When it comes to children’s fiction, some books stand the long test of time and endure as fan favorites. These are the books a child grows up loving or have been passed down to them after being well-loved by the generations before them. They’re classics because they’re already at the top of the children’s literature genre, so how much more pristine can you get? So without further ado, here are my top five picks of children’s classics.
Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
There’s just something about the over the top, fiery redhead Anne that’s withstood the test of time. The story centers on young Anne Shirley who is adopted by an elderly brother and sister who had meant to adopt a boy. What follows is an episodic frolic through Anne’s formative years. Somehow, no matter how hard she tries, the whimsical redhead always finds herself in the center of trouble or mayhem, whether it’s cracking a slate over someone’s head or falling off a roof in a glorious moment of showing off.
Montgomery’s writing style is full of bright personality and Anne pops off the page no matter what adventure she’s diving into. Written in 1908, the story is rich with all the airs of another time while never being inaccessible to the modern reader. The characters are all recognizable to the ones we meet in our own lives. It’s no wonder Anne’s notion of “Kindred spirits” resonates with so many readers. Montgomery’s coming of age story of the adopted orphan who turns the lives of anyone she meets upside down is a sweet and charming story that has something for everyone.
Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne
If you want to be overwhelmed by pure whimsical sweetness, the original Winnie the Pooh book is the way to go. Filled with charm and the pure essence of childhood imagination, Winnie the Pooh is a classic that encourages children to see the wonder and play wherever they are in the world.
The book revolves around the well-known cast of Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, and all their friends, but it also delves deeper into the mind of the young boy bringing these characters to life. Several chapters allude directly to conversations between author and son, giving a lovely glimpse into the origin of these stories and the lovable bear who started them all. No quirky, sweet adventure is too small for Pooh and the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood which is fortunate for the reader who will not be able to get enough of them.
Winnie the Pooh is the reading equivalent of taking a long, winding, leisurely stroll with a friend. Unhurried, simple, and sweet, Winnie the Pooh is the perfect read for anyone holding onto or missing the simplicity of childhood.
The Phantom Toll Booth
The Phantom Toll Booth is a wildly unapologetic romp through the fantastic and creative, never pausing to take a break from playing off the flexibility of words and the depth of interpretation therein.
In many ways, the book is a salute to young intellect and the importance of a healthy, active mind. When we meet our hero Milo, he is bored and listless, unable to find joy in any activities. When he receives the mysterious toll booth, he takes a chance on an adventure that will challenge him at every turn and keep him on his toes to the last minute.
As I said, the book doesn’t let up in the cleverness of its quips. The more you read the book, the more you find yourself looking for the little asides and play on words that make the plot as vibrant and fun as it is. Whether (trust me, even that’s a play on words from the book) it’s the all too literal Watchdog or the mission to rescue Rhyme and Reason, The Phantom Tollbooth delivers a brand of cleverness not often seen in children’s literature and trusts young readers to rise to the occasion.
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
We all know the wild adventures of Mr. Toad through film or even the classic Disneyland ride, but these adaptations’ source material actually stems from the charming children’s novel by Kenneth Grahame.
Despite the main character we know so well, the story develops as a slow burn, first focusing on the friendship of Rat and Mole. Before long, these two companions tranquil lives are turned upsidedown by the eponymous Toad. Always going for the latest craze, Toad has recently become obsessed with motorcars and his obsession sets into motion wild events that affect all the woodland friends and send them on hair-brained adventures.
Seamlessly passing back and forth between easygoing narrative and fast-paced action, The Wind in the Willows offers readers a romp through the countryside through either the wild eyes of Toad or his less than enthusiastic friends. The notes of friendship in the book provide a surprising warmth to the tale that cinches the narrative together quite neatly. With friends as good as the ones Toad has, it’s enough to give any reader hope for similar comradery with like-minded people who save us from and forgive us our follies and accept us as we are.
A Bear Called Paddington, Michael Bond
Many are familiar with the adorable and sweet movie concerning a small bear named for a train station. But this story was originally a vast anthology of books from the mind of author Michael Bond. Trust me, this little bear goes on more adventures than you can shake a stick at.
When the Brown family finds a small bear with an impressive taste for marmalade at a train station with a suitcase and a tag asking someone to please take care of him, they have no idea the adventures they are in for. An episodic romp through his time in the family, the book follows Paddington’s big ideas that are not always met with big success. Despite all his best efforts, the little bear has a knack for getting himself into sticky situations (sometimes literally). But despite it all, he always comes at the problem with his avid curiosity and upbeat attitude.
The fun of Paddington is all centered around the unique way he sees the world and the hair-brained solutions he finds for it. His lack of knowledge in the world of London often puts him squarely in the path of trouble, but as unaware as he is, he is that much more resourceful and he always finds a way to not only solve the problem but quite often save the day as well. For the rare occasion when he truly finds himself stuck, there’s always the loving Brown family coming to the rescue to set their beloved bear on the right path again. The Paddington books are the perfect read to lose yourself in the ridiculous and wildly fun adventures of a sweet bear from Peru.