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classic kids books

Updated on November 24, 2012

These books are mostly from the 70s and earlier. As I do not have children and I no longer read children's books myself, I will not be discussing the latest greatest.....but these are classics, not to be forgotten.

The Little House

A pretty little house watches as more and more big buildings spring up around her. pretty soon she can't even see a tree or flower anywhere. She yearns to live in the country again and one day she gets her wish. Beautiful illustrations.

VIrginia Lee Burton 1943 Caldecott Medal winner

Hairy Maclary

I just discovered this gem this week while looking after my friend's kids. The author, Lynley Dodd, is from New Zealand. It is a silly story about dogs and one mean cat. The best part of it is the funny names that the author gives to each of the dogs.

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

This is another old one. The steam shovel, Mary anne, and old Mike are becoming obsolete...until a new use for them is found. Virginia Lee Burton, 1939

The Little Red Light House and the Great Grey Bridge

Written by Hildegarde H. Swift in 1942, this is another book about retirement, usefulness, and pride. It is a true story about a lighthouse and a bridge in New York City.

Weird Friends and Unlikely allies in the Animal Kingdom.

I couldn't find an old favorite of mine called JUAN & THE ASUANGS, (Charles Scribner's Sons, l970) It was written and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. The most memorable part of this book is when a flying, puppy-eating monster flies off and leaves his bottom half hidden in the jungle, Juan covers it with hot peppers. This book is out of print and used copies are currently selling for upwards of $50. Well worth it.

Anyway, I haven't read this other book yet, but it is by the same team and looks very promising.

Paddle to the Sea

Written by Holling C. Holling in 1941, this book follows the journey of a small wooden canoe carved by an indian boy in the canadian wilderness through the great lakes and out the St Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean.

Lost in the Barrens

This is a story of friendship between two boys and their survival through the winter in the far north of Canada. As a resident of sunny California, this book makes me miss the winter.

It was written in 1956 by Canadian, Farley Mowat. There are many other great books by Mowat, most deal with the natural world in the northlands.

Danny Champion of the World

I had to pick from many wonderful Roald Dahl books. This is probably one of the less well known, so I thought Id give it some props.

Its been a long time since I read this book, but what I remember is a boy named Danny who lives with his dad in a gypsy caravan. There is a mean rich guy who owns a bunch of land close by. I think Danny and his dad poach some pheasants using elaborate schemes. Not sure how Dahl justifies this theft and allows us to view Danny and his dad as the "good guys." Ill have to reread this one I guess.

The Pushcart War

The little guy takes on the big guy and wins!!!

I guess this is another moralistic and preachy tale...seems to be a pattern in the books my parents chose to read to us. But the "little guy" uses pea-tacks and the "big guy" is easy to everything is simplified and I think there is a happy ending too.

The Story of Ferdinand

This is a story about a bull in Spain that doesn't want to fight.


Swimmy is a simple story about teamwork. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful.

Little House in the Big Woods

This is the first of many autobiographical books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder around the turn of the century. It is amazing how much this country has changed in a hundred years.

The Way Things Work

This book is educational for kids and parents alike. The illustrations are a bit bland in my opinion, but the information is accurate and a picture is worth more than a bunch of words. David MacCauley is a prolific author with many many other great titles.

The Sneetches

This is a moralistic and preachy tale with characters such as Slyvester McMonkey Mc Bean and his Star-Off Machine. The other 3 stories are equally moralistic, and equally excellent. They include the troubles of a woman who names all 21 of her sons Dave, two stubborn Zax marching in their trax, and the greatest of all, A pair of pants with nobody inside of them, which cant be easily explained. The graphic design and the illustrations contribute to the excellence of this book.

The Lorax

The Lorax preaches about environmental destruction. Suess paints a gloomy picture of the effects of unchecked capitalism on the quality of life for many different creatures. In the end, things look pretty grim. Even the Once-ler regrets his lack of foresight, but there is still hope....

Burt Dow, Deep Water Man

This is a colorful story of a fisherman in Maine who puts peppermint striped band-aids on the tails of an entire school of whales. Beautifully illustrated.

Robert McCloskey 1963

Go Dog, Go!

I don't really remember what this book is about, but my favorite part is the big party tree. (I remembered it as a pink tree..but I just checked and it is green. strange.) It is a silly book, but a great one.

Homer Price

Robert McClosky tells stories of life in small town America in the middle of the 20th century. The most memorable chapter involves a donut making machine and a lost ring.


Harriet the Spy

Louise Fitzhugh. (Recommended by Pete Trachy- see comment below)

The Bed Book

I just discovered this wonderful book from 1976 by Silvia Plath, pictures by Emily Arnold McCully. It's kind of hard to explain and unfortunately it is out of print and Used booksellers give it a premium price. You might have to just trust me that it is one of the greats.

Paddle to the Sea

by Holling C. Holling in 1941 is about the voyage of a little wooden indian in his canoe from Lake Superior, where he was carved with love by an indian boy, through the entire great lakes system and out the St Lawrence Seaway to the Ocean. Definitely one of those books that is enjoyed by the parents as much as by the child.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig was another one of my favorites from the early 1970s

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

Originally published in 1972, this is a tale that all kids can relate to by Judith Viorst. Wonderfully illustrated by Ray Cruz, this picture book chronicles all the terrible things that happen to a kid in one day.

Judith also has a good book about kids and money management: Alexander who used to be Rich Last Sunday. Same great illustrator.

Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang

Mordecai Richler 1975

When Jacob Two-two is thrown in the childrens prison on Slimers Isle for mocking a big person it's up to him with a little help from Fearless O'Toole and the Intrepid Shapiro (child power) to save the kids of Slimers Isle from the vile Hooded Fang.

The Big Green Book

Robert Graves, illustrated by Maurice Sendak 1962


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    • sarahd profile image

      sarahd 7 years ago

      Thanks Johnnie. Make Way for Ducklings has great illustrations.

    • profile image

      Johnnie Lunchpail 7 years ago

      Great List! Do you remember "Make Way for Ducklings"?

    • profile image

      Laarni 7 years ago

      I actually found Juan and the Asuangs several years ago on Amazon. Its funny cause when i searched for it back then, I couldn't find any listings. I tried to google it now, and I find all these entries!

    • profile image

      The BEDBUG Blog 8 years ago

      I particularly enjoyed Little House in the Big Woods and read the other stories in the series. This was an interesting read. Thanks for the listing.

    • sarahd profile image

      sarahd 10 years ago

      liberated and refreshing view of gender as well

    • tolachi profile image

      tolachi 11 years ago

      Hariet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Apparently it was groundbreaking when it was written for it's protrayal of childhood as a time riddled with doubt and problems, but I didn't know that when I was in 5th grade.