The 10 Best Children's ooks

Our collection of the best children's books is perhaps based more on passion than science and it's worth pointing out that there are some great writers who are so prolific that their votes were split across their work, so didn’t make it into the final list (Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, David Walliams…). Still, we’re sure even they would agree that our list represents the absolute best in children’s literature, and we hope that you and your budding readers find picturebooks, storybooks, novels and non-fiction here to inspire and intrigue you.


Noughts & Crosses, by Malorie Blackman

Blackman is a wonderful contemporary author of fiction for older children and teens, setting her work in the modern world. The entire ‘Noughts & Crosses’ series, following generations of two families torn apart by racial and cultural division, is tough, uncompromising and thought-provoking. Best for: Ages 12–15 In a nutshell: Prejudice under the spotlight


Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s stories for young adults are complex and original. This novel launches his celebrated trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’. In a parallel universe, Lyra travels to the Artic lands in search of her missing friend and imprisoned uncle. On her journey she discovers more about her own identity in this dazzling thriller. Best for: Ages 12+ In a nutshell: A fantasy modern classic


The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit By JRR Tolkien For many, the ultimate fantasy epic, Tolkien’s works span volumes, but this is a good place to start. Bilbo Baggins is a quiet, stay-at-home hobbit who reluctantly finds himself on a daring expedition to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Dragon. Densely written but brimming with humour, magic and adventure. Best for: Ages 11–15 In a nutshell: Adventures in Middle-earth


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

Fantasy and cautionary tale are entwined as Dahl delights in descriptions of Charlie Bucket's squalid home, the vile children who, along with him, win golden tickets to see Willy Wonka’s factory, and the fantastical sweets they get to try on their trip. Best for: Ages 7–10 In a nutshell: Sugar-coated flight of imagination


Emil and the Detectives, by Erich Kästner

Ten-year-old Emil makes his first trip alone to visit family in Berlin when a suspicious man steals his money. Convinced he’ll be in trouble if he goes to the police, Emil befriends the city’s streetwise kids, determined to catch the thief without adult help. Funny, pacy and wryly observed. Best for: Ages 8–11 In a nutshell: Valiant villain catching


Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Sendak’s enduring American classic tells the story of Max, a little boy who is sent to bed in disgrace after being naughty. Suddenly, his room transforms into a magical world, sending Max off on a journey to a land where he becomes King of the Wild Things. A story celebrating creativity and individuality. Best for: Ages 3–6 In a nutshell: Boyhood escapism


The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

This duo have produced many of the greats in children’s literature, but ‘The Gruffalo’ stands out, thanks to a winning combination of characters: a wily mouse who tricks the forest predators who want to eat him and a scary, knobbly, slightly loveable eponymous beast. Donaldson’s lilting, smart rhymes are whipped into magic by Scheffler’s playful drawings. Best for: Ages 3–7 In a nutshell: Hairy rhymes


Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

A glimpse into the world of a baby surrounded by love, the warmth of home and washing drying in front of the fire. The late Janet Ahlberg’s illustrations are designed with holes in each page so you can peek through to the next scene. ‘Here’s a little baby. One, two, three…’ Enduringly and simply charming. Best for: Ages 0–3 In a nutshell: Childhood memories


You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum! by Andy Stanton

Stanton shares a knack for the delightfully horrid and intelligently silly with Roald Dahl and Roddy Doyle. Mr Gum is a miserable, lazy, greedy man who wants to poison a loveable dog who keeps messing up his garden. Can a plucky young girl, a heroic boho and the mutt himself foil Gum’s evil plans? A modern gem. Best for: Ages 7–10 In a nutshell: Inventive, intelligent nonsense


The Cat in the Hat, by Dr Seuss

When a flamboyant, over-confident talking cat arrives at their home while their mother is out, two children find themselves in a madcap chaos of magical, tongue-twisting mess. A rollercoaster to read and a joy to listen to – this book fires imagination and a lifelong love of language. Like all the very best books should. Best for: Ages 3–7 In a nutshell: Prejudice under the spotlight