50+ Most Essential Classic Books For Elementary Kids
Are you a little weary of the books your child has to choose from these days?
Tired of all the graphic novels?
Want to make sure your young kids are exposed to the great books you read as a child?
There are so many classic books for the elementary-aged child that have truly stood the test of time. And I’m not just talking about dusty fairy tales.
The below list contains some of the best children’s books ever written. You will find picture books, chapter books, modern classics, and books that are over 100 years old.
They are all full of adventure, fantasy, whimsy, and life lessons. Enjoy reading them aloud and rediscovering these classic stories together!
****Depending on the age and interest level of your child, consider getting the abridged or adapted versions of some of these books. The updated language may help them to appreciate the literature much more.
Must Read Classic Books for Children!
1. The Little Red Hen
Title: The Little Red Hen
Author: Paul Galdone
This timeless story of having your cake (and eating it, too!) comes to life with Paul Galdone’s dynamic, amusing pictures. A classic storybook for all young readers–and a cautionary tale for lazy ones. Little Red Hen is a time-tested tale about how we reap what we sow.
2. The Hundred Dresses
****This is such a wonderful book for our current culture of bullying and mean girls. My own three girls were completely captivated.
Title: The Hundred Dresses
Author: Eleanor Estes
This Newbery Honor classic, illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist, is a beautifully written tribute to the power of kindness, acceptance, and standing up for what’s right.
3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Title: Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Author: Florence ad Richard Atwater
A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. “Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story.”–The Horn Book. Newbery Honor Book.
4. Strega Nona
Title: Strega Nona
Author: Tommie dePaola
When Strega Nona leaves him alone with her magic pasta pot, Big Anthony is determined to show the townspeople how it works in this classic Caldecott Honor book from Tomie dePaola.
5. Stuart Little
Title: Stuart Little
Author: E.B. White
The classic story by E. B. White, author of the Newbery Honor Book Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan, about one small mouse on a very big adventure.
6. Chicken Little
Title: Chicken Little
Author: Steven Kellogg
“The sky is failing! The sky is failing!” Chicken Little and her feathered friends are all aflutter when she gets a mysterious bump on the head. Steven Kellogg’s hilarious retelling and irresistible illustrations bring fresh delight to this timeless classic of chain reaction panic.
7. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Title: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with E. L. Konigsburg’s beloved classic and Newbery Medal–winning novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!
When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would go in comfort-she would live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
8. Charlotte’s Web
Title: Charlotte’s Web
Author: E.B. White
Since its publication in 1952, Charlotte’s Web has become one of America’s best-loved children’s books. For fifty years, this timeless story of the pig named Wilbur and the wise spider named Charlotte who saved him has continued to warm the hearts of readers everywhere.
9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Title: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
Author: Frank L. Baum
The story chronicles the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy in the magical Land of Oz, after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their Kansas home by a tornado.
10. Black Beauty
Title: Black Beauty
Author: Anna Sewell
While Living at Squire Gordon’s country estate, the spirited young horse, Black Beauty, is well taken care of and happy. But when the squire is forced to sell his horses, Black Beauty’s life changes as he is passed form one cruel master to another. After much hardship and perserverance, Black Beauty finally finds a home full of love and kindness.
11. Velveteen Rabbit
Title: Velveteen Rabbit
Author: Margery Williams
At first a brand-new toy, now a threadbare and discarded nursery relic, the velveteen rabbit is saved from peril by a magic fairy who whisks him away to the idyllic world of Rabbitland. There, he becomes “Real,” a cherished childhood companion who will be loved for eternity.
12. Peter Pan
Title: Peter Pan
Author: J.M. Barrie
In pursuit of his lost shadow, a young boy named Peter Pan dashes into the bedroom of three children named Wendy, Michael, and John. After much blundering about, Wendy manages to reattach Peter’s frenetic shadow, and in return, Peter propositions the three siblings to accompany him back to his home in a place he calls Neverland.
13. The Giving Tree
Title: The Giving Tree
Author: Shell Silverstein
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk…and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave. This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation.
14. The Secret Garden
Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
When Mary Lennox is sent from India to the moors of England to live with her uncle after losing her parents, not only does she discover a secret garden, but she also discovers the true meaning of family, friendship, and perseverance.
15. The Swiss Family Robinson
Title: The Swiss Family Robinson
Author: Johann Wyss
The Robinsons leave their home in Switzerland planning to settle half a world away. But things do not turn out as they had expected. The sole survivors of a terrible shipwreck, they wash ashore to learn that the danger has only begun. Their new world will test their courage, cleverness, endurance, and faith as they struggle to survive and create a civilization of their own in the wilderness.
16. Little Women
Title: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off to war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities—and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood. It can all be quite a challenge. But the March sisters, however different, are nurtured by their wise and beloved Marmee, bound by their love for each other and the feminine strength they share. Readers of all ages have fallen instantly in love with these Little Women. Their story transcends time—making this novel endure as a classic piece of American literature that has captivated generations of readers with their charm, innocence, and wistful insights.
Author: Don Freeman
Don Freeman’s classic character, Corduroy, is even more popular today then he was when he first came on the scene in 1968. This story of a small teddy bear waiting on a department store shelf for a child’s friendship has appealed to young readers generation after generation.
18. Paddington Bear
Author: Michael Bond
Over fifty years ago, a small bear set out on the adventure of a lifetime. With nothing but a suitcase, several jars of marmalade, and a label around his neck that read, “Please look after this bear. Thank you,” he crossed the ocean heading for England. When he arrived at London’s busy Paddington Station, he was discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Brown. As luck would have it, the Browns were just the sort of people to welcome a lost bear into their family—and their lives would never be the same.
19. Robinson Crusoe
Title: Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
One of the most widely published novels in history, Robinson Crusoe tells the story of a young Englishman shipwrecked in a storm and forced to fend for himself on a remote island, alone…or so he thinks. Fighting to build a life — and rebuild a society — Crusoe must rely on his wits, resilience, and will to survive. With slavers, cannibals, and mutineers, this quintessential castaway story is a harrowing page-turner and a salient reflection on humanity’s state of nature. This is an epic tale of determination, adaptation, and the triumph of the human spirit against catastrophe, isolation, and danger.
20. Anne of Green Gables
Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Eleven-year-old Anne Shirley has never known a real home. Since her parents’ deaths, she’s bounced around to foster homes and orphanages. When she is sent by mistake to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she wants to stay forever. But Anne is not the sturdy boy Matthew and Marilla were expecting.
21. The Little Princess
Title: The Little Princess
Author: Francis Hodgson Burnett
When the kind and imaginative seven-year-old Sara Crewe reaches Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies with her papa, she doesn’t quite like it. I don t like it, papa, she said. But then I dare say soldiers even brave ones don t really like going into battle. The apple of her father s eye, Sara has all the privileges at the seminary and is treated with special care. Soon enough, she befriends her classmates and is nicknamed a princess, which she often pretends to be. But just after her eleventh birthday, when the news of her father’s death arrives, everything changes. Will Sara Crewe’s imagination help her cope with the loss and hardships?
22. The Chronicles of Narnia
Title: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe
Author: C.S. Lewis
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
23. Aladdin And Other Tales From The Arabian Nights
Title: Aladdin And Other Tales From The Arabian Nights
Author: W. Heath Robinson
For the past two hundred years, Western readers, young and old alike, have been transported to the fabulous Orient by means of these remarkable stories, in which the everyday mingles on an equal footing with the uncanny and the miraculous.
Author: Joanna Spyri
When Heidi, a cheerful 5-year-old orphan, comes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps, she brings a bright ray of sunshine into the lives of the people around her.
25. Wind In the Willows
Title: Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame
The much-loved classic tales of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad. When Mole goes boating with Ratty instead of doing his spring-cleaning, he discovers a whole new world. As well as adventures on the river and in the Wild Wood, there are high jinks on the open road with that reckless ruffian, Mr Toad of Toad Hall. Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad become the firmest of friends, but after Toad’s latest escapade, can they join together and beat the wretched weasels once and for all?
Author: Eleanor H. Porter
“Once you start looking for the happy things, you don’t think about the bad ones as much.” That’s the joyful way Pollyanna sees the world: no matter what happens, she plays her “Just Be Glad” game and finds the sunny side of any situation. But when she’s orphaned and forced to live with her rigid Aunt Polly, will high-spirited Pollyanna succeed in melting her Aunt’s cold heart?
27. The Story of King Arthur And His Knights
Title: The Story of King Arthur And His Knights
Author: Howard Pyle
From the sword in the stone and the founding of Camelot to the famed Round Table and the Lake of Enchantment, the legend of King Arthur will never lose its magic. Though simpler, this version includes all the wonderful stories—such as King Arthur’s winning of Guenievere and Merlin’s tragic downfall at the hands of the evil Vivien.
28. Alexander And The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
****This is such a modern classic. Even older kids still get a laugh out of this timeless story.
Title: Alexander And The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Author: Judith Viorst
Alexander could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He went to sleep with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair. When he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard and by mistake dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running. He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Author: Ludwig Bemelmans
Nothing frightens Madeline—not tigers, not even mice. With its endearing, courageous heroine, cheerful humor, and wonderful, whimsical drawings of Paris, the Madeline stories are true classics that continue to charm readers, even after 75 years!
30. Harry The Dirty Dog
Title: Harry The Dirty Dog
Author: Gene Zion
Harry is a white dog with black spots who absolutely, positively hates to take a bath. After a day of adventure, Harry gets so dirty that he no longer looks like a white dog with black spots. Now he looks like a black dog with white spots!
Harry the Dirty Dog has become a classic, entertaining young readers for decades. Perfect for young fans of dogs…especially ones who also don’t always want a bath!
31. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carrol
Get along with Alice as she disappears down a rabbit hole and emerges in the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland! The book is a result of the imaginative mind of Lewis Carroll who created rollercoaster ride that takes you up and down, keeping you curious and excited with the happenings in Alice’s journey.
32. Winnie The Pooh
Title: Winnie The Pooh
Author: A.A. Milne
Follow Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh through the Hundred Acre Wood on adventures with Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, and Roo. Rediscover the North Pole, deal with bees, track a Woozle, escape from the Heffalump and all throughout watch Pooh chasing after his Honey.
32. The White Stallion
Title: The White Stallion
Author: Elizabeth Shub
Long ago, in 1845, a young girl named Gretchen and her family were on their way west. One day, the horse Gretchen was riding strayed far away from the wagon train. Gretchen was lost and all alone. But then a magnificent white stallion appeared. And Gretchen knew she didn’t have to be afraid, because the beautiful horse would show her the way back home.
33. The Adventures of Robin Hood
Title: The Adventures of Robin Hood
Author: Howard Pyle
Set out to a time in medieval England, rampant with violent clashes between the king and the clergy, where the wealthy abuse their power to discriminate against the poor. Out of such a system rooted in famine and poverty rises Robin Hood: a messiah for the poor. He helps restore justice, by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Prepare to witness an exciting journey with Robin Hood and his band of merry men, where every chapter is a new adventure.
34. The Tales of Peter Rabbit
Title: The Tales of Peter Rabbit
Author: Beatrix Potter
Peter Rabbit has been hailed as one of the bestselling stories of all time The original story features a young rebellious rabbit who, despite his mother’s wishes, enters the dangerous garden of Mr. McGregor to feast on its endless bounty. From there on out, he gets himself into all kinds of trouble.
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Title: Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
Author: Roald Dahl
Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!
36. Where The Wild Things Are
Title: Where The Wild Things Are
Author: Maurice Sendak
When Max dresses in his wolf suit and causes havoc in the house, his mother sends him to bed. From there, Max sets sail to an island inhabited by the Wild Things, who name him king and share a wild rumpus with him. But then from far away across the world, Max smells good things to eat…
Author: Kay Thompson
Eloise is a very special little girl who lives at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. She may not be pretty yet, but she’s definitely already a real person. She loves learning about people who aren’t boring. Take Eloise home with you and she’ll introduce you to life at The Plaza. You’ll be glad you did!
38. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Title: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Author: Mark Twain
Mark Twain created the memorable characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn drawing from the experiences of boys he grew up with in Missouri. Set by the Mississippi River in the 1840’s, it follows these boys as they get into predicament after predicament. Tom’s classic whitewashing of the fence has become part of American legend, and the book paints a nostalgic picture of life in the middle of the nineteenth century. Tom runs away from home to an island in the river, chases Injun Joe and his treasure, and even gets trapped in a cave for days with Becky Thatcher. The book is one of Twain’s most beloved stories.
39. The Story of Ferdinand
Title: The Story of Ferdinand
Author: Munro Leaf
Ferdinand is the world’s most peaceful–and–beloved little bull. While all of the other bulls snort, leap, and butt their heads, Ferdinand is content to just sit and smell the flowers under his favorite cork tree.
40. Caps For Sale
Title: Caps For Sale
Author: Esphyr Slobodkina
This tale of a peddler and a band of mischievous monkeys is filled with warmth, humor, and simplicity and also teaches children about problem and resolution.
41. Farmer Boy (Little House Series)
Title: Farmer Boy
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
While Laura Ingalls grows up in a little house on the western prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Almanzo and his brother and sisters help with the summer planting and fall harvest. In winter there is wood to be chopped and great slabs of ice to be cut from the river and stored. Almanzo wishes for just one thing—his very own horse—but he must prove that he is ready for such a big responsibility.
Title: The Adventures of Pinnochio
Author: Carlo Collodi
Originally published in 1883, The Adventures of Pinocchio is one of the best known and beloved children’s classics. Written by Italian political satirist Carlo Collodi, it is the story of Geppetto, a poor puppeteer who uses an enchanted piece of wood to carve a marionette boy he calls Pinocchio.
43. Pippi Longstocking
Title: Pippi Longstocking
Author: Astrid Lindgren
The beloved story of a spunky young girl and her hilarious escapades.
44. The Mysterious Benedict Society
Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children–two boys and two girls–succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete.
45. The Little Prince
Title: The Little Prince
Author: Antoine De Saint-Exupery
When a pilot crashes in the Sahara Desert, he meets a little boy who asks him to draw a sheep. Gradually the Little Prince reveals more about himself: He comes from a small asteroid, where he lived alone until a rose grew there.
But the rose grew demanding, and he was confused by his feelings about her. The story unfolds further from one planet to the next in a thoughtful philosophical exploration of love and the ephemeral.
46. The Story of Doctor Doolittle
Title: The Story of Doctor Dolittle
Author: Hugh Lofting
Dr. John Dolittle M.D., the most respected doctor in the small English village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh loves all animals big and small. But his family, neighbors and patients are becoming increasingly concerned over his unusual behavior. They think he spends too much time with his animal friends and is acting a little strange. But Doctor Dolittle and his furry friends know an amazing secret that will surprise everyone!!!
47. The Hobbit
Title: The Hobbit
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.
48. An Elephant In the Garden
Title: An Elephant In The Garden
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Lizzie and Karl’s mother is a zoo keeper; the family has become attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene, who will be destroyed as a precautionary measure so she and the other animals don’t run wild should the zoo be hit by bombs. The family persuades the zoo director to let Marlene stay in their garden instead. When the city is bombed, the family flees with thousands of others, but how can they walk the same route when they have an elephant in tow, and keep themselves safe?
49. The Never-Ending Story
Title: The Never-Ending Story
Author: Michael Ende
When Bastian happens upon an old book called The Neverending Story, he’s swept into the magical world of Fantastica–so much that he finds he has actually become a character in the story! And when he realizes that this mysteriously enchanted world is in great danger, he also discovers that he is the one chosen to save it. Can Bastian overcome the barrier between reality and his imagination in order to save Fantastica?
50. Treasure Island
Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
A young boy, Jim Hawkins, discovers a treasure map on a dying pirate at the “Admiral Benbow” inn in England and takes off on a quest to find the prize. The ship he is on is taken over by the one-legged Long John Silver and his gang of cutthroats who attempt to steal the treasure.
Even More Classic Books For Your Young Children
51. Mary Poppins
52. Phantom Tolbooth
53. Raggedy Ann
55. Love You Forever
Wow! That’s a pretty long list!
I know that as you work through these books, it will spark such a love of reading in your child (and you too!).
Do you have anything to add to this list of the best books for elementary kids?
What were your favorites?
Leave it in the comments!