Published: 1958
Theme: Coping with Circumstances
Best for: age 5 and up

“You know, Henry,” said Mrs. Brown as they watched Paddington go up the stairs to bed, looking rather sticky and more than a little sleepy, “it’s nice having a bear about the house.” This is a real chapter book, perfect for young readers who have just learned to read, with a few choice illustrations to keep it moving.

Published: 1865 (est.)
Theme: Fairies, Bravery, Kindness
Best for: everyone
Five Stars

“What will people say?” is the name of this formidable ghost; and it does much harm, for few of us have the courage to live up to what we know to be right in all things.” What young person does not need to be reminded about being true to themselves? Or being brave, or being compassionate, or being fearless?

Published: 2005
Theme: Wisdom and Foolishness
Best for: 5 and older
Five Stars

“In the forbidden City of the Celestial Emperor Kwan-Yu lived a white cat with such beautiful green eyes that she was called Dream-of-Jade.” Lloyd Alexander, perhaps best known for his fantasy children’s books for older readers, has completely captured the genre of classical Chinese folk tales in an impeccable style…

Published: 1923
Theme: The Unseen World
Best for: All ages

“The Being passed very near her mountaintop, moving slowly, as to unheard holy music. But as he passed, he turned his face and looked down at Gentian, standing still and small on the mountain top. She …was lost in awe.” This unusual book defies categories. It isn’t fantasy, the way most people understand fantasy. The closest word I can use to describe it is mystical. There is something very true about the book…

Published: 1972
Theme: Meeting Life with Joy
Best for: 5-8

How did the world ever manage without me before I was born,” he wondered. “Didn’t they feel something was missing?”. In this simple children’s book, William Steig brings his imaginative power into the written word with great feeling…

Published 1908
Theme: Friendship
Best for: Any Age
Five Stars

“At last over the rim of the waiting earth, the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings…”The lyrical nature of the writing alone would be enough to rave about the book. But that’s just the beginning…

Published 1992
Theme: Expectations
Best for: 5-6 years old

“There was a man called the Thinking Man of Moha, and there was a woman called the Writing Woman of Maho, and they were friends.” Thus begins this very small, simple book by Le Guin, combining fantasy and reality seamlessly…

Published 1988
Theme: Animal Intelligence
Best for: ages 6 and up
Five Stars

“Mrs. Jane Tabby could not explain why all four of her children had wings.”In four small children’s books, Ursula Le Guin has created a very endearing set of cat characters with personality, adventure, and wisdom. This set of stories…

by E. B. White, published 1945. “Very good advice, Albert, but advice and law are not the same. Law is much more solemn than advice. Law is extremely solemn. Anybody else thing of a law for the world?”It’s not hard to believe that E. B. White started as a contributor of humor to the New Yorker. His writing style even in his children’s books is filled with that New Yorker sly humor that makes you chuckle. That’s for the adults. For the children, he’s just downright silly and gets away with it in great style. Stuart Little is a smiling, chuckling book all the way to the unexpected end. A great piece of writing by an iconic writer…

Published 1955
Theme: Imagination
Best for: Under 11

The series of five children’s books by Norton, beginning with The Borrowers, and continuing with the Borrowers Afield, Aloft, Afloat, Avenged…, are in a group by themselves. The imagination that Norton brings to the tales of these little people that live in houses, off the the lost items of humans, is so creative, that it seems like it must be true…

by E. B. White, published 1970. What could be more fantastical than a swan who can’t make his trumpeting sounds and so carries a trumpet. This wonderful image seems to real because E. B. White makes it so. The wonderful descriptions of nature, the lovely relationship between the boy Sam and the swan, and the feeling of life in the wild all create such a vivid experience that one forgets that perhaps a swan carrying a trumpet is make-believe..

by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published 1905. “Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it.” A Little Princess is one the best children’s books I’ve read so far. It turns out I’m not alone in my assessment, as it continually rates in the top 100 lists among teachers, education associations, and others. Illustrating through example the power of kindness and good thoughts, this book is a masterpiece…

first published 1957

“When he was about two years old, and had been a Cat About Town for some time, glorious in conquests, but rather too thin for comfort, the Fur Person decided that it was time he settled down.”When a friend loaned me this book by May Sarton, my first reaction was “I didn’t know Sarton wrote children’s books.” After reading it, my first thought was, “Is this really just for children?” as I loved it as an adult, especially a cat-loving adult. However, there is no doubt that it does meet the needs of children…

by E. Nesbit, first published 1906. “Very wonderful and beautiful things do happen, don’t they? And we live most of our lives in the hope of them.” While the brilliant author Edith Nesbit may be best known for her liberal use of magic and fantasy, not all her books include magic. In this very likeable book, The Railway Children, we discover something even more important than magic…We discover that even in difficult situations, there is magic to be found right in daily life, if we only have eyes to see it…