What’s not to love about books? Books allow you to visit exotic countries and meet exciting mysterious people, without owning a passport or having a plane ticket. They allow you to travel back in time and meet dinosaurs, dragons and knights in shining armor. They show you pathways into the future, alternative universes and planets far, far away. Not only do they fuel your imagination, but they keep you company through thick and thin and entertain for hour on end.
So, without further ado, here is a list of the 30 best children story books. We have sorted them up according to age group to make it easier on you. However, children have this strange tendency to grow up, so you will need to revisit this list from time to time and update your child’s book collection. Good reading!
Story Books for Toddlers with Illustration
Toddler reading a book.
Books for this age are usually filled with bright and colorful illustrations aiming at attracting your toddler’s attention. The stories are deceptively simple, full of rhyming words and repetitive patterns. And there is always a little lesson to learn. Be prepared to read a favorite over, and over again.
Moreover, establishing a reading ritual, such as the bedtime story, or story time before dinner, will increase the attractivity of the reading itself due to anticipation. I am a particular fan of the bedtime story. It gives the child a chance to wind down before bed, and to feel special, as he /she is your sole focus during that time. And rest assured that the bedtime story routine will continue throughout their entire life.
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
This book tells the story of a caterpillar on its way to becoming a butterfly, in an extremely funny and colorful way. There’s an educational focus on counting, the days of the week and food. The award-winning collage illustrations are just wonderful.
2. The Gruffalo, by J. Donaldson, illustrated by A.Scheffler
Learn how the tall tale of a cunning mouse became a reality, and how the little mouse became the Big Bad Mouse even gruffalos are afraid of. The rhymes and the rhythm of this fantastic book will captivate children and grown-ups alike.
3. The Gruffalo’s Child, by J. Donaldson, illustrated by A. Scheffler
My children insisted I add this one. A brave and disobedient Gruffalo child goes hunting for the Big Bad Mouse, despite the father’s warning. There’s no such thing as the Big Bad Mouse, or is there?
4- 10. Other Recommendations
4. We are going on a Bear Hunt, by M. Rosen, illustrated by H. Oxenbury
Based on an American folk song, this is the story of a brave family’s adventure going bear hunting, through tall grass, muddy banks and flowing rivers. Will they hunt the bear, or will the bear hunt them? Maybe a bit too adventurous for bed time, but wonderful for a rainy afternoon.
5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by B. Martin Jr and E. Carle
It’s a lovely book for toddlers, with the educational focus on identifying colors and associate them with animals. You will have the Brown Bear, the Red Bird, the Yellow Duck, the Blue Horse, the Green Frog, the Purple Cat, the White Dog, the Black Sheep, and the Goldfish.
6. Where the Wild Thing Are, by Maurice Sandak
Max was naughty and sent to bed without his supper. However, his room is now a jungle, full of wild beasts. Can Max survive the ordeal? Will he come back from the Wild Things Island?
7. The Feelings Book, by Todd Parr
This bold and bright book helps children express their feelings, in such a hilarious and surprising way, you can’t help but fall in love with its childlike drawings that cleverly link emotions to their fitting facial and body language.
8. Guess How Much I Love You, by S. McBratney, illustrated by A. Jeram
This simple question triggers an amazing array of responses. Little Hare and Big Hare try to outdo one another in terms of quantity of how much they love each other. It’s a delightful book that will leave your toddler with the complete certainty that he is loved endlessly.
9. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
This beautifully illustrated book features a child exploring his neighborhood after the first snow fall.
10. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by B. Martin Jr and J. Archambault, illustrated by L. Ehlert
This book introduces lower-case and upper-case letters to your toddler, as the lower-case letters decide to climb a coconut in alphabetical order, only to fall down and need rescue from their parents, the Capital letters. It goes on describing each letter’s injury, again alphabetically.
Story Books for Older Children (8 to 13 year-olds)
Immersed in the story
Books at this age should be more engaging and selected according to the children’s interests, while continuing to feed their imagination. You will have to consider that boys and girls will eventually have different tastes, and though you should offer the widest possible selection, a book they love will keep them reading and asking for more. I should know, not a month go by that I don’t have to buy new books…
11. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
An elderly brother and sister pair requested a burly orphan boy to help them run their farm, but were surprised with the talkative and thoroughly feminine Anne. Read the adventures, heartbreaks and trials that follow in the wake of this fiery red-haired girl, as she discovers life and love in a new situation.
12. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
Set in NYC, this book tells the story of a curious 11-year-old who writes candid observations about her friend and family in her journal. But one day the journal falls into the wrong hands and all is revealed.
13. Oh, the Thinks you can Think!, by Dr. Seuss
My children love this book with its funny rhymes and pictures, but above all the invitation to let your imagination run wild. Dr. Seuss is a prolific writer and all his books are worth a look and a read.
14- 20. Other Recommendations
14. Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary
Meet an 8-year-old who has a lot to say about life as a third grader. You’ll laugh out loud most of the time, and simply fall in love with the character and her antics.
15. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
James is sent to live with his wicked aunts, after his parents’ tragic demise at the feet of rhinoceros. One day, he accidently spills magical crocodile tongues in the garden, and the result might prove his only means of escaping from his abusive aunts. Do try other Roald Dahl’s books, as they are truly hilarious.
16. Story Thieves, by James Riley
Owen finds out his classmate, Bethany, can jump in and out of books. She searches for her lost father, who is a fictional character, and is half-fictional herself. This is the first of a five book series, where they end up by saving the fictional and the non-fictional world.
17. A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
When their parents die in a fire, the Baudelaire children are sent to live with the horrid Count Olaf, who is intent on stealing their parents’ fortune. And, the series of fantastically unfortunate events the children face is enough to fill 13 morbidly glorious books.
18. Harry Potter Series, by J.K.Rowlings
I could tell you about one book in particular, but they come as a series for a reason. Meet the Boy that lived to become a wizard and fight countless battles against Evil. Your kids might have seen the movies, but, according to my 9 year-old, the books are so much better.
19. Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S.Lewis
Escaping London during the 2nd world war blitz, the four Pevensie children go to the countryside to live with an eccentric uncle. While exploring the house, they discover a strange wardrobe and are whisked away to the magical land of Narnia. There they will fight evil witches, meet fauns and talking animals, yield swords and cross perilous seas, in their quest to free Narnia.
20. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Jonas lives in a utopian society where no one feels pain. However, there are no possible choices, and everyone has their assigned role. Aged 12, the boy receives his assignment as the receiver of memories secret to all but one in their community, and realizes the terrible truth about the society he lives in.
Story Books for Young Adults ( 14 to 18 years-old)
Best place to read.
Books for these age group are more complex, addressing coming of age issues, such as finding your identity and taking the path less travelled. Books delving into the fantastic and the adventurous are still a safe choice. Girls, 16 and above, tend to prefer more romantic books, but pace should be fast.
21. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Elves, dwarves, hobbits, sorcerers, orcs, knights meet in this astonishing trilogy to bring the fantastic world of Middle Earth alive.
22. The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
In dystopian future, twelve boys and twelve girls are selected from each District as Tributes. Their role is to appear in a live TV Show called the Hunger Games, and the only rule is to survive.
23. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Meg and Charles journey through space and time with Calvin O’Keefe, in search of his missing father. This is the first of the Time Quintet, following the perils and adventures of the Murrays and O’Keefe, who end up by saving the world.
24-30. Other Recommendations
24. His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon will be taken from the university community of Oxford to the frozen lands of the Artic, rules by witch clans. An amazing adventure awaits her in this land where ice-bears fight, with consequences far more complex than anticipated.
25. The Lord of the Flies, by Wiliam Golding
A group of boys shipwrecked on a deserted island rapidly devolves from civilized society to primitive horror.
26. Eragon, by Christopher Paolin
Eragon is a farmer boy who stumbles upon a dragon’s egg. He raises the egg in secret and later becomes a Dragon Rider. This is the first book of the Inheritance Cycle.
27.The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
Meet Percy Jackson, a demi-god son of Poseidon who crosses the U.S. searching for a lightning bolt stolen from Zeus.
28.The Twilight Trilogy, by Stephenie Meye
Complications and plot twists abound in this trilogy where Bella Swan, a teenage girl finds herself in love with Edward Cullen, a vampire.
29.Divergent Trilogy, by Veronica Rot
Set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where citizen must conform to one of the five sanctioned factions, 16- year-old Tris, born into an Abnegation family, must determine her own identity, for she is a Divergent, someone whose tests were inconclusive.
30.The 100, by Kass Morgan
In a dystopian future, 100 teenagers are sent down, from the space Ark, to an Earth previously ravaged by nuclear war, to see if they can survive. It’s a compelling story, but clearly suited for the older crowd, as it is quite violent at times.
Sharing a book
This list is just a small sample of the amazing books you can find for your children. Some are clearly classics, others might be a novelty to you. Let these books inspire you and happy readings.