What are the 11 greatest children’s books of all time?
You’ve probably got a list of your own but what happens when book critic and author Jane Ciabattari polled dozens of other critics around the world, including:
- NPR’s Maureen Corrigan
- Nicolette Jones, children’s books editor of the Sunday Times
- Former Books Editor of the Boston Globe, Nicole Lamy
- Time magazine’s books editor Lev Grossman
- Daniel Hahn, author of the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature
- Beirut-based critic Rayyan Al-Shawaf.
For BBC Culture, Jane asked each of the above to name the best children’s books ever published in English for ages 10 and under.
The critics named 151.
Some of their choices will come as a surprise and some may be new to you.
The titles that follow appeared over and again from the critics polled.
Why 11 titles, I don’t know but here we go in reverse order. To read more about them, click on the books for a summary:
Anything in this list that you didn’t expect?
The trouble with these ‘greatest of all time’ lists is that they are opinions. Every child reader is a critic and if we’d polled fifty 7 year olds about their ‘greatest of all time’ then they’d give us a completely different picture.
It’s hard to know how the literary critics and authors made their choices and whether they were all focusing their energies on the same areas but one would hope they had used the bare essentials of value, quality, tradition, and meaning.
‘Greatest of all time lists’ are always going to be subjective and trying to plonk numbered rankings to books across decades of writing is downright impossible. Remember, these are just suggestions.
But if you do want to see what’s what, it’s always useful to compare and contrast lists and see how publishers and media organisations describe books. For example,
Penguin have listed ‘The 100 best-ever children’s books, as chosen by our readers‘.
The Book Trust: 100 best children’s books
Junior Magazine Top 100 Children’s Books
Amazon have opted to bucket list as 100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime
Instead of a ranked list, some organisations group into categories such as this one.