The 100 best children’s books of all time

Over the years, BBC Culture has conducted major polls of film and TV critics, experts and industry figures from around the world to decide on the best films and TV shows in a given category: you may have found our Watching 100 Best TV Shows of the 21st Century in 2021 for example, or our list of 100 Best Movies Directed by Women in 2019. However, for this year’s poll, we felt we should finally turn our attention to another art form that is so deeply anchored in our lives: books. And there is no variety of books more entrenched in it than children’s literature – after all, whatever our pastimes are as we get older, many of us share in the joy of early childhood reading, in and out of school.

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

#100 Greatest Children’s Books

It also felt like the right time to examine children’s books because of the recent debate about how they are severely undervalued compared to adult literature. In an interview last year on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce strongly complained about the current lack of conversation around children’s books. “There is not the critical discussion that there should be [them] not at all,” he said — a view backed up last week by Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, on the same show.

However, if great kids’ writing doesn’t get the critical respect it should get these days, then it’s sure to keep making headlines – which, for better or worse, is a reminder of how important it is to our very existence. For example, recently there has been a lot of buzz about rewriting Roald Dahl’s novels for modern sensibilities – and more generally, the widespread concern about the growing movement in the US to ban children’s books, including many on racial and LGBTQ+ themes. All in all, it felt like the right time to do our part to both do justice to children’s literature and to reflect on what has made and still makes great children’s literature. And to do that, we decided to ask many experts a very simple question: what is the best children’s book of all time?

While far from definitive, of course, the answers we’ve collected are fascinating – and we hope they’ll leave readers both wistful about the books they loved in their youth and willing to try titles that passed them by. or that were published after coming of age; for there is no reason why the best children’s literature should not be equally nourishing for an adult. In total, 1050 different books were voted on by 177 experts – critics, authors and publishers – from 56 countries, from Austria to Uzbekistan. Of these voters, 133 were female, 41 male and three declined to say. Each voter listed their top 10 children’s books, which we scored and ranked to produce the top 100 below.

The end result is a list that reflects the vast scope of children’s literature through the ages and pays homage to the boundless imagination, exciting stories and profound themes – from the Panchatantra, a collection of Indian children’s stories from the 2nd century BCE, to the latest book in the list, A Kind of Spark, published in 2020. Of course, just as the list celebrates a huge amount of work, it naturally also has its limitations and biases. For example, 74 of the 100 recommended books were first published in the English language, followed by Swedish, with nine submissions. Meanwhile, books published between the 1950s and 1970s were most prevalent, which may be related to the age profile of voters, the majority of whom were born in the 1970s and 1980s. Fourteen of the top 100 books were published in this century – and it would be fascinating to see how many other newer books would be added, should we repeat the poll in 10 or 20 years. Given the continuing efforts of the publishing industry to create a more inclusive landscape, one might also expect the list of authors to further diversify.

To guide the top 100, you can read a series of pieces that reflect on the results of the poll. These include an essay on the poll winner, Maurice Sendak’s beloved picture book Where the Wild Things Are; a piece detailing the top 20 and what voters said about it; and an article on the poll’s 21st-century books and how they reflect how children’s literature is evolving. And that’s just the beginning: in the coming weeks, we’ll also be publishing a series of articles where we get to grips with some of the key books and authors in the poll, and the ideas they embody, as well as some of the key issues surrounding publishing. children today.

Of course, the list is not intended to be a fait accompli, but rather an inspiration for further discovery and discussion. Tell us what you think – and what you think is missing – using the hashtag #100 Greatest Children’s Books. We hope you find the survey as fascinating and enlightening as we do – as a celebration of writing, creativity and the books that truly shaped 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 (J. R. R. 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 (E.B. White and Garth Williams, 1952)
10 Matilda (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1988)
11 Anna 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 Darkness Is Increasing (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 A 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 the Tulip (Wolf Erlbruch, 2007)
27 The Lionheart Brothers (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 water board down (Richard Adams, 1972)
36 Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce, 1958)
37 Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Brothers Grimm, 1812)
38 The Story of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter, 1902)
39 The Railroad Kids (Edith Nesbit, 1906)
40 Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman, 2001)
41 The BFG (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1982)
42 Rules of Summer (Shaun Tan, 2013)
43 Momo (Michael Ende, 1973)
44 The Story of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, 1936)
45 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 (P. L. 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 Julián is a mermaid (Jessica Love, 2018)
59 Comet in Moominland (Tove Jansson, 1946)
60 Finnish Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson, 1948)
61 The Witches (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1983)
62 A Bear Named 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 Amazing Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline, 2006)
69 Peter and Wendy (J. M. Barrie, 1911)
70 One Thousand and One Nights (Anonymous/folk)
71 From the Mixed Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (EL Konigsburg, 1967)
72 When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Judith Kerr, 1971)
73 Shum bola (G’afur G’ulоm, 1936)
73 Ernest and Celestine (Gabrielle Vincent, 1981)
75 Some Kind of Spark (Elle McNicoll, 2020)
76 Little Nicholas (René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé, 1959)
77 Black Beauty (Anna Sewell, 1877)
78 Daddy Long Legs (Jean Webster, 1912)
79 No Kiss 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 Fairy Tales / The Tales of Mother Goose (Charles Perrault, 1697)
84 The Moomins and the 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 Wood (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932)
92 Danny the World Champion (Roald Dahl, 1975)
93 The Snowman (Raymond Briggs, 1978)
94 Gulf (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)

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

#100 Greatest Children’s Books

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