10 of the Best Children’s Novels Everyone Should Read

The best children’s books – selected by Dr Oliver Tearle

What are the top ten greatest children’s novels ever written? This is going to prove a contentious list, but below we’ve compiled what we think are ten of the best works of children’s fiction in all of English literature. We’ve had to make some (regrettable) omissions, but we think these are all classic books which children of around the ages of 5-11 would especially enjoy (though, being classics, they’re for ‘children of all ages’). They span from the 1860s until the 1990s. We’ll offer some interesting background trivia about each book as we go.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Charlotte’s Web

A short introduction to the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web, in the form of five interesting facts

1. Charlotte’s Web was a huge bestseller. It was the last children’s book to appear on the New York Times bestseller list until the Harry Potter series nearly half a century later. It has gone on to sell an estimated 45 million copies worldwide, making it one of the biggest-selling children’s novels ever. Indeed, Publishers Weekly have called it the biggest-selling children’s paperback ever published.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Just William

An interesting history of the popular children’s books, Just William

In 1922, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land was published, James Joyce celebrated the publication of his novel Ulysses and Virginia Woolf’s third novel Jacob’s Room appeared. But amongst all this highbrow modernist literature, there was also another literary phenomenon arriving on the scene. He was eleven-year-old English schoolboy William Brown, who would become known to millions of devoted readers as ‘Just William’.

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Interesting Facts about Biggles

Some interesting trivia about the Biggles books and their author, Captain W. E. Johns

The Biggles books, detailing the adventures of fictional pilot James Bigglesworth, were hugely popular in the mid-twentieth century. Ever since the young pilot’s first appearance – in a story called ‘The White Fokker’ in 1932 – he has been delighting and entertaining readers. His creator, Captain W. E. Johns (1893-1968), was a prolific author and wrote over a hundred Biggles books in total.

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25 Great Facts about Children’s Books

Fascinating trivia about classic children’s books and their authors

Below we’ve compiled some of our favourite facts about classic children’s literature. For more fascinating insight into the history of children’s books, we recommend the excellent A History of Children’s Books in 100 Books (British Library).

Hans Christian Andersen once stayed at Dickens’s house for five weeks; when he eventually left, Dickens wrote on the mirror in the guestroom: ‘Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES!’

Contrary to popular belief, the girls’ name Wendy existed before J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan.

In 2006, the writer of the Babar the Elephant books released a book called Babar’s Yoga for Elephants. It has sold 100,000 copies.

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