It is a sad fact that reading all the stories ever conceived is impossible, therefore we, as well as our children, must content ourselves with trying to read as many as we can. Because of this, we must take the greatest care to select the ones that are most precious to us. This selection is highly individual and will vary from person to person, yet, closer examination reveals that there is often a shared core, a list of titles that many, people over decades, have felt, and still feel, the same liking, indeed love, for. These we often think of as “classics”.
Here is WhichSchoolAdvisor.com’s attempt at a selection for under 10s.
To the well-loved titles from childhood memories, titles by more recent authors, such as Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo and many others, were added. Despite their relatively recent appearance, some of these stories share the hallmarks of truly timeless classics. Time will tell.
Although the population of the UAE is multi-ethnic bringing with it a rich background of cultures and traditions there is a shared bulk of childhood experience. This list attempts to reflect that.
If your child has read some or several of these titles, he or she has gained wonderful experience, and invaluable and unsurpassed fuel for their imagination. If they cannot read the stories or books themselves, for whatever reason, read them together; the pleasure is compounded.
1, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Picture book by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Eric Carle
This is a picture book with simple, rhyming text and bold illustrations that even the youngest children will appreciate.
2, The Very Hungry Caterpillar - picture book by Eric Carle
This is a modern classic, which depicts the life cycle of a butterfly in a humorous, easy to grasp narrative. You will find yourself reading and re-reading this for years to come as it cannot fail to please. Excellent in a language learning context as well, due to the wealth of the vocabulary.
3, The Gruffalo - picture book by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
This is one of the cleverest picture books recently written for children. It contains lots of description, with an excellent plot involving a wise, cool mouse who fools, even the fiercest of creatures.
4, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt - picture book by Michael Rosen, drawn by Helen Oxenbury
This story is a simple yet outstanding recreation of a journey in words that even very young children can appreciate. There is plenty of action through the simple, repetitive text and the beautiful evocative pictures alone. This is a book destined to be a classic.
5, Madeline - picture book by Ludwig Bemelmans
Madeline tells the story of a little girl and her happy adventures in Paris at an orphanage, which is pleasingly different from most other fictional ones. The simple pencil drawings accompanying the text are basic, yet endearing. This book has been made into an excellent film.
6, Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H Shepard
This is a timeless classic for young children, which beyond being a tale of animals in the woods, also contains an extraordinary amount of wisdom.
7, The Cat in a Hat by Dr Seuss
Cheeky verse, with hilarious humour children really revel in makes this book an all time favourite of generations of children. The pencil drawings are as quirky and funny as the characters they depict.
8, The Rainbow Fish - picture book by Marcus Pfister
The important message of this story is supported by the beautiful illustrations of the undersea world.
9, Peepo - picture book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The soothing rhymes, and evocative pictures of by-gone days, make this book a classic that will be read over and over again. Even the youngest children enjoy spotting items through the cut out peeping hole in the middle of the pages.
10, Are We Nearly There Yet? Picture book by Jan Fearnley
There is plenty of humour in this story of a family of cats going on an outing. It will appeal to children as well as adults through the witty details and characterisation. This is a kind, forgiving tale of ordinary family life - a little known gem.
11, Five Minutes’ Peace - picture book by Jill Murphy
The humour contained in this story will not be missed by parents reading the book, while the plot appeals to young children. This is one of a series of books about the Large family – a family of elephants - and arguably the best. Definitely a modern children’s classic.
12, The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark - picture book by Jill Tomlinson
This is a story of discovery and courage by a shy little owl. As both the message and the text are more complex, this story is better appreciated by children over 4 years of age.
13, The Snowman - picture book by Raymond Briggs
This is a beautiful book about friendship and shared memories. There is no text to accompany the simple colour pencil pictures. This book has been made into a wonderfully evocative film, which, with its haunting music, has become a Christmas favourite for many.
14, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
This is an elaborate story of the wisdom and kindness of animals towards a man cub, in which the animals have the upper hand. There is lots of wonderful detail for children aged 5 and above. The book has been made into a cartoon by Walt Disney.
15, Something Else - picture book by Kathryn Cave and illustrated by Chris Riddell
This is a simple picture book with a vital message, about not only tolerating differences, but embracing them. This should be part of any small child’s experience.
16, Billy’s Bucket - picture book by Kes Gray
Unusual in its approach, this is a witty, cautionary tale about the importance of paying heed to warnings, even when they come from a person as young as Billy.
17, Love You Forever - picture book by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw
This is the story of how the love between mother and child shifts over a life time.
18, Little Polar Bear - picture book by Hans de Beer
The adventures of a little polar bear who learns about friendship, is told through simple pencil drawings and lovely text - even in translation.
19, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The popularity of this classic has not waned over the years. This story, with its simple line drawings, carries the important message of friendship and the fleetingness of life. More suited for slightly older children.
20, Conker by Michael Morpurgo
This is a very poignant tale of love, loyalty and courage, as well as the unexpected wisdom of grandmothers. It is highly recommended to readers of all ages, and is accessible to struggling older readers.
21, The Marble Crusher by Michael Morpurgo
This book shows how the wisdom of a headmaster helps a young boy overcome the bullies in his life. This is a wonderful story, that should be read by all children.
22, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
These wonderfully worded stories explain the peculiarities of the different animal species. For children nowadays, the original text may be slightly challenging, though the wording is rich and evocative. If at all possible, the original should be read.
23, Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Brothers Grimm
Each story, has a strong message, was often the chief educational tool of generations of children in the past. Perhaps not as captivating to children as they once were, many of the stories carry messages that are well worth passing on. The tales are rich in plot and contain a wealth of detail, rarely seen in modern children’s story books.
24, Fairy Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Pedersen and Frolich (there are lots of different editions)
The works of Hans Christian Andersen are hauntingly beautiful tales, which are evocative and wonderful, and often a little sad.
25, Aesop’s Fables by Aesop
For generations these were THE only animal stories ever told. Carrying messages of wisdom, simply and beautifully put, these stories were and continue to be a part of every child’s childhood.
26, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
These adventure stories set in the past can still be captivating and enchanting. These stories stretch the imagination, taking the readers on a journey to where Gulliver accidentally finds himself. At times a giant, at others very, very small, Gulliver has a few challenges he has to face.
27, Dog Diaries – Barry by Kate Klimo
This is a beautiful animal story, a classic in Switzerland, but little known elsewhere. It is wonderful tale of loyalty and duty to the last. This edition contains some black and white illustrations.
28, Secret Friends by Elisabeth Laird
This is a story about how a young girl, copes with friendship challenges and the resulting guilt. It is beautifully told.
29, War Game by Michael Foreman
Beautifully illustrated by the author, this story reminds us of the brief, but glorious moment during the war, when humanity and shared traditions won out over the insanity of war.
30, Winnetou books by Karl May
Generations of European children grew up on these tales of cowboys and Red Indians, and their adventures reflecting mutual respect and awesome survival skills.
31, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Although she is not a role model by any means, little Pippi, who lives alone, gets into many shocking as well as entertaining scrapes that will keep younger children riveted. This is a European classic.
32, Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter
Pollyanna encounters prejudice and hostility amongst people, yet her guiding principle in life eventually overcomes all obstacles. This is a heart warming American classic, unashamedly sentimental, yet still a cracking good story.
33, Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
Written in Roald Dahl’s well-known style with wit and humour, this is a pleasant story of a young boy’s relationship with his father, with some added suspense.
34, George Speaks by Dick King-Smith
This story of a small baby, secretly able to talk to his older brother, is both amusing and captivating for young readers, as well as being utterly unforgettable.
35, The BFG by Roald Dahl
Unexpectedly unthreatening, this story of a giant is both heart-warming and amusing, contradicting the popularly held preconceptions about giants.
36, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These true stories based on the real experiences of a family of pioneer settlers in America are exciting and edifying in their depiction of loyalty and perseverance in the face of hardships.
37, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
This is a well-loved British classic relating the happy as well as sad times in the life of a very special horse.
38, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner
This popular German classic is somewhat old-fashioned, but remains well-liked even today. It tells the story of a group of boys and their exploits as they try to unravel certain bothersome mysteries.
39, Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
This European classic about little creatures and a hat with magical powers has been loved by generations of children. It is definitely an antidote to all the fast-paced, modern day adventure stories children are exposed to nowadays.
40, The Adventures of Pinoccio - picture book by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Enrico Mazzanti
Pinoccio, the ungrateful wooden puppet, learns a few hard truths over a series of adventures that still captivate and engross young children – who would “never, ever” themselves tell a lie!
41, Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight
Wonderfully bittersweet, this is a beautiful story of the love and loyalty between a young boy and his dog, despite significant odds. For slightly older children, some of the setting and historical detail are also of additional interest.
42, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
Unusually written as a series of letters to her guardian, this is the story of a young girl and her adventures at school and beyond.
43, The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett
This is wonderfully busy story about a large and hardworking family in whose lives there is never a dull moment. The hilarious escapades of the children enthral and captivate throughout this eminently entertaining book. There are some historical details that may educate and amuse older children.
44, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
For the previous generations, this was one of the best known adventure stories. Fast paced and exciting, it is a true classic, which takes the reader - literally – around the world on some hair raising adventures. It is not short of a twist or two as the protagonists race against time.
45, The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
This is a much read literary classic, telling the story of two boys, who, due to their great likeness, decide to switch roles for a day, with disastrous and exciting results.
46, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
This is a “rags to riches” story with a difference. Roald Dahl is delightfully outrageous with plot, as well as characterisation. The deserving get their reward and the bad get - well - what they truly deserve too. This is a wonderful story by a master story-teller.
47, Heidi by Johanna Spyri
This beautiful story - a European classic – is set partly in the Swiss Alps and partly in Frankfurt. In it Heidi has to face personal challenges and loneliness before she achieves what she sets out to do. It is warmly put, slow paced, and will make readers yearn for the beauty of the mountains and wide-open spaces.
48, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
This is an ultimate boy’s adventure, a true American classic, full of excitement and attempts to survive in a harsh and often unfair world. It tells of friendship and loyalty in a way that is more likely to appeal to boys. The complex thematic of slavery is referred to in this story.
49, Mary Poppins by T L Travers
Mary Poppins set the standard for nannies the world over, with few able to live up to her sense of propriety, tinged with fun. This is a wonderfully heart-warming tale of love, laughter and how to get round the quirky ways of parents.
50, The Call of the Wild by Jack London
This animal story about a dog named Buck has enthralled and entertained generations of readers, as they follow the changing fate of Buck and his owners. When a story is read and reread, that is an infallible clue to its worth to readers.
51, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
A memorable, serious and insightful story about friendship between two people, who, for different reasons, did not quite fit in with the expectations of society. Set in WWII, it shows us that courage is often found in the most unexpected places.
52, Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian
For the children of today the concept of “evacuation” is pretty incomprehensible; this story brings home the reality. Beyond that, this is a wonderful story of loss and love, and how the latter is sometimes found in the most unlikely ways.
53, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
Although the film adaptation is better known, this story of a Kansas girl’s unexpected trip to a magical land has enthralled readers and viewers for over a century. It is arguably the best known American story for children, conveying a magical wonder that children can truly empathise with.
54, I am David by Anne Holm
This is one of the best known children’s stories about the war. It is about a young boy’s desperate struggle to escape from concentration camp and face the daunting and seemingly hopeless task of walking across war ravaged Europe to look for his mother.
55, Abela by Berlie Doherty
Although the protagonist of this story is not a refugee in today’s sense, she is nonetheless faced with the task of making a new life in a foreign world. Her challenges bring home the difficulties millions of refugee children are facing the world over.
56, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Perhaps the best known fantasy stories for children of all times, these stories have formed a large part of the reading of numerous generations of British children. They have been made into films and theatrical productions, and continue to captivate young readers today.
57, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Currently much in vogue because of the theatrical production as well as the film version, War Horse tells the story of the unconditional love between a boy and his horse. When the horse gets requisitioned and taken to the battlefields, the boy sets out to find it. Unhappy in his home, to this boy, this horse is more of a friend than anyone he has ever known. Ending up in the midst of some of the bloodiest battles of the war, can there be a happy ending?
58, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights – children’s version (there is one edited by Geraldine McCaughrean)
These are amongst the most colourful, rich and exciting adventures a child, especially a boy, could ever read or be read. The voyages of Sinbad, and the exciting adventures set on the seas and on land, take the reader to a world far removed from what 21st century children know. There are few stories that are as full of the opulence and fabric of the orient as these.
59, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Generations of British children expressed horror at the behaviour of the spoilt Mary. However, when her pluck and determination makes a positive change in the fates of those around her, her courage and spirit earn her well-deserved admiration.
60, The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
This is still one of the best stories about children during WWII. It tells of the challenges and trials of a group of children alone in war torn Europe as they try to make their way to safety. This is another story that has stood the test of time and still affects the readers as deeply today as it ever did.
61, Holes by Louis Sachar
This is a survival story of a different kind. Life is not kind to Stanley Yelnats. He is, literally, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Told on several different levels, this is a truly memorable story about survival and rising above misfortune in a harsh, unfair and very unforgiving environment. This is an excellently crafted novel, from a master of the art.
62, The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden
The protagonist of this story is a slight, half-gypsie girl – a didakkoi. It is a kind and forgiving story about prejudice, love and ultimate acceptance.
63, The One Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Teasing those who are different is often depicted in fiction, but this story tells it in a way that speaks to the heart. Set in America, the main character is a Polish immigrant child, who, to stop being teased, tells a lie. Will this stop the hurtful teasing..?
64, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Certainly the best known of its kind, this is the original treasure hunt story. Its characters have inspired and influenced, providing lasting insight into the world of treasure hunting and the high seas.
65, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
This is the story of three sisters with ambitions well beyond their reach. Their fortunes turn worse and life becomes a struggle, yet somehow they do not give up their dreams. With courage and determination, they forge ahead together, each pursuing her own, unique path.
66, Farm Boy by Michael Morpurgo
This story, as all Michael Morpurgo’s work, is written with sensitivity and understanding, both of characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves. The author’s commitment to writing each story in the way it needs to be written, regardless of the age of its probable readers, makes his works excellent examples of quality rendering with broad, yet unpretentious vocabulary.
67, Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt
Perhaps one of the most widely read characters in modern children’s fiction, Tracy Beaker is a girl in a tough world, whose life follows a very unconventional path. Never indulging in self-pity, she works on creating a better life for herself.
68, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The grim life of an orphaned child in Victorian England has never been told better. Dickens tells a good story with characters that have influenced literature ever since. It is a fast-paced story with enough shocking detail and pathos to keep even the most reluctant anti-reader riveted. There are numerous audio productions of this book that are also well worth a listen. The story has also been filmed many times, including some musical versions too.
69, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Milo, the main character is bored. This soon changes, however, when he sets off on a unique journey of discovery, due to the tollbooth that suddenly appears in his room ...
70, Mathilda by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Deliciously scary and wickedly shocking, this is a story involving a horrible head teacher, neglectful parents, and unexpected retribution. This is one of the best children’s books ever written, by a master of the art.
71, At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper
Set in the time of the great plague, this story explains how daily life in the city was in those days, and what thoughts and worries the unsuspecting people of London had as they tried to survive the plague. This is a captivating read, and one that makes those distant times feel much closer. This novel is particularly advised for girls.
72, The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
This story has delighted generations of British children. Dr Doolittle, the eccentric vet who prefers the company of animals to human beings, is both amusing and outrageous; the many adventures he finds himself inadvertently involved in just add more hilarity to his every day existence.
73, Boy by Roald Dahl
For a change, this is an autobiographical story written by a master story-teller. Beyond the insight it offers into the imagination of a wonderful writer, the stories are hilarious and outrageous in turn. This is written in true Roald Dahl style.
74, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’ Engle
An American classic of considerable popularity, this fantasy story is little known elsewhere. More’s the pity, as intergalactic travel and a mysterious disembodied brain, make this story a riveting read.
75, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
This is a beautifully written story of friendship in the most unlikely places, between the most unlikely people. The simple style and unsentimental telling of the story, makes the events even more poignant and shocking. A modern classic: when you read it, you know you are holding something that will last.
76, Mr Stink by David Walliams
Outrageous and hilarious, David Walliams rose to become one of the most loved authors of our time, in the blink of an eye. The story of Mr Stink, his little friend, who with her honest fondness and refusal to be anything but true to herself exposes the pretentiousness of others, is a wonderful read.
77, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Best known to American readers, this is a powerful story of a young boy with an unusual gift – excellence at running and ball games. Possessing a naivety and a single dream, Maniac Magee – as he comes to be known – is searching for a home, an “address.” During his quest, he learns much more than he bargained for, and not just out of the many second-hand books he buys from the library. This is a unique and wonderful book that deserves to be much better known.
78, The Crow Starver by Dick King-Smith
Dick-King Smith was a writer, who in the guise of an animal story, told touching and wonderful tales about all kinds of folk. This one is slightly different from the rest, because the main characters ARE people – one of them a disabled boy. It is a sad, but very beautifully told story.
79, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
For those with a real fondness of words, there can be no better read than this story. Striking imagery and quirky events keep the reader riveted and enthralled as Alice meets various, unconventional creatures in a fantasy world after falling down a rabbit hole.
80, The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham
This is a children’s thriller, involving grandparents, intrigues, as well as the WWII. Riveting and sensitively written, this is a wonderful read.
81, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
In this story a strong female protagonist is pitched against the forces trying to control her. Set amid one of the more recent conflicts in Afghanistan, the main character, tries to make sense of the limitations enforced by the Taliban and find relationships amidst the turmoil that is destroying their old way of life. This story is interesting, unconventional, and especially for those resident in the Middle East, of topical interest.
82, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This is a well-known American classic about a girl who was not quite what the elderly brother and sister who adopted her expected. Dreamy and artistic, imaginative and dramatic, Anne Shirley changes all those around, while they in turn believe that they are teaching the child a few things ...
83, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
Set in the Amazon, an orphaned English girl starts life as the ward of distant relatives. Alas, their lives do not live up to her hopes, dreams and expectations. Unlike her, they have no interest in either the wild life or the people around them, doing their best to retain a questionably genteel life-style in the wild. Overcome by their pettiness and dishonesty, the main character starts looking for a way to free herself from them.
84, Red Sky in the Morning by Elisabeth Laird
A beautiful story about a young girl coming to terms with the limitations as well as the unexpected riches her disabled little brother brings to her life. Unsentimental, yet insightful, this novel is refreshingly truthful and engaging on this difficult subject.
85, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor
Set in America, this story depicts a different struggle – one against racial prejudice and the constraints that that ideology brings with it. The strong female protagonist – Cassie – is both proud and independent as she learns some important life lessons.
86, Greek Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean.
There is little in our cultural heritage, that is as complex, as wild and as rich in detail as Greek mythology. There is something for everyone there, from the bold and brave to the helpless victim. These stories transport the reader to a world of Olympian intrigue, among the bickering and envious gods, fuelling the imagination of even the staunchest enemy of reading.
87, Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
This is an outstanding survival story, set on an island, where a young male protagonist battles, not only the challenges of nature, but a rather hostile neighbour.
88, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is a survival story with a twist. This story, about a journey on a small boat with only wild animals for company, is both compelling and funny. It has recently been made into a visually enthralling 3D film, which is a absolute technicolour delight.
89, The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
This novel is a traditional British classic about a family of children, and how they tackle a difficult and challenging time in their personal lives.
90, Street Child by Berlie Doherty
This novel, written by a contemporary author, is worthy of being right there with the best of true Victorian fiction. Berlie Doherty, has created a thrilling story, capturing perfectly the atmosphere of Victorian classics and with a story line equally as enthralling and captivating in turn. This is a story that will deservedly linger in the mind.
91, An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
This book is for the more discerning reader, as it deals with the trials and tribulations of a not very likable protagonist. Beautifully written, it depicts the life of a handful of children and a small, hidden garden.
92, Lisa and Lotti by Erick Kastner
A German classic about a pair of twins, who due to their parents’ divorce were unaware of the other’s existence until they meet in camp. Their curiosity leads to many thrilling as well as awkward encounters.
93, The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
This is an amusing tale by a master story teller. In it a ghost and some very cynical American children battle it out.
94, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This story has been a classic for generations of women. It is about four sisters who learn to make their way in life in their own very different ways, due to their enlightened upbringing and strong family bonds. It has 3 sequels.
95, Momo by Michael Ende
A fantasy story with a message so profound and true that it is shocking that no one appears to listen. Momo single-handedly takes on the “Men in Grey” who promote time saving, at the expense of all other things that add pleasure to life. Can Momo defeat them and save us all?
96, Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
This story is so simply written, yet so hauntingly beautiful. It is the story of a family in the great American outback. Slow paced and short, it is rich in description and captivating imagery, allowing the reader to experience a very different way of living.
97, Harry Potter by J K Rawlings
Already a classic in our times, this story of a boy, apparently on the outside of society, who nonetheless turns out to be a very important person, brings together the best in school stories, adventure stories as well as fantasy stories. It is riveting and compelling, and has brought many a reluctant reader round to the joy of reading. This is an absolute delight, well-deserving of its fantastic popularity.
98, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
A strong young man, with unshakable purpose, sets out to find his father. In the course of his encounters he comes up against not just racial prejudice but many other challenges, none of which deter him. This is a feel good book, the message of which will definitely linger in the imagination well beyond the closing of the final page.
90, Wonder by R J Palacio
Once in a while a piece of writing comes around that is somehow a bit different, a bit “more.” It is not possible to say exactly what makes it so: the plot, the writing or the characters. It is undefined, yet clearly perceivable. Wonder has that quality. It is a beautiful, heart-warming book dealing with disability and the effect it has on the person with it, as well as those around. It deals matter-of-factly with a sensitive and painful topic, on a level that children are able to empathise with.
100, Once by Morris Gleitzman
This first person narrative by a young boy is set in World War II. Written in very simple language, using simple sentences, it depicts a terrible and tragic time in history in an extremely sensitive way. This is an excellent example of how powerful narrative is far superior to flowery and convoluted style.