Best of America

15+ Best Books to Read as Children (and Adults)

Twilight and The Lorax aren't the only books meant for younger readers that adults can enjoy too. Our staff selected 15 incredible kids' stories that also appeal to grown minds.

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James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
My boys are older now, but when they were little we would read this classic story a lot. It was wonderful for boys, especially since it was all about adventure and travel; and the characters that the main character meets along the way were so vivid.

Another favorite: In the Night Kitchen, a kooky, wonderfully illustrated book by Maurice Sendak, the same author of the more well-known Where The Wild Things Are. It was my older son's favorite and he could recite the whole book verbatim! —Dean Abatemarco, Art Director

Buy James and the Giant Peach
Buy In the Night Kitchen

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gertstein

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gertstein
A fairytale-like presentation of Philippe Petit's historic tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, this book was a total tear-jerker for me, since I lived seven blocks from the World Trade Center and watched the towers fall from my apartment window in 2001. But while I cried reading the story to my kids, they loved it so much we read it over and over. Even with the ending: “Now the towers are gone.”
 —Marti Golon, Art Director

Buy The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
This classic, beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a delightful country home that becomes engulfed in urban sprawl—until someone recognizes its value. I loved it as a child, loved reading it to my children, and still appreciate its message of reclaiming nature's pleasures. —Dawn Raffel, Features Editor, Books

Buy The Little House

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I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith

I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith
I was obsessed with this book when I was a kid and actually spent most of my days as a five-year-old memorizing the pages (I can still recite a few lines from memory). As an adult, I realize that the story talks about the importance of vocabulary, and the desire to constantly learn more and push your thinking to the next level. As a child, however, I just loved it because everything rhymed. —Alison Caporimo, Associate Editor

Buy I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
This is about a little girl who goes to school everyday wearing the same dress, and the other girls make fun of her. She always tells them that at home she has 100 dresses. When she stops showing up at school, her schoolmates go to her house and see that she really wasn't lying—a very good lesson in how to treat others.

I also adore Half Magic by Edward Eager: Several children find a magic coin that grants a wish—except only half of it! In wishing you were already home, the coin would bring you halfway there. Delightful. —Tara Zades, Magazine Rights Manager

Buy The Hundred Dresses
Buy Half Magic

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Every day I have a Wilbur moment, Lurvy moment, a Templeton moment and a Charlotte moment. It's universal. And I still cry. —Liz Vaccariello, VP, Editor-in-Chief, Chief Content Officer

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl
I love rereading children’s books. My favorite? Matilda. Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the wicked headmistress who terrorizes Matilda, is one of the most colorful villains in children's literature, capable of inspiring both fear and delight. —Caitlin O’Connell, Assistant Editor

Buy Matilda

Richard Scarry's Best Books Ever by Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry's Best Books Ever by Richard Scarry
It's a pretty big brag, but this collection of original tales and classic Mother Goose rhymes makes good on its title and then some. A favorite of mine as a child—and now a winner with my own kids—Scarry's signature busy, colorful illustrations and smart, humorous text offers something for all ages to love, from the lulling rhythms of "I Am a Bunny" and "Chipmunk's Birthday Party" to the faster-paced travel-themed pieces like "Pip Pip Goes to London" and "Pierre, the Paris Policeman." —Diane Dragan, Executive Editor

My daughter LOVED Richard Scarry’s Funniest Storybook Ever, and it was one of the few children's books I actually enjoyed. And now she reads Scarry's Best Storybook Ever to my 7-year-old grandson. —Janice K. Bryant, Copy Editor

Buy Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever

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Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I loved this true story of an American pioneer family, and first read it when I was the same age as the author had been in her story. I was fascinated by all of the challenges the Ingalls' encountered on their way to a new life and a new home. My most vivid memory is of the children making candy by pouring maple syrup on fresh snow. Recently, I reread this book and the entire series, and have passed them along to my nine-year old niece. —Kirsten Rohrs Schmitt, Assistant Research Editor

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Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
His nonsensical poems are actually quite sensical (if that is even a word, and if not, Shel would probably have used it) and appeal to both my nine-year-old daughter and the nine-year-old boy in me. —Andy Simmons, Humor Features Editor

Buy Where the Sidewalk Ends

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
This collection of wonderful poems includes "The Twistable Turnable Man" and "Almost Perfect But Not Quite." I haven't read the book in years, but remember a lot of the verses: 

"When the light is green you go, 
When the light is red you stop. 
But what do you do when the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots." 

Absolute best book ever! —Adrienne Farr, Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief

Buy A Light in the Attic

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
I rediscovered the book when I saw the play Wit. In it, the main character (a professor of literature) lies dying from ovarian cancer as her mentor reads her The Runaway Bunny,and says the book can be read as an allegory of the soul's search for God.  It's such a moving scene and message, and now I see the book in a whole new way.

And in a wildly different note, I also love Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham!  Even as a young kid I was always a foodie and just loved to eat! —Courtenay Smith, Executive Editor

Buy The Runaway Bunny
Buy Green Eggs and Ham

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Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
I’ll never forget when a my mom’s friend gave her this book when I was a teenager, and it was one of the first books she gifted to me after my son was born. This touching story depicts how a mother’s love never falters as her baby boy grows into a man—and how that love ultimately affects him as a caregiver to her and his own little girl. It’s hard for me to type about it without tearing up, forget about reading it out loud! It’s a must-read for any mom, especially one of a little boy. —Lauren Gelman, Features Editor, Health

Buy Love You Forever

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
A whimsical book with fanciful pictures that I remember paging through in the days where anything (The tooth fairy! Winning gymnastics medals! Starring in a Broadway show!) seemed possible. Fifteen years later, the book still reminds you: It is. —Perri Blumberg, Assistant Editor

Buy Oh, the Places You’ll Go

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This is a fairy tale with big, grown-up questions that make you think about how to live your best life. I didn't actually read it until I was in high school, but I've been giving it as a graduation present ever since. —Rachel Mount, Senior Editor, Food

Buy The Little Prince

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Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
This was always one of my favorites as a child. It is the story of a family of mallard ducks trying to find a place to settle down in Boston to raise their young, a travelogue of the city from a duck's eye view from the Charles River to the Public Gardens. It has wonderful illustrations that always captivated me. Being a native Bostonian, I always feel like I am back at home reading this book. I still own my childhood copy. The Public Gardens feature a sculpture of the duck family in honor of McCloskey's book. —Ann DiCesare, Head Librarian

Buy Make Way for Ducklings

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of the first books that made me feel like a real literary young adult, The Secret Garden captures my imagination just as much now as it did back then. Every adult could stand to remember the triumph of children's hearts over the societal opinions of adults.

I also love The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. What caught my eye about this book as a kid was the glittery foil of the Rainbow Fish's scales. As an adult, what stands out is its cautionary tale of vanity and its universal message of how sharing brings happiness. —Drew Scarantino, Editorial Assistant, Magazine Rights

Buy The Secret Garden
Buy The Rainbow Fish

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17 thoughts on “15+ Best Books to Read as Children (and Adults)

  1. Don’t miss A Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden, and they’re just as good!

  2. Has anyone also heard of a new book The Grand Adventure of Prince Usab & His Horse Roger. It’s a twisted tale with social commentary, and has been compared to Princess Bride, Shrek and Alice in Wonderland.

  3. Oh the wonderful memories here! Not only did I read and LOVE most of these books as a kid, but I read them to my kids and they loved them too! I so, so, so wish I would have remembered and read them Richard Scary!!! I now know what one of my baby gifts will be when they start having children! I always planned to give books, but that will be one of the very first!!! :)

  4. I absolutely agree with your list, except maybe adding Polar Express!

  5. I would recommend “The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono, a beautiful story of devotion, simplicity, and patience. It’s an excellent example of what one person can do when caring for the Earth. Years ago the Whitewater Valley Land Trust issued a copy with splendid wood engravings as illustrations. It is also available on video.

  6. My mother was a fabulous reader to me and my sister when we were young. We always made a game out of anything Richard Scarry because he loved to put Lowley worm on almost every page doing mostly funny things that made us laugh. It was a “Where’s Waldo” before its time!

  7. As a former kindergarden teacher and mother of three, this list was like a stroll down memory
    lane.    Wonderful!  I loved them all.  Thank you so much.     Dorothy

  8. The best books for me to read are those that I enjoy and none of these sound like anything I would ever have enjoyed. I probably would have been bored to tears.

    1. If you have never read any of these books, you seriously need to put down your cell phone, unplug your computer and turn off your TV

    2. If you have never read any of these books, you seriously need to put down your cell phone, unplug your computer and turn off your TV

    3. If you have never read any of these books, you seriously need to put down your cell phone, unplug your computer and turn off your TV

    4. Foxdox – These books are classic and bring out the child in us. I’m so sorry that your parents, teachers, librarians etc.. did not expose you to these experiences in the fantasy world of being a child! Give them a try and try to view them through the eyes of a child, I hope you can experience some of that joy!

    1. Yes – the C.S. Lewis was definitely missing, but so much great stuff was included! Hopefully they will increase it to the best 25 next time and include the C.S Lewis!!! :)

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