The best children’s books
Find out which children’s books are top-rated
Why children's books are important
Children’s books allow kids to explore literacy and improve their reading skills. Moreover, children’s books often include life lessons, teaching young people concepts such as responsibility, honesty, and perseverance. They can also cover sensitive topics, such as dealing with grief or bullying, in an informative and age-appropriate way. But foremost, books are a way for children to feel comforted, safe and happy.
For those in the UK, a child learning to read might seem like a guaranteed part of their development. However, according to World Bank, 53% of children cannot read or understand a simple story by the end of primary school in low and middle-income countries. This number is even higher in poor countries, at 80%.
We believe every child deserves to learn and we are passionate about breaking down the barriers to education for children worldwide. Globally, one in three children doesn’t receive a quality primary education, a problem with dire consequences, including a higher risk of exploitation, to child marriage and a lower earning potential.
We work with communities and local governments to improve access to quality education for all children living in poverty, including girls and children with disabilities.
In this article, we want to shine a light on exceptional children’s books and discover the top 10 books for children, hoping to promote the importance of reading for child development.
The top 10 best children’s books
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Dogger by Shirley Hughes
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
- The Arrival by Shaun Tan
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
1. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
“Oh help! Oh no! IT’S A GRUFFALO!!”
In first place as the best children’s book is The Gruffalo! It is no surprise that this imaginative book by Julia Donaldson came out in the top spot in our rankings, and with huge ratings of 4.9 on Amazon and 4.45 on Goodreads, it is clearly still a fan favourite years after its first release.
Written to spark the imagination of little ones, the story of the Gruffalo is about unlikely friendships when a mouse comes up against some deceiving predators, including a Gruffalo! Written in rhyming couplets with a repetitive verse throughout, the story is fun and simple for children to understand and get involved with themselves. First released in 1999, the Gruffalo has since been adapted into an Oscar-nominated animated film.
Discussing why the book is great for children, Common Sense Media, the leading source on media reviews for families and educators, explains: “The short rhymes and their repetitive structure make The Gruffalo a fun book to read aloud. It's true that the mouse is constantly in peril: he's threatened repeatedly by a series of animals who want to eat him -- from a fox to an owl to the Gruffalo himself - but kids won't really worry about his fate. Instead, they'll be impressed with his composure and cleverness. And even with his spiky back and black tongue, the Gruffalo manages to look more silly than truly terrifying. Parents, get ready: Your kids are going to want you to read this one again and again.”
2. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
“At bed-time he said: ‘I want Dogger.’ But Dogger was nowhere to be found.”
Originally published and released in 1977, Dogger by Shirley Hughes is a book that generations have enjoyed and still love to this day. Dave loses his favourite toy, Dogger, and the heart-warming picture book follows his journey to find Dogger; with twists and turns along the way, will he get Dogger back?
The story follows Dave as he searches for his favourite toy; when Dogger turns up at a school fair, Dave thinks he’s found Dogger, and everything seems all right, but before Dave can head home with his favourite toy, someone else buys him at the fair, what will he do?
Dogger was close behind The Gruffalo, with a rating of 4.9 on Amazon and a credible 4.31 on Goodreads. At 32 pages long, Dogger is great for readers aged two and above and is a book that can be enjoyed all the way into the early teens.
3. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
“And I love you all the way up to your toes.”
Sitting in the bronze medal position, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney scored impressively, with a rating of 4.8 on Amazon and 4.38 on Goodreads. Released in 1994, the book recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and is beautifully illustrated by Anita Jeram.
A heart-warming story about the love between a mother and a baby brown hare, the tale shares the wonderful ways you can say I love you. The book has inspired the popular saying, “I love you to the moon and back”, which is used as an expression of love today.
4. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Arrival is the highest-rated book in the list that doesn’t have any words, with a rating of 4.34 on Goodreads and 4.8 on Amazon. The wordless image book was published in 2006 and is 128 pages long and spread across six chapters which consist of varying size images and sometimes full pages of artwork.
This story delves into the life of a migrant who leaves home to find work for his family when their home becomes unsafe. Struggling to find his feet in a new city, learning a new language and making new friends, the story is hard-hitting but also hopeful in times of despair.
As a story focusing on a displaced person, The Arrival focuses on a topic that is very close to our hearts here at World Vision. Through our work as a Christian Charity, we support refugees worldwide who have had to leave their homes because it’s become unsafe for them to stay. With powerful images, The Arrival captures the emotions of this transition, showcasing how scary it can be but ultimately ending on a note of hope.
5. Matilda by Roald Dahl
“Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.”
If we asked you to name the best children’s author of all time, we’re sure many of you would say Roald Dahl, so it is no surprise that Matilda is number five in the rankings of the best children’s books. The book has a rating of 4.8 on Amazon and 4.33 on Goodreads, which are impressive scores for a book that has been around for nearly 40 years! Inspiring multiple films, including a 1996 family favourite and a newer 2022 musical adaptation, the original book was released in 1988 and has been a firm favourite for generations of families.
Matilda is an incredibly popular children’s book, but we can't forget to mention that Roald Dahl had a massive nine books in the study. From Matilda to The BFG and James and the Giant Peach to The Twits, Dahl has been responsible for some of the most iconic characters ever captured in print.
6. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
A book with a touching back story, Wonder was written by R. J. Palacio and was inspired when her son started crying after seeing a girl with a facial deformity. Named after the Natalie Merchant song Wonder, Palacio wanted to highlight that incidents like this could be valuable lessons to children. This touching story is beloved by readers, with a rating of 4.39 on Goodreads and 4.7 on Amazon.
The plot is about a young boy living in Manhattan with a genetic condition called Treacher Collins syndrome, leaving his face disfigured. The boy has spent his life being home-schooled by his parents, but they finally decide it is time for him to head to a public school; what will his experience be like?
7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”
A fantasy novel for young adults, A Monster Calls is about a boy struggling to cope with his mother’s illness. Set in modern-day England, the boy is visited repeatedly in the night by a monster who tells him stories. This engaging story is rated 4.7 on Amazon and 4.35 on Goodreads.
The concept was envisioned by award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd, who conjured the plot whilst suffering from cancer. Dowd never got to write her story, and the reins were handed over to Patrick Ness to bring her visions to life. Ness teamed up with Jim Kay, who drew the magnificent illustrations, before releasing the book in May 2011.
8. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
“Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?”
One of the oldest books in the top rankings, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, was initially released in 1968 and was written and illustrated by Judith Kerr. The book is about a girl called Sophie, her mother and a tiger who invites himself to their afternoon tea and eats all the food and drink. Sophie and the tiger become friends until one day, the tiger never returns. The book was inspired by a trip Judith and her daughter took to a zoo where they saw these magnificent animals up close and personal.
Laura Summers, mum, blogger and book worm has reviewed The Tiger Who Came To Tea on her blog, making the following comments: “This book is a regular favourite of my son’s, and he delights at the tiger’s antics. We play a game as we read the story now, and I will say, ‘But the tiger didn’t eat all the sandwiches on the plate, did he, Logan?’ and he will grin and say, spreading his arms, ‘No! He ate all of them, Mummy’ and this game goes on throughout the story. I think his particular favourite is when the tiger drinks all of the water in the taps.”
The book sits at number eight in the charts, rated 4.8 on Amazon and 4.25 on Goodreads. The book is still as popular as ever today and has since been made into a short animation for children to enjoy.
9. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
“And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
The oldest book in our top 10, Where The Wild Things Are, was originally written in 1963 and is a children’s picture book that Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated. The book follows the story of a young boy called Max, who dresses as a wolf and wreaks havoc in his local area before getting sent home to have his dinner. Max’s bedroom undergoes a magical transformation and turns into a wild jungle where ‘all the wild things are’. The book follows the story of Max as he explores the magical land until he starts to feel lonely and wants to head home. The monsters don’t want him to leave, but Max sails away back to his bedroom, where he finds a warming supper waiting for him.
The story teaches children about friendship, loyalty and adventure; those messages, combined with the whimsical illustrations, are why it’s rated 4.8 on Amazon and 4.23 on Goodreads.
10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
“You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope.”
A book that needs no introduction is The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins. Recently and more famously known for the franchise of films starring Jennifer Lawrence, the original story was a book released in 2008. This dystopian novel is about a fictional and post-apocalyptic world where areas are split into districts, and these districts must compete in The Hunger Games once a year. One girl and one boy must be chosen from each of the 12 districts to compete in a battle to the death. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for her younger sister, who is chosen as one of the competitors, but will she survive?
This spellbinding book is aimed at young adults. with its is intense, mysterious and heavy themes, but it is a book that everyone should tick off their reading bucket list.
The review by 14-year-old Nilou on the blog Critter Critics sums up the book well: “I loved the way that this book was a dystopian fiction. I had never read anything like it. Most books you pick up that are for teenagers are about romance, high school or some incredible adventure. This was so different to those stereotypes. I felt like I was reading something I wasn’t meant to be reading. I think it was because the things that were happening should not be known by a person as young as myself. But I guess that that was the goal of the story, to show that bad things can happen to anyone.”
Nilou explained brilliantly how the injustices within the plot of The Hunger Games made her feel when reading it: “There was so much inequality, things that would never go unnoticed in our world. I wanted to do something about it, and as I read, things just kept getting worst, but the story became even better and stronger.”
To create a comprehensive list of children’s books to review, we compiled all the titles in the best children’s book lists shared by TimeOut, Penguin & Reader’s Digest. After removing duplicates, we were left with 260 unique titles by 229 authors.
For each title, we compiled the average Goodreads rating (five-point-scale), the average Amazon rating (five-point-scale) and the average monthly search volume sourced from ahrefs. To enable a comparison between Goodreads and Amazon, and the monthly search volume, we split the search volumes into four similar-sized categories based on the volume of books with each search volume and gave a score of 1-4 accordingly.
We then summed the total score for each book to determine the best children’s books you should read.
How you can help children
How many of these books have you enjoyed as a child or an adult? If there are some books on the list you haven’t read and want to read to the children in your life, then why not give them a try?
Unfortunately, not all children have the opportunity to enjoy books like the ones we have mentioned in this article. By donating to World Vision, you are helping vulnerable children overcome poverty and experience fullness of life, so why not donate today?
You can even donate books to children with some of our charity gift options. For a one-off payment of £16, you can donate ten books to an after-school reading club. They’ll be written in the local language and reflect the local custom and traditions. Alternatively, for £27, you can donate a mini library to children living remotely, giving them access to a range of books that are hard to find and harder to afford.
You could even look at sponsoring a child and following their journey and how your money has positively impacted their life. There are so many ways you can help to make a difference.
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