Children's Literature: Top Children's Books

Children's literature contains a variety of genres and are even popular for adults to read.
Children's literature contains a variety of genres and are even popular for adults to read. | Source

Top Sellers: Books for Children

The top children's books out there aren't always those that are top sellers but they have maintained their popularity through generations of readers and continue to be the top on everyone's list for children's literature. Whether you are deciding on a children's reading list, looking for a children's book to gift, or just taking a trip down memory lane, here is a list of top sellers and classics from children's literature that are a must read for children of many ages.

Children's literature is defined as stories, including books and poetry, that are written directly for children. Its roots lie in the stories and songs that parents shared with their children long before they were written down and published. Today, modern children's literature has a wide variety of classifications for different genres, based on the intended age for its audience and the form the story is presented in. Children's literature of the past tends to be more clearly directed toward children, while the books for children today sometimes blur that line and appeal to adults just as much as younger readers.

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, was first published in 1952. This popular children's book tells us about the relationship between a pig, Wilbur, and a spider, Charlotte, and how the spider saves Wilbur from being slaughtered by praising him with messages in her web. It is a classic of children's literature is one of those books that is appreciated and read by both adults and children. Charlotte's Web was also named a children's best seller in the year 2000 by Publishers Weekly and even took the number one spot that year. Its target audience is ages eight and up (grades three and up).

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was first published in 1963 and has been adapted into other media many times, including an opera and a film adaptation. It is intended for children ages four and up and has been one of the top children's books for decades, selling millions of copies. As recently as 2009, over ten million copies of Where the Wild Things Arewere sold in the United States alone, making it one of the top sellers in children's literature.

Sendak's children's book is about a boy named Max who wreaks havoc in his household wearing a wolf costume. As his agitation with his mother increases, his bedroom transforms into a whole other world, where "Wild Things" roam. Max is eventually crowned king of the "Wild Things" but decides to come home, where he finds a hot supper waiting for him.

Where the Wild Things Are Video Adaptation

Harry Potter

Seven books make up J.K. Rowling's ever popular children's books in the Harry Potter series. These top sellers are well known both for the popularity of the books, from the time the first children's book was published in 1997, to the release of their movie adaptations, the first of which was released in 2001. Their titles are as follows:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


The basic premise of these pieces of children's literature that are beloved by both adults and children is that they are about Harry Potter and his adventures with his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. While they go through their schooling at Hogwarts, these three work together to fight against the evil Lord Voldemort and protect the wizarding world from his reign. The books are intended for ages nine and up (grade four and up) and have remained on many top children's books lists since its initial publication.

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry is a dystopian book within children's literature that is intended for ages 12 and up. It begins as a utopian society that Jonas lives in. At twelve years old, he is selected to be the "Receiver of Memory" who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness. Sameness has taken away the emotional depth of the lives of the people and so meeting the Giver is confusing at first for Jonas. His experiences teach him the value of knowledge and how it can change someone's life once they realize there is more out there than what they already have.

First published in 1993, The Giver is considered a children's book but faces controversy as to whether or not it is truly appropriate for a younger audience. It has sold millions of copies, which makes it one of the top sellers in children's literature, even if it does not appear on everyone's reading list for top children's books.

Goodnight Moon

Margaret Wise Brown's classic children's book, Goodnight Moon, was first published in 1947. It is intended for audiences ages four and up and is a rhyming poem with illustrations. It describes a bunny's bedtime ritual, saying "goodnight" to everything in its bedroom before going to sleep. This classic in children's literature is intended as a bedtime story for children and is one of the top sellers as it has sold millions of copies since its initial publication.

Goodnight Moon, Narrated by Susan Sarandon

Green Eggs and Ham

No list of top children's book is complete without at least one of the works of the infamous Dr. Seuss. In 1960, Seuss published Green Eggs and Ham, which reached the top four spot in the Publisher's Weekly list for the best selling children's literature books of all time in 2004. This children's book is intended for ages three and up. It is about a character known as "Sam I Am" who attempts to get another unnamed character to eat green eggs and ham.

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, span through seven books total. They were originally published starting in 1950 and have been adapted into numerous television, movie, radio, and stage adaptations. These children's books are not necessarily top sellers but they are highly popular and are classics within children's literature. The chronological order of The Chronicles of Narnia is as follows:

  1. The Magician's Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

These children's books are intended for ages eight and up (grades three and up) but are enjoyed by adults as well. The order in which the books are intended to be read have some controversy, mainly with The Magician's Nephew and The Horse and His Boy. The inspirations for Lewis's novels, including Christian themes and Roman mythology, also cause some controversy for this classic piece of children's literature.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a children's book by Shel Silverstein that is a collection of children's poetry. This children's literature classic has reached the top sellers list as well as other distinguishable lists such as the "Teachers Top 100 Books for Children." First published in 1974, this has a spot as a top children's book intended for ages six and up. Its poems address childish concerns as well as tell fanciful stories that are sure to captivate and entertain.

The Giving Tree

Yet another children's book by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree is another classic of children's literature that has been one of the top sellers since it was published in 1964. This book is intended for ages one and up and is listed amongst the "Top 100 Picture Books of All Time" by the School Library Journal. It is about a boy's friendship with a tree that lasts him a lifetime. Although this book has a seemingly simple storyline, the interpretations that readers have has caused much controversy and debate.

The Giving Tree Read by Shel Silverstein

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass (also known as Northern Lights) is the first of three novels that make up Philip Pullman's trilogy, entitled His Dark Materials. First published in 1995, this fantasy children's book is enjoyed by children and adults and is intended for ages ten and up (grades five and up). The list of books within the series in chronological order is as follows:

  1. The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights)
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

This popular book in children's literature is set in a parallel universe where a theocratic government rules and constantly strives to suppress heresy. In this world, children's souls exist externally and are called "daemons." Lyra Belacqua is the main character in this top seller that finds herself in the middle of a major struggle that involves scientists experimenting on children and battles with mercenaries and armored bears.

Top Selling Children's Novels

Which one of the above top books in children's literature is your favorite?

  • Charlotte's Web
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Harry Potter Series
  • The Giver
  • Goodnight Moon
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • The Giving Tree
  • The Golden Compass
See results without voting

© 2013 LisaKoski

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Comments 5 comments

dilipchandra12 profile image

dilipchandra12 3 years ago from India

Good hub lisa, nice work. Thanks for sharing the above


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 3 years ago from Hamburg, New York

Nice to see that some of the top children's books are still the same as when I was a kid.


hmclio profile image

hmclio 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

Great hub, but all the books listed are timeless classics; not bad in and of itself, certainly! But I'd love to see lists of childrens' books that aren't as well known as the ones here. As an assistant in a public library, I know how important it is to be able to introduce new and old books to young readers and let them know there are more great books out there other than what is listed on the best seller's list.


cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

@LisaKoski - Enjoyed this HUB very much. However that is an excellent comment by @hmclio, coming from a person who loves libraries. I just like to back up librarians wherever they are and show 'em love! This world would lost without teachers and librarians. :)


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 2 years ago

Lisa - what a nice hub! Some of my dearest memories of when my daughters were young is reading to them at bedtime. The Harry Potter series had not yet been written, but we enjoyed the rest in your list. Voted up.

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