Over the years, numerous authors, some more famous than others, have written various children’s book that has gone a long way in helping the development of children’s vocabulary while also teaching them a moral or religious lesson.
While it is hard to pinpoint when exactly children’s literature began, the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries are known as the Golden Age of children’s book, as many classic books that have stood the test of time and have also been adapted to other media forms were published. Here is a list of the 20 most popular children’s book that will surely remain relevant for more than a few more decades to be consumed by the children of that era.
20 Most Popular Children’s Book
1. The Poky Little Puppy (1942) – Janette Sebring Lowrey
The Poky Little Puppy, one of the highest selling children’s books of all time, is a story about a puppy of undetermined breed and his four siblings. It simply explains the rewards for good and bad behavior as the story follows the title character, who stays back while his siblings sneak out to play and end up digging a hole underneath the fence to escape the yard. The other four puppies were later caught and scolded by their mother while The Poky Little Puppy is left to explore the yard on his own. He is also later rewarded with rice pudding which his mother withheld from the others due to their bad behavior.
2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) – Beatrix Potter
Widely regarded as a classic children’s book as it has been translated into 36 languages and sold over 45 million copies, The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a story about a young and disobedient anthropomorphic rabbit named Peter Rabbit. Peter and his siblings had been warned by their mother not to enter the vegetable garden of a man named Mr. McGregor, however, the young rabbit does not listen and goes ahead to visit the garden in order to snack on some vegetables. Peter ends up falling sick and is almost caught by Mr. McGregor but ends up making it home. For his disobedience, his mother gives him a supper of chamomile tea while his siblings receive a scrumptious dinner.
3. Green Eggs and Ham (1960) – Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss was well known for writing and illustrating a number of children’s books, and amongst of all them, Green Eggs and Ham have become a favorite for kids all around the world, becoming the highest selling Dr. Seuss book in history along the way. The story follows an unnamed character who does not like eating green eggs and ham while his adversary wants him to eat it.
4. Where the Wild Things Are (1963) – Maurice Sendak
Having sold over 19 million copies worldwide, and been adapted into an animated film, an opera, and a live-action feature film, Where the Wild Things Are is certainly one of the most popular children’s book. The story follows a young boy named Max who first dresses up in his wolf costume and wreaks havoc in his household that he is sent to bed without his supper. His bedroom ends up mysteriously transforming into a jungle environment where he dominates and is hailed as king, but despite having enjoyed playing with his new “subjects,” he ends up feeling lonely and decides to return to his bedroom where he discovers a hot supper waiting for him.
5. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) – Shel Silverstein
Where the Sidewalk Ends is a multiple award-winning collection of children’s poetry that addresses many common childhood concerns as well as other purely fanciful stories.
6. The Cat in the Hat (1957) – Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat is another of Dr. Suess’ children’s books to make the list. The story, which is the second highest selling Dr. Seuss book and has been adapted into a film that starred Mike Myers, follows a tall anthropomorphic cat, who wears a red and white-striped hat and a red bow tie. On a rainy day, the cat shows up to the house of Sally and her brother when their mother is away and wrecks the house while entertaining them. The Cat, however, ends up saving the day by producing a machine that he uses to clean everything up before disappearing as the children’s mother comes home.
7. The Giving Tree (1964) – Shel Silverstein
The Giving Tree is a beautiful story about giving and love, as it follows the lives of a female apple tree and a boy, who develop a relationship with one another.
8. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960) – Dr. Seuss
As is expected, Dr. Seuss makes another entry into this list of popular children’s books with the catchy, rhythmic and tongue-twisting story of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, a story about a boy and a girl named Jay and Kay and the many amazing creatures they have as pets and friends.
9. The Littlest Angel (1946) – Charles Tazewell
The Littlest Angel is a children’s book that tells the story of an adorable little angel who cannot stay out of trouble but later ends up learning the timeless lesson of giving, a lesson that defines the true spirit of Christmas.
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) – Eric Carle
Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won many children’s literature awards and is one of the highest selling children’s books of all time. The story follows the life of a caterpillar who eats his way through a wide variety of foodstuffs before becoming a butterfly.
11. Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1960) – Dr. Seuss
Designed to introduce basic alphabet book concepts to children, Dr. Seuss’ ABC, which stars two anthropomorphic yellow dogs named Icabod and Izzy, contains several short poems about a variety of characters.
12. Goodnight Moon (1947) – Margaret Wise Brown
Goodnight Moon has proven to be one of the best bedtime story books as it has sold an estimated 48 million copies worldwide and has been translated to many languages, including Chinese, French, Hebrew, Korean, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, among others. The text, which features a rhyming poem, describes the bedtime ritual of an anthropomorphic bunny who says “good night” to various inanimate and living objects in its bedroom.
13. Scuffy the Tugboat (1955) – Gertrude Crampton
Scuffy the Tugboat is about a toy tugboat named Scuffy who is not content with sailing in a bathtub. His wishes are later granted as a man and his son take him to a small brook in a pasture where the current carries Scuffy away. Scuffy, who is pleased with his current situation, later finds himself in a stream that turns into a small and then a larger river. The present situation then overwhelmed Scuffy, and just as he is about to sail off into the endless ocean, he is rescued by the man and his son and put back into the bathtub, where he is content to remain.
14. Blueberries for Sal (1948) – Robert McCloskey
Blueberries for Sal illustrates the similarities between families of different species. Set in a small town in Maine, the story is about a little girl named Sal and her mother who go out an pick blueberries for winter. On the other side of the same hill where Sal picks and her mother picks blueberries, there is also a bear cub and his mother who go and eat berries for winter.
15. The Saggy Baggy Elephant (1947) – Kathryn and Byron Jackson
The Saggy Baggy Elephant is a children’s book that positively contributes to the psychological well-being of individuals who feel different and struggle with their identity. It tells the story of an elephant who isn’t too sure of himself after a parrot makes fun of his big ears, long nose, and wrinkled skin. The elephant, named Sooki, ends up feeling good about himself after he meets other creatures who look just like him.
16. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990) – Dr. Seuss
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is the last book published by Dr. Seuss book before his death in 1991. The book is simply about the journey of life and its challenges.
17. Make Way for Ducklings (1941) – Robert McCloskey
Named the official children’s book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Make Way for Ducklings tells the story of a pair of dabbling ducks, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who seek for a suitable place to raise their family in Boston before deciding to settle on an island in the lagoon in Boston Public Garden.
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18. Tootle (1945) – Gertrude Crampton
Another one of the all-time best-selling children’s books, Tootle is a classic story about a train’s exciting adventure; from attending train school as a baby locomotive to growing up to be the Flyer on the New York-Chicago route.
19. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (1989) – Jon Scieszka
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! is a parody story of the Three Little Pigs from the perspective of the Big Bad Wolf, known in the book as Alexander T. Wolf. The wolf tries to set the story straight of how he came to be a villain, by saying that the whole incident began after he went to ask his neighbors for sugar and they all said no to him.
20. Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) – Crockett Johnson
Harold and the Purple Crayon, which has been adapted into a film and television series, is about a curious four-year-old boy named Harold who is able to create his own world by simply drawing with his purple crayon.