Children’s classics, what are they?

  • I’m just wondering, does anyone know what counts as a children’s classic?
    Are they the authored stories that are out of copyright, such as by Hans Christian Anderson.
    Or do anonymous fairy tales count too, such as little red riding hood, jack and the bean stalk and the enormous turnip?

  • SVS OG

    Hi! I don't think it's a precise category, and some books may be even classics while the authors and illustrators are still alive. It just means that they are books that have withstood the test of time. Many books of the 20th century, such as Winnie the Pooh, the Wizard of Oz and the Little House books, would be considered classics. And many Newbery and Caldecott winners might be considered classics, or are well on their way. But I'd say that at the very least, all the categories you listed are children's classics.

  • @LauraA thanks Laura, it was one of them niggling questions google couldn’t give a satisfactory answer. Do you have a favourite classic?

  • @peteolczyk I took a class in college that was children’s classics. Some of the books we covered were: Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables, Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, The Wind in The Willows, The Bell Jar, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and several more.

    I agree with @LauraA that they would be beloved books. If I was to make a short list of picture books I think a lot of people consider classics, they would include: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Goodnight Moonby Margaret Wise Brown, Madelineby Ludwig Bemelmanas, Curious George by H.A. Rey, and lots more.

    My personal favorites also include: Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averil, The Ice Cream Cone Coot and other Rare Birds by Arnold Lobel, Jamberry by Bruce Degen, Olivia by Ian Falconer, and the list goes on.

    Now that my mind is churning I could go on forever. There are about a million I could have added, but I think what is precious to you and your family are the ones that become classics. They are the ones that stick with you and leave their mark. I think they can be different for different people. But maybe the element that determines a “classic” is withstanding the test of time and still resonating with new readers. They are those stories that you eagerly pass on to a person and just know they will love. There have been several that I have had to wait to share until my children were old enough to understand them and then I passed the torch with giddy anticipation.

    Anyway...that’s my take. I would love to hear other poeple’s classics too.

  • SVS OG

    @peteolczyk When I was a young girl, I read Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess over and over! The idea of a persecuted heroine persevering with courage via her rich imagination appealed to me greatly, as did Tasha Tudor's warm illustrations.

    And I agree with everything that @JennyJones said above.

  • @JennyJones thank you Jenny, I think most of them titles are new to me. I really look forward to reading them.

  • @LauraA that sounds like a great book too Laura, another one for my list.

  • @JennyJones don't forget The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl, or The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.

  • SVS OG

    @peteolczyk I thought about writing this earlier, and I hesitate to write it even now, as it opens up a whole can of worms and I don't mean to hijack your thread, but it's an important part of the "classic" discussion: A lot has changed in the past couple of generations, and many books that we would consider classics have problematic aspects, particularly as regards race and culture. My own way of looking at it is to try to read them sensitively, knowing that we are all much more exposed now to other cultures and have had to confront a lot of American cultural prejudices--and thank goodness!

    Some of these books will probably get booted out of the classics list, but others have enough literary value that they will remain. And 20 years from now, things will shift again and the process will continue, and so on...but I still think classics are valuable.

    P.S. And obviously I'm speaking from an American POV because that's my culture, but I live in another one and know that prejudices differ.

  • @chrisaakins Cheers Chris, I still remember the hungry caterpillar being read to us at school when I was 4 or 5. I don’t have a great memory but that has definitely stuck with me.

  • @LauraA that’s a really interesting point Laura. I was wondering the other day how some of the classics would be received if the race was changed from what had been previously shown.
    For example I’d love to see a completely new Alice in wonderland.
    And hi-jack the thread if you like it’s fine. It’s an interesting topic.
    Start a new thread too if you like Laura, totally fine by me too.👍🙂

  • Fun discussion, guys. I'd like to throw in "Peter Rabbit" as a book that I consider a classic.

    As far as the outdated racial and cultural aspect goes- that's of course a tricky subject- but I'm of the opinion that you can still find value in some of those works and it can be a good way to facilitate healthy discussions with your children about history, racism, sexism, etc.

  • I'm so glad this thread got started! I'd been wondering if there was a hard definition, too, since I hear it brought up in SVS assignments. I'd love to see a list of the most popular by sales, or something. Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (mentioned by @TessaW) is a particularly great example because (though Potter had inspiration from previous works) she was a pioneer author/illustrator, one of the first if not the first to make childrens' hand sized books, got her artistic start selling rabbit greeting cards, was also a science illustrator who advanced the science of fungi but recognized only after her death when her drawings were published - because she was a woman, and used her children's book income to preserve over 4,000 acres of farmland in the Lake District of England where she got her reference material for the illustrations (using shops and people's cottages, and animal sketches for character design). So that goes full circle through this thread (sexism, classics, authors/illustrators to learn from).

    I'd like to throw in another mention of Newberry honor winning chapter books because I find the stories make great illustration inspiration and most of my favorites are set in different cultures around the world, so the content is quite diverse and I love that.

  • @Amanda-Bancroft @TessaW Wow I didn’t know that Beatrix Potter was also a scientific illustrator. I remember one of my grandmas reading Peter Rabbit to us, I’m sure it was from a copy she had been given from when she was a child.
    I’m definitely going to see if I can find some honor winning newberry chapter books 🙂

  • @Amanda-Bancroft I found a link for Newberry winners

  • @chrisaakins Yes! For sure! As a mom and preschool teacher there are several “must haves” that when they get loved to death I replace them. Those are among them. Also on my list are: The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker ( and beautifully illustrated by Grace Lin), Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, and everything by Beatrix Potter.

    I always loved Tuesday by David Wiesner and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Van Allsburg. We even bought the giant portfolio of the Harris Burdick book and had a couple framed. They are part of the fabric of our home now.

    I am loving seeing everyone’s additions. The more I think of the more come to mind. Books are so precious. I guess that’s part of why we are wanting to illustrate them!!!

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