Best Classic Children's Literature List I've Ever Seen!

When does a children's book make the grade as children's literature?

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The phrase children's literature means something different to me than simply children's books. To me literature is the good stuff, the children's books that have stood the test of time.

The key question is, "According to whom?" Well, the people whose opinions I would value on the subject of children's lit would be teachers and librarians.

That's why this list has me so excited

The National Endowment for the Humanities queried top public and private schools from across the nation, at least one in each state.

(That takes care of my teachers and librarians requirement.)

They asked for the extracurricular reading lists provided by each top school to their students....

They took 60 of these children's literature lists and picked out the books that appeared most often....

Then they applied the test of time

They removed from the list any book that had been published since 1960.

Voila! Classic children's literature!

Skip to the list.

You're going to enjoy reading through this list. You'll recognize many of the titles and authors, and you'll think, "Yup, this is children's literature."

(Any title that appears as a link will take you to a review of the book on this site.)

I know it's the children's literature list I've been looking for ever since children came into my life.

Children's literature without cell phones!

These children's books - by definition - aren't "current," but I think you'll find many of them timeless. And how nice it'll be to share with your children literature that you yourself read as a child!

Of course, once kids reach a certain age, they're likely not to think their parents' choices in children's literature all that "cool." In fact, some kids will be unlikely to think anything about you is cool.

Here's a children's literature tidbit of advice I got from a friend with teenagers. She'll approach her children with a book and say, "Here's something my parents didn't want me to read when I was your age."

Smart, huh? Here's the list:

Open a new page in Amazon to find your books

Classic children's literature - Kindergarten through Grade 6

* Recommended children's literature for K-3, either for reading by children or for reading to them.

Authors and titles that appear as links have further information available on the site.

Adamson, Joy

  • Born Free


Alcott, Louisa May

  • Little Women

Andersen, Hans Christian

Atwater, Richard and Florence

  • Mr. Popper's Penguins*

Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin

  • Miss Hickory

Barrie, J.M.

  • Peter Pan

Baum, L. Frank

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Bemelmans, Ludwig

  • Madeline series*

(Series are great for hooking your kid into great children's literature. If your child likes one, now you can get the rest!)

Bond, Michael

  • A Bear Called Paddington

Boston, L.M.

  • The Children of Green Knowe

Brink, Carol Ryrie

  • Caddie Woodlawn

Brown, Margaret Wise

  • Goodnight, Moon*

Brunhoff, Jean de

Burnett, Frances Hodgson

  • The Secret Garden

Burton, Virginia Lee

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel*

Butterworth, Oliver

  • The Enormous Egg

Clark, Ann Nolan

  • Secret of the Andes

Cleary, Beverly

  • Henry Huggins series

Coatsworth, Elizabeth

  • The Cat Who Went to Heaven

Dalgliesh, Alice

De Angeli, Marguerite

  • The Door in the Wall

De Jong, Meindert

  • The House of Sixty Fathers
  • The Wheel on the School

Dodge, Mary Mapes

  • Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates

Du Bois, William Pene

  • The Twenty-One Balloons

Edmonds, Walter D.

  • The Matchlock Gun

Estes, Eleanor

  • Ginger Pye
  • Moffats series

Farley, Walter

  • The Black Stallion

Field, Rachel

  • Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Fritz, Jean

  • The Cabin Faced West

Gilbreth, Frank B. and Ernestine G. Carey

  • Cheaper By the Dozen

Gipson, Fred

  • Old Yeller

Godden, Rumer

  • The Mousewife*

Grahame, Kenneth

Gray, Elizabeth Janet

  • Adam of the Road

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm

Hawes, Charles

  • The Dark Frigate

Haywood, Carolyn

  • Betsy series*

Henry, Marguerite

  • King of the Wind
  • Misty of Chincoteague

Keith, Harold

  • Rifles for Watie

Kelly, Eric

  • The Trumpeter of Krakow

Kipling, Rudyard

Kjelgaard, Jim

  • Big Red

Knight, Eric

  • Lassie Come Home

Krumgold, Joseph

  • ...and Now Miguel
  • Onion John

LaFarge, Oliver

  • Laughing Boy

Lamb, Charles and Mary

  • Tales from Shakespeare

Latham, Jean Lee

  • Carry on, Mr. Bowditch

Lawson, Robert

  • Ben & Me
  • Rabbit Hill

Leaf, Munro

Lear, Edward

  • Book of Nonsense*

Lenski, Lois

  • Strawberry Girl

Lewis, C.S.

Lindgren, Astrid

  • Pippi Longstocking series

Lofting, Hugh

  • Doctor Doolittle series

London, Jack

MacDonald, Betty

MacGregor, Ellen

  • Miss Pickerell series

McCloskey, Robert

McSwigan, Marie

  • Snow Treasure

Meigs, Cornelia

  • Invincible Louisa

Milne, A.A.

  • The House at Pooh Corner*
  • Now We Are Six*
  • When We Were Very Young*
  • Winnie-the-Pooh*

Minarik, Else Holmelund

  • Little Bear

Montgomery, L.M.

Mukerji, Dhan Ghopal

  • Gay-Neck, the Story of a Pigeon

Norton, Mary

  • The Borrowers series

O'Hara, Mary

  • My Friend Flicka

Pearce, Philippa

  • Tom's Midnight Garden

Perrault, Charles

  • Cinderella*

Potter, Beatrix

Pyle, Howard

  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Rey, H.A.

  • Curious George series*

Richter, Conrad

  • The Light in the Forest

Selden, George

Seuss, Dr.

Sewell, Anna

Sorenson, Virginia

  • Miracles on Maple Hill

Speare, Elizabeth George

  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Sperry, Armstrong

  • Call It Courage

Spyri, Johanna

  • Heidi

Steinbeck, John

  • The Red Pony

Stevenson, Robert Louis

  • A Child's Garden of Verses*
  • Kidnapped
  • Treasure Island

Travers, Pamela L.

  • Mary Poppins series

Van Loon, Hendrik

  • The Story of Mankind

White, E.B.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls

  • Little House series

Williams, Margery

  • The Velveteen Rabbit*

Wyss, Johann

  • Swiss Family Robinson

Zion, Gene

  • Harry the Dirty Dog*

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Classic children's Literature - Grades 7 and 8

Middle school and junior high. Reading now has some tough competition for your child's attention. Use well-chosen classic children's literature to try to keep reading from disappearing from your child's radar screen!

Alcott, Louisa May

  • Little Men

Bagnold, Enid

  • National Velvet

Blackmore, Richard D.

  • Lorna Doone

Boulle, Pierre

  • The Bridge over the River Kwai

Bradbury, Ray

  • Dandelion Wine
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Illustrated Man
  • Martian Chronicles

Buchan, John

  • The Thirty-Nine Steps

Bunyan, John

  • The Pilgrim's Progress

Carroll, Lewis

Clark, Walter

  • The Ox-Bow Incident

Cooper, James Fenimore

  • The Deerslayer
  • The Last of the Mohicans

Curie, Eve

  • Madame Curie: A Biography

Dana, Richard Henry

  • Two Years before the Mast

Day, Clarence

  • Life with Father

Defoe, Daniel

  • Robinson Crusoe

Dickens, Charles

  • A Christmas Carol

Douglas, Lloyd C.

  • The Robe

Doyle, Arthur Conan

  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Dumas, Alexander

  • The Count of Monte Christo
  • The Three Musketeers

Du Maurier, Daphne

  • Rebecca

Edmonds, Walter D.

  • Drums along the Mohawk

Ferber, Edna

  • Cimarron

Forbes, Esther

  • Johnny Tremain

Forester, C.S.

  • The African Queen
  • The Hornblower series

Frank, Anne

  • Diary of a Young Girl

Frost, Robert

  • Poems

Gallico, Paul

  • The Snow Goose

Gunther, John

  • Death Be Not Proud

Guthrie, A.B.

  • The Big Sky

Haggard, H. Rider

  • King Solomon's Mines

Hansberry, Lorraine

  • Raisin in the Sun

Hemingway, Ernest

  • The Old Man and the Sea

Hersey, John

  • A Bell for Adano
  • Hiroshima
  • The Wall

Heyerdahl, Thor

  • Kon-Tiki

Hilton, James

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  • Lost Horizon

Hudson, W.H.

  • Green Mansions

Hughes, Richard

  • A High Wind in Jamaica

Hugo, Victor

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Irving, Washington

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Keller, Helen

  • Story of My Life

Kennedy, John F.

  • Profiles in Courage

Kipling, Rudyard

  • Kim

Knowles, John

  • A Separate Peace

Lee, Harper

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

London, Jack

  • The Sea Wolf

Lord, Walter

  • A Night to Remember

Malory, Sir Thomas

  • Le Morte d'Arthur

Maxwell, Gavin

  • Ring of Bright Water

McCullers, Carson

  • Member of the Wedding

Michener, James

  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri

Mitchell, Margaret

  • Gone with the Wind

Nordhoff, Charles and J.N. Hall

  • Mutiny on the Bounty

O'Dell, Scott

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins

Orczy, Baroness Emma

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel

Paton, Alan

  • Cry, the Beloved Country

Pyle, Howard

  • Men of Iron

Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan

  • The Yearling

Renault, Mary

  • The King Must Die

Roberts, Kenneth

  • Northwest Passage

Saint-Exupery, Antoine de


  • Stories

Schaefer, Jack

  • Shane

Scott, Sir Walter

  • Ivanhoe

Shelley, Mary

  • Frankenstein

Smith, Betty

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Steinbeck, John

  • The Pearl
  • Tortilla Flat

Stevenson, Robert Louis

  • The Black Arrow
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Stoker, Bram

  • Dracula

Thurber, James

  • The Thurber Carnival

Tolkien, J.R.R.

Twain, Mark

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
  • Innocents Abroad
  • Life on the Mississippi
  • The Prince and the Pauper

Verne, Jules

  • Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Mysterious Island
  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea

Wallace, Lewis

  • Ben-Hur

Washington, Booker T.

  • Up from Slavery

Wells, H.G.

  • The Time Machine
  • War of the Worlds

Wharton, Edith

  • Ethan Frome

Wilder, Thornton

  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Wister, Owen

  • The Virginian

Yates, Elizabeth

  • Amos Fortune, Free Man

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Classic children's literature - Grades 9 through 12

You know how important reading is to your high schooler's future, but your high schooler probably doesn't. Look for classic children's literature that speaks in particular to your young adult's interests and concerns.

Agee, James

  • A Death in the Family

Anderson, Sherwood

  • Winesburg, Ohio

Austen, Jane

  • Emma
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility

Baldwin, James

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain

Balzac, Honore de

  • Pere Goriot

Beckett, Samuel

  • Waiting for Godot

Note that some of these children's literature listings are actually plays.

The Bible

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament

Now we're talking real classic children's literature.

Bolt, Robert

  • A Man for All Seasons

Bronte, Charlotte

Bronte, Emily

  • Wuthering Heights

Browning, Robert

  • Poems

Buck, Pearl

  • The Good Earth

Butler, Samuel

  • The Way of All Flesh

Camus, Albert

  • The Plague
  • The Stranger

Cather, Willa

  • Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • My Antonia

Cervantes, Miguel

  • Don Quixote

Chaucer, Geoffrey

  • The Canterbury Tales

Chekhov, Anton

  • The Cherry Orchard

Chopin, Kate

  • The Awakening

Collins, Wilkie

  • The Moonstone

Conrad, Joseph

  • Heart of Darkness
  • Lord Jim
  • The Secret Sharer
  • Victory

Crane, Stephen

  • The Red Badge of Courage


  • The Divine Comedy

Defoe, Daniel

  • Moll Flanders

Dickens, Charles

  • Bleak House
  • David Copperfield
  • Great Expectations
  • Hard Times
  • Oliver Twist
  • A Tale of Two Cities

Dickinson, Emily

  • Poems

Dinesen, Isak

  • Out of Africa

Dostoevski, Fyodor

  • Brothers Karamazov
  • Crime and Punishment

Dreiser, Theodore

  • An American Tragedy
  • Sister Carrie

Eliot, George

  • Adam Bede
  • Middlemarch
  • Mill on the Floss
  • Silas Marner

Eliot, T.S.

  • Murder in the Cathedral

Ellison, Ralph

  • Invisible Man

Emerson, Ralph Waldo

  • Essays

Faulkner, William

  • Absalom, Absalom!
  • As I Lay Dying
  • Intruder in the Dust
  • Light in August
  • The Sound and the Fury

Fielding, Henry

  • Joseph Andrews
  • Tom Jones

Fitzgerald, F. Scott

  • The Great Gatsby
  • Tender Is the Night

Flaubert, Gustave

  • Madame Bovary

Forster, E.M.

  • A Passage to India
  • A Room with a View

Franklin, Benjamin

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Galsworthy, John

  • The Forsyte Saga

Golding, William

Goldsmith, Oliver

  • She Stoops to Conquer

Graves, Robert

  • I, Claudius

Greene, Graham

  • The Heart of the Matter
  • The Power and the Glory

Hamilton, Edith

  • Mythology

Hardy, Thomas

  • Far From the Madding Crowd
  • Jude the Obscure
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • The Return of the Native
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

  • The House of the Seven Gables
  • The Scarlet Letter

Hemingway, Ernest

  • A Farewell to Arms
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • The Sun Also Rises

Henry, O.

  • Stories

Hersey, John

  • A Single Pebble

Hesse, Hermann

  • Demian
  • Siddhartha
  • Steppenwolf


  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey

Hughes, Langston

  • Poems

Hugo, Victor

  • Les Miserables

Huxley, Aldous

  • Brave New World

Ibsen, Henrik

  • A Doll's House
  • An Enemy of the People
  • Ghosts
  • Hedda Gabler
  • The Master Builder
  • The Wild Duck

James, Henry

  • The American
  • Daisy Miller
  • Portrait of a Lady
  • The Turn of the Screw

Joyce, James

  • Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man
  • Dubliners

Kafka, Franz

  • The Castle
  • Metamorphosis
  • The Trial

Keats, John

  • Poems

Kerouac, Jack

  • On the Road

Koestler, Arthur

  • Darkness at Noon

Lawrence, D.H.

  • Sons and Lovers

Lawrence, Jerome and Robert E. Lee

  • Inherit the Wind

Lewis, Sinclair

  • Arrowsmith
  • Babbitt
  • Main Street

Llewellyn, Richard

  • How Green Was My Valley


  • The Prince

MacLeish, Archibald

  • J.B.

Mann, Thomas

  • Buddenbrooks
  • The Magic Mountain

Marlowe, Christopher

  • Dr. Faustus

Maugham, Somerset

  • Of Human Bondage

McCullers, Carson

  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Melville, Herman

  • Billy Budd
  • Moby-Dick
  • Typee

Miller, Arthur

  • The Crucible
  • Death of a Salesman

Monsarrat, Nicholas

  • The Cruel Sea

O'Neill, Eugene

  • The Emperor Jones
  • A Long Day's Journey into Night
  • Mourning Becomes Electra

Orwell, George

  • Animal Farm
  • 1984

Pasternak, Boris

  • Doctor Zhivago

Poe, Edgar Allan

  • Short stories

Remarque, Erich

  • All Quiet on the Western Front

Rolvaag, O.E.

  • Giants in the Earth

Rostand, Edmond

  • Cyrano de Bergerac

Salinger, J.D.

  • The Catcher in the Rye

Sandburg, Carl

  • Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years
  • Abraham Lincoln: The War Years

Saroyan, William

  • The Human Comedy

Sayers, Dorothy

  • The Nine Tailors

Shakespeare, William

  • Plays and sonnets

Shaw, George Bernard

  • Arms and the Man
  • Major Barbara
  • Pygmalion
  • Saint Joan

Sheridan, Richard B.

  • The School for Scandal

Shute, Nevil

  • On the Beach

Sinclair, Upton

  • The Jungle


  • Antigone
  • Oedipus Rex

Steinbeck, John

  • East of Eden
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Of Mice and Men

Stowe, Harriet Beecher

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

Swift, Jonathan

  • Gulliver's Travels

Thackeray, William M.

  • Vanity Fair

Thoreau, Henry David

  • Walden

Tolstoy, Leo

  • Anna Karenina
  • War and Peace

Trollope, Anthony

  • Barchester Towers

Turgenev, Ivan

  • Fathers and Sons

Twain, Mark

  • Pudd'nhead Wilson

Updike, John

  • Rabbit Run


  • The Aeneid


  • Candide

Warren, Robert Penn

  • All the King's Men

Waugh, Evelyn

  • Brideshead Revisited
  • A Handful of Dust

Wharton, Edith

  • Age of Innocence

White, T.H.

  • The Once and Future King
  • The Sword in the Stone

Wilde, Oscar

  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wilder, Thornton

  • Our Town

Williams, Tennessee

  • The Glass Menagerie
  • A Streetcar Named Desire

Wolfe, Thomas

  • Look Homeward, Angel

Woolf, Virginia

  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • To the Lighthouse

Wouk, Herman

  • The Caine Mutiny

Wright, Richard

  • Black Boy
  • Native Son

Pay tribute to a book YOU consider classic.

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Thanks to the NEH for providing the best dang children's literature list going.

Of course, there are books written since 1960 that should, or will, qualify as children's literature. Head back to my best children's books to search out more recent classic children's literature.

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