Stories

Our Favorite Children’s Books & Stories

What is it about a good book—a good story? Kate DiCamillo said it best in The Tale of Despereaux:

“Why would you save me?” Despereaux asked. “Have you saved any of the other mice?”

“Never,” said Gregory, “not one.”

“Why would you save me, then?”

“Because you, mouse, can tell Gregory a story. Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”

As an English and Literature teacher, I began many of my classes perched on a barstool, reading from a chapter book to spellbound teens. No matter how hard the day had been (for myself or my students), those moments disarmed and enchanted us all. Years later, when I became a mother, I began praying that God would grant my son a love for good stories and a gift for storytelling. For nine years now, I’ve surrounded him with stories—and whether or not he ends up being a storyteller himself, the ritual of reading and listening to and telling stories has become one of the sweetest, most meaningful rhythms of our family life.

To curate a book list for my son’s first decade, I sifted through myriad resources, asked friends who are ahead of me in motherhood for their best recommendations, and drew on my own favorites from childhood and teaching days. I looked for books that are well written, speak honestly to the realities of life, and are hopeful and redemptive. I searched for culturally diverse books (to give my son a larger view of the world) and historically rich books (so he understands more than this blink-in-time).

Because every good story is a small reflection of The Greatest Story, good children’s books have the potential to enlarge our children’s hearts for eternal realities. For example, in Night Journeys, an 11-year-old boy struggles between his resentful desire to fulfill a secret want and his newly awakened desire to help two suffering children. In The Rag Coat, a young girl overcomes the shame and ostracism of poverty by sharing stories that disarm her schoolmates. And in Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, a boy born into destitution discovers his true identity and courageously opposes hideous evil. While these are all works of fiction, they shine light on what is true and pure and noble and just—the very things we want filling our children’s hearts and minds.

This is by no means an authoritative list, but it is a work of joy. Some of these books we’ve read together as a family. Some my son has read himself, and others he’s listened to on audiobook. Regardless of the medium, these stories have “made some light” for our family, even on the dark days. May they do the same for you and yours.

Short Stories

Peter and the Magic Thread (French)*
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (African tale told by J. Steptoe)
The Blind Men and the Elephant (Indian)
Anansi the Spider (Ashanti)
Tales from the Arabian Nights (Arabian)
Casey at the Bat (Ernest Thayer)
The Emperor’s New Clothes (Hans Christian Andersen)
The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry)*
Little Sambha and the Tiger (Indian tale told by Scott Gustafson)
The Highwayman (Alfred Noyes)
Hansel and Gretel (Brothers Grimm)
Jack and the Beanstalk (Old English)
The Little Engine That Could (Arnold Munk)
The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Robert Browning)
The Princess and the Pea (Hans Christian Andersen)
Puss in Boots (Giovanni F. Straparola)
Rumpelstiltskin (German)
Ricky of the Tuft (Perrault)
Sleeping Beauty (French)
Aesop’s Fables (Aesop)
Jason and the Argonauts: the first great quest (Robert Byrd)
The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Norwegian)
The Three Little Pigs (English)
The Ugly Duckling (Hans Christian Andersen)
The Elves and the Shoemaker (Brothers Grimm)
Tom Thumb (English)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Clement Clarke Moore)
Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling)
Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift)
American Tall Tales (Mary Pope Osborne)
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (Rudyard Kipling)*

Storybooks

A Pair of Red Clogs (Masako Matsuno)
Grandfather’s Journey (Allen Say)
Tree of Cranes (Allen Say)
The Little House (Virginia Lee Burton)
The Stranger (Ursel Scheffler)*
The Rag Coat (Lauren Mills)*
Walking Through a World of Aromas (Ariel Andres Almada)*
The Mitten (Alvin Tresselt)
The Glorious Flight (Alice & Martin Provensen)
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Marjorie Priceman)
Very Last First Time (Jan Andrews)

Classics

The Prince and the Pauper (Mark Twain)*
Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
Dr. Seuss books (Dr. Seuss)
Robin Hood (Howard Pyle)
Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)
Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi)
Dr. Dolittle (Hugh Lofting)
Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)*
Around the World in 80 Days (Jules Verne)
The Odyssey (Homer)*

Chapter Books

Night Journeys (Avi)*
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
Charlie and the Glass Elevator (Roald Dahl)
The BFG (Roald Dahl)
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
Runaway Ralph (Beverly Cleary)
How to Eat Fried Worms (Thomas Rockwell)
Stuart Little (E.B. White)
Leepike Ridge (N.D. Wilson)
Nevermoor (Jessica Townsend)
The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo)*
Because of Winn Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo)
Bound for Oregon (Jean van Leeuwen)
Peter Nimble (Jonathan Auxier)*
Sophie Quire (Jonathan Auxier)

Book Series

Rangers Apprentice (John Flanagan)
Edge of Extinction (Laura Martin)
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Brandon Sanderson)*
Arlo Finch (John August)
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (Andrew Petersen)
Fablehaven (Brandon Mull)
Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan)*
The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner)
I Survived (Lauren Tarshis)
Basil of Baker Street (Eve Titus)
100 Cupboards (N.D. Wilson)
Magic Treehouse (Mary Pope Osborne)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)
The Oregon Trail (Jesse Wiley)
The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)
Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle (N.D. Wilson)*
The Story of the World (Susan Wise Bauer)

Biographies

Number the Stars (Lois Lowry)
Children of the Storm (Natasha Vins)*
God’s Smuggler (Brother Andrew)*
A Question of Yams (Gloria Repp)
These Are My People: A Biography of Gladys Aylward (Mildred T. Howard)
The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee (Dave & Neta Jackson)
The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom)*

*These are my Top Three selections (my favorites of the favorites!) in each category.