It’s not just #ThrowbackThursday, it’s International Children’s Book Day! We couldn’t resist the chance to soothe our souls with a little nostalgia.

Children’s books hold a special kind of power over our hearts and memories. Can you remember the first book that ever captured your imagination? The mesmerizing textures and colors of a beautifully illustrated picture book, or a simple story that held you in thrall? Chances are if someone placed that book in your hands now, you’d recall that sense of wonder immediately.

We know now that a feeling of awe is one of the most positive emotions a person can experience, so it’s no surprise that we have such strong feelings for the very first books that moved us. Take a moment out of your day to look back on this list of classic, memorable children’s books — and a few bonus young adult novels from back in the day, for good measure. Is your favorite childhood book on your list?

Our Favorite Classic Children’s Books


Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

“Let the wild rumpus start!” With a battle cry like that, who could ever forget Where the Wild Things Are? This timeless tale follows a misbehaving little boy to a secret place filled with fearsome, fascinating monsters who quickly accept him as their king. The book was made into a movie a few years ago by the acclaimed director Spike Jonze, but that film, while lovely, had a decidedly melancholy edge. Considering the endless debate over the “moral” of this picture book, that’s not really a shocker. But if you’re more in the mood for a wild rumpus than a heavy lesson in gratitude, stick with the book!


The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein

Most classic children’s books have a special quality that captivates adults as well as children, but The Giving Tree is known for casting a particularly powerful spell on grown-ups who turn its pages. Tender, touching, and illustrated with perfect simplicity, it’s a cautionary tale of giving and taking with a bittersweet ending that never quite fades from memory.


The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats

Published in 1962, this breathtakingly beautiful picture book is a masterpiece of minimalism that perfectly captures the magic of a snowy day. With no adults in sight, the little hero explores wonder after wonder as he wanders through the snow-covered city in his bright red snowsuit. The Snowy Day instantly claimed a space among the top tiers of classic children’s books, and broke important ground, too: It was the first full-color picture book to feature a black child as the protagonist.


by Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. 
In two straight lines they broke their bread
And brushed their teeth and went to bed.
They left the house at half past nine
In two straight lines in rain or shine. 
The smallest one was Madeline.”

Even in the vast range of classic children’s books, this one speaks for itself. With its unforgettable opening lines and rich, timeless art, Madeline has been awakening the inner Francophiles of children worldwide since its first publication in 1939.


The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
by Paul Goble

This next classic children’s book holds a special place in the memories of many horse-lovers and free spirits alike. The daring story features a young Native American girl from an unnamed Plains tribe who becomes lost in the mountains and befriends a wild stallion. When she’s found, she has to decide whether to go back to her tribe or run free with the herd. Talk about a timeless allegory. The beautiful bold colors and sharp textures make The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses a visual delight for any age.


A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle

This legendary work of children’s literature kicks off with an unsettling visit from a stranger who declares, “Wild nights are my glory.” Same, girl! Plenty of readers both young and old who would crown this novel the queen of classic children’s books. A Wrinkle in Time is cited by countless writers as the book that inspired them to pick up the pen, and continues to cast its spell over each new generation.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit
by Beatrix Potter

It’s hard to overstate what a treasure this book is. Not only is The Tale of Peter Rabbit a useful tool for parents who want to warn their children not to misbehave, but the pure, musical quality of the language in the story make it nearly impossible for little minds to ignore. No, really: If Peter Rabbit, and his friends Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail aren’t captivating enough, consider their fearsome adversary, the farmer Mr. MacGregor, whose wife, Peter’s mother tells him, baked Peter’s father in a pie. Talk about a tale of truth and consequence.


The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

First published in 1908 (!), The Wind in the Willows is a timeless ode to eccentricity. With its offbeat cast of animal characters, quirky misadventures, and heartwarming themes of loyalty and friendship, this is a world that never loses its power to draw you in.

Is your favorite children’s book on our list? 

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