The 100 Greatest Children’s Books of All Time, According to 177 Books Experts from 56 Countries

Giv­en the size and demo­graph­ic pro­file of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fan base today, it’s easy to for­get that he orig­i­nal­ly wrote The Hob­bit for chil­dren. For gen­er­a­tions of young read­ers, that nov­el has stood as the gate­way into Tolkien’s much more com­plex and ambi­tious Lord of the Rings tril­o­gy — also writ­ten for chil­dren, at least accord­ing to the new poll of 177 experts around the world con­duct­ed by the BBC to deter­mine the 100 great­est chil­dren’s books of all time. In its results, The Lord of the Rings comes in around the mid­dle, but The Hob­bit takes fifth place, behind only the near-uni­ver­sal­ly beloved titles The Lit­tle Prince, Pip­pi Long­stock­ing, Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land, and — at num­ber one — Where the Wild Things Are.

Any read­er who was a child in the past six­ty years will know all of those books; any read­er alive will know most of them. Through­out this top-100 list appear clas­sics that have been in the chil­dren’s canon longer than any of us have been alive, like Anne of Green Gables, Trea­sure Island, and Lit­tle Women.

A great many works, from Good­night Moon and The Cat in the Hat to A Wrin­kle in Time and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweil­er — joined it in the mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. “Books pub­lished between the 1950s and 1970s were most preva­lent,” says the BBC’s accom­pa­ny­ing notes, “which may be relat­ed to the age pro­file of vot­ers, the major­i­ty of whom were born in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Indeed, a glance through these results can hard­ly fail to bring back any of the ear­li­est read­ing mem­o­ries of any Gen­er­a­tion Xer or mil­len­ni­al. Wit­ness the preva­lence of books by Roald Dahl: Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­to­ry, The BFG, The Witch­es, Matil­da. Even Dan­ny, the Cham­pi­on of the World, which I remem­ber as rel­a­tive­ly lack­lus­ter, just makes the cut. Of course, “the furor over the rewrit­ing of Roald Dahl’s nov­els for mod­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties” has late­ly brought his work back into pub­lic dis­course; that and oth­er unre­lat­ed con­tro­ver­sies over what books ought to be made avail­able in school libraries have giv­en us rea­son to con­sid­er once again what chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture is, or what it could and should be — a range of ques­tions that kids them­selves seem rather bet­ter equipped to address than many grown-ups. See the BBC’s com­plete list here.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed con­tent:

Dis­cov­er J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lit­tle-Known and Hand-Illus­trat­ed Children’s Book Mr. Bliss

Hayao Miyaza­ki Selects His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

Read a Nev­er Pub­lished, “Sub­ver­sive” Chap­ter from Roald Dahl’s Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­to­ry

Enter an Archive of 6,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized and Free to Read Online

Mau­rice Sendak Ani­mat­ed; James Gan­dolfi­ni Reads from Sendak’s Sto­ry “In The Night Kitchen”

A Dig­i­tal Archive of Sovi­et Children’s Books Goes Online: Browse the Artis­tic, Ide­o­log­i­cal Col­lec­tion (1917–1953)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (5)
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  • Kay says:

    One can hard­ly declare these the best 100 when most of the vot­ers were in their 40s and 50s.

  • ZeN says:

    Stop being trite, you know how click-bait and the inter­net rolls.

  • Audrey says:

    Well, I will have to quote an old say­ing; Mon­ey talks, bulls**t walks. So when you have enough mon­ey to com­plain, you will be lis­tened to or you will just be known as a cry­ba­by until we old ones die off. Good luck with your future!!

  • Karin says:

    I went to a small rur­al school in Ohio as an ele­men­tary stu­dent. It was the same school my Grandfather/Grandmother, Father, aunt, cousins, and sec­onds attend­ed. The Wild Things were paint­ed on the walls in part of the build­ing. I’ll nev­er for­get it. It was a neat build­ing. Before it was torn down, it was open for the com­mu­ni­ty to vis­it and say good­bye. It’s his­to­ry. Many mem­o­ries. I took a pen­cil sharp­en­er off the wall that had been left behind.

  • Allenna Leonard says:

    We wore out our hard­back copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” and had to get a sec­ond one. It was that well-loved.

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