The 100 greatest children's books of all time

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(Credit: Estudio Santa Rita)
BBC Culture polled 177 books experts from 56 countries in order to find the greatest children's books ever. From Where the Wild Things Are to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, here's the top 100.

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 greatest films and TV shows in a particular category: you may have seen our 100 greatest TV shows of the 21st Century in 2021, for example, or our 100 greatest films directed by women list in 2019. However, for this year's poll, we felt we needed to finally turn our attention to another art form so deeply embedded in all our lives – books. And there is no variety of books more embedded in them than children's literature – after all, whatever our pastimes as we grow older, many of us share in the joy of reading at a young age, in and out of school.

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


It also felt like just the moment to survey children's books because of the recent conversation around how they are sorely undervalued compared to adult literature. In an interview last year, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce powerfully lamented the current lack of conversation around children's books. "There's not the critical discussion there needs to be, around [them] at all," he said – a view backed up just last week by The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson on the same show.

However, if great children's writing is not receiving the critical respect it should these days, then it certainly continues to make news headlines – which are, for better or worse, a reminder of how core it is to our existence. Recently for example, there's been the furore over the rewriting of Roald Dahl's novels for modern sensibilities – and more generally, the widespread concern over the growing movement in the US towards banning children's books, including many dealing with racial and LGBTQ+ themes. All in all, then, it felt like the right time to do our bit to both give children's literature its due and consider what has made and continues to make great children's writing. And so, in order to do that, we have decided to ask many experts a very simple question: what is the greatest children's book of all time?

While of course far from definitive, the answers we have gleaned are fascinating – and we hope will make readers both wistful for the books they loved in their youth and ready to try out titles that passed them by, or were published after they came of age; for there is no reason that the greatest children's literature shouldn't be equally nourishing to an adult. In total, 1050 different books were voted for by 177 experts – critics, authors and publishing figures – who came from 56 countries, from Austria to Uzbekistan. Of these voters, 133 were female, 41 were male and three preferred not to say. Each voter listed their 10 greatest children's books, which we scored and ranked to produce the top 100 listed below.

The end result is a list that reflects the vast scope of children’s literature through the eras, standing as a tribute to its boundless imagination, thrilling storytelling, and profound themes – from the Panchatantra, a collection of Indian children's stories dating back to the 2nd Century BCE, to the newest book in the list, A Kind of Spark, published in 2020. Of course, though, just as the list celebrates a huge scope of work, it also has its limitations and biases. For example, 74 of the 100 books featured were first published in the English language, with the next most popular language being Swedish, with nine entries. 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 might be included, should we repeat the poll in 10 or 20 years' time. Given the publishing industry's continued efforts to create a more inclusive landscape, one could also expect the list of authors to diversify further.

To accompany the top 100, you can read a series of pieces reflecting on the results of the poll. These include an essay about the poll winner, Maurice Sendak's beloved picture book Where the Wild Things Are; a piece giving a detailed rundown of the top 20, and what voters said about them; 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 start: in coming weeks, we will also publish a series of features getting to grips with some key books and authors in the poll, and the ideas they embody, as well as some of the major issues surrounding children's publishing today.

Of course, the list is not designed as a fait accompli, but rather as an inspiration for further discovery and debate. Tell us what you think – and what you think is missing – using the hashtag #100GreatestChildrensBooks. We hope that you find the poll as fascinating and illuminating as we have – as a celebration of writing, creativity and the books that have 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 (JRR 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 (EB White and Garth Williams, 1952)
10        Matilda (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1988)
11        Anne 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 Dark is Rising (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 Brothers Lionheart (Astrid Lindgren, 1973)
28        Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling, 1999)
29        Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson, 2014)
30        The Three Robbers (Tomi Ungerer, 1961)
31        The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats, 1962)
32        The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Judith Kerr, 1968)
33        Howl's Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones, 1986)
34        A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle, 1962)
35        Watership Down (Richard Adams, 1972)
36        Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce, 1958)
37        Grimm's Fairy Tales (Brothers Grimm, 1812)
38        The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter, 1902)
39        The Railway Children (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        The 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 (PL 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        Finn Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson, 1948)
61        The Witches (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1983)
62        A Bear Called 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 Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline, 2006)
69        Peter and Wendy (JM Barrie, 1911)
70        One Thousand and One Nights (Anonymous / folk)
71        From the Mixed-Up 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        A 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 Great 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        Moominvalley in November (Tove Jansson, 1970)
87        Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932)
92        Danny the Champion of the World (Roald Dahl, 1975)
93        The Snowman (Raymond Briggs, 1978)
94        Wave (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 greatest children's books:
The 100 greatest children’s books
Why Where the Wild Things Are is the greatest children’s book
The 20 greatest children’s books
– The 21st Century’s greatest children’s books
Who voted?


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