Best Selling Children's Books of
the 20th Century

Best sellers by decade
still from the movie The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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 favorites. After all, the most popular books are the ones that the most children read.

New York Times

(Hence the term Best Selling Children's Book.)

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 a best-selling children's book from your own youth to stimulate that conversation!

Why a best selling children's book?

Why not a medium seller? Because I'm just taking my best guess at what you read as a child.

The list below (from Publishers Weekly) contains about 285 historical best-selling children's books.

Skip to the list.

The list was compiled from separate lists

  • 150 best selling childrens books hardcover
  • 150 best selling childrens books paperback

I tried to cut the best selling children's books that appeared on both lists.

They're grouped by publication date. In a few cases the publication date can be misleading. Rather than referring to the original edition of the particular best selling children's book, it refers to the most popular.

For instance, if a later paperback edition of a best selling children's book far exceeded the sales of the hardcover edition, the paperback publication date appears.

For that reason, you might want to look at ALL the best selling children's books on the list. After all, great children's books could have been written anytime!

Open a new page in Amazon to find your books

1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

(Where a title or author appears as a link, further information is available on this site.)

1900s Best Selling Children's Books

Beatrix Potter:

1910s Best Selling Children's Books

The Real Mother Goose, Blanche F. Wright

1920s Best Selling Children's Books

A.A. Milne:

  • Winnie-the-Pooh
  • When We Were Very Young
  • House at Pooh Corner

Franklin Dixon, The Hardy Boys:

  • The Tower Treasure
  • The House on the Cliff
  • Hunting for Hidden Gold
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1930s Best Selling Children's Books

Franklin Dixon, The Hardy Boys:

  • The Secret of the Old Mill
  • The Missing Chums

The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper

Caroloyn Keene, Nancy Drew:

  • The Secret of Shadow Ranch
  • The Secret of the Old Clock
  • The Hidden Staircase
  • The Bungalow Mystery
  • The Mystery of Lilac Inn

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The Poky Little Puppy and the Little Prince

1940s Best Selling 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

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1950s Best Selling Children's Books

Dr. Seuss:

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

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Green Eggs and Ham and Go Dog Go!

1960s Best Selling Children's Books

Dr. Seuss:

P.D. Eastman:

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

More Best Selling Children's Books of the 1960s

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

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1970s Best Selling Children's Books

Dr. Seuss:

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:

Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Berenstain Bears:

  • ...New Baby
  • ...Go to School

Madeleine L'Engle:

Mercer Mayer:

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

E. B. White:

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

More Best Selling Children's Books of the 1970s

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

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Berenstain Bears and Where's Waldo

1980s Best Selling Children's Books

Martin Handford:

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

Graeme Base:

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
  • 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:

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

More Best Selling Children's Books of the 1980s

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

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Rainbow Fish and Guess How Much I Love You
1990s Best Selling Children's Books

J. K. Rowling:


  • 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


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

Lois Lowry:

Mercer Mayer:

  • Just Go to Bed
  • Just Me and My Mom

R.L. Stine, Goosebumps:

  • Welcome to Dead House
  • Say Cheese and Die

More Best Selling Children's Books of the 1990s

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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See the best selling books of the 2000s.

Back to the

How Do I Find The Best Children's Books? page

Did you come to this page looking for TODAY'S best-selling children's books? Check out

New York Times Best Selling Children's Books

Or for a slightly different approach, you way want to check out my

Children's Book Awards page.

Instead of the most popular children's books, browse through the most honored ones.

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