classic children’s picture books. It tells the tale of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings who, with the help of the police, can cross the street to get to their new pond home.

cat in the hat

Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

This classic book for kids marks the first appearance of one of the most beloved characters in literature. The Cat in the Hat is one of the most well-known classic children’s books because of the cat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and the funny rhyming phrases within the book.

blueberries for sal

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

This award-winning story is one of our favorite classic children’s picture books. It’s the story of Sal, a child picking blueberries on a mountain, and his run-in with a bear who is also looking for blueberries.

caps for sale

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

This hysterical classic children’s book is about a cap salesman and his run-in with a group of monkeys who love his caps! It was my brother’s favorite book as a child!

green eggs and ham and other rhyming books

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

At 60 years old, this book is a classic that has withstood the test of time. The rhyme, rhythm, and repetition in this book make it so easy to remember and predict what will happen.

The silliness and the story make it enjoyable for parents to read.

Madeline

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

This book is one of my favorites of all time. There is something about the little girls in two straight lines that reminds me of my childhood. The rhythm and rhyme are perfect for any age.

jamberry

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

This was Kirsten’s favorite book to read to her kids and as soon as you look at the pictures and start reading it, you will understand why. The rhythm of the story and the non-sensical rhymes make the book completely captivating. 

A boy and a bear head out on an adventure to pick berries in this delightful classic kids book. Marshmallow Cattails? Waffle and butter lily pads? Yes, please!

As a bonus, there is counting in this alliteration picture book as well. No list of first books for baby would be complete without this adorable read.

Why We Love This Book: It has rhythm and rhyme, counting, and alliteration, and it is adorable.
Appropriate for ages 0-6
Find this book in Alliteration Books / Counting Books / Rhyming Books / Best Board Books

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendek

Maurice Sendek explores the amazing power of imagination in this classic kids’ book about monsters.  When Max gets upset with his parents, he imagines traveling to a world to be the kids of the monsters.

I love this book, the illustrations, and the message within the pages. When Max finally decides to come home, his dinner is waiting for him and it’s still hot.  This act of love always touched me. Really this is a book for 2-year-olds that shows a parent’s unconditional love for their child.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and more books about feelings

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judy Viorst

Alexander and his bad days have been beloved for decades. This classic children’s book is one of the best books about feelings that exists.

I know in my house, that we used this picture book to talk about bad days and how it’s perfectly normal to have them.

Why We Love This Book: Funny, unique illustrations help with social-emotional learning.
Appropriate for ages 5-9
Find this book in: Feelings Books / Classic Kids Books

Classic Books for Kids 8-10 to Read Alone

Stuart little

Stuart Little by E.B. White

Adventure- Check. Animals- Check. Animals who can talk and wear clothes- Check check. This is a tale that everyone loves about a boy who also happens to be a mouse.  All my kids love this great story.

Find This Book in Read Aloud Children’s Books / Best Classic Books for Kids

my fathers dragon

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Styles Barnett

I love this book. It was my kid’s first fantasy chapter book. This is a wonderful book with a wonderful message as well as a perfect read-aloud bedtime story.

It is such a great story and continues with two more books after. Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland complete this trilogy.

peter rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter’s Tales of Peter Rabbit are some of the most beloved stories in children’s literature. Her fantastic illustrations and Peter’s engrossing escapades have stood the test of time.

I was so pleased when I learned there would be a movie adaptation of the series. This book should be on every kid’s bookshelf! And don’t forget to watch the Netflix book adaptation!

ramona quimby

Ramona Quimby Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Ramona is another adorable character who is perfectly imperfect.  She is sweet and lovable and gets into her share of trouble.  Whether reading to boys or girls, every child can relate to Ramona.

When it comes to books for a 6-year-old, Ramona can’t be beaten! Cleary’s classic realistic fiction has stood the test of time.

matilda

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is a magical little girl who loves books. Stuck in a family that doesn’t value education, her life is changed when she meets Ms. Honey at her new school.

But the principal, Miss Trunchbull hates children. When she terrorizes the kids at her new school, Matilda finds the power to fight back. The Netflix book adaption of this one is a musical!

Mr. Popper

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

This Newberry Honor book is a classic.  Originally published in 1938, it tells the story of a painter who finds himself in a house full of penguins. 

This hilarious tale is sure to keep the kids entertained. It is funny and sweet and has withheld the test of time.

Find this book in Best Classic Books for Kids / Read Aloud Children’s Books / Children’s Books About Winter

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

This story is quite the classic and it revolves around all things candy! With its creeptastic vibes, it’s also wonderful for Halloween.

Charlie is thrilled when he gets a golden ticket to see inside Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate factory, but this is no ordinary candy factory. The machines and recipes behind the walls of the factory are what dreams are made of. This is a wonderful read-aloud book.

Find this book in Best Classic Books for Kids / Best Books for an 8-Year-Old / Read Aloud Children’s Books

Harriet the spy and other mystery books for tweens

Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy has been a classic children’ book for over 50 years. The 11-year-old is never without her notebook to write her observations in. When the notebook falls into the hands of her friends, they all get very angry with Harriet.

Will she be able to right her wrongs? There is a reason this realistic fiction book for a 10-year-old has been adapted repeatedly for the screen. It’s got life lessons for every child.

Classic Books for Kids Ages 9-12

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Set in a dystopian world, the main character Jonas is special because he is the receiver. In his Idyllic community, he is the one who holds the secrets.

This Newberry Award-Winning classic book for kids is one of the most influential novels of our time and one of the best sci-fi books of all time. Interestingly, the Hunger Games has been added to many curriculums to look at dystopian worlds in addition to this sci-fi book. If you love classic sci-fi books, this pick is a must-read.

Find this book in Books Like the Hunger Games / YA Dystopian Novels

Charlottes Web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White

This is such a wonderful story of unconditional love and friendship.  When Fern saves the life of Wilbur, the runt of the pig litter, Charlotte befriends him and ultimately saves his life a second time. This is such a heartwarming classic book for kids. I try to read it without crying.

Find this book in Best Classic Books for Kids / Read Aloud Children’s Books / The Best Family Audiobooks

a wrinkle in time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

This classic sci-fi book for tweens tells the story of Meg, a high school student, who must travel through space and time to rescue her father.

Along with her younger brother and her friend, Meg learns about the tesseract- a wrinkle in time and space that she must travel through in order to save her father from Evil. I remember loving this science fiction book as a kid and didn’t feel the same when I read it as an adult. But, as classic sci-fi middle grade books go, this is a must read.

The lion the witch and the wardrobe and more winter books

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis

The iconic book is actually the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia Series. However, since the first book is technically a prequel, I consider this the first and it can be read independently of the rest of the books in the series.

When four children discover a secret passage from a wardrobe into the Land of Narnia, they find a land enslaved by the white witch. They find friends, enemies, and magic in this book that has withstood the test of time. This classic children’s book series is one for the fantasy lovers!

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I re-read this book with my daughter and we loved it.  I have not read this book since I was a child and I think I loved it more this time.  This classic book for kids is the perfect feel-good book.  Yesterday was Daughter’s Day and this is the perfect book to read with your little one.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan is one of Kirsten’s favorite childhood stories. The magical world of Neverland with it’s pirates, mermaids, and natives is so engrossing.

The story of Peter Pan and his adventures with the Darling children have inspired countless spin-off books, movies, and theatrical productions for a reason. It’s a must-read classic children’s book for everyone.

Find this book in Pirate Books / Classic Kids Books / Cozy Books / Tween Fantasy Books

Harry potter and the sorcerer's stone and more fantasy books for tweens

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling

I was in university when this book was published and the first four were sitting on my younger brother’s bookshelf before I picked it up to see what the fuss was about. I read all four books in as many days and was married with a child before the final book was published. 

This is the book that introduces us to Harry, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger; our fearless trio.  We also meet the other favorite beloved and detested characters that make the Harry Potter book series so special. After all, what would Hogwarts be without Hagrid, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape, and Draco Malfoy?

Find this book in Books like Harry Potter / Books Like Percy Jackson / 21 Adult Books Similar to Harry Potter for Fans of Magic / Harry Potter Books in Order

Anne of green Gables by LM Mongtogery and more great Canadian Novels by Canadian Authors

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomeryir?source=bk&t=beyondth06 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=5c9b77d29546960eec62ffcf6e66c0aa& cb=1590237272404

My mother was the first person to read this middle grade book to me and I was immediately drawn to Anne. She was smart, precocious, and had a way of making everyone love her while simultaneously finding new ways to get into trouble. 

Anne is an orphan who is sent to live with siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert who wanted a male orphan to help them on the farm. Anne was sent to them instead. She is bright and loquacious and wins their hearts.

Something is comforting about this cozy book that makes me read it over and over. This is a beautiful book about friendship and found family. I am not sure if it is more popular in Canada but, one day I hope to visit Prince Edward Island. This is one of my (Jackie) all-time favorite books.

Find this book in Coming-of-Age Books / Friendship Books / Realistic Fiction

Which of these classic books for kids have you read?

new kids winter 2022

The Best Book Lists by Age for 2023

If you are looking for more amazing book lists, we have the best lists sorted by age.

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