The Junior 100 Best Loved Children Books of all time… in no particular order. Ready?…
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Not many children’s books achieve worldwide sales that year on year but Eric Carle’s classic picture book about a caterpillar munching his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly has sold 30 million copies. Carle had only just started out as a children’s author when he wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969. Before that, he was a graphic designer. He had been experimenting with a hole-punch in his efforts to find a different kind of children’s book and had suggested a story to his publisher about a worm eating through the pages.
In the story, the newly hatched caterpillar starts to look for food. On day one he eats one piece of fruit, the next two, the next three and so on, until he reaches the end of the week, when he eats a fabulous feast of muffins, pizza and pickle. The following day he has a stomach ache! By now he is too fat to move and we wonder what is next for our hero. There’s a moment of triumph as we turn the final page and discover he has been transformed into a beautiful butterfly.
BUY HERE>> The Very Hungry Caterpillar Book
2. The Guffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheduler
In a wily woodland mouse manages to escape being eaten by predators by telling them that an imaginary monster is going to appear at any minute. Of course, the mouse doesn’t really expect the monster to put in an appearance, and when it does, he has to use his wits to make The Gruffalo believe that he is so scary himself that the warty beast would be making a really, really big mistake if he tried to eat him! Julia Donaldson’s use of repeated narrative and smart rhymes soon has little readers chanting the story, while Axel Scheffler’s distinctive, crazy-eyed creatures stylishly underline the humour. “All the Gruffalo’s attributes were really just adjectives that sounded good in the flow of the rhyme,” says playwright/performer Donaldson. It’s a ploy that has been hugely successful as can you believe The Guffalo was published just 20 years ago?
BUY HERE>> The Gruffalo Book
3. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. Sendak’s color illustrations are beautiful, and each turn of the page brings the discovery of a new wonder. Where The Wild Things Are manages to be scary-looking without ever really being scary; at times they’re downright hilarious. Sendak’s trademark run-on sentences lend the perfect touch of stream of consciousness to the tale, which floats between the land of dreams and a child’s imagination. This Sendak classic reaffirms the notion that there’s no place like home.
BUY HERE>> Where The Wild Things Are Book
4. Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A Milne and EH Shepard
Although the language and turns of phrase are from a bygone era Winnie-The-Pooh books continue to be hugely popular (with the Disney creations only helping to widen the honey-munching bear’s appeal). First published in 1926, the tales were inspired by AA Milne’s own son (immortalised as Christopher Robin) and his cuddly toys.
However, the image of Pooh that we have come to know and love was based on the favoured toy bear of illustrator Ernest Shepard’s son. In the tales about life with Edward Bear (Winnie to you and I), the first collection of stories establishes Pooh’s world with Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit and Kanga, and their many life-learning adventures in the 100 Acre Wood.
BUY HERE>> Winnie-The-Pooh Book
5. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
First published in 1993, this much-loved spoken-word game for small children evolved into Michael Rosen’s poetic book. A father, his four children of various sizes and the family dog are off in search of adventure… and a bear. On a rainy day, this story is a wonderful way of escaping the confines of the sofa, by suggesting the squelching of muddy fields, the crackle of wild woods, and the swirl and bluster of a snowstorm. Children of all ages enjoy miming their struggle on the journey that finally brings them to the cave where dwells the elusive bear. However, when they get there, the bear’s just a little bit too scary and back they have to rush, retracing their steps in double-quick time. In Rosen’s reinterpretation, the drama is in the pace of the words, and Helen Oxenbury’s playful illustrations bring the armchair expedition to life (as did the Channel 4 animated version in 2016)
BUY HERE>> We’re Going On A Bear Hunt Book
6. Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan & Janet Ahlberg
The husband-and-wife team who have created so many wonderful children’s books appear several times in this Top 100. Which is not at all surprising: the lilting rhymes, playful sense of humour and Janet Ahlbergs’ warm, cartoony illustrative style are all effortlessly appealing to young readers and their parents. First published in 1978, Each Peach Pear Plum is a picture book for the very young with simple sentences on each page and an I-spy challenge to the reader to find Tom Thumb, Cinderella, The Three Bears, and so on. The repetitive nature of the text becomes a playful mantra as one clue leads to the next page’s tableau. “I found a little bit of Each Peach Pear Plum in a wonderful little book called The Lore And Language Of Schoolchildren by Iona and Peter Opie,” recalls Allan Ahlberg. “It’s a collection of playground rhymes from the 1930s into the 1950s. It was the idea that you could hide things in the pictures and then reveal them. It’s a very simple text but it runs round in a circle.” Janet died in 1994, but Allan continues to write.
BUY HERE>> Each Peach Pear Plum Book
7. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Many of the most enduring children’s books are seemingly the most simple in design. In Sam McBratney’s modern classic, first published in 1994, a big cuddly hare and a little cuddly hare exchange expressions of love in a warm and reassuring way that any child at bedtime could enjoy. Coupled with Anita Jeram’s gentle illustrative style, it’s not hard to see why this book has sold 28 million copies worldwide. Yet there is a deeper appeal to this picture book: it touches on how strange an abstract concept like ‘love’ can be for a small child. With an economy of words and a restrained humour, McBratney achieves this. “I wrote it to say something meaningful and humorous, using as few words as possible,” he explains.
BUY HERE>> Guess How Much I Love You Book
8. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Julia Donaldson’s partnership with illustrator Axel Scheffler has produced several modern classics one of them being Room On The Broom. First publised in 2001 it blends detailed images with simple, poetic narrative of a flame-haired witch and her familiar broom as they get into all kinds of scrapes. Lists, repetition and being pursued as a dragon’s dinner all add to the pure pleasure in storytelling that young children respond to so well. “My starting point,” explains Donaldson, “was that a witch on her broom always has a cat. Well, what if she had other animals on there as well?” It has since been adapted in a stage and animated TV version, as well as a interactive attraction at Chessington World of Adventures.
BUY HERE>> Room On The Broom Book
9. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell Campbell
When Rod Campbell came up with the idea of “lift-the-flaps” to reveal surprises in Dear Zoo, way back in 1982, the pace and humour introduced a whole new way to enjoy books with preschoolers.“Children enjoy the idea and the logic, and join in easily, owing to the repetitive text and the physical act of lifting the flaps,” says Campbell. In the story, a narrator asks the zoo to send him a pet. However, the zoo keep sending animals which are completely inappropriate – a monkey who is too naughty, a camel who is too grumpy – and each one has to be sent back. As the story progresses, children love the different shaped flaps which represent animal crates or a snake’s basket, until finally the zoo get it right and send our narrator the perfect pet – a loveable puppy! First published in 1982 Dear Zoo continues to be a family favourite and a live stage version opened in 2018.
BUY HERE>> Dear Zoo Book
10. The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
Published in 1968 The Tiger Who Came to Tea celebrates its 50th anniversary next year in 2018. A book that is undeniably a true classic with a little retro charm (check out the mother’s flick-up hairdo and kinky boots!). There is also something strangely stylised about this domestic scene of mother and daughter at teatime that has a real Fifties-feel (despite Sophie’s funky spotty tights). Children love the fun involved in books that mix reality with fantasy. They all know what tea-time is, they know what a tiger is, but tea with a tiger is the silliest thing. And because Judith Kerr is a wonderful storyteller, she doesn’t get caught up in the small details, such as why the tiger didn’t bother eating Sophie and mummy. And, the coolest thing is that when daddy comes home, he doesn’t just freak out: he suggests the family eat out instead! There is also a regular touring live stage show that really brings the book to life and a truly special afternoon tea at The Savoy in London too.
BUY HERE>> The Tiger Who Came To Tea Book
11. Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
First published in 1981, this wonderful boardbook appeals rather like The Very Hungry Caterpillar – as you simply can’t beat a hole in the page for toddler enjoyment. In Peepo!, a baby glimpses his small domestic world through a little circular cut-out on the page, before the full scene – a cosy kitchen, a visit to the park, the soft light of bedtime – is revealed overleaf. Set in the early Forties, it’s an unpretentious vision of a baby’s contented life based on Allan Ahlberg’s own working-class childhood. And, the illustrations delight today as they ever did.
BUY HERE>> Peepo! Book
12. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
The book that launched a bespectacled schoolboy-cum-wizard into the stratesphere of worldwide fame, Harry Potter is a literary sensation. The first Harry Potter novel has become one of the biggest selling books of all time since it debuted in 1997. Not bad for a ‘sci-fi’ novel , right? This book introduces us to Harry – from his magical beginnings as a baby and his discovery, aged 11, of his strange potential as his life at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry begins. JK Rowling’s ability to write a compelling narrative that appeals to young readers and adults alike has been key to the Potter legend. The later, much darker volumes make Potter daunting for some under-tens but with films, stage versions, clothing and theme parks the world of Harry Potter look set to continue.
BUY HERE>> Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone Book
13. Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
First published 1983, Lynley Dodd’s scruffy black mutt Hairy Maclary doesn’t get up to much most of the time – except chewing bones, chasing things and hanging out with his friends. Yet this first, simple rhymer, which introduces small children to Hairy’s array of doggy pals (“Bottomley Potts covered in spots”; “Schintzel von Krumm with a very low tum”, and so on) is a rhythmic delight. Dodd’s illustrative style is gentle and almost old-fashioned, but it’s the narrative (with playful lilts akin to those of the wonderful Dr Seuss), where the native New Zealander uses the richest language (“cacophony”, “caterwaul” and “howdedoo” are prime examples) that makes her many follow-up books featuring animals with catchy names such roaring global successes.
BUY HERE>> Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy Book
14. The Cat In The Hat by Dr Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote this vibrant linguistic romp back in 1957 as a primer to help children with the 225 words that were vital to ‘new reader’ vocabulary. The cheeky Cat arrives and causes mayhem with his suggested rainy day games in the home of two young children, while their mother is out. Dr Seuss’ poetic pace heaps excitement upon chaos in a story that’s fun as well as educational.
BUY HERE>> The Cat In The Hat Book
15. The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
By Allan Ahlberg’s own admission, he and his late wife always liked to make a book very different from the one before. In The Jolly Postman, first published in 1986, our eponymous hero makes his deliveries around a storyland populated by famous fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. Adventures abound as each communication offers more intrigue. The envelopes are ingeniously built into the pages and each letter is cleverly designed to delight young readers. So beloved is this book, you’ll rarely find a well-thumbed edition where any of the letters have been lost. Check out The Jolly Christmas Postman for a festive update on this classic published in 2013.
BUY HERE>> The Jolly Postman Book
16. I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child
Lauren Child’s phenomenally successful Charlie and Lola creations had a vibrant life in print long before they were turned into a funky television series. I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato was first published in 2001, and introduces the indomitable Lola, a cheeky preschool madam who always has a smart excuse to justify getting her own way. However, older brother Charlie appeals to her sense of fantasy to overcome common childhood issues – such as fussy eating. Great fun, and useful if you know a fussy eater who doesn’t like tomatoes, or eggs, or peas…
BUY HERE>> I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato Book
17. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
First published in 1950, the first of CS Lewis‘ The Chronicles Of Narnia series tells the magical story of a family of children who have been evacuated from London during the war. Exploring the country house they have moved to, the youngest daughter, Lucy, discovers a secret world inside a disused wardrobe and soon all the children are launched into the world of Narnia. Belief, betrayal and salvation are the strong biblical themes, but the appeal of this enduring fantasy reaches far beyond that.
BUY HERE>> The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe Book
18. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
First published in 1964, the enduring appeal of Roald Dahl lies not only in his expert storytelling, but in the gruesome, gory and silly nature of his books. What child hasn’t dreamt of rivers of chocolate? Yet Dahl was never sentimental, and here the hero is the only son of the almost comically poor Bucket family, who wins the final place on a one-off tour of the top-secret sweet factory owned by Willy Wonka. While Dahl allows us to wallow in confectionery, the other children in the book – greedy, lazy and spoilt – come to sweetly sticky ends. A wonderful novel for young readers which fires their imaginations and offers a cautionary tale. And, of course as all classic book it has been made in a film or two – the classic with Gene Wilder and the updated version with Johnny Depp.
BUY HERE>> Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Book
19. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Originally written in 1902 as a picture-letter to a sickly five-year-old, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit paved the way for Potter’s series of wildlife stories of naughty bunnies, ill-fated toads and other well-dressed creatures with human traits. Illustrating her work with a delicate style, Potter brought the wonders of her beloved English countryside to an Edwardian audience who instantly fell in love with her books. One day, while mother rabbit is out, Peter strays into his neighbour’s garden and proceeds to eat his vegetables, only to be chased away by an angry Mr McGregor. Potter’s writing style has the quaint, mannered charm of its period.
BUY HERE >> The Tale of Peter Rabbit
20. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Three children discover an enchanted wood where a gigantic magic tree grows. At the top of the tree is a ladder which leads the children to a magic land that is constantly changing – they are sometimes extremely unpleasant (the Land of Dame Slap) or sometimes fantastically enjoyable (the Land of Birthdays, the Land of Take-What-You-Want). The children are free to come and go, but they have to leave before the land “moves on” or they will be stuck there until the magic hole returns through which they can get down the ladder at the top of the tree. First published in 1943, Enid Blyton’s the Faraway Tree is inhabited by wonderful characters including Moonface, the fairy Silky, The Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot, Mr. Watzisname and the Angry Pixie.
BUY HERE>> The Magic Faraway Tree
21. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
Sarah, Percy and Bill wake up one night to find their mother isn’t there. Their loneliness makes them anxious and the fluffy white owls begin to fret, but are overcome with relief and joy when mummy owl comes back. A gently reassuring bedtime read for two-year-olds.
BUY HERE >> Owl Babies
22. Alfie Gets In First by Shirley Hughes
Once again Hughes’s down-to-earth approach to storytelling stands out. Little boy Alfie accidentally locks his mother and his baby sister outside. Getting the door open again is a convoluted process involving neighbours and all sorts. First published in 1981, the Alfie series of books is a warm and wonderful exploration for preschoolers.
BUY HERE>> Alfie Gets in First
23. Peace At Last by Jill Murphy
It’s now nearly 50 since Mr and Mrs Bear and Baby Bear first appeared in 1980. Here, they are going to bed, but Mr Bear can’t sleep because Mrs Bear snores. He tries to get to sleep in Baby Bear’s room and every other room in the house, even the car, but each place is too noisy. Eventually, he notices that all is quiet and he gets back into his own bed to enjoy peace at last… Murphy’s soft illustrations and the comedy found in the domestic scene make this an appealing bedtime read.
BUY HERE >> Peace At Last
24. The Snail And The Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Donaldson and Scheffler unite for a beautiful story that encourages children to see how important we all are, big or small. A small snail longs to sail the seas and by hitching a ride with his massive friend the whale, he can explore icebergs, volcanoes and other wonders across the earth. However, when the whale is stranded on a beach, it is snail who can come to his rescue by writing an SOS message. Richly colourful and charming, with memorable rhyming. And, it also celebrated its 15th Anniversary in 2018.
BUY HERE>> The Snail And The Whale
25. No Matter What by Debi Gliori
When Gliori got divorced, the experience she saw her own daughter go through inspired No Matter What. First published in 1999, it tell the tale of a parent fox called Large promises Small, her cub, that whatever happens, she will always be there filling their life with love and cuddles. Small asks lots of questions, but Large is consistent in her reassuring replies. The fluffy illustrative style is appealing to young readers, whether the separation is only temporary at bedtime, or for a more prolonged period of a parent being away.
BUY HERE>> No Matter What
26. Green Eggs And Ham by Dr Seuss
Another gem by the inimitable Dr Seuss, and first published in 1960, not only is this book one of the good doctor’s finest adventures into the joy of language, with its nonsense poetry and chugging rhythms, but it’s also a great way to persuade young children that they may actually like a new food! Sam-I-Am is desperate to get his chum to try green eggs and ham and suggests all kinds of scenarios that might make the dish appeal – eating them with a fox, in a box, in the dark, in the rain, and so on.
BUY HERE >> Green Eggs And Ham
27. I Love You Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester Clark
Lily Brown and her cuddly toy, Blue Kangaroo, are inseparable. However, a procession of new toys oust Blue Kangaroo from pride of place in Lily’s bed and eventually he hops off to her baby brother’s cot. When Lily sees her beloved cuddly in the arms of someone else she realises that he is too special to lose. A lovely bedtime read by award-winning illustrator Chichester Clark, a former Royal College of Art student who was taught by Quentin Blake.
BUY HERE >> I Love You Blue Kangaroo!
28. Pants by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt
Given that poo and potties can even dominate the conversation of adults, in a child’s first few years, it’s no surprise that young readers delight when their parents read them an ode to pants. Beyond that, Andreae’s flowing rhymes and Sharratt’s comic illustrative style raise the silliness stakes as the book explores various pants and how they might suit different incongruous settings. Great fun. The follow-up More Pants continues the fixation with underwear with more fun and frolics.
BUY HERE >> Pants
29. James And The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
In true Dahl style, this adventure (first published in 1961) is rather strange, but wry and compassionate. Before the first page is out poor James Henry Trotter is orphaned and condemned to a life of cruelty with his Aunts Spiker and Sponge. However, one day he meets a strange man who offers him a bag of magic grains, only James drops the bag in the garden and a mighty peach appears. James is befriended by a clutch of insects who were also affected by the magic and they all fly away on an incredible adventure.
BUY HERE >> James And The Giant Peach
30. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
Hughes’s ability to capture something precious and important to young children from their own lives, makes her works enduring favourites decades after they were written. Dogger is a toy dog whose owner Dave takes him everywhere. Dave and his family’s life of school, treats and bathtime provide a comforting backdrop to a story in which Dave actually loses Dogger. Both must go through hard times before a happy reunion brings the story to a comforting close for readers.
BUY HERE >> Dogger
31. Mog The Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr
If family cats are independent creatures who wander off and do their own thing, Mog is no different. Often the moggy is daydreaming her way into a series of adventures, and in this book, Judith Kerr’s first ever Mog story, she forgets she can’t fly when she chases birds and forgets that she has a basket when she sleeps in front of Mr Thomas’s view of the television. Like any naughty toddler she is told off for everyday misdemeanours, so the books translate beautifully. Despite Judith’s sad passing in 2019 at the age of 96 her legacy continues within the pages of every book she wrote.
BUY HERE >> Mog The Forgetful Cat
32. Maisy Goes To Hospital by Lucy Cousins
Maisy, Mimi, Mausi or even Molly has been translated into 28 languages and sold over 25 million copies. There are now more than 150 colourful first stories about the little mouse and her friends. A wonderful route to colours, objects and early words from prolific author Lucy Cousins.
BUY HERE>> Maisy Goes To Hospital
33. Matilda by Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Made into a Hollywood film in 1996, Matilda is the story of a girl genius breaking out from the confines of a horrible home life and boring school. Instead, her supportive and encouraging teacher Miss Honey and Matilda’s own special powers transcend Roald Dahl’s vision of neglectful parenting. Matilda celebrated her 30th Anniversary in 2018 with a re-issued hardback with 3 original and brand-new covers by the original illustrator – Quentin Blake of course, each with a career that Blake himself has imagined that Matilda might have at 30 years old.
BUY HERE>> Matilda