H A Rey (1941)
The first book of seven about a mischievous monkey who is kidnapped by the man in the yellow hat.
Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak (1963)
A childhood favourite for so many, this went on to inspire a generation of illustrators -- and a very poor film.
Raymond Briggs (1973)
The best book about Christmas by some margin, featuring an extremely grumpy Santa. Narrowly beat The Snowman for a place on this list.
Anthony Browne (1983)
A beautifully drawn story from the former children's laureate about a lonely girl who finds company in a gorilla.
The Mick Inkpen Collection
Mick Inkpen (2009)
This edition contains seven stories, including the beguiling Billy's Beetle -- you have to find the beetle hiding somewhere on each spread.
There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly
Pam Adams (1972)
The recent Child's Play edition is a board book with holes.
The Babar Collection
Jean de Brunhoff (from 1931; this collection published in 2008)
Here are five of the classic French stories, including the first, The Story of Babar.
Jim, Who Ran Away from His Nurse and Was Eaten by a Lion
Hilaire Belloc (1907)
The poem is reproduced at picture-book length with Grey's striking illustrations and paper engineering. "Contains a Dangerous Beast and a Miserable End," promises the cover.
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Eric Carle (1991)
This charming verse story about how different animals behave is less well known than Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but more fun.
What Do People Do All Day?
Richard Scarry (1968)
Scarry's immensely detailed books about everyday life can lead to some good conversations, and are great for children who need to know how things work (more or less all of them).
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business
Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch (1989)
This may not be to everyone's taste, but there's no escaping the lavatory when it comes to children's humour, and this book (translated from the original German) manages to be educational too.
Green Eggs and Ham
Dr Seuss (1960)
Or another of the vast number of books Dr Seuss wrote from the Forties onwards. Excellent fun in verse, and great for learning to read, too.
Lost and Found
Oliver Jeffers (2005)
"What is a boy to do when a penguin turns up at his front door?" So begins this whimsical adventure, already a modern classic.
Adventures of Mrs Pepperpot
Alf Proysen (1956)
Illustrated by Hilda Offen, the Red Fox edition contains two abridged versions of these well-loved Norwegian stories about the woman who shrinks.
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (1999)
It may now be over-familiar, but it's hard to imagine a library without one of Donaldson's catchy rhyming tales.
Monkey and Me
Emily Gravett (2007)
Like Gravett's Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear, this book by an exceptional writer and illustrator is for very young children. For older children of five plus, try Meerkat Mail.
Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (1947)
A perfectly soporific bedtime story. Ditto the following.
Time for Bed
Mem Fox and Jane Dyer (1993)
You'll read these books so many times, it's important to have more than one.
Al MacCuish and Luciano Lozano (2011)
One of the best books about the alphabet, from Thames and Hudson's The Ministry of Letters series.
Hippos Go Beserk!
Sandra Boynton (1977)
Concerning a lonely hippo who is visited at home by various hippo comrades, this jolly counting book goes down as well as up.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Judith Kerr (1968)
Kerr's books about Mog the cat are still going strong, but this stand-alone story is perhaps her most original.
Janet and Allan Ahlberg (1980)
Or one of the Ahlbergs' other classic illustrated tales such as Peepo or Each Peach Pear Plum.
David McKee (1968)
A sideways look at diversity: the good-natured patchwork elephant disguises his true colour to fit in better with the grey herd, to miserable effect.
I Love You, Blue Kangaroo
Emma Chichester Clark (1998)
Her loveliest story about Lily and her favourite toy.
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain
Edward Ardizzone (1936)
The first in the series, in which the irrepressible Tim stows away aboard a steamer in high winds.
Bread and Jam for Frances
Russell Hoban (1964)
A charming story about a fussy eater.
The Princess and the Pea
Lauren Child (2006)
Though undoubtedly more famous for her Charlie and Lola series, Lauren Child's retelling of this classic fairy tale is wildly inventive. The visuals are created with Polly Borland's photographs of a miniature dolls' house.
The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery Williams and William Nicholson (1922)
The timeless story of a stuffed rabbit and its quest to become real.
This Is Not My Hat
Jon Klassen (2012)
Concerning a hat-thieving fish, this winsome tale of rough justice won the 2014 Kate Greenaway Medal and the 2013 Randolph Caldecott Medal in America.
Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinska (2013)
This charmingly quirky set of drawings of the world, laced with facts and figures, was a surprise bestseller.
COLLECTIONS AND HISTORIES
A Little History of the World
E H Gombrich (2005)
A sophisticated narrative by the art historian which runs up to the First World War, written in language any child can understand. Although written in German in 1935, it was only published in English 10 years ago. Insisting he be the sole translator, Gombrich had not finished rewriting it when he died in his nineties.
Tales from Shakespeare
Charles and Mary Lamb (1807)
These retellings of the plays are literary classics in their own right.
Our Island Story
H E Marshall (1905)
An excellent single-volume history of Britain, in simple and elegant language, warmed by an uncomplicated national pride.
The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank (published in English in 1952)
The diary kept by a young Dutch-Jewish girl during the two years in which her family lived concealed under the Nazi occupation of Holland. Her words remain the most effective way for a child today to grasp the reality of the Holocaust.
The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book
Edited by Iona and Julian Opie (1951)
This chunky and charmingly old-fashioned volume contains every nursery rhyme you can possibly think of (and many you couldn't).
Tales of Hans Christian Andersen
Translated by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Joel Stewart (2009)
Andrew Lang's fin de siecle collections of fairy tales are great, but this illustrated collection of Hans Christian Andersen's stories would make a good starter.
The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear
Collected by Faber (2001)
There are beautiful editions of individual poems, such as "The Quangle Wangle's Hat" (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Mammoth), but why not opt for the collected works?
The Hutchinson Treasury of Children's Literature
Edited by Alison Sage, foreword by Quentin Blake (1995)
Every child's book shelf needs the breadth of an anthology, and this one contains nearly 100 extracts from nursery rhymes, fairy tales and all kinds of stories.
Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans
Terry Deary, illustrated by Martin Brown (1994)
Now a vast franchise, the Horrible Histories phenomenon emerged in the early Nineties. The slim books adopt a subversive, jokey voice but the historical points they make are serious.
The Way Things Work
David Macaulay (2004)
Revised from the hit 1988 version, this is a highly entertaining guide to physics. A busy fleet of woolly mammoths operate the levers and pulleys of everyday machinery.
Nina Bawden (1973)
The wartime story of a girl and her brother evacuated to Wales.
Michael Morpurgo (2013)
The naughty puppet's story is retold from his own perspective in imitable fashion by Michael Morpurgo, with lovely drawings by Emma Chichester Clark.
Stig of the Dump
Clive King (1963)
The story of Barney and Stig, who lives in the quarry at the bottom of the garden.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken (1962)
The first in a dizzying series that imagines a counterfactual England in which the Jacobites rule into the 19th century while the nefarious Hanoverians plot on the sidelines.
The Magician's Nephew
C S Lewis (1955)
Box sets of The Chronicles of Narnia seem to be out of print, so here's the first in the series.
Five Children on the Western Front
Kate Saunders (2014)
E Nesbit's classic Five Children and It has been brilliantly transplanted by Kate Saunders to the trenches, in a moving homage. The winner of this year's Costa children's book award.
E B White (1952)
This American classic concerns a pig who is rescued from butchery by the web-weaving showmanship of a spider called Charlotte. E B White, who also produced a writer's handbook called The Elements of Style, follows his own rules about prose to gloriously stylish effect.
How to Train Your Dragon
Cressida Cowell (2010)
The first in the successful series, which has been adapted for the cinema, is set in a fictional Viking world in which dragons are trained as pets. Perfect for tricky boy readers, as the action scenes are first-class.
South Sea Adventure
Willard Price (1952)
Despite naff modern covers and inferior novels churned out by the deceased author's estate, the original adventures of Hal and Roger deserve to be rediscovered. The resourceful brothers quest rare animals the world over to take back to zoos, and avoid maiming or death only narrowly on each page. This, their second adventure, finds them marooned on a barren Polynesian island.
Goodnight Mr Tom
Michelle Magorian (1981)
Willy, an anaemic and neglected evacuee from south London, is stabled with the gruff bachelor Tom Oakley on his farm. Initially, it's rather a shock to them both but under Tom's hesitant care Willy thrives and Tom melts at the waif's gratitude. A novel that would cause a young reader to think, to feel and to grow up.
Hilary McKay (2001)
This first instalment of McKay's marvellous series about the Casson family won the Whitbread Prize in 2001, but remains underrated and underread. Perfect for girls of nine or 10.
Diana Wynne Jones (1978)
A world of magicians and enchantments but also of castles, top hats and blue serge suits. Wynne Jones's marvellous Chrestomanci series, flavoured with Victoriana, has been vastly influential -- on J K Rowling, in particular.
Dead Man's Cove
Lauren St John (2011)
Akin to Enid Blyton's young sleuths, St John's modern heroine is a fearless adventuress, probing around her uncle's Cornish town for mysteries (which she certainly finds).
Malorie Blackman (2014)
From the current Children's Laureate, a thought-provoking novel: young Kaspar joins the non-violent Guardians of his city, working to keep the rebels out. But he discovers he has not been told the whole truth.
Eva Ibbotson (2014)
Based on a draft found after the author's death in 2010, this loveable story concerns a girl stolen from her Himalayan campsite by a yeti and taken to a secret paradise in a volcanic crater.
Noel Streatfeild (1936)
The classic ballet novel; once entranced, a young reader can progress to the rest of the Shoes series.
The Little White Horse
Elizabeth Goudge (1946)
A fantasy about a young orphan girl Maria Merryweather.
A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L'Engle (1962)
Another fantasy, the first in the series about Meg Murry and the search for her missing father.
David Almond (1998)
A boy, his baby sister -- and the creature in the garage. This modern classic has been reprinted in a new hardback edition to celebrate its 15th birthday.
J K Rowling (originally published 1997-2007)
This boxed set contains all seven novels.
His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman (originally published 1995-2000)
A single volume Everyman's Library edition of the trilogy.
Anthony Horowitz (2000)
The first of the Alex Rider spy novels: a James Bond Jr with all the gadgets and none of the misogyny.
Mal Peet (2003)
The ultimate football novel: Mal Peet's extraordinary debut unfolds as an interview between a sports reporter and the world's best goalkeeper.
Richard Adams (1972)
After their burrow is gassed (a horrendous scene), the rabbits must quest for safety. The new Oneworld edition is sumptuously illustrated with paintings by Aldo Galli.
J R R Tolkein (1937)
Slim and perfectly formed, the tale of There and Back Again.
Emil and the Detectives
Erich Kastner (1929)
Unusually for a children's book of the time, this charming whodunnit is set in a contemporary, realistic Berlin peopled with fairly rough types.
James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl (1961)
As sensuous as anything Dahl ever wrote: who could forget James eating his way into the sweet, giant peach, or his perfectly named aunts -- Spiker and Sponge?
The Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)
A once-cherised little girl is left orphaned and paupered; her headmistress turns sour and enslaves her as a starving servant at the school.
Just So Stories
Rudyard Kipling (1902)
How did camel get his hump? How did the leopard get his spots? Kipling had a genius for arranging words and his sentences remain mesmeric.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Jules Verne (1864)
This veteran masterpiece of science fiction remains astonishing. A German professor and his nephew descend through an Icelandic volcano into the bowels of the earth. They find there a great cavern, with an (infested) ocean lapping at petrified trees and giant mushrooms.
The Doll People
Ann M Martin and Laura Godwin (2000)
The dolls in a dolls' house might look inanimate, but what do they get up to at night? According to this novel, they are casing the joint, tracking lost relatives and dodging that cruel fate -- PDS (Permanent Doll State).
The Sword in the Stone
T H White (1938)
A timelessly silly classic, the first novel in White's mischievous Once and Future King series. Young Arthur (nicknamed Wart) is transformed into all sorts of fish and fowl by his unorthodox tutor Merlin to learn the ways of the world. Not quite a parody but certainly a burlesque, it remains profoundly amusing 75 years later.
The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
A magical tale about a troubled and unloved girl called Mary Lennox, who finds a secret garden in her uncle's lonely house.
Johanna Spyri (1880)
A manifesto for the Great Outdoors. Alpine Heidi is sent to school in Frankfurt am Main, but grows pale and sickly in the city smog. Back in the mountains, she grows strong again on goat's milk and sunshine.
Dick King-Smith (1991)
Three stories by the great chronicler of farmyard animals. Perfect for emerging readers.
Paddington Races Ahead
Michael Bond (2012)
A recent collection of stories. Great to read to a child at bedtime, or for young readers to try for themselves.
How the Whale Became
Ted Hughes (1963)
In the vein of Kipling's Just So Stories. Whereas Kipling ommitted any mention of God, Ted Hughes's elegant and amusing creation tales bring the Divine Maker back into the story.
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat
Dave Shelton (2012)
A boy and a bear go to sea, as you might expect. Less predictably, the bear eats extravagant sandwiches (of anchovy, banana and custard, crusts cut off) while the sea gets dangerously high: "They keep life interesting, don't they, emergencies?" says the bear.
Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales
Beatrix Potter (published 1902-30)
You can't have a library without Beatrix Potter, and there's no messing about with this edition which contains all 23 tales.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
The collected edition seems to be out of print, but a good place to start would be The Secret of the Unicorn. Tintin helps Captain Haddock track down his ancestral treasure, hindered by nefarious crooks, tropical sharks and the captain's own weakness for rum.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll (1865)
Alice's dream journey remains the classic fantasy. When the poor Mock Turtle sings his lament, "Beautiful Soup", we are reminded that there is sadness in Wonderland as well as great silliness.
The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster (1970)
A bored boy named Milo comes by a magic tollbooth one afternoon. He decides to drive through it in his toy car: chaos, of course, ensues.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L Frank Baum (1900)
This is the complete text from Penguin, but Simon & Schuster have published a classy pop-up edition, based on an abridged version, with artwork by Robert Sabuda.
The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)
An exquisite novella about a bizarre, ethereal boy encountered by an airman while stranded in the desert overnight. The little prince asks him straightaway: "If you please, draw me a sheep." This lovely edition, translated by Katherine Woods, has Saint-Exupery's original illustrations.
The Winnie-the-Pooh Collection
A A Milne, illustrated by EH Shepard (published originally in 1926)
This boxed set contains all four books about the bear of very little brain.
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child (1945)
These new illustrations by the author of Charlie and Lola provide a contemporary twist on the Swedish classic. (Lindgren's books about Karlsson and Emil are also very good.)
Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome (1930)
The first in a series set between the wars at a time when children mucked about in boats and built camps by themselves -- or at least we like to think they did.
Five on a Treasure Island
Enid Blyton, illustrated by Eileen A Soper (1951)
It was a close run thing between the Famous Five and Malory Towers, but the prize must go to the adventures of George and co. This is the first book in the series. Make sure you get the edition from 1997 with Eileen A Soper's illustrations, rather than the newer edition in which the text has been modernised.
Jo of the Chalet School
Elinor M Brent-Dyer (1926)
A girl would adore the Chalet School books -- and, thrillingly for children who like to stick with a series they know and like, there are nearly 60 of them. Some of them have now fallen out of print, but this one, the second, is as good a place as any to start.
The Railway Children
E Nesbit (1906)
No childhood is complete without this novel from 1905, immortalised by the 1970 film starring Jenny Agutter.
The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame (1908)
This new edition, with drawings by David Roberts, is unusual in hiding a little detail on every page. The characters are re-imagined for a new generation in a mode that is perfectly sympathetic to Kenneth Grahame's words.
The Story of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting (1920)
This is the first story about the man who can talk to animals, from 1920. The longer sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which won the Newbery Medal, is trickier to get hold of, especially if you're after a pretty edition.
Roald Dahl (1982)
The BFG is arguable Roald Dahl's greatest novel. But we shouldn't forget also his very silly Revolting Rhymes. Both are available with Quentin Blake's illustrations.
Fattypuffs and Thinifers
Andre Maurois (1930)
The French classic (there known as Patapoufs et Filifers) is about a fat brother and a thin brother -- and the battle that ensues between two warring nations.
Anne of Green Gables
L M Montgomery (1908)
This is the first in the captivating series about the red-headed orphan and the one that covers her early childhood.
Louisa May Alcott (1868)
Again, the first book in the series, about the four sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The sequels are also wonderful.
The Greengage Summer
Rumer Godden (1958)
Or try The Peacock Spring by the same author. Both are exquisite coming-of-age stories, the first set in France and the second in India, to be read by a girl in her teens.
The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness (2008)
The first novel in the much-awarded Chaos Walking trilogy, set in a dystopian world wherein all creatures can see and hear each other's thoughts.
How I Live Now
Meg Rosoff (2004)
Set in a future England under occupation, Meg Rosoff's brilliant novel predated the current vogue for dystopian teenage fiction but has yet to be bettered.
The Summer Book
Tove Jansson (1972)
The Finnish novelist is best known for her series about the Moomins. Older children, however, will enjoy this beguiling novel about a girl and her grandmother, and the summer they spend together on a remote island.