The very best books for children

Child reading

We've rounded up the books that every child should read, from the timeless classics to the best new titles, and everything in between. See what Mumsnetters have to say, and find your child's next favourite read.

The best children's picture books

The Tiger Who Came to Tea – Judith Kerr

Tiger who came to tea

“The book I was most excited to read with my son because I loved it so much as a child.”

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A Bit Lost – Chris Haughton

A bit lost

“Especially good for helping to deal with separation. It's about a little lost owl, and when he finds his mummy my son cheers and claps.”

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Oi Frog! – Kes Gray and Jim Field

Oi frog

“Oi Frog! and its sequels – amazing, clever books… we laugh a lot at these.”

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The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo

“I haven't found a child who doesn't love it.”

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

Very hungry caterpillar

“This is a brilliant book … so simple but so effective. Counting, colours and words – it's all in there. A definite classic.”

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You Choose – Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart

You choose

“It's given me and my children hours of pleasure … it starts conversations about feelings, ideas, dreams and so much more. It's helped me learn about my children, and prompted me to share my own memories of clothes and houses and hidden talents.”

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Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet and Allan Ahlberg

each peach pear plum

“A much-loved book … The illustrations are beautiful, and the rhyming words were recited for a long time in our house.”

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The Jolly Postman – Janet and Allan Ahlberg

the jolly postman

“Funny and educational and contains the almost-dead art of letter writing. I've not met anyone who has failed to fall in love with the book.”

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Dogger – Shirley Hughes


“I loved the illustrations, and the way the big sister swaps her new teddy so they can get tatty old Dogger back. I knew that if I'd lost my teddy I'd have done anything to get him back too.”

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Winnie-the-Pooh – A A Milne

Winnie the pooh

“Funny, charming and simple, yet at the same time detailed and emotionally engaging. Saying goodbye at the end of the last story still reduces me to tears.”

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Oh, the Places You'll Go – Dr Seuss

Oh the places you'll go

“It's moving and almost spiritual in its image of life and yet brings you back down to earth with leaking sneakers!”

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Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell

Dear zoo

“A lovely book with cute lift-the-flap style pictures. The animals in this book are great for practising our baby signs too.”

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The best children's chapter books

You're a Bad Man Mr. Gum! – Andy Stanton

mr gum

“My boys of 10 and eight howl with laughter and think it is the funniest thing ever.”

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeffrey Patrick Kinney

Wimpy Kid

“My son has just devoured the latest in the series. These are the first books he hasn't been able to put down.”

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone – J K Rowling

Harry potter

“Imaginative, enthralling, brilliant for both adults and children.”

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The BFG – Roald Dahl


“You can't go wrong with Roald Dahl. I've read his books over and over again, even as an adult – but The BFG was my favourite.”

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The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton

Magic faraway tree

“I loved the excitement of the changing lands at the top of the tree. I read this on my own as a child but I couldn't wait for my sons to reach the self-reading phase, so I read it out loud to them when they were four and six.”

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The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

the secret garden

“This book sparked my imagination like no other. I know my daughter was equally enthralled when I found a copy for her to read many years later too.”

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Charlotte's Web – E B White

Charlotte's Web

“I remember being caught reading this with my torch under my covers and being told to go to sleep … problem was I had to know what was going to happen which meant reading to the end then going down to my mum in floods of tears!”

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His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

His Dark Materials

“A trilogy rather than just one book, and definitely geared towards older children, but the His Dark Materials books are ones I returned to again and again. They're just so vivid, I'd get lost in the alternative worlds and as I got older, I saw more of the underlying themes so continued to get something from them.”

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Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

Swallows and amazons

“I loved this series as a child in the 1970s, and my daughter and lots of her friends loved them just as much when they read them in the 2000s. They're such realistic stories, which makes a nice change nowadays when so many children's books are fantasy and adventure.”

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Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian

Goodnight Mister Tom

“My favourite book from childhood. I really do think every child should read it.”

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Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild

Ballet Shoes

“Rereading Ballet Shoes reminded me how much I love it and how well I know it. The characters are flawed but loveable; none more so than Winifred, whose outburst at the unfairness of life feels very real. The detail of the dresses, using the necklaces for security on a loan and going to County Hall to get their performing licences all felt like a window into another world.”

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The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy

Worst witch

“I loved it 35 years ago and my children love it now.”

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The Borrowers – Mary Norton

The borrowers

“I read The Borrowers when I was about 10 and loved it; the whole notion of little people who lived under the floorboards being the reason I could never find a hair clip really appealed to me. I'm now reading it, a chapter a day, to my three-year-old daughter who is growing to love it too.”

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Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

“The series was a favourite of mine growing up. I read the books over and over. Anne was a quirky, likeable but unconventional character. I can't wait for my daughter to read them.”

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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – Judith Kerr

Pink rabbit

“A personal account of the historic events preceding the Second World War from the point of view of a young Jewish girl. The book speaks directly to children in a way that inspires empathy and understanding. Anticipate lots of smiles and good humour too.”

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Do you agree that these are the best? Chat about your favourites, and get more recommendations on the children's books Talk board.